Sweden Travel Guide
With just over nine million locals, Sweden is a small but lovely country. From the frozen lands up north to the islands in Stockholm, Sweden is full of history and culture. The best time to go is in the summer when it’s actually warm or in the fall as the leaves from the trees change color, and the air is a little crisp. The country isn’t cheap, but the people are really nice, and the country’s natural beauty is equally matched the with beauty of its residents. The land of the vikings is one of the most visually stunning places in the world.
Destination Guides for Sweden
Accommodation – Accommodation, like everything in Sweden, is not cheap. Hostels start around $40 USD per night for a dorm room and are between $85-100 USD for a double private room. Hostels in Sweden also add a $6 USD surcharge for bed linen – I know, it’s ridiculous. A budget hotel will begin around $85 USD for a double room per night. Shared apartment rooms from sites like Airbnb usually begin around $60 USD per night. Camping is a good budget option – some are free or around $8 USD per night.
Food – Food is expensive in Sweden. You can get cheap food from outdoor street vendors starting at $6.50 USD. You can get hotdogs starting at $2.50 USD. (Try the French hotdogs for $4 USD. They’re delicious!) Grocery shopping here will cost $70 USD per week. Whole pizzas begin around $13 USD. Most nice sit down restaurant meals begin at $20 USD for a main dish.
Transportation costs – The majority of intercity trains cost $40–75 USD. They will cost $100–150 USD if it is a long overnight sleep train, like the fourteen-hour trip from Stockholm to Lulea up north. Buses booked a month or more in advance can be found for as cheap as $10 USD. However, those tickets are limited in number, and typically buses cost $35–50 USD. The ferry to Gotland is $39 USD.
Activities – Most museums and attractions cost about $10-16 USD.
Money Saving Tips
Drink beer – Alcohol isn’t cheap in Sweden as it is heavily taxed. However, beer is quite affordable. If you stick to beer, you can save yourself a lot of money when you go to the bars. Beer can be as low as $6 USD.
Book in advance – My trip to the Stockholm train station taught me that travel around Sweden is expensive, especially if you are booking only a day or two before hand. Prices can vary wildly, even if it is just the difference of a day. Booking trains or buses three to four weeks in advance can get you around 40-50% off.
Buy a rail pass – If you plan to do a lot of traveling around, buy a rail pass before you get to the country. You’ll end up saving a few hundred dollars off the high cost of travel. This can be a good alternative to booking in advance if you are like me and plan everything last minute.
Purchase a city tourism card – These tourist passes give you access to a city’s public transportation system and free entrance into 99% of the museums and attractions. All the major destinations in Sweden have them. If you plan on seeing the majority of attractions and museums, one of these cards will save you money. (Savings will vary depending on how much you use the card.)
Skip the restaurants – Eating out in Sweden is very expensive, especially if you are going to a sit-down restaurant. If you want to eat out, stick to the outside food vendors you see on the street. You can find a decent variety (I found a Thai one once) and they are only about $8 USD per meal. You can also get cheap hotdogs and sausages for about $4 USD.
Go buffet – Lunch is the best time to have a meal in Sweden. Buffets and restaurants have set meals for around $13 USD. It’s the best deal you can find and one utilized a lot by locals.
Avoid clubs – Most clubs have a $32 USD cover. Don’t waste your money.
Get a metro card – If you don’t plan to get a tourist card, make sure you get a week’s metro pass. At $45 USD for a week’s worth of train ride, it is a better deal than the $7 USD it costs for a single ticket.
Top Things to See and Do
See the Vasa Museum – As one of Sweden’s Wonders of the World, it showcases an amazingly preserved 17th Century ship, complete with six levels for your viewing. This battle ship was built to showcase how great Sweden was but instead it sank upon launch.
Visit the Stockholm Archipelago – It’s worth spending a little money to take a boat from Stockholm to the different islands and experience just what they’re about. In particular, make sure to check out the archipelago.
Stroll along Haga in Gothenburg – It’s worth a day’s trip just to walk along its cobblestone streets and window shops. They also have some wonderful quaint restaurants, so stop at one of the many when you get hungry for lunch.
Explore Stockholm – There is so much history in Stockholm that if you stay less than three days here, you’ll leave feeling like you missed out. From the museums to nightlife, there’s no time to get bored. It’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. The Swedes knew how to build long before IKEA came around.
Brave the cold in Lapland – Located to the far north is the tundra-like landscape in Sweden known as the Lapland. This is where the Sami, Sweden’s indigenous people, continues to make their home in the snowy cold, and where you can see reindeer, do some great skiing, and experience the great Arctic north.
Stay in the Ice Hotel – Located up north, the Ice Hotel is a hotel built during the winter months out of (you guessed it) ice. You stay in an essentially giant igloo. There’s an ice bar, ice dining room, and an ice bed (with big fur blankets!).
Visit Gotland – This island is a popular place to visit when the weather is nice and it’s where most Swedes spend their summer. Week 29 is the most popular and crowded week. The main town, Visby, is a medieval walled city that is incredibly beautiful. It’s like walking through the 1400s.
Catch the midsummer – Swedes celebrate the summer solstice with a giant party. It’s not warm and light often here and they make the most of it with dancing around a pole, eating, drinking, and enjoying nature.
Explore the Bohuslän Coast – This beautiful coast has been smoothed and carved out by glaciers. Taking a boat trip here is a great way to see Scandinavian fjords without having to visit Sweden’s expensive neighbor, Norway. There is also a UNESCO rock-carving site over in Tanumshede too.
Ski – Scandinavians love their winter sports. One of the most popular ski resorts in the region is Åre, which lies 80 km from of Östersund. The highest peak at the resort is over 1400 meters. Daily trains run to the area from Stockholm.
Kick back in Uppsala – This university town is one of the most popular study-abroad locations in Northern Europe, and it’s got a great student life. The city also features a castle, museums, and numerous gardens.
Celebrate Valborg Day – Held on April 30th, this annual Swedish festival serves to welcome spring. It’s characterized by huge bonfires, and even bigger parties. I was lucky enough to be there for it, and you can read about my experiences here.
Check out Wallender’s Ystad – If you’ve read the writing of Henning Mankell or seen the popular adaptation, the Wallander TV series, you’re already familiar with Ystad. This small town is picturesque, and full of history. If you’re a big fan of Wallendar, you can arrange a tour at the tourist office, but even if you’re not, the town itself has a lot of character and is worth exploring.
Visit Kosterhavet – This is a marine park located on the Koster Islands, around two hours from Gothenburg. The park contains Sweden’s only coral reef, and the villages on the islands are quaint. The whole natural area is very beautiful, and it’s worth renting some bikes to explore the islands.