With famous exports in everything from food to music, books, candy and even interior design, Sweden has made itself known all over the world. Whether you’re chewing on Swedish fish, turning the pages of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, listening to Abba, or looking for home decoration at IKEA, Sweden has a significant international presence.
But exported culture is only one way to experience a country and for many, the desire to visit Sweden often drives them to plan an adventure.
Välkommen – Welcome to Sweden
Sweden is much more than its famous icons and the country itself is known for expertly expressing the beauty of Mother Nature. With landscapes that change from rolling hills to mountains and filled with lakes and rivers, Sweden is magnificent. But modern-day Sweden is also filled with traces of the past. Most famously, there are preserved runes and burial mounds that tell the country’s long history with royalty and palaces. The Vikings most famously once ruled Sweden’s land and the Swedish pride themselves on their adventurous ancestors.
Filled with passion for culture, food and design, Stockholm is Sweden’s dynamic and evolving capital. A well-preserved historic center is one of Stockholm’s highlights, but the seaside location ensures that everything is beautiful. The luxurious style in Stockholm is another attraction and visitors will soon find that everything has a design plan. Whether you’re going out to eat or stop at a café, everything from the floor to the ceiling will serve a function towards the beauty of design.
Culture and Language
The Vikings are unarguably Sweden’s most famous period of time and a very significant part of their culture today, but there’s a lot more to the country’s history than these seafaring explorers. Before the Vikings expanded throughout Scandinavia, Sweden was populated with hunters and gatherers. These early people were known for their unique tools and agriculture, which paved the wave for Sweden to advance.
By 800 AD, the Vikings began to expand into Sweden as they conquered the Baltic Coast and parts of Russia. Their exploration expanded the empire, but they wouldn’t last. The Vikings were Pagan based people who would eventually be introduced to Christianity. Under the new religion, new kings began to seek their claim over the land, and it led Sweden into several different periods.
During their early history, Sweden was also united with Denmark and Norway by the Kalmar Union beginning in 1389 and solidified by 1397. But internally, the union was in shambles and the Stockholm Bloodbath in 1520 saw Denmark massacre Swedish nobles. This led to too much conflict and the union ultimately fell apart. All attempts to rebuild the union were ignored and Sweden held its independence.
Since then, Sweden has certainly prospered, and the country has become a significant leader in Scandinavia and Europe. A president is the head of the government and the country has moved past the days of conflict between kings and rulers. Now, equality is a major part of Swedish culture and egalitarians dominate the country. A kindhearted and quiet nature makes Swedes stand out as excellent hosts to world travelers.
But English-speaking travelers won’t have much to worry about when it comes to language barriers. While Swedish is the official language of Sweden, the vast majority of Swedes are also fluent in English. However, it is uncommon for Swedes to speak English with another Swede, so you should expect to listen to plenty of Swedish too.
All travelers need to be responsible when they plan to enter a new country and that means you’ll need to do your research on tourist visas. Luckily, we’ve done the hard work for you so that you can get back to planning your trip. For US citizens, Sweden is a part of the Schengen Area, which means that travelers need to meet the requirements of the Schengen Agreement.
For US citizens to enter Sweden, you must have your US passport with at least 6 months validity remaining. You only need enough space on the pages to receive two stamps – one for entry and one for exit. Travelers are not required to obtain a tourist visa prior to their arrival in Sweden if you are planning on staying for less than 90 days. There are no vaccination requirements, but it is always recommended by the CDC that you are up to date before you travel. Finally, there is a currency restriction of £10,000 Euros or the US equivalent for entering and exiting Sweden.
Before you can pack or take off for your trip, travelers should also look at their spending budget or make an outline for one. It is important to have an idea in your head of how much things will cost so that you can have a fun time on your trip and not worry about coming up short on funds. Plus, by planning ahead, you can leave a little room in your funds for unexpected purchases or emergency situations.
Sweden is an expensive country to visit and that makes it difficult for some travelers to access the country. But just because things cost more, doesn’t mean that you still can’t find ways to stretch your budget. With various options to suit all traveler’s needs, Sweden still welcomes travelers with budgets of all sizes. But you should still be prepared for the cost of your airfare, accommodation, food, drink and transportation, no matter the limit of your budget.
With its northern location in Europe, Sweden is an expensive destination to travel to and a large part of your budget will go to your airfare, right off the bat. The average cost of a flight from the United States to Sweden is $720 US dollars. If you dig deep enough on various websites and on Google, you might find a special deal or budget price that lowers the cost to about $400 US dollars.
Travelers are also likely to notice that the price of an airline ticket increases or decreases during different times of the year. The most expensive time to visit Sweden will be when all the tourists are flocking to the country. While Sweden is popular all throughout the year, the absolute highest time for tourists to visit are in the summer months of July and August. This is also the time that airline ticket prices will be at their highest.
But once you’ve homed in on a time to visit Sweden and looked at securing your seat on a plane, the next big decision you’ll have to make will be your accommodation. There are plenty of options for you to choose in terms of accommodation, but you’ll still need to be conscious of your budget. Dorm beds in hostels are the most affordable option and often preferred amongst backpackers. You should expect to pay about $25-$45 US dollars for a hostel.
But not all travelers enjoy the backpacking and hostel experience, which is why hotels are another popular accommodation option. But travelers will need to greatly increase their spending budget to stay in a double room at a hotel. The average cost in a midrange hotel for a double room is $100-$160 US dollars per night. The top end or luxury hotels will cost even more, and you could spend up to or over $250 US dollars per night for a room.
For travelers who are in a group, Airbnb is another option in Sweden, which can be budget friendly. Some private rooms cost as little as $20 US dollars per night, but you can find entire cottages for a low as $40 US dollars per night. But the average cost tends to be a little higher at $60 US dollars per night.
When you’re not taking a snooze or resting for a new day in Swedish delight, you’ll probably be quite excited to taste the local food. Swedish meatballs are often what comes to mind first, but there’s a lot more to the country’s cuisine than those tasty morsels. Swedish cuisine is known for being fresh and they frequently incorporate dairy, bread, fruit, vegetable, various meats, and seafood into their dishes.
Köttbullar or Swedish meatballs are popular in Sweden and have become an international star due to the success of IKEA. The kötbullar are often served with mashed potatoes and lingonberries. Pickled herring is also a favorite amongst the Swedes, but it tends of have a love it or hate it relationship with visitors. You may also want to try wallenbergare, which is a breaded veal with mashed potatoes and peas. One of the widely recognized and favorite dishes amongst all Swedes is raggmunk, which is a potato pancake topped with bacon and lingonberries.
Sweden also have their take on sandwiches, which they call smörgåstårta. These sandwiches can be layered with different ingredients or toppings and they are usually served during festivities or large gatherings. One of the country’s oldest meals is knäckebröd, which is a crispy bread that has been served in Swedish homes since 500 AD. Finally, gubbröra is a salad made of eggs and anchovies, which is often called the “Old Man’s Mix” in Sweden.
The mix of strong and bland flavors are at the heart of Swedish cuisine, but travelers will need to be prepared to pay for their meals. Meals out at a restaurant will cost about $14-$25 US dollars, but you will find some more affordable establishments selling plates for $8-$10 US dollars. The nicest restaurants in places like Stockholm will be more expensive and you should expect to pay up to or more than $60 US dollars per meal.
Drinks will also be a part of your menu and if you’ve like to sip a little alcohol, you should expect to raise your budget a lot higher. Mixed drinks cost about $10 US dollars each at bars and restaurants. Beer is the most affordable drink of choice and will normally cost $5-$8 US dollars at a bar or restaurant. But happy hours around towns may lower the cost of a drink or beer by a few dollars for a few hours of the day.
While it’s nice to have a budget broken down, it can also be a pain to do the math and determine how much you need for each day. Our daily estimates for your time in Sweden will be broken down by different types of budgets. Backpackers should expect to spend about $100 US dollars per day while they’re in Sweden. A moderate budget means that travelers will spend up to $200 US dollars per day, while a high-end budget would cost $250 US dollars or more per day.
How to Get Around
For being a large country, Sweden is actually fairly easy to navigate as you travel around. This is great for travelers because it makes it more convenient to see more places. But the cost of transportation is the final part of your budget that you’ll need to track along with your other expenses. The most common ways to get around Sweden are domestic air, buses, trains, and cars.
Domestic air travel in Sweden is expensive, but there may be a few last-minute deals or special prices for certain occasions that will make the price more affordable. However, most people who use airplanes to get around Sweden will have a higher budget. For the price, these travelers have the convenience of reaching various destinations quickly.
But for others who can’t or don’t want to travel by air, there are other options too. Buses, trains, and cars are a great way to get around and they’re more affordable. They also let you see more of the country and its beautiful landscapes.
Buses are a great transportation method and there is an extensive network throughout the country from small towns to connecting between the northern and southern parts of the country. Expresses buses are the best option to take when you want to go long distances and travel to new cities. Express bus tickets range in prices with the most expensive costing up to $70 US dollars for a trip. But you can save up to 50% on the price of a bus ticket by booking your trip a couple weeks in advance of your travel date.
Local buses are very popular when you’re trying to get around a city and Sweden often has passes that can be purchases to make it more affordable. A 24-hour bus pass costs about $12 US dollars, while a 72-hour pass costs about $25 US dollars. But the perks of these passes are that you can use the buses an unlimited number of times in that time period.
A faster way to travel that is still affordable is by train. There are a lot of trains throughout Sweden that travelers use to get from Point A to Point B. Trains can be expensive but are still more affordable than taking a flight. Longer train distances can cost up to $50 US dollars, many tickets will cost about $30 US dollars. Shorter train rides will be the most affordable and will cost less than $20 US dollars.
Finally, some travelers choose to road trip around Sweden and drive themselves with a rental car. While this is an extremely convenient way to travel because you can make your own schedule, it can get quite expensive as the rental costs add up. Travelers who are renting a car should expect to pay about $40 US dollars per day for a car. Gas is also expensive, and you’ll spend just under $6 US dollars per gallon.
Top Cities to Visit
Stockholm is Sweden’s capital and most famous city, but there are a lot of other urban destinations in the country too. From way up in the North to the very Southern region of Sweden, here are the best Swedish cities to visit.
Nicknamed “Beauty on Water”, Stockholm is Sweden’s island capital. There are 14 islands that make up Stockholm to be exact and each one has a unique mix of architecture, modernity, and history. Gamla Stan is one of the most famous areas of the capital because of its brightly colored buildings and the Royal Palace, which was built in the 17th century. But every island is filled with hip and trendy bars and busy restaurants that will welcome you into Sweden’s culture and lifestyle.
Another waterfront area that is popular with tourists is Gothenburg. This city has various canals and a waterfront location that makes it a hit with visitors. Ships wait in the port and there are a few different museums that demonstrate the importance of the sea. The architecture is another highlight and there are plenty of shops and restaurants to explore. A vibrant youth scene also gives the city new energy and makes it popular for various events and festivals throughout the year.
Malmö is Sweden’s diversity capital and the place where you can experience 150 cultures come together. The city is close to Copenhagen and also situated just across the Baltic Sea from Germany. Here, there are famous markets filled with Middle Eastern treasures and a large spread of international cuisine. The Old Castle, waterfront, and Old Town are the most popular places to visit in Malmö.
While Stockholm gets the most recognition, Uppsala is actually the city that most people consider to be Sweden’s heart. Uppsala is one of the oldest cities in Sweden and it sits along the Fyris River. Here, a large student body gives it a laid-back energy, but the excitement picks up in the night as the parties start. With a closer proximity to Stockholm, Uppsala has become a popular place to visit.
History comes alive in Visby, where there is a well-preserved Old Town, cathedral, wall, and various churches. With an appearance straight out of the Medieval ages, Visby is one of Sweden’s most unique places to visit. Summertime is a popular time to come and every year they have a week of Medieval festivities.
Points of Interest
While cities are a great place to connect with the country, there are also a ton of points of interest in Sweden that have become popular with tourists. Here are Sweden’s top points of interest that are waiting with open arms for you to explore.
Situated way up in Northern Sweden, the Icehotel has become world famous because of its ice architecture. The entire hotel is constructed out of blocks of ice and it is rebuilt each winter. Located in Jukkasjärvi, everything from the structure to the bars, beds, and glasses are made of ice. Guests don heavy coats and thick furs line the beds. The hotel is open every year from December to April.
Abisko National Park
Also located up in the North, Abisko National Park is most famous for the Kungsleden hiking trail, which stretches for 300 miles. The park is also the home base for the Abisko Scientific Research Station. There are lots of trails to hike, but in the winter, you can also head out on skis or a snowboard. The most common animal sightings in the park include bears, reindeer, and moose.
Currently the home of Sweden’s Royal Family, but built in the 16th century, Drottningholm Palace is located on Lake Mälaren on the island called Lovö. The palace is open to the public and you can take a tour of the gardens and pavilions. The stunning yellow exterior also makes the palace pop and it is one of Sweden’s architectural hotspots.
Just outside of Stockholm are 30,000 islands that are a part of the Stockholm Archipelago. These islands are not all inhabited, but some are and feature cute cottages or quaint houses. The water around the island is also popular for cruising and is a favorite amongst sailboat enthusiasts. With plenty of beaches and clear water, it is also a popular area to relax and take a break from the city life.
Often referred to as the “Stonehenge of Sweden”, Ales Stenar is a formation of stones that have been laid out in the shape of a ship. The stones were laid out during the Iron Age and are dated back to 600 AD. With an origin starting before even the Vikings, you can take a tour of the area and learn more of Sweden’s fascinating history.
Åre Ski Resort
For travelers who are coming to Sweden in the winter, the Åre Ski Resort is one of the most popular places to go to hit the slopes and spend time with the family. This resort area has over 100 slopes located on three different areas. The 40 ski lifts are in constant service and will take you to the best runs. There are areas that are family friendly, but also off-piste locations that are best left to the adventurous experts.
Sarek National Park
Sarek National Park is one of Europe’s oldest established parks and it is located in Sweden’s famous Lapland in the north. The park is home to Sweden’s 6 major mountains, but there are over 200 peaks in total in the area. With plenty of hiking spots and amazing views, this is the go-to spot for mountaineers and hikers.
Get Out and Go
Whether you want to go to Sweden to taste authentic Swedish meatballs, explore the dramatic landscape, or bask in the glory of a city’s architecture, this country is a must visit for many travelers. The unique culture and happy population guarantee that any time spent in Sweden will be a great vacation. Plus, with an easy to navigate layout, it isn’t hard to hop and skip to all the best tourist areas and see what your heart desires.