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Boasting colourful coastal cities and extraordinary rural landscapes, Sweden is an unspoilt paradise and a breath of fresh air…

From the west coast to the east, including all its indulgent scenery in between, Sweden has been captivating visitors for years. Secluded beaches, rich green valleys, and fairy-tale castles are just a few of the delights you can expect. In Swedish Lapland in the northwest, you’ll find wintry forests and snow-capped mountains, and you might even spot the aurora borealis if you visit between September and March.

Further south, you can savour the hospitality and entertainment in the busier towns. Sweden’s three largest cities, Stockholm, Malmö, and Gothenburg, each have a distinct personality, but all boast picturesque streets and surprisingly cosmopolitan centres.

As a country with a large geographical area and a small population, Sweden is the perfect place to escape bustling crowds. City or countryside, wherever you go, you are sure to find space to unwind and enjoy a slice of peace.

 

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Culture and history

The majority of Swedes are Lutheran Christians and members of the Church of Sweden, which was formed during the Protestant Reformation. Religious freedom is granted across the country, however, so there are Roman Catholics, Muslims and Jews in Sweden’s religious population.

Swedes can be loosely characterised as laid-back, quiet people who believe in moderation. Humility and open-mindedness are prized qualities, and punctuality is imperative. Kindness and hospitality are also highly valued in Sweden, so giving thanks is an important thing to remember.

When greeting someone new, it is customary to shake hands, make eye contact, and introduce yourself. Friends usually greet one another with hugs rather than kisses. When toasting, eye contact is once again important.

The family is central to Swedish life and culture, and accordingly, Swedish rights surrounding family and childcare are some of the best in the world.

Swedes are early eaters, and it is normal to eat the main meal of the day at lunchtime.

The country is home to a large number of famous household names, ranging from pop giant ABBA – the fourth best-selling music act in history – to IKEA furniture. Swedes have won 30 Nobel Prizes, and over 600 Olympic medals. Some of the most notable people from Sweden include children’s author Astrid Lindgren, writer of Pippi Longstocking, and Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite and founder of the Nobel Prize.

Sweden has a long history dates back as early as 10,000 BC, when it was inhabited after the end of an ice age. It was later settled by the Vikings, but it didn’t begin to unite into a single kingdom until King Gustav Vasa’s rule in the 16th century.

Things to do

It might have a peaceful and laid back vibe, but Sweden is not short of things to do. From the far north to the southern coast, this is a destination that offers an array of enchanting sights that promise to keep you busy.

Stockholm

Spread across 14 islands, Stockholm is known to some as the Venice of Scandinavia. The compact city centre is easy to explore on foot, and the best place to start is by wandering the cobblestone streets between colourful buildings in Gamla Stan, the old town. You can also visit Djurgården, a green island park in the city centre that is home to many cafes, museums, and restaurants.

Drottningholm Palace

A short journey from Stockholm will take you to one of Sweden’s most spectacular sights – Drottingholm Palace, home to the Swedish royal family. This 17th century palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – here, you can tour the splendid rooms and gardens, or even go to a performance at the Palace Theatre.

Gothenburg

Gothenburg is a busy port, and at the waterfront you’ll find everything from museums to fine seafood restaurants. The floating Maritiman Museum is set across 19 boats, and each one will give you a fascinating glimpse into Gothenburg’s maritime history.

Venture further into the heart of the city, and you’ll fall in love with the grand buildings that line the canals. For something a little different, pay a visit to the Kuggen building, a distinct red cogwheel-like structure designed by architectural firm Wingårdh arkitektkontor.

Malmö

Malmö is an up-and-coming city with lots to offer. Wherever you go in the city, you’ll be able to see the twisty and towering Turning Torso, Sweden’s tallest building at 190 metres. You can visit Malmöhus Castle, a medieval fortress surrounded by a moat, or sample the city’s incredible cuisine. As a meeting place of people and cultures, Malmö’s cuisine is varied, but the elegant Atmosfär restaurant is a favourite for seasonal Scandinavian cuisine.

Swedish Lapland

This northwestern corner of Sweden is where you can go in search of the midnight sun, and perhaps the northern lights. For a few weeks in winter, there is no daylight, and for a few weeks in summer, the sun never sets.

In Kiruna, Sweden’s most northerly town, you won’t find the grand streets of the southern cities, but the place does exude a modest charm. Kiruna also makes the perfect base to explore the surrounding area, including Abisko National Park, which is preserved as a prime example of the Nordic natural landscape.

Sigtuna

Not far from Stockholm is Sigtuna, the oldest town in Sweden. It was built in the 10th century, and has retained many medieval characteristics. Wander amidst ancient church ruins, shop on the quaint main street, or enjoy a stroll along the boardwalk by the lake.

Flight time

The flight from London to Gothenburg is less than two hours, and London to Stockholm is slightly longer, at two and a half hours.

Currency

Krona - The currency is the Swedish krona, and one krona is 100 öre.

Passports and visas

You’ll need a passport to travel to Sweden, but a visa is not required for British citizens.

Phrases

Hello – God dag (formal) or Hej (informal)

Goodbye – Hej då

How are you? – Hur mår du?

Please – Tack or Snälla

Thanks – Tack

Thank you very much – Tack så mycket

Yes – Ja

No – Nej

Excuse me – Ursäkta

Do you speak English? – Pratar du engelska?

Where is the toilet? – Var är toaletten?

Cheers! – Skål!

Timezone

Sweden is part of the European Central Time Zone, which is one hour ahead of GMT, or two during daylight saving hours.

Electricity

Mains voltage in Sweden is 230 volts, the same as the UK. All plug sockets take round two pin plugs (known as type F plugs), so you will need an adaptor, but all British appliances will work in Sweden.

Language

Swedish -

Swedish is the official language, but Sweden also has five national minority languages – Finnish, Meänkieli, Yiddish, Romani, and the Sami languages.

Most Swedes speak English as a second language, however, so you shouldn’t encounter a huge language barrier.

Tipping

Tipping is not mandatory in Sweden, and a service charge will already be included in a lot of hotel and restaurant bills.

Aside from this, it is a personal choice, but it is always appreciated and remembered, so you might consider leaving a tip if you’ve experienced particularly good service.

Taxi drivers typically expect a small tip.

Climate

Sweden’s climate is milder than you might expect from its northerly location, and this is thanks to the Gulf Stream, a warm Atlantic Ocean current. The country can be divided into three weather regions – the south (Götaland), the centre (Svealand), and the north (Norrland).

In southern Sweden, where you’ll find Gothenburg, winters are shorter and you can expect summer temperatures similar to the south of the UK. It rarely snows on Sweden’s southern coast. Svealand, which includes Stockholm, is slightly colder than its southerly neighbour, and you can expect snow, especially in the northwest.

Northern Sweden is where you’ll find the real cold climate – here, snow can lie year round on higher land, although the short summers can also see surprisingly high temperatures. For a month of winter in Norrland’s most northerly point, there is total darkness, and for a month in summer, the sun never sets.

Health

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Population and size

Sweden has a population of over 9.8 million, which is small considering its large geographical size.

At 450,000 square kilometres, Sweden is almost double the size of the UK!

Smoking

Smoking is not permitted in bars, restaurants or on public transport in Sweden. Some Swedes use snus, a snuff product that fits under the upper lip, as an alternative to smoking.



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