Things to do in Sweden
Sweden is great for outdoor life - skiing, skating, hiking, canoeing, cycling and berry-picking depending of season. Stockholm and Gothenburg have great nightlife and shopping opportunities. Most cities have well-preserved pre-industrial architecture.
The year in Sweden
Swedish weather is best during the summer (late May to early September). If you like snow, go to Norrland or Dalarna in November to April.
Be aware that daylight varies greatly during the year. In Stockholm, the sun sets at 3 PM in December. North of the Arctic Circle one can experience the midnight sun and Arctic night. However, even at Stockholm's latitude, summer nights exist only in the form of prolonged twilight during June and July.
The major holidays are Easter, Midsummer (celebrated from the eve of the Friday between June 19 - 25), Christmas (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day are all considered holidays), and the "industrial vacation" throughout July. Expect closed establishments, heavy traffic (for the holidays) and crowded tourist resorts (for July).
Note that most Swedish holidays are celebrated on the day before (Midsummer's Eve, Christmas Eve etc), while Swedish people do hardly anything on the holiday proper.
- An unofficial national symbol, the Dala Horse (Swedish: dalahast ) is the souvenir of souvenirs to bring from Sweden. Named after their origin, the province of Dalarna, these small wooden horses have been around since the 17th century. They are normally painted orange or blue with symmetrical decorations. They are fairly expensive: expect to pay around SEK 100 for a very small one or several hundred crowns for bigger versions. The horses can be bought in souvenir shops all over Sweden. If you want to know more about how the horses are made, visit Dalarna and the municipality of Mora where the horses are carved and painted in workshops open for tourists. And if driving towards Mora from Stockholm, keep your eyes open when you pass the town of Avesta where the world's largest (13 meters high) Dala Horse overlooks the highway.
- Swedish glass is world famous for its beauty. Several skilled glass artists have contributed to this reputation through innovative, complex (and expensive) art creations, but mass-produced Swedish table glass has also been an international success. Part of the province of Smaland, between the towns of Vaxjo and Kalmar , is known as the Kingdom of Crystal . 15 glassworks are packed into this small area, the most famous being Orrefors , Kosta and Boda . Tourists are welcome to watch the glass blowers turn the glowing melt into glittering glass, and you can even give it a try yourself.
Bars and nightclubs
The age limit is 18 to bars and beers in shops (to prevent teenage drunkenness, some shops have decided to have a 20 age limit for 3.5% beer as well), but 20 in Systembolaget. Many bars have an age limit of 20, but some (especially downtown in weekends) have age limits as high as 23 or 25. Bring passport or ID.
Some clubs mandate dress code, vardad kladsel . For male guests, proper shoes (not sneakers or sandals), long-legged trousers (not blue jeans) and a dress shirt is usually good enough.
Age or dress rules are not rigid, and doormen have the right to accept or reject any patron for any reason other than gender, sexual orientation, creed, disability or race. Though illegal, nightclubs are infamous to reject "immigrants", which usually means anyone with hair and skin darker than the average Swede, by pretexts such as "members only" or "too drunk"; men of Middle Eastern or African origin are most troubled. You might avoid this problem by dressing properly and behaving well.
Sweden has enforced non-smoking in all bars, pubs and restaurants, save outdoor areas such as terraces, and designated smoking rooms (where drinks are not allowed).
The prices at clubs/bars are often expensive compared to other countries, a large beer (half a liter) costs usually as much as 45-55 SEK (~US$7), but many low-profile bars advertise stor stark (0.4 L of draft lager) for as little as 25 SEK. A long drink costs around 60-110 SEK. For that reason many Swedes have a small pre-party ("forfest") before they go out, to get started on their buzz before they hit the town and go to nightclubs.
Large clubs can require an entrance fee of about 100 SEK (or more at special performances). They usually offer a rubber stamp on your hand so you can re-enter as you like.
Be aware that you often have to stand in line to get into a bar or a club. Many places deliberately make their customers wait in line for a while, since a long queue indicates a popular club. At the very fanciest places in the major cities the queue is replaced by a disorganized crowd, and the doorman simply points to indicate who gets in and who does not (to be sure to get in either be famous, very good-looking or a friend of the doorman. Or simply a regular).
Most bars that are open until 1AM will have a free entry policy. Most bars and clubs that remain open until 3AM will charge an entrance fee. There some clubs that remain open until 5AM. Their entrance fee will usually be around 200 SEK (~US$28.00) and their entry policy will generally weigh less favourably for the non-rich, non-well-moisturised, non-Swedes, non-friends or non-regulars.
Swedish cuisine is mostly hearty meat or fish with potatoes, derived from the days when men needed to chop wood all day long. Besides the ubiquitous potatoes, modern Swedish cuisine is to a great extent based on bread. Traditional everyday dishes are called husmanskost (pronounced whos-mans-cost). They include:
- Meatballs ( kottbullar ), the internationally most famous Swedish dish. Served with potatoes, brown sauce and lingonberry jam .
- Hash ( pytt i panna ) consisting of meat, onions and potatoes, all diced and fried. Sliced beetroots and a fried egg are mandatory accessories.
- Pea soup ( artsoppa ) with diced pork, followed by thin pancakes afterwards. Traditionally eaten on Thursdays since medieval times when the servants had half the day off as it is an easy meal to prepare.
- Pickled herring ( sill ), available in various types of sauces. Commonly eaten with bread or potatoes for summer lunch or as a starter.
- Blodpudding , a black sausage made by pig's blood and flour. Slice it, fry it and eat it with lingonberry jam.
- Gravlax , a widely known and appreciated cold appetizer made by thin slices of salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill.
- Falukorv , a big baloney from Falun. Sliced, fried and eaten with ketchup and mashed potatoes.
- Sweden has more varieties of bread than most other countries. Many of them are whole-grain or mixed grain, containing wheat, barley, oats, compact and rich in fiber. Some notable examples are tunnbrod (thin wrap bread), knackebrod (hard bread - might not be an interesting experience, but is nearly always available), and different kinds of seasoned loaves. Bread is mostly eaten as simple sandwiches, with thin slices of cheese or cold cuts. Some more exotic spreads are messmor (whey cheese) and leverpastej (liver pate).
- Tunnbrodrulle , a fast food dish, consisting of a bread wrap with mashed potatoes, a hot dog and some vegetables.
- Kroppkakor Potato dumpling stuffed with diced pork.