Crystal-clear lakes, vast forests and maybe a glimpse of the Northern Lights
The mere mention of Sweden conjures up resonant images: snow-capped peaks, reindeer wandering in deep green forests and the 24-hour daylight of the midnight sun. But beyond the household names of ABBA, IKEA and Volvo, Sweden is relatively unknown. The largest of the Scandinavian countries, with an area twice that of Britain (and roughly that of California), but a population of barely nine million, Sweden has space for everyone: the countryside boasts pine, spruce and birch forest as far as the eye can see and crystal-clear lakes perfect for a summer afternoon dip – not to mention possibly the purest air you’ll ever breathe. The country’s south and west coasts, meanwhile, feature some of the most exquisite beaches in Europe – without the crowds.
In general Sweden is a carefree place where life is relaxed. Indeed, the Swedes’ liberal and open attitude to virtually every aspect of life is certainly one of their most enviable qualities; people are generally left to do their own thing, providing it doesn’t impinge on the rights and freedoms of others. In Sweden, rights go hand in hand with duties, and there’s a strong sense of civic obligation (count how few times you see people dropping litter, for example), which in turn makes for a well-rounded and stable society. Many of the cornerstones of the Swedish welfare state, such as tremendously generous benefits and health-care perks, which Swedes still hold dear today, were laid down during forty years of unbroken rule by the Social Democrats.
Yet, over the years, foreigners have somehow confused the open Swedish attitude to society, including nudity and sexuality, with sex. Contrary to popular belief, Sweden isn’t populated solely with people waiting for any opportunity to tear off their clothes and make passionate love under the midnight sun. It is, though, a country founded on honesty and straight talking – two of Sweden’s most refreshing qualities.
Planning your trip to Sweden
Everything you need to plan where to go and what to do.
Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners
Everything you need to know before you set off.
The Rough Guide to Sweden
An in-depth, easy-to-use guide filled with expert advice.
The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.
The 10 best Baltic beach resorts
European beach holidays haven’t always been just about the Mediterranean. A century ago, the resorts along the Baltic Sea were just as likely to attract the E…
Why Gothenburg should be your next European city break
So gloomy they named it goth? Not in the slightest. This town can certainly do black-eyeliner bleak with the best of them – anywhere with docklands can, and G…
Scandinavia for first-timers: 7 ideas for short breaks
On the face of it, Scandinavia isn’t a very sensible place for a holiday. For one thing, it’s almost always going to be colder than the place you’re leavi…
After Sweden, where next?
Check out Ireland