Intro: Take our Sweden travel trips and plan a perfect adventure in Scandinavia’s rugged-yet-sophisticated gem. With this travel guide, you won’t miss a thing!
Ah, Sweden. Where else in the world do you get to enjoy medieval cities, vast rugged outdoors, castles, far-flung islands, and supreme quality of life? Don’t just hit Stockholm and call it a trip- there’s so much to see and do up here, especially for travellers who love the outdoors! Skiing, boating, hiking, swimming, wildlife watching, the list goes on and on in this dynamic country. And of course, you’ll be finishing your big days in true Swedish style with baked goods, coffee, and good company. Perfection!
Table of Contents
Best Places to visit
Best Things to Do
Great Adventure Trips
Best Time to Visit
How to Get Around Sweden
Best Places to Stay
Useful Travel Tools
Visa Requirements When Travelling to Sweden
Interesting Facts about Sweden
Frequently Asked Questions
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Sweden, located on the Scandinavian Peninsula, is a sloping land of high mountains and coastline. Bordering Norway, Finland, and the Baltic Sea, Sweden is covered in lakes, forests, and rocky coasts. Thanks to the moderate southwesterly winds and (relatively) warm North Atlantic Current, it’s not always the ice-clad country you might have expected it to be! Here, the standard of living and life expectancy rate among the highest in the world. The capital city of Stockholm is known as a metropolis inhabited by happy citizens who enjoy the typically exceptional Scandinavian quality of life. Aside from Stockholm, the vibrant city of Gothenburg on the west coast also attracts a sizeable number of visitors each year.
Travellers to Sweden often come for the historically and culturally impressive cities, but those who love the outdoors will be enthralled by the expansive, largely untouched natural landscape. Roughly divided into three regions, Sweden is comprised of the forested and mountainous Norrland in the north, a lowland swath called Svealand in the middle, and the southern Götaland, which includes highlands and plains. While the coastline is a draw for many, the pristine Norrland region is a favourite among adventurers, with the Kölen Mountains and their glaciers beckoning. With the northern lights dazzling overhead, Sweden is a must-visit for adventure travellers the world over.
Best Places to Visit
As the capital of Sweden, Stockholm is by far the most-visited Swedish destination. As the largest city in Scandinavia, it’s a mecca for cultural and historical exploration and provides a convenient hub to branch out of as you explore further-flung regions. Stockholm is full of splendid Swedish architecture, great galleries, and lovely museums and parks, making it a very pretty city to wander. Notably, it feels remarkably peaceful for its size.
Separated into five districts, you’re able to explore areas with distinct vibes and personalities. Norrmalm is the downtown centre, where shopping and the Royal Opera await. Djugården is a beautiful island with a palace and several parks, including an amusement park. Östermalm is a chic, mostly residential zone with lots of restaurants and bars. Gamla Stan is a little peek into Sweden’s past, with cobbled streets and old buildings, including Parliament. Finally, Södermalm is a fun boho district that blends old and new in its shopping and food scene.
Gothenburg doesn’t see nearly as many travellers as Stockholm, but that doesn’t mean you should skip it! With a relaxed feel, tons of green space, and an easily explored compact centre, Gothenburg is a breezy stop for adventurers. Window shop along the Avenyn, visit the wooded zoo of Slottsskogen, check out the Natural History Museum or Museum of Fine Art, or settle in at the Gothenburg Opera. If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a sunny day, we love packing a picnic and hanging out in Trädgårdsföreningen (a mouthful!), a park in the middle of the city bursting with local plants
If you’re inclined to get out of the city without going too far, Delsjön is a stunning natural area just outside of Gothenburg with forested trails, serene lakes, and 500 acres of space for hikes and walks. If you swing by in the summertime, you can rent a canoe and enjoy a paddle before taking the tram back into the city. If you’re based here, try hopping over to Marstrand for the day to catch the Match Cup Sweden, an exhilarating sailing competition.
Seeking some sun? While Sweden can get a bit overcast at times, the island of Gotland tends to hold onto the sun better than other regions, making it a hotspot, pun intended, when the weather’s nice. Surrounded by the Baltic Sea on all sides, it’s a perfect retreat. Explore the walled Hanseatic city of Visby decked out with medieval architecture, or just lay out a blanket on the shores and soak up those rays.
Those planning an adventure travel trip to Sweden can’t skip Swedish Lapland (defined “Swedish” to distinguish it from neighbouring Finnish Lapland)! This far-north locale is above the Arctic Circle, making it a haven of daylight in the summer months. Those who love to canoe, watch wildlife, dog sled, ski, snowshoe, or enjoy the northern lights will feel right at home here.
Want to see the best of Swedish Lapland? Start in Stromsund and drive the 223.1mi Wilderness Way to Vilhelmina. It’s a journey for the books!
Kosterhavet National Park
With so many kilometres of coastline, Sweden is a natural destination for adventurers who love the sea. Kosterhavet National Park is the country’s first protected marine environment, making it the perfect place to experience the Swedish coast in all its glory. On the Norweigan border, the park is home to over 6,000 species of marine life, some unique to this region of the country. Those who snorkel or dive can enjoy coral reefs aplenty!
Travellers looking to enjoy the park can stay in Sydkoster if they want the island experience, or book a night on the mainland in Strömstad, the nearest well-equipped city to the park.
Best Things to Do
There’s more to do in Sweden than most people can fit into one trip. Guess you’ll just have to come back! To start building out an itinerary, here are some of our favourite things to do in Sweden.
With seemingly endless forest and coastline, hikers in Sweden are in for a treat. Since the country holds deep historical roots, you could be strolling the same trails as Vikings or stumbling upon ancient ruins in wide-open meadows.
One of the easiest home bases for your hiking escapades is Åre, a charming village in the mountains with excellent proximity to trailheads.
With over 1988.4mi of coastline and 100,000 lakes, it’s hard to resist enjoying the water in a Swedish summer. Sailing is a national pastime here, and canoeing, kayaking, and paddling are go-to ways to spend a sunny summer day (or night, since you’ll enjoy up to 24 hours of sun depending how far north you are).
You can try your hand at sailing along the sea or rent a smaller craft for a lazy day on the lake. Tour the islands that dot the coast, or float in a serene lake surrounded by towering trees. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just take advantage of that beautiful water!
Sweden’s got slopes, Sweden’s got snow… Seems it’s all covered! Whether you’re a skier or a snowboarder, alpine or cross-country, there’s a line for you to enjoy here. Åre is Northern Europe’s biggest resort, offering runs of every flavour. Shred piste or off-piste, hit the park, telemark, carve, heli-ski, or hit the bunny slope. This resort has it all.
If you’re looking for a backcountry feel, Riksgränsen is perfect. This far-north resort has tons of off-piste runs that range from accessible to extreme, making it an ideal outing if you’re after a wild feel with or without a ton of experience. Since it’s so far north, you won’t be dodging any trees and you can hit the trails in the summer months under the midnight sun.
Many resorts in Sweden also offer heli-skiing trips for the experienced adventurer.
Snowmobiling is a necessity in some far-flung northern regions, but also a key dose of adrenalin for many travellers and locals alike in Sweden. Many of the ski resorts, including Riksgränsen and Åre, offer snowmobile tours and sleds for rent. With so much pristine snow to tear up, Sweden is a snowmobiling mecca. If you’re going to get snowed on, you might as well enjoy it, right?
Imagine mushing your own team of lightning-fast huskies as the northern lights glimmered overhead. Dreamy, right? Dog sledding is something that most people never get to try, so take advantage of the availability of the sport if you’re in Sweden. Many ski resorts in Sweden offer dog sledding experiences. The ski resorts in Sweden really have it all, don’t they? You can book a short excursion or go all-in on a multi-day expedition. The energy of the dogs, the forest flying by, the cold air on your face- it’s a rush you won’t ever forget!
Great Adventure Trips
Planning your perfect Sweden trip? Booking a guided or self-guided tour can take the stress off, allowing you to soak up the scenery while your accommodations, transport, meals, and activities are looked after. We add more adventure tours all the time, so check back soon to see what incredible trips we’ve added in Sweden!
Sweden is roughly divided into three regions: the mountains and forest in the north, an expanse of lowland in the east with highland in the west, and the southern highlands and plains of the south. Sweden’s outdoors are, of course, shaped by the harsh winters and mild summers; this is a true explorer’s paradise.
Adventurers are often drawn to the sparsely populated north, where rounded mountains, lakes, and river valleys dominate the landscape. Norrland covers about three-fifths of Sweden but contains only a fraction of its population. The Kölen Mountains run along the western edge of the region on the border with Norway. These peaks are chock-full of glaciers and they house Sweden’s highest summits: Mount Kebne (6926ft) and Mount Sarek (6854ft). Speaking of Sarek, Sarek National Park is a magnificent spot to explore should you find yourself in Norrland.
Svealand is the core of Sweden and where the name “Sweden” actually came from. The landscape here is largely lowland. There are many small factories in Svealand, but adventurers will be more inclined to explore the forests, which offer pretty canyons, hidden lakes, and plenty of greenery.
Gotaland comprises the central regions of Småland and Götaland. Götaland is known for its highlands and rich plains. Interior Småland is largely forested and looks like what many people would consider “typical” Sweden to be. There is a lovely stretch of high coast in the Bothnian plain, but the rest of the regions in Småland are low-lying. You’ll find plenty of lakes, some farmland, and mixed forests in this interior region, along with some of Sweden’s oldest settled areas.
The coastline of Sweden draws many visitors due to its abundance of small, sometimes wooded islands ripe for exploring by boat and home to an abundance of marine life.
Okay, so we’ve got stunning geography, a high standard of living, cultural and historical depth, and lots to do. Unfortunately, all that adds up to Sweden being a more expensive destination on average. Fear not, though! We’ve still got tips and tricks to make travelling in Sweden possible on a tighter budget. We’ll talk about prices in USD, but know that Sweden uses the Swedish Krona (SEK). One US dollar is equivalent to 8.45 krona at the time of publication.
Relatively separated from the vast majority of Europe and the rest of the world, most visitors to Sweden will be arriving by plane. Visitors from North America should budget approximately $1200-$1500 for their tickets. Thanks to much lower flight costs, those arriving from Europe could pay anywhere from $150 to $500 depending on their city of origin. If you’re already travelling in other parts of Europe, there’s an argument to be made for tacking on the trip to Sweden if you have the time.
Where you rest your head each night can be one of your best budgeting tools. Expect to spend about $75-$120 per night for a midrange hotel or about $30 per night for a budget hotel or hostel. High-end hotel rooms can be booked for north of $500 per night.
While the cost of your day-to-day in Sweden can be highly variable, expect to budget anywhere between $50 and $80 per day for food, travel, and sightseeing. If you’re planning a special excursion like skiing or dog sledding, we recommend choosing a provider beforehand and budgeting according to their costs.
Restaurant meals start at about $15 and a pint of beer will run you about $6. Keep in mind that alcoholic beverages are taxed heavily in Sweden, so a mixed drink can easily be twice as expensive as a beer. Expect fast food meals to come in around $8 and a three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant to run about $40.
Tips and Gratuities
Travellers from heavy-tipping countries, take note! Tipping in Sweden typically happens at a much smaller percentage than you may be used to. It’s generally welcome but not expected. You can round up the bill a bit for good service, for example, from 380 SEK to 400 SEK. Generally, servers won’t be offended if you tip less and won’t be expecting anything more.
Tipping hotel staff is not expected, but it’s nice if they went above and beyond for you. Porters and coatroom attendants often already have a fixed fee.
In taxis or shuttles, a couple of extra kronor is sufficient. Tour guides can be tipped about 100 kronor per day at the end of the tour. For a short tour, 10-15% of the cost is great.
From a past of violent Viking raids, Sweden is one of the safest countries in the world, making it a laid-back destination for travellers. Pillaging rates have dropped significantly since ye olden days.
As you would anywhere else, t’s always a good idea to watch your bags and wallets in crowded places, be cautious when using ATMs, and practice vigilance when alone, out at night, or when approached by strangers. Ignore people trying to engage with you in crowded areas as pickpocketing scams are a threat.
Some travellers to Sweden have been targeted by scams, particularly when it comes to hailing a cab. Since the taxi industry is deregulated here, issues with cabs charging obscene fees and targeting foreigners have been reported. We recommend booking cabs only with larger, reputable companies (Taxi Stockholm, Södertälje Taxi, Taxi Kurir, Taxi Nynäs, Taxi 020, Varmdo Taxi, Ekerö Taxi, Norrtälje Taxi, Top Cab, Roslags Taxi). If you’re struggling to tell what’s what, you can always ask a restaurant or bar employee to call you a cab from a reputable company. Avoid one-off cars outside bars or clubs. Look for the pricing stickers on the passenger windows, keeping in mind that a reasonable fare for 10km or 15 minutes should be no higher than 400kr. Know that the price should always be charged in kronor; being charged in euros means you’re being taken advantage of.
Travellers who intend to hike, ski, mountain bike, or otherwise take an adventure travel trip in Sweden should take extra precautions, like gathering detailed information on their routes, ensuring they’re well-equipped, making themselves aware of the conditions, and considering hiring a local guide.
Best Time to Visit
Most travelling to Sweden come between June and August when the warm summer weather and enduring sunshine are present. If you’re keen to explore the cities, boat, paddle, hike, or swim, summer is the perfect time to make the trip. If you’re more interested in snowmobiling, skiing, and spotting the northern lights, December through March are ideal.
The busiest season in Sweden is July and August, so be prepared for potentially heavier crowds around tourist attractions should you choose to visit during the summer.
How to Get Around Sweden
Good news for travellers: there are lots of ways to get around Sweden. It’s pretty much a model country when it comes to transportation. Expect efficient, comfortable, and clean transportation.
If you’re needing to travel lengthwise across Sweden, flying can cut down on transit time. Stockholm Arlanda Airport is the biggest airport in the country, and you can jet around to regional airports quite easily. Note that if you happen to be travelling to Malmo, flying into Copenhagen and taking the train to Malmo is actually the fastest way to arrive.
Trains are the easiest (and most scenic!) way to travel through Sweden. Modern, comfortable trains can zip you around in any weather condition. Look for the state-run Statens Jarnvagar (SJ), or the private Arriva and Oresundstag trains.
If you’re visiting Sweden in the summertime, definitely hop on the Inlandsbanan scenic train, which allows you to customize an itinerary to see Sweden from south to north.
Public transportation in the cities is generally very reliable. Grab a Stockholm Card at a local tourist office to enjoy some free rides (including ferries) as you bus your way around the city.
If you prefer total control over your travel plans and the flexibility to move around without a schedule, renting a car might be the best way to get around Sweden. This is especially true if you’re going to be out in the wilderness where regular bus transport might not be available, or if you’re just a diehard fan of road trip karaoke.
You can rent a car from many big-name brands (Budget, Avis, Europcar) in the airport or in city centres. Generally, drivers will need to be at least 20 years of age and there’s usually no need for an international license.
Keep a few general rules in mind: headlights are required all times of day, snow tires are required from December through March, keep an eye out for wildlife while driving, and know that Sweden’s laws are very strict when it comes to drinking and driving, so it’s best to avoid even one glass if you intend to get behind the wheel.
Best Places to Stay
When you travel to Sweden, you’ll have a few choices of where to rest your head each night.
For those on a budget, hostels are available. Check out Hostel World for locations throughout the country.
Sweden is a camper’s paradise. Allemansrätten (the freedom to roam) is protected under Swedish law, and this extends to camping rights. You can pitch a tent nearly anywhere in the wilderness as long as you’re away from private dwellings and you practice basic principles of respect: pack in and pack out, don’t damage the land, do not pull bark or saplings for fire, and obey limits on campfires. Those less interested in wild camping will be pleased to find many organized campsites in Sweden, plenty decked out with facilities to make your adventure more comfortable. Expect to pay between 200 and 300 SEK for a tent pad per night. Check with Camping Key Europe, which oversees 400 campsites that belong to the National Swedish Campsite Association. You’ll need to become a member to use them.
Most travellers to Sweden will stay in hotels, which are safe bets across the country. You’ll be able to find a hotel room nearly anywhere you end up.
Useful Travel Tools
To Book Accommodation
Consider the SJ website your train bible while in Sweden. You can purchase tickets and check schedules (in English!) for trains, trams, and more.
Planning on getting out and about? Of course you are. For warm winter threads suitable for the hill or trail, some of our favourites are Arc’teryx, Patagonia, and Helly Hansen. For those needing trail running and hiking gear, check Salomon and the Running Room. And if you plan on doing some hiking and backpacking, gear up through MEC or MSR.
We recommend choosing your gear ahead of time and bringing it with you, as quality outdoor gear is expensive in Sweden.
Visa Requirements When Travelling to Sweden
Sweden is part of the Schengen zone, a group of countries in Europe with standardized visa requirements. You can find a list of countries whose nationals are required to apply for a visa prior to travelling to Sweden on the Schengen Visa Info website, but always check with your local travel authority to confirm. Depending on your country of origin, you may need to apply for a visa just to change planes in the Schengen area. For quick reference, citizens of Canada and the United States do not require visas. Tourist visas are normally valid for 90 days.
No matter where you fall in terms of your visa, you’ll always need a valid passport issued within the last 10 years and valid until 3 months after your departure date. Certain criminal convictions can prevent your entry to Sweden, so it’s good to check ahead to make sure you’re eligible for entry.
Interesting Facts about Sweden
Want some fun facts to share with your newfound Swedish friends? Here are some interesting claims to fame for Sweden.
- Fika is the practice of enjoying tea and treats (cake, anyone?) with friends. It’s enjoyed as a respite from the usual day-to-day.
- Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius invented the centigrade system and thermometer.
- More notable Swedes: Alfred Nobel, who the Nobel prize is named for, was Swedish.
- The Stockholm metro system is sometimes called the “world’s longest art exhibition” because it’s absolutely stocked with art! You can find different works and exhibitions throughout about 90 of the 100 stations.
- You’re free to be you here! Sweden has been officially secular for many years, and the social culture is one of progression.
- 2/3 of Sweden is covered in forest, which amounts to a staggering 280,650 square kilometres.
- North Korea owes 2.7 billion SEK to Sweden after the purchase of 1000 Volvo cars in 1974, and the government still sends invoices to North Korea as they haven’t yet paid.
- There are between 300,000 and 400,000 moose living in Sweden. Maybe you’ll spot one!
Frequently Asked Questions about Sweden
Nobody hops on a plane without a few questions first! Hopefully these answers to frequently asked questions about travelling to Sweden help you plan your perfect trip.
Do Swedes speak English?
While the official language of Sweden is Swedish, or Svenska, most people have excellent English. The country ranked 2nd out of 80 countries in the EF English Proficiency Index in 2017, which measures the proficiency of non-native English-speaking countries. You’ll have no problem getting by with English, but it’s still handy to pick up a couple of quick phrases in Swedish.
How should I travel around Sweden?
Trains and buses are the best way to travel within Sweden. They’re well-connected, affordable, and allow you to appreciate the fantastic scenery.
Is Sweden cold?
Be prepared, winter visitors! Being so far north, Sweden experiences cold, snowy winters. While you should be prepared with layers any time of year, wintertime calls for excellent cold weather clothing. Bring a warm parka, hat, mittens, good boots, a scarf, and thermal base layers. While summer is much warmer, you’ll still want a coat for the evenings or potentially cooler daytime temperatures.
What part of Sweden is the most beautiful?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? If you love stately architecture, touch down in Stockholm. If you’re looking for mountains, lakes, and forests, head to Småland. Fans of the water will want to hang around Gotland.
What is the food like in Sweden?
Traditional Swedish food is often based around cultured dairy products, breads, berries, meat, and seafood. You’ll find potatoes as a common side dish, especially boiled with dill. Sweetened breads with jam, particularly lingonberry, are a frequent snack. Bread in general is an important part of Swedish cuisine. Carb lovers unite! Try the local thickened fruit soup, or settle in for fika with a common bun, cookie, biscuit, or cinnamon roll.
Swedish people often enjoy an early breakfast, a light early lunch, and a heavy dinner. Snacks and fika are common.