It’s time you knew more about Sweden than ABBA or IKEA. The country of the Summer Solstice and the “fika” custom ( read further for details) is too big and too diverse to be limited to these two symbols mentioned above.
Here are few tips which will prepare you for a vacation in Sweden
1. Only one store sales alcohol
If you enjoy a glass of wine, then you better pack up before getting into the country. Wine and alcohol sales in gas stations and local stores is forbidden.
To control the alcohol sales in the country, in 1955 the government established the Systembolaget stores. This market chain has a monopoly over the sales of alcohol – it’s the only place you can buy wine, beer, and spirits, with 3,5 % alcohol. To buy them you must be 20 years old although the age limit in restaurants and bars in Sweden is 18 years old.
Most towns have one Systembolaget, and big cities have much more, but they’re not easy to find.
2. The marinated herring is a lifestyle
Some of us love chocolate. The Swedish people love marinated herring. No special occasion is complete without it.
The herring has different flavors, and it’s usually eaten with crispy bread or potatoes, sour cream, and chive. Smoked fish is also popular: mackerel, eel, and salmon. In towns along the coast, there are “smokers” who sell these smoked delicacies fished out of the local waters.
Another particular Swedish culinary habit is to eat fermented fish (Surstromming). You can find it in cans and, if you get past the smell, your stomach can handle one serving.
3. The Swedish love to “fika”
Fika is a fundamental habit for the Swedish culture. Used as verb or noun, “fika” means a coffee break or just break and means a coffee break while eating pastry products and coffee with your friends and family.
In Sweden, you will always find a fika cafe. If you are in North-West Skane, I recommend you Flickorna Lundgren, a cafe opened in 1938 by two sisters. You will find here cookies and a garden renowned for its landscapes.
4. The Swedish take glass seriously
In the South of Sweden, in Smaland, the Glass Kingdom (Galsriket) is home to 13 glass factories, including renowned brands such as Kosta Boda and Orrefors. Here you can see the glass making masters at work transforming melted glass into fine works of art.
You can also craft your own souvenirs for your loved ones at home. Most glass factories have their own shops with products at factory prices.
5. Your children will love Sweden
Sweden is the ideal place to travel with children. In Skansen lies the world’s first outdoors museum, with a unique collection of historic buildings, a Zoo for the children, an aquarium, playgrounds and a fun fair – a perfect place to celebrate the Summer Solstice, Easter and other holidays.
The biggest natural park in Scandinavia – Kolmarden, is approximately 90 minutes away from Stockholm.
Skanes Djurpark in the South of the country is another perfect Zoo for the children, with more animals, playgrounds, and a pool.
You will find many fun fairs for all ages; Liseberg in Gothenburg is one of the best parks in Europe, and Grona Lund in Stockholm is just as good.
The following Stockholm museums are a must: Wasa Museum ( a sunken royal ship), The Natural History Museum and the Technology Museum.
Junibacken is another popular family place in the capital. It is an indoors themed park dedicated to Pippi Longstocking, the vivid character created by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren
6. Going from one island to the other is one of the best activities
If you move too deep in one direction in Sweden, sooner or later you will reach an archipelago off the North, South, East and West coasts. These archipelagos are part of the Swedish cultural heritage and natural beauty, with a relaxing lifestyle and many nature activities. Many Swedish people have Summer residences on these islands.
Only on the Stockholm archipelago there are about 24.000 islands. Approximately 150 are inhabited and most of them are accessible by private boats. On the biggest islands you can get by ferry boat and they are a good choice for a one day vacation – lunch, hiking, swimming in crystal clear waters at high temperatures.
Gotland and Oland, the biggest Swedish islands, are on the South coast and are worth visiting. On Gotland lie the Lummelunda Caves with spectacular stalactites and stalagmites and a medieval town in Kattlundsgard.
Off the South-West coast, Hallands Vadero is a reservation that shelters some of the almost extinct species in Europe, including some rare beetles.
7. The art of standing in line has been perfected
In Sweden, no one skips ahead. At the post office, the pharmacy, Systembolaget or at the cheese aisle in the supermarket, you must get a ticket with your number, stand in line and wait for your turn. Everything happens in a precise order.
8. Recycling is not optional
Garden garbage, colored glass, transparent glass, newspapers and magazines, milk and yogurt cartons, soft and hard plastic, metals, household waste.
The Swedish are big recyclers, and sorting out the household waste is a national sport. An average Swedish home has at least three garbage bins, each of them with a section for the categories mentioned above. Before it is thrown away, the garbage is cleaned, and cardboard boxes are neatly folded to save space. All this is part of Sweden’s green culture.
9. It’s easy to get around
It’s easy to explore Sweden by car – the roads are well maintained, and traffic jams are rare. Just be prepared to encounter rein deer or moose. You will also find facilities for cyclists – an extended network of tracks lie inside and outside the cities, all over the country.
Compared to other countries cabs are expensive. Therefore, public transportation is the best choice – there is an extended network of trains, buses, and coaches. The biggest operator is Swebus Express, with 150 destinations.Remember, for some local buses you will need to purchase traveling cards before going on board.
10. The Summer Solstice is the biggest celebration of the year
The Summer Solstice is the most important holiday for the Sweden. It always takes place on a Friday between 19th and 25th of June, when the locals celebrate the biggest day of the year after they spend all Winter in the dark.
Many big or small cities organize outdoors dances, with folk singers and people dancing around the pole decorated with flowers and leaves. Then the party begins. At such celebrations, you can try traditional food, Schnapps, and beer.
According to tradition, if a young girl picks seven different flowers and places them under her pillow, during the night of the Solstice she will dream her future husband.