Whether you want to go to Sweden but don’t know where to start, or have your trip planned but would like to get off that proverbial beaten track, this thorough guide to Sweden’s best is here to help you out! We’ve divided it into different sections to help you plan your trip according to how long you’re staying in the country, each with our best tips for what to do — and what the locals do. Trevlig resa!
What You Should Know Before Going
Currency: Kronor. One dollar is about nine kronor at the time of writing, but usually, it’s less. Don’t take out loads of cash; many places don’t accept cash anymore, and most Scandinavians haven’t seen their own bills since the late ’00s anyway.
Getting around: Trains are reasonably priced when booking in advance. Öresundståget, which traffics the very south of Sweden, is always the same price. Renting a car is useful if you want to get out in the countryside, but for traveling in and between cities, you’ll probably just find it annoying to get a parking spot.
Weather: Admittedly, this isn’t where you go if you love 100-degree heat. If you’re more into a laid-back 75, however, you’re in the right place. Sudden afternoon rain showers are the main constituents of Swedish summer (picture crying children and disgruntled dads packing away the picnic food) — but they also tend to pass quickly.
Finances: The bad news: Sweden is kind of expensive. The good news? Still cheaper than Denmark and Norway — ha-ha! A good meal in a restaurant will be 120-200 kronor; a hotel or B&B night roughly 1,500-2,000.
Tipping: Not really. You can if you want to, and if so, 10 percent will be enough. Usually, you tip by entering the total amount in the card reader yourself.
Best time to go: June to August. June has the longest days, and July tends to be the warmest, but the cities can feel a bit empty due to the locals taking a full month of vacation.
Language: Well, Swedish. English proficiency is quite high among Swedes, but we definitely recommend learning a bit of the language, especially since the relative similarity to English and the easy grammar in the beginning will give you a head start.
Where To Go In Sweden
2-3 Days: Copenhagen to Malmö & Skåne
No, we know, Copenhagen isn’t in Sweden, but if you’re starting from there because of its highly central airport and train station, it’s really easy to cross the border. Hop on the Öresund train from the airport or the city center, and you’re in Malmö in less than an hour. Malmö is a really cool and easygoing city — the biggest city in the rural and green province of Skåne. The sauna on a pier in the sea, Ribersborg, is ideal for experiencing Swedish sauna culture. You’ll also be able to swim in the ocean, even in bad weather. Around the square Möllevångstorget, or Möllan if you want a shorter word (we suspect you do), is where you’ll want to go for an unpretentious meal and cheap drinks, whereas the restaurants and bars around Lilla Torg are a bit more upscale.
From Malmö, it’s also easy to go on a day trip to the countryside along the southern coast, where you can see the mysterious ancient monument Ales stenar, also known as Sweden’s Stonehenge, or go swimming at its long, sandy beaches. The picturesque little town of Ystad is also well worth a stop.
3-4 Days: Stockholm (5 hours from Malmö)
If you’re traveling to the capital from the south, you pass by the regions Småland and Östergötland. If you’re traveling by car, it’s nice to not have to rush through it. You can make a pit stop to explore Visingsö (a delightful, car-free island in the lake Vättern) or Vadstena (one of Sweden’s oldest towns).
But let’s move on to Stockholm — the “Venice of the North.” Here, you can definitely spend a number of days without getting bored. One out of five Swedes lives in and around Stockholm, making it the hub of Sweden, whether non-Stockholmers like it or not.
You’ve probably heard it before, but we’ll take the risk of boring you and/or raising your expectations: the city itself is really beautiful (except perhaps for some parts that date from the ’60s, reflecting the “interesting” take on city planning of this time period). If you’re into history, Stockholm won’t disappoint you: it houses the Stockholm and Drottningholm Royal Palaces, featuring art and interiors from the 17th and 18th centuries; the Vasa Museum, where they’ve crammed in a gigantic ship from the early 17th century; the Viking settlement Birka; and the National Museum, where you can see five centuries worth of Swedish art.
We also sincerely recommend doing an excursion to one of the nearby islands. Getting out of the city in the summer is what the locals do, so why don’t you? The archipelago is easy to get to on a day trip, with several boats leaving from central Stockholm. For instance, you can take the Cinderella or Waxholmsbolaget boats to beautiful islands like Sandhamn or Möja, or, if time is short, to Fjäderholmarna, the closest of the archipelago islands. On many of the islands, you can also spend the night in a hotel, B&B or hut.
And when you’re back in the city? Go hang out for a full day in the hip area of Södermalm (around Nytorget or Hornstull), where you can indulge in people watching, craft beer drinking, latte art, grain bowls or whatever that demographic is into these days. Jokes aside, it’s really beautiful to just walk around in these neighborhoods. The hills are lined with 19th-century red and white wooden houses, and it has many vivid picnic-friendly parks like Vitabergsparken or Tantolunden (Vitan and Tanto for short), where young Stockholmers eat dill chips and drink low percentage beer. And don’t miss out on the absolutely best part of Stockholm: going swimming in the middle of the city, for example on Långholmen. When the night comes, party people go to the outdoor club Trädgården, also in Södermalm, or to the many posh bars and clubs around Stureplan.
3-4 Days: The Very North (17 hours from Stockholm)
Many visitors to Sweden miss out on the north because they think it’s too far away, and yes, the distance between the very south and the very north of Sweden is, in fact, equal to that of Miami to New York. But we’d like to give you a little tip: the night train. Not only is it environmentally friendly and perfect for budget travelers, since you don’t have to pay for accommodation during the travel nights – but it’s also an incredibly refreshing feeling to wake up to different scenery (and temperatures). The train bistro is also a good place to chat up some Swedes — after all, you’re stuck there for the night, Murder on the Orient Express style, and might as well have a beer together. Taking the train from Stockholm in the late afternoon will have you in the town of Luleå in the morning and in the middle of the wilderness just in time for lunch. And if you manage to sleep through a red-eye flight, you’ll sleep like a baby when gently rocked by the train, breathing fresh air from the open window. Bring a sleeping mask, though — the insomnia-inducing powers of the midnight sun should not be underestimated.
From Abisko, many hiking trails of varying length and difficulty start. You are allowed to set up camp anywhere out in nature, and you can drink the best-tasting water ever straight from the streams. If you’ve never been out backpacking before, there are lots of guided tours to take you out in nature in a less life-jeopardizing manner; check The Swedish Tourist Association for Abisko. This vast and varied landscape is definitely worth the trip up here, and even if you don’t have many days, you’ll get to experience shining glaciers, green deltas and roaring waterfalls — and of course, the somewhat psychedelic experience of the sun never setting.
While you’re up in the north, you can also visit the towns of Kiruna and Jokkmokk. In Jokkmokk, you should go to the museum Ájtte, dedicated to the culture and history of the indigenous Sami people. If you have a lot of time on your hands, do continue west to Norway: the city Narvik and the incredibly beautiful islands of Lofoten are just a couple of hours away.
An alternative to the very north is the region of Jämtland in central-western Sweden, where you’ll also get mountains and wilderness, but in a shorter distance from both Stockholm and Gothenburg. Which brings us to…
3-4 Days: Gothenburg (2.5 hours from Malmö, 3.5 hours from Stockholm)
There is a never-ending battle between Stockholm and Gothenburg, the latter claiming to be less stuck-up, friendlier, and more social — which of course is great news for any tourist! We won’t take sides in the battle, but we will vouch for Gothenburg being an amazing summer destination. It’s also a great food city, most notably because of the seafood: here you can indulge in shrimp, langoustine, smoked herring, salmon, mussels, even oysters. An iconic place to get hold of your seafood is Feskekörka, a market hall that looks like a church.
When you’re done there, go wash away the fish taste with some coffee and enormous cinnamon buns in the many cafés in Haga, an old and hip part of the city that’s more or less the manifestation of the concept mysigt (“cozy”). Do also experience the Swedish take on fast food, for example at the kiosk Lasse på Heden, where you can get the classic tunnbrödsrulle: hot dogs with mashed potatoes and shrimp mayo in a flatbread roll. Yum! Speaking of Swedish fast food: if you feel like you can live with yourself and/or don’t know any Italians, you should try Swedish pizza — known for unorthodox toppings like bearnaise sauce, banana, or kebab meat with yogurt sauce and iceberg lettuce.
On Saturdays and Sundays, Gothenburgers go shopping and eating at the bustling market Kvibergs marknad, or they go out to the contemporary art center Röda sten for some art, brunch and daytime DJs. If the weather is in your favor, head to Jubileumsparken, a lush park and city planning project alike that’s situated in the harbor. The park is under construction but nevertheless open to visitors. It also has a sauna and a pool, offers sailing lessons, city gardening, restaurants, and much more. Alternatively, take the ferry to one of the car-free and super charming islands like Brännö, Styrsö, Hälsö (yes, “ö” means island in Swedish) — each with their own unique character and culture.
These are only a handful of places to visit in Sweden, but they’re some of our favorite spots! And if you feel like you haven’t had enough inspiration? We’ve collected even more tips, along with useful phrases for your vacation, in the communication-focused language course A Journey Through Sweden, which you will find among the Babbel Swedish courses from July on. Try out the first lesson of the course for free!