Destination Sweden

This page is divided into to sections. The first section contains general information about Sweden and the secound part contains information about all the cities I have been to.

General information about Sweden
Sweden is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. The country has land borders with Norway to the west and Finland to the northeast, and water borders with Denmark, Germany and Poland to the south and Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia to the east. Sweden is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund. The country emerged as an independent and unified country during the Middle Ages. In the 17th century, the country expanded its territories to form the Swedish Empire. The empire grew to be one of the great powers of Europe in the 17th and early 18th century. Most of the conquered territories outside the Scandinavian Peninsula were lost during the 18th and 19th centuries. The eastern half of Sweden, present-day Finland, where lost to Russia in 1809. The last war in which Sweden was directly involved was in 1814, when Sweden by military means forced Norway into a personal union which lasted until 1905. Since then, Sweden has been at peace, adopting a non-aligned foreign policy in peacetime and neutrality in wartime.

Today, Sweden is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government and a highly developed economy. It ranks first in the world in The Economist's Democracy Index and seventh in the United Nations' Human Development Index. Sweden has been a member of the European Union since January 1st 1995 and is a member of the OECD. It has a strong tradition of being an open, yet discreet country. Citizens sometimes appear to be quite reserved at first, but once they get to know you they tend be warm and friendly. Privacy is regarded as a key item. For example mega-stars have many times realized that they mostly can walk the streets of the cities virtually undisturbed. EU and EEA citizens are allowed to work in Sweden without a permit. Citizens of other countries need a work permit, and getting one is quite a hassle, however, Working Holiday Visas are available for Australian and New Zealand citizens aged between 18-30. Swedes, foreign citizens already living in Sweden, and EU/EEA citizens have preference over others in obtaining work in Sweden. Also, if the offer of work is for more than three months you will also require a Swedish residence permit. More information about the paperwork is found on the government website swedenabroad.com.

 

Swedish is the national language of Sweden, but you will find that people, especially those born since 1945, also speak English very well - an estimated 89% of Swedes can speak English, according to the Eurobarometer, making Sweden the most English-proficient country on the continent. Finnish is the biggest minority language. Regardless of what your native tongue is, Swedes greatly appreciate any attempt to speak Swedish and beginning conversations in Swedish, no matter how quickly your understanding peters out, will do much to ingratiate yourself to the locals. Swedes are helpful and speak adequate English in general. Most swedes won't approach a tourist if they think that they are lost, in respect that they might not need help. But if you ask for directions or recommendations you will most likely get it. 


Travelling within Sweden
Traveling within Sweden is quite easy. Statens Järnvägar is the Swedish State Railways which is the larges ralway company and Swebus is the largest bus company. If you have planned to spend some time in Sweden you should try Inlandsbanan (The Inland Railway) which runs through the central and most beatifull parts of northern Sweden. The standard on the roads are quite good.

Places to visit and when to go there
When to visit Sweden depends of what you want to see. During the winter you will be able to see the northern light. To get a good view of this phenomenon you should travel as far north as possible. It is possible to see it in the southern part of Sweden but this does not occur that frequent. The downside of seeing the northern light is that it is only possible to see it during the winter in the polar night and Sweden is a cold and dark country that time of year. In the old days people thought the northern light where trying to catch your soul if you looked at it. Visiting Sweden during winther you should visit the ice hotel in Jukkasjärvi. The opositte of winther and the polar night is the summer and the midnight sun. The midnight sun is fantastic and at 3 am the sun is high in the sky. In summer the sun does not set in months up north. The mid-summer eve is one of the bigest events in Sweden.

Places to sleep
In Sweden you have several options where to sleep. Check hotels.com, booking.com and hostelworld.com. Visiting Stockholm I have stayed at Generator hostels Stockholm which have everything from private suits to dowms and family rooms.


Money and banking
The national currency is the Swedish krona (SEK, plural kronor). Automatic teller machines take major credit cards. In April 2018 1 USD = 8.49 SEK and 1 EUR = 10.38 SEK. Most stores, restaurants and bars accept all major credit cards. You usually need an ID card or a passport when shopping with a credit card, regardless of the amount involved, though ususally not in supermarkets and such where PIN code is king.

Vaccine and health
Since November 2009, the pharmacy business has been de-regulated. Certified pharmacies carry a green cross sign and the text Apotek. For small medical problems the pharmacy is sufficient. Major cities carry one pharmacy open at night. Many supermarkets carry non-prescription supplies such as band aid, antiseptics and painkillers. Swedish health care is usually of a very high quality, but can be quite challenging for foreigners to receive. Most, but not all, medical clinics are state-owned, and their accessibility varies. Therefore, getting a time within a week at some medical centers could prove difficult. In case of a medical emergency, most provinces (and of course, the major cities) have a regional hospital with an around-the-clock emergency ward. However, if you are unlucky you can expect a long wait before getting medical attention. No vaccine is requires before visiting Sweden. Tap water in Sweden is of great quality and safe to drink.

Visa
Sweden is a member of the Schengen Agreement. For EU and EFTA citizens, an officially approved ID card (or a passport) is sufficient for entry. In no case will they need a visa for a stay of any length. Others will generally need a passport for entry. There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty - the European Union, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: Not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union.  Travel in the Schengen zone is an informative article which provides aditional informastion.

Crime
Sweden enjoys a comparatively low crime rate and is generally a safe place to travel. Use common sense at night, particularly on weeknights when people hit the streets to drink, get drunk, and in some unfortunate cases look for trouble. Mind that it is likely that your home country is less safe than Sweden, so heed whatever warnings you would do in your own country and you will have no worries.
 

Swedish cuisine and drink
The Swedish cuisine tends to be practical and sustaining but due to Sweden's large north-south extent there have been regional differences. In the far North meats such as reindeer and other (semi-) game dishes were eaten, some which have their roots in the Sami culture, while fresh vegetables have played a larger role in the South. Many traditional dishes employ simple, contrasting flavours; such as the traditional dish of meatballs and gravy with tart, pungent lingonberry jam (slightly similar in taste to cranberry sauce). Swedish cuisine can be distinguished from that of its neighbours in Norway and Finland, with the dishes often being more sweetened. The importance of fish in the Swedish cousine goes far back in history. For preservation, fish were salted and cured. Salt became a major trade item at the dawn of the Scandinavian middle ages, which began circa 1000 AD. Cabbage preserved as sauerkraut and various kinds of preserved berries, apples, etc. were used once as a source of vitamin C during the winter (today sauerkraut is used very seldom in Swedish cuisine). Lingonberry jam, still a favourite, may be the most traditional and typical Swedish way to add freshness to sometimes rather heavy food, such as steaks and stews.

Swedish traditional dishes, some of which are many hundreds of years old, others perhaps a century or less, are still a very important part of Swedish everyday meals, in spite of the fact that modern day Swedish cuisine adopts many international dishes. With a long coast and many lakes and rivers, fish and other seafood is an important part of the Swedish cuisine. Sweden's long winters explain the lack of fresh vegetables in many traditional recipes. In older times, plants that would sustain the population through the winters were cornerstones; various turnips such as the kålrot (aptly named "swede" in British English) were gradually supplanted or complemented by the potato in the 18th century. Before the influences of French cuisine during the 17th and 18th centuries, a lack of distinct spices made every-day food rather plain by today's standards, although a number of local herbs and plants have been used since ancient times. This tradition is still present in todays Swedish dishes, which are still rather sparingly spiced. The most important of stronger beverages in the Swedish cuisine is spirits which is a general term that includes mainly two kinds of beverages: The Aquavit and the Vodka. Aquavit is a flavored spirit that is produced only in Scandinavia. Its name comes from aqua vitae, the Latin for "water of life". When consumed traditionally it is often served as a Snaps, but Vodka is also populary consumed as a drink ingredient.
 

Cities I have been to in Sweden

Falun
Falun is a small industrial city situated in Dalarna province in central Sweden. The town is the administrative center of Dalarna and is populated by somewhat less than 40.000 people. Falun was built around the old copper mine, which was operational as early as the 11th century. The mine was an important resource during the years of the Swedish Empire and made Falun Sweden's second largest city around mid-17th century. In the 17th and 18th century Falun delivered enough copper to supply 2/3 of the world-demand of it. There is also a mining museum in the area. It has exhibitions about the history of coins in Sweden (including the largest coins in the world), and scale models of mining inventions by medieval tech genius Christoffer Polhem. The mines closed in the early 90's and now it's become a tourist attraction and made it into the UNESCO World Heritage List. There is also a mining museum in the area. It also has exhibitions about the history of coins in Sweden and scale models of mining equiptment. There are also guided tours within the mines itself. Stora Kopparberg (now Stora Enso), the mining company, is still active although nowadays it's in the forest industry. It claims to be the world's oldest company, having existed more than a millennia. The Dalarna province is by many considered to be the very essence of Sweden, with Dala Horses and traditional midsummer festivities. Falun has made some contributions to the Swedish heritage as well. Prime examples, and memories of the mining, are Falu Red Paint (Falu rödfärg) and the Falu Sausage (Falukorv). The red color of the copper was used to make a brownish red paint that has become hugely popular in Sweden. The archetypal image of idyllic Sweden somehow always seems to include a Falu red wooden cottage with white corners. The Falu sausage, thick and ring-shaped, is one of few food products protected by the EU through a "certificate of special character" which states what ingredients must be in a Falu Sausage. The sausage was originally made by meat from the thousands of oxen whose hides were used to make ropes for the copper mine. Today, meat from pigs as well as beef is used in the sausages. Rockstad:Falun is a metal-festival held each spring with local bands from Dalarne. Falun is easy accessable by train or bus from Stockholm and other cities in Sweden. You have to switch busses in the neighbour town Borlänge.

Gothenburg
Gothenburg is the secound largest city in Sweden and the fifth largest in the nordic countries. The Gothenburg University is the largest university in Scandinavia with 60.000 students. While visiting Gothenburg you should visit Skansen Kronan (which is situated southwest of the city center), Haga (a city district with picturesque wooden houses from the 19th century), The indoor Fish Market, called "Feskekôrka" (Fish Church), Gothenburg Art Museum (Göteborgs Konstmuseum), Gothenburg City Museum (Göteborgs Stadsmuseum), the Maritime Museum, Gothenburg Natural History Museum, Slottsskogen, Volvo Museum (Volvo was established in Gothenburg), Gothenburg Radio Museum and Kviberg Military Museum.

Jukkasjärvi
Jukkasjärvi is not the most famous place in Sweden but it is famous because of the ice hotel which is build every year. Each suite is unique and the architecture of the hotel is changed each year, as it is rebuilt from scratch. The hotel also got a bar where even the glasses are made of ice. The hotel and the inventory is made of ice from the Torne River.

Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital in Sweden and one of my favourite cities in Europe. The city was founded in 1250, and has long been one of Sweden's cultural, media, political, and economic centres. Its situated on a strategic location on 14 islands on the south-central east coast of Sweden. The city is made up of 14 islands connected by some 50 bridges on Lake Mälaren, which flows into the Baltic Sea and passes an archipelago with some 24,000 islands and islets. Most attractions in Stockholm are found in the inner city - historically the zone within the city tolls. The geography of Stockholm, with its islands and bodies of water, makes for a natural division of the inner city into three major zones. Simply put, the mainland north of Gamla Stan (consisting of Norrmalm, Vasastan and Östermalm) can be said to form one district, the small island Gamla Stan and the large Södermalm another, and the island of Kungsholmen a separate district in the west. This division reflects how most Stockholmers perceive the city, although it is in part different from the administrative borough divisions. Sweden's beautiful capital has a picturesque setting that makes the city unique. The difference between seasons is quite large, the summers green with mild nights, and the winters dark, cold, rainy, sometimes snowy, and with millions of Christmas candles in the windows.

Stockholm is a city easily enjoyed by foot, with very few steep streets. Walk around, and be sure to enjoy the beautiful panoramas, either from the viewpoints listed in the See section, or from one of the bars and restaurants with good views: Gondolen, Herman's or the penthouse lounge of Sjöfartshotellet on Södermalm, or the SAS Radisson Hotel Skybar on Norrmalm. You will get the best view of Stockholm from the Skybar and restaurant called "Och himlen därtill" located in the Skrapan building on Södermalm. Outside the inner city, the city has a typically suburban character. The Municipality of Stockholm extends to the northwest and to the south. To the north the municipality borders the towns of Solna and Danderyd and to the east Nacka and the island of Lidingö; all of them traditionally separate entities. The city's a very lively, cosmopolitan place with both modern Scandinavian architecture including lots of brass and steel, along with fairytale towers, a captivating Old Town (Gamla Stan) and lots of green space. Over 30% of the city area is made up of waterways and another 30% is made up of parks and green spaces, giving Stockholm perhaps the freshest air and widest lungs of any European capital. Visiting Stockholm you should visit Old Town (Gamla Stan) where The royal palace is situated. Visiting Stockholm you should visit Vasa museum, Nationalmuseum, The Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm City Museum, Skansen, Nordic Museum and Royal Coin Cabinet. There are two hop-on/hop-off boat tours that run loops between various sites in Stockholm. Both cost approximately 10 Euro for a day long pass and have approximately 8 stops, including the cruise terminal, Gamla Stan, the Vasa Museum, Skansen, and Skeppsholmen. Östermalm is the poshy district of Stockholm where Stureplan is situated. Some of the country's most famous restaurants and bars are located in the area around Stureplan. This area has also became a well-known symbol for exclusivity since the major refurbishments during the 1980s. Known as an area with many expensive, luxurious bars and restaurants, it is considered a playground for upper-class youth, celebrities, young business executives and the hipper, more recent members of the Swedish Royal Family. Södermalm, shortened to "Söder", is a more laid back district in Stockholm and is one of the most densely populated districts of Scandinavia. Södermalm is now known as home of bohemian, alternative culture and a broad range of cultural amenities and the district in Stockholm that I like the most.

Map of Europe with Sweden highlighted.