A guide to Sweden

Sweden, what a magical country to live in. It’s an incredible luxury to freely be able to travel around and explore majestic mountains, cute and picturesque towns, the seaside, city life and deep, magical forests – all in one country. I do not need a lot of things or money to feel rich here, and I am grateful I get to call this country my home.

There is something for everyone regardless of if your young or old, alone or with a family and wether you want to explore a big city and amazing food, pick berries or mushrooms, hike our mountains, fish or drive around on a road trip.

I have spent years traveling around Sweden by train or car to explore beautiful nature, hike, camp, stay at cozy cabins and cook outside. Here you have the freedom to roam and I regularly make sure to enjoy that. I felt it was time to share my tips and experiences with you so that you can do the same!

This is my guide to Sweden and its nature.

Transportation in Sweden

Sweden is an amazing place to travel around in. A lot of places are easily accessible by car and due to our freedom to roam you are allowed to park on the side of a road (always consider what is safe in traffic) to hop out and have a look at something, enjoy lunch by a small lake your passing or even to go for a little hike, pitch a tent and continue driving the next day.

A lot of towns also have some nature in close proximity and moving between city life and nature isn’t too hard. It could be a forested area at the outskirts of a town, a huge park network, a recreational area or the seaside. Usually there’s public transportation to these places as well.

By train

For traveling longer distances in Sweden I can highly recommend taking the train. It is definitely my favourite mode of transportation. I love seeing the landscape pass by outside and in the meantime I can read, listen to podcasts or work. They’re quite modern and comfortable, morning trains offer breakfast and if you’re going really far you can take the night train which I did all the way to Norway.

SJ is our biggest train company and they have an amazing app that makes it easy to keep track of your ticket,
get notified about changes to your train and it even tells you where on the platform you should stand!

By bike

Biking can of course be done all over Sweden, we have a lot of biking trails and the infrastructure around biking in cities seems to be improving a lot. You can use a bike to explore a city, travel between points or go bike camping.

You are only allowed to bring your bike on a train if it’s disassembled and packed in a bike bag. The maximum size of the bag is 140x85x30cm and the max weight of bag + bike is 25kg*.

*these rules and measurements are with SJ, other train companies might have different guidelines

≫ Check out my guide about bike packing as well as guide to urban biking

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Opening hours in Sweden

A thing most people not from Sweden react to are our opening hours. It’s good to be aware of how they work so that you can plan your trips and adventures and make sure you have what you need.

Grocery Stores

On weekdays grocery stores are usually open between 07:00-21:00. This can vary depending on the size of the town, grocery store and the location of the store. Smaller stores away from a city centre might for example open later in the morning. Saturdays and Sundays they typically open later and close earlier.

Clothing stores & other shops

These type of stores typically open around 10:00 on weekdays and close at 18:00. On Saturdays they usually close around 15:00 and on Sundays they are closed.

Systembolaget – The Swedish liquor store

In Sweden you cannot really buy much in the way of alcohol in grocery stores, our liquor store has a retail monopoly on alcohol and is the only place to buy wine, beer or stronger spirits. They are open 10:00-19:00 on weekdays, 10:00-15:00 on Saturdays and closed on Sundays.

Restaurants & cafés

Times vary a lot here depending on the type of restaurant it is. Some are only open in the evening while others specialise on lunches, so it’s good to check in your specific area. What is really good to know is that sadly a lot of places are closed on a Sunday!

I don’t know how many times we’ve forgotten about it and strolled into town on a nice Sunday morning, or headed out with our friends after a training session with the goal of grabbing a lunch only to realise that nothing is open…

In general very few places are open on Sundays so it’s good to plan for that.

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Sweden as a digital society

Sweden is very modern when it comes to using technology and this can be important to know. For one we don’t really use cash anymore and it’s rare that stores accept it. You cannot use cash on buses or trains! There’s an app for almost everything these days but these are the most important ones I recommend for exploring Sweden in an easy, safe way:

  • SJ: The app for our local train company
  • Krisinformation: Set it to the region you’re in to get notifications about any crisis or danger
  • Brand Ute: Keep an eye on if it’s a fire risk anywhere due to drought
  • Naturkartan: A map showing you recreational areas, hiking trails, fire spots, biking trails, shelters etc.
  • Google Lens: take a photo of an animal, plant or… literally anything and this app can help you identify it. Don’t trust it to 100% when it comes to wild edibles though!
  • ResQ: An app where restaurants can sell leftover food at a discount so that it does not go to waste. It’s great for the environment and your wallet! Just set it to the town your in and see what offers pop up while you’re there.

Bank ID

Swedes also use what’s called a Bank ID. It is an electronic identification card that lets them use a lot of services online. In order to get Bank ID you must have a Swedish Personal Identity Number and be a customer of one of the banks that issue BankID.

Swish

Another thing unique to Sweden is Swish. It’s an app that lets you swish money between people (or even to a store) using their phone number. To get Swish you need Bank ID and a Swedish phone number. You register for Swish where you usually manage your online banking services. You link your mobile number to your bank account and then you will be able to receive money through Swish. In order to send money you need to download the Swish app to your phone and activate it with Mobile BankID on the same device.

Swish makes it very easy when you are out eating with a larger group. One person pays the bill and everyone just swishes what they owe. It is also used a lot to Swish people during yard sales, smaller markets etc.

Like I said, we’re basically cash-less here!

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Now, before we dive deeper into what to see and do, we need to talk more about this freedom to roam and what it actually means, and what rules apply. Because with great freedom comes great responsibility.

Allemansrätten in Sweden – The Freedom to Roam

Allemansrätten, or The Right of Public Access, or Outdoor Access Rights gives you the right to walk, cycle, ride, ski and camp on any land with the exception of private gardens, near a dwelling house or land under cultivation. This is what we refer to as the Freedom To Roam. This makes exploring Sweden incredibly accessible and easy – but it does come with responsibility.

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sums up the Right of Public Access in the phrase ‘Don’t disturb – Don’t destroy.’ 

Here are some of the things you are allowed to do, for more information about The Freedom To Roam and specific rules around fires, fishing etc. go to Visit Sweden’s website.

  • You are allowed to access any land, except private residences, the immediate vicinity (70 meters) of a dwelling house and cultivated land
  • You can put up a tent
  • You are allowed to collect flowers, mushrooms and berries*
  • Driving on private roads is allowed unless there’s a sign saying otherwise
  • Swimming in lakes is allowed
  • You can access any beach as long as you stay away from private residences
  • You are allowed to catch fish in the five big lakes and along the entire coastline*

* Make sure they’re not endangered though, and only pick what you need
* It’s also allowed in a lot of smaller lakes but you will need to purchase a fishing permit and follow local rules, usually a gas station nearby will know more

read more on Visit Swedens website

It is important that you respect nature and the land. Don’t break anything, don’t litter – perhaps you can even bring other garbage that you find with you? There’s a Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation that works hard with these issues and to help people take better care of our nature. Don’t break live branches off trees, don’t chop down trees and be kind and respectful to others you meet on the trails.

It’s a bit of a cliché but leave nothing but footprints and leave it better than you found it.

A guide to Sweden - With the freedom to roam comes responsibilities, leave nature better than you found it!
bringing a bag with you in case you find garbage is an easy way to help keeping nature tidy

Can I make a fire in Sweden?

Make sure to check local regulations and if you are starting a fire try and find spots where there’s already a designated firepit. If not, be smart and safe. Don’t start fires on rocks, keep water at hand and if you are in a National Park you are not allowed to start a fire – unless there are designated spots for it, check the local park info! Click here to see if there’s a fire ban in your area or download the app Brandrisk Ute, Available both in the AppStore & Google Play.

This is a principle, protected by the law, that gives all people the right to roam free in nature. Sleep on mountaintops, by the lakes, in quiet forests or beautiful meadows. Take a kayak out for a spin or experience the wildlife firsthand. Pick berries, mushrooms and flowers from the ground – all completely free of charge. The only thing you have to pay, is respect for nature and the animals living there.

VISITSWEDEN.COM
A guide to Sweden - Lemmelkaffe på Dundret

Foraging in Sweden

You are allowed to forage for food in the wild, just make sure you are not on private property. Mushrooms and berries are free to pick and there are few poisonous berries in Sweden, but make sure you know what your picking. This is even more important when it comes to mushrooms. Don’t pick anything you’re not 100% sure about!

Remember to forage in a sustainable way; make sure it’s not an endangered specie and don’t take everything off a bush or tree – we need to leave some for animals and for the plant continue spreading.

Some of the most easily identified things to pick that are just so tasty to use in pies, for jam or with food is definitely lingon -and blueberries.

crowberries

There are a few things you are not allowed to gather in the wild, like spruce shoots, chaga and birch sap. For that you need to own the land or have permission from the landowner. It’s also worth looking up if there’s anything restricted in the specific region you’re in!

Alright, now that we know what we can do and not, and how to behave in nature, we can continue talking about how to find good spots, where to go and what there is to see and do.

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STF – Swedish Tourist Union

If you plan on exploring a lot of Swedens hikes and National Parks it might be worth considering becoming a member with STF. A membership with them only costs 345sek / year and gives you benefits like these (and much more):

  • Always a discount at the STF accomadtions
  • Membership prices on activities and courses
  • Their magazine Turist sent to you and as a e-magazine
  • 10-15% discount on train trips

By supporting STF you also help ensure that they can continue doing their work keeping nature accessible to all of us by maintaining trails, having accommodations set up by the bigger hiking trails and educating people about nature and the freedom to roam.

A few years ago we hiked to Helags where there is an STF run mountain station. Arrive there after a day of hiking is so nice. Theres a lovely restaurant and a little store with local food & crafts as well as cabins to stay at if you’re doing longer hikes.

You can read more about that hike here

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Active vacation in Sweden

Because of Sweden’s varied landscape and abundance in nature, there is so much to do here and all through spring, summer and fall the outdoor activities are plentiful (as well as in winter) and easy to enjoy due to the freedom to roam. You can go hiking, camping, biking, swimming, bike packing, explore small towns and bigger cities, paddle etc.

The first step to an active vacation is to think about where you want to go, and what type of activity you want to do. Then I would recommend looking at the website for the region you’re going to in order to see what activities are offered. Most places are certainly suited for more than one thing and it’s easy to spend a weekend in a spot doing a mix of hiking, biking or paddling.

STF has a page with a list of activities in Sweden and more info about them

Here’s some examples of active vacation weekends we’ve enjoyed in Dalarna:

But, how does one figure out where to go? Well, there are a few different ways I like going about finding out about good spots for everything from longer trips to close by adventures.

How to find good spots in Sweden

My favourite way to enjoy Sweden is to be outside, and we love going out for the day to do a little hike in a forest and then have lunch somewhere. Sometimes we just bring sandwiches and snacks – other times we plan to make a fire and cook. After living in a place for a few years we’ve found some spots we return to, and we know where there are fire pits and where there is firewood and where we need to bring it ourselves (can be purchased at most gas stations).

But how do you go about finding good spots out in nature that aren’t the typical tourist spots that are frequently populated and crowded?

Ask the locals

One of the best ways is to get to know and ask locals. Preferably people living out on the countryside as well as people that fish and hunt a lot. They move in nature in a different way and usually have a few gems that a lot of people don’t know about.

I have been to Tjärnåstjärnarna outside of Sundsvall many times, it’s a super small lake in a forest in a spot you would not just happen to pass by. Locals showed it to me when I lived out there and it’s a popular spot for fishing all year round. I like to go there for some peace and quiet and a nice meal cooked over an open fire.

This is what a typical outing with lunch to Tjärnåstjärnarna looks like

Use Instagram

This might not be the most obvious choice, but Instagram has actually helped me find good spots a few times. When you go to the search tab in the app you can actually search based on places and there you have the option to filter ‘nearby places’. Once you click a place in the list you see it on a map and photos people have tagged in the location. This is a great way to scout and find spots that might fit your needs!

You could also do this but search for a specific place, like the town you’re in or about to visit. This requires you to filter out what you are not interested in though. When I do that for my hometown I get a lot of selfies, baby photos and pictures from the gyms. But in between all that you can see which restaurants people are eating at or what places they are visiting. It’s kind of like anonymously asking the locals.

Naturkartan

Now this is my favourite way to find new areas to explore. What a gem of an app this is! It’s available both on Google Play and The App Store and it is such a great tool. When you open it up it will show you nearby nature reserves and national parks, and you can have a look on the map and filter what ever it is you’re looking for, be it biking, hiking, recreational areas, shelters, places with a fireplace etc. Thanks to the app we found a little lake with a fire pit really close to home.

A guide to Sweden - Naturkartan in Sundsvall

AirBnb

A great way to explore Sweden and something we really love doing is to rent a cabin through Airbnb. We either know of an area in Sweden we’re interested and put in the dates we want to go on Airbnb’s website, then we use the map to look at a more exact location and what cabins are available. Or we just move around the map all over Sweden picking where to go based on the look of a cabin, the surroundings or availability.

With the cabin as a base we can then spend a few days exploring the area. We usually go with a couple of friends and so the cost of the cabin, gas and food get’s fairly inexpensive. I have a huge list of cabins saved on Airbnb for when the cabin fever hits!

Sweden is also home to a lot of free cabins where you are allowed to spend a night or two before moving on. There’s an entire book guiding you to them and I’ve reviewed it here

Read more about cabin life

Swedens Provinces (landskap)

Sweden is divided into 25 provinces. They are historical, geographical and cultural regions that have no administrative function, but remain historical legacies and the means of cultural identification.

Throughout Sweden and it’s provinces there are 30 National Parks and around 4000 Nature Reserves! In these you will find an amazing collection of landscape types and experiences. From leafy beech woods and coral reefs to majestic mountains and deep forests. I have explored some of them and they have all offered me a very different, yet equally enjoyable experience.

I have chosen to categorise each entry in my travelogue based upon the province in which my experience took place, and you can quickly access each region here:

Dalarna
Hälsingland
Härjedalen
Jämtland
Lappland
Medelpad
Västergötland

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Hopefully you now know enough about Sweden to feel confident in exploring our beautiful nature in a safe and sustainable way. Most of all I hope I have peaked your interest and that you feel inspired to roam free amongst our forests, towns, archipelago, mountains and lakes.

I have a lot to see still and will continue to explore Sweden for as long as I live. As I do so I will keep updating this guide so make sure to save it for easy access and come back to it to revisit the information shared. Hopefully you will also share it with others and help spread this information further!

With that said I wish you have many wonderful experiences here and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or discover anything you think I should add to this.

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    My Swedish Travelogue