Exploring Scandinavia’s Sweden

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One of Europe’s best destinations for cool & hip holidays, Sweden has a lot to offer. From the country’s impressive countryside to a rich cultural heritage, the country has a bit of everything. Sweden makes it at the top of many “best of” lists thanks to its impressive socio-economic standing, its human rights records, LGBT rights and it’s home to one of Europe’s most picturesque landscapes.

The country’s diverse offering of things to do and places to see makes it a unique place to visit. It’s not just the Swedish meatballs, beautiful blonde men & women or the trendsetting city of Stockholm, there’s also an unique history and a rich cultural tradition.

Sweden makes it to the top of a lot of my Europe lists, and yet a lot of travelers skip out on Sweden during their first European holidays. Thanks to new direct flight connections with the USA, the country’s popularity is growing. Here’s why you should plan a trip sooner rather than later to experience that authentic Swedish culture you can only get in Sweden.

Why Head to Sweden

1. Amazing Nature

When I recently visited Mälmo, on the southwestern coast of Sweden, there was something that struck me almost immediately: the fresh air. With the coastline and the parks that run through the city (Kungsparken right in the city center), there’s a refreshing taste and smell that permeates the city. The same goes for Stockholm and its archipelago—nearly 30,000 islands scattered throughout the Baltic Sea.

On the trendy island of Södermalm in Stockholm, there’s a path that runs along the northern edge of the city—the Monteliusvägen path (details here). There’s an incredible panoramic viewpoint out over the city, but it’s there where you realize even in Sweden’s largest city (with over 1 million inhabitants), this is a place for amazing natural beauty.

Sweden has this overpowering sense of natural wonder—its green forests, blue waters and the midnight sun.

2. Culinary Traditions

There’s one food everyone thinks of first when trying to figure out what exactly is “Swedish food.” And that’s meatballs. (Thank you IKEA for introducing that to the world.) But Sweden is so much more than meatballs. Swedish cuisine traditionally includes a lot of meat and seafood.

Open-faced shrimp (or prawn) sandwiches are especially popular for lunches, and meatballs seem to be endlessly available. However, during the midsummer season (celebrated on Midsummer’s Eve every June 24), the popular Swedish meal includes pickled herring, boiled potatoes with fresh dill, sour cream and chives. The celebration involves maypoles, songs and flowers.

But perhaps the strongest culinary tradition in Sweden is the fika. What is fika? It’s the everyday tradition to have coffee and cake each afternoon—something you really have to experience in Sweden because it’s a truly unique experience.

Somehow it’s more than most other culture’s “coffee and cake” afternoon traditions! There’s a specialness. With the help of my friend Clairkine, we’ve put together a guide on what you need to know for a proper fika.

3. Home to the “Original Hipsters”

SoFo café - Hipster Sweden

With Sweden’s unique mix of Scandinavian culture and history, the country has a long tradition of cool. From bread-making to design, the Swedes seem to have this long history with arts and crafts. Sweden’s cities are infused with all the aspects that define a proper hipster city.

From the trendy cafés and vintage shops in Stockholm to the youth culture in Gothenburg and Malmö, Sweden is home to the original hipsters. Stockholm gets all the latest trends while the news is still hot in Brooklyn.

And not just the fashion, but the beer, too! Brooklyn Brewery famously opened up a brewery in Stockholm. And the countryside’s vast resources make Sweden a breeding ground for creativity and original, authentic pursuits.

4. Strong Design Game

Hipster Stockholm

Sweden is home to a number of big design brands—from fashion to furniture. Global brands such as H&M and IKEA have made a habit of exporting Swedish designs around the world.

And Swedish fashion labels like Acne Studios, Sandqvist and Cheap Monday keep pushing out new styles and setting new trends. This culture for creativity comes through in the country’s art, too. You’ll find some of Europe’s best design and photography museums in Sweden, such as the Moderna Museet in both Stockholm and Malmö and Stockholm’s Fotografiska.

5. Culture of Mysigt

Sweden has its own unique style. There’s a darkness, but a warmth—it’s what you might recognize from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. There’s a Swedish word that captures this special Swedish style and culture. The word mysigt essentially means cozy.

A word that really captures that Swedish style. Thanks to long, cold, dark winters, there’s a roughness that seems to be a part of Swedish culture. And yet there’s also a friendliness and a warmth. Sweden is cozy.

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