A bustling city, brightly coloured, historic buildings all around. Wide open spaces, houses painted deep red and sailboats gliding by. Locals sipping coffee, sharing a laugh, surrounded by lush greenery. Multi-billion dollar tech companies, innovators, and unicorns. Sweden is a unique mix of things and a visit here is not just about seeing the history or eating the food, it’s about experiencing a way of life, immersing yourself in an idealistic culture where equality is valued and the future is now. If you’re thinking of visiting Sweden, planning or trip or just looking for travel inspiration, here’s my insight on the things you absolutely need to know before you go!
1. Coffee is life
If you haven’t already heard of Fika, you’ll soon be very familiar with it. The concept is basically to take a break and have coffee, usually accompanied with a sweet, like a biscuit or cookie. The Swedes are mad for it and, you know what, so am I! They absolutely love their coffee and you’ll find no trouble getting your hands on a good cup of coffee wherever you go, especially if you find yourself in Stockholm. Best of all, if you aren’t a milk drinker (me) you’ll have no trouble getting soy or oat milk (the oat is so good!)
2. The Swedes are hot
I was shocked and delighted to cast an eye over the Swedish locals and discover there is an abundance of hotties! In Australia, I’m lucky to spot two hot guys in one day. In Sweden, every second or third guy is an absolute dish and the women are stunning! If you’re single, get ready to mingle. If you’re married, that doesn’t mean you’re dead, so prepare your eyeballs for a veritable smorgasbord of Swedish hotties.
3. There’s an Ikea approach to life
Just like everyone’s favourite Swedish homewares store, the approach to life in Sweden is ‘do it yourself.’ This means you shouldn’t expect a doorman at a hotel or for anybody to take your bags up to your room for you (unless you’re staying in a really, really fancy hotel). Why? Because of all the great benefits provided by the Government, it just doesn’t make sense to have people doing small jobs for small amounts of money.
4. Equality has already been addressed
The Swedes have already dealt with equality, in fact, they’re so far ahead they’ve moved onto making sure dogs have rights (it’s illegal for a dog to be left home alone for longer than 6 hours). Talk to a local and you’ll discover women are entitled to up to 18 months paid maternity leave, while men are entitled to 90 days which cannot be transferred to the woman. In addition, women are entitled to some 400+ days of leave, until the child is 12, which they can take off to spend more time with them (this is different to sick leave to care for them!!) In same-sex relationships, both parents are entitled to paid leave. You’ll also notice an abundance of unisex toilets so everyone can feel comfortable going to the bathroom. Not only that, but gay rights have already been addressed too and everyone is accepted, no matter what their sexual preference or identity.
5. Cash isn’t always accepted
Before you rush off to the bank to withdraw money and change it to Swedish Krona, keep in mind Sweden is technologically advanced and many places do not accept cash. It’s not uncommon to see a ‘cash not accepted’ sign up at a bar, so be sure to keep your bank cards on you so you can pay with a card if needed. If you’ve ever heard rumours of Swedes with microchips implanted in their hands, it’s true! We met a local with one and he uses it to pay for all kinds of things, proclaiming its ease, convenience, and safety.
6. The sun doesn’t really set in summer
If you find yourself visiting Sweden during the summer months you will notice the sun doesn’t really set. The days are incredibly long, with the sun rising at 3:30 am and setting at 10:30 pm. This is great for visitors as it means you get plenty of daylight to explore and a lot of light for photographs. The only downside is it can kind of mess with you a bit when you’re walking home at 10 pm and the sun is still blazing in the sky. During winter months, it’s the reverse, with the daylight hours being few.
7. They’re really into recycling
You’ll find most Swedish households have around 7 or so bins, for all different kinds of recycling. They’re all about it and it’s fantastic! So, while visiting, make sure you’re respectful of the local culture and throw your trash in the (right) bin, refill water bottles where possible and try to reduce, reuse and recycle where possible.
8. Keep an eye out for pickpockets
I felt incredibly safe on the streets of Stockholm and everywhere else we visited but was cautioned by local guides to look out for pickpockets. Turns out, they were right! We ended up seeing a few pickpockets looking for targets, luckily our group were wary and had all our gear secured. So, there’s no need to be alarmed, just make sure you’re safety conscious. Don’t keep phones or wallets in your back pockets. In busy areas, put your backpack or handbag to the front of your body. Don’t leave any valuables out of eyesight in hotel lobbies.
9. Vegetarians and vegans have nothing to worry about
I was a bit nervous I would have a hard time finding vegetarian food, so was shocked to learn it’s trendy and popular to be vegetarian or vegan. You’ll find no shortage of vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants, as well as those selling organic food too. Visit a restaurant and you should usually always find a veggie option on the menu, if there isn’t one, don’t be afraid to ask the staff as the chefs rarely have an issue creating a bespoke bite.
10. English is widely spoken
If your Swedish is a tad rusty, don’t worry! The Swedes learn quite a few languages and those crafty, multi-lingual hotties usually speak English.
11. They wait all year for summer
You’ll feel the buzz of summer excitement on the streets when you arrive and even if you don’t, they’ll tell you how excited they are when you start talking to them (which you definitely should). You see, Sweden is cold for a large part of the year, so when the sun comes out and the weather is gorgeous, the locals like to make the most of it. You’ll see people enjoying parks, basking in the sunshine, dining outdoors and indulging in a sunlight Fika a few times a day.
12. The archipelago is stunning (and worth the trip!)
Don’t just stick to the major cities, like Stockholm. Be sure to take the trip out to the islands and explore the archipelago. Sweden is made up of tens of thousands of islands and island hopping is easy and essential. The Swedes love to summer in the archipelago, so be sure to make the effort to catch a ferry to an island and explore for yourself. It’s a beautiful way to see more of Sweden and live la Vida local.
13. You can drink the tap water
It’s perfectly safe to drink the tap water and it’s actually really delicious crisp fresh water! Be sure to pack a refillable bottle and top up at taps wherever possible.
14. The Swedes are super lovely
I had heard it said over and over that the Swedes are quite reserved, so I was expecting a largely introvert nation where nobody would be keen for a chat. In my experience, reserved came to mean polite and respectful. We found the locals were absolutely charming, always up to say hello and offer a smile and have a quick chat. They’re welcoming people with a very kind and considerate nature, which made our visit really enjoyable. You’ll also notice the locals are very stylish, so feel free to pack your best threads.
15. Seafood is King
If you love seafood, you’re going to love Sweden. There’s an abundance of seafood on offer, so make sure you get stuck into as much as possible! Their toast skagen, an open sandwich, loaded with shrimp, is a must-try.
16. The cities empty out during midsummer
If you’re planning to visit during the summer months, just keep an eye out for midsummer as the cities empty out completely as the Swedes head for their favourite summer destination, to celebrate. This means shops are usually closed, which can be a real problem for tourists.
Pro Tip: Getting to Sweden has never been easier (or more enjoyable). We flew from Brisbane to Stockholm, via Singapore, with Singapore Airlines. The whole experience was really enjoyable and seamless, thanks to the incredible service we always receive with Singapore Airlines. We were lucky enough to fly Business Class the whole way and found great comfort in the flatbeds onboard, getting a great night’s sleep which made a huge difference! As always, the food and beverage service was exceptional, with the staff serving up delicious meals with the airline’s signature silver service perfection and attention to detail. If you’re thinking of travelling to Sweden, I can’t recommend Singapore Airlines highly enough. Their new Singapore to Stockholm route now flies five times per week.
Useful travel resources for your trip to Sweden!
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Skyscanner – our go-to for booking flights
Agoda – one of our go-to sites for booking hotels
Booking.com – another of our go-to sites for booking hotels
Rental Cars – a great search engine for renting a car
TourRadar – a great search engine for booking tours