Visit Sweden: 6 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Trip

Visit Sweden: 6 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Trip

Last year, after a family trip to Amsterdam, I spontaneously decided to visit Sweden. I just felt like going somewhere new. Here are 6 things I wish I knew about Sweden before my trip:

Visit Sweden: 6 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Trip

1. It is seriously dark there – they were not kidding!

I’ve always heard people say that there are hardly any daylight hours in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. In fact, some said that that explained the countries’ high suicide rates.

On my first day in Stockholm, Sweden, I woke up before dawn, and no it wasn’t 5 AM, but 9 AM. Though you could see the sun slowly rising, it was not fully light yet. I got up and grabbed some coffee to-go, wanting to make the most of the day… Imagine my surprise when the sun started to set no more than 6 hours later!

Caught off guard, I didn’t quite know what to do. I felt like I was in a shop and the salesperson was starting to close the register in order to hint that it was time to go. Still, I was able to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen–the bursting of colors everywhere, the sky burning with gold and red, and then suddenly hints of purple and blue followed by a green glare, all reflecting off the water. It almost felt surreal.

My advice:

Watch every moment of the sunset every day you’re there! And, make sure you bring some reading material for the late nights (after 4 PM).

2. How about going for a drink once it starts getting dark? Or not.

Sweden is a country with a high alcoholism rate and a high death rate caused by alcohol consumption. So, in an effort to control alcohol consumption, the government has set up some alcohol consumption awareness laws: in most places in Sweden you cannot purchase alcohol after 6 PM, you cannot purchase alcohol on weekends, and you can only buy alcohol at one chain store, which was set up by the government.

You can order alcohol in a bar or club, but alcohol taxes are so high, you’d better not. (A beer costs $12-14 USD in most bars!)

My advice:

Don’t drink… But if really want to, buy it at SystemBolaget. Otherwise, you will pay the insane taxes.  Oh, and make sure you stock up for the weekend.

3. Take trains!

Because Sweden is made up of little islands and rivers, it can sometimes take forever to get from one place to another. Do NOT plan on taking a taxi from the airport to Stockholm’s city center–it will bankrupt you! What seems quite close is really an hour/hour-and-a-half drive.

Some small towns are even worse, taking up to six hours to reach, even when “they looked so close.”

My advice:

Take the train. It’s fast, it’s underground, it’s always on time, and it’s quite comfortable.

4. Get ready to walk!

Stockholm, like the rest of Sweden, is also separated into small bits and islets. It’s hard to experience by public transportation alone, and as I found out, it can be seen best by foot. If you want to minimize walking, you can take the tram to the islet.

What to do?

Bring comfortable shoes that will last, be ready to walk, and make it your goal to cover at least 1-2 islets every day. Then you’ll be able to see most of them in a 2-3 days.

5. When in Sweden, do as the Mexicans do?

 

mexican food in sweden
Mexican food in Sweden

Visit Sweden: 6 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Trip

As a huge fan of Mexican food, I was quite surprised to find a Mexican restaurant on almost every street corner in Stockholm (don’t they have their own cuisine?) and I was even more surprised that some were just as good as ones I had in Mexico!

My advice:

Stay away from chains like Zocalo. It might be tempting to just stop at any of the restaurants on the way, but don’t waste your time on their mediocre Tex-Mex. Instead, be patient and go to the best: La Neta at Barnhusgatan 2, Stockholm.

6. Not as friendly as they say.

As a solo traveler, I love meeting local people, making new friends, sharing experiences and learning new sayings in the local language.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find the Swedish people to be too patient or welcoming, From my experience, they weren’t worse than people from other countries, but they also weren’t better. Before my trip, I’d often heard that Swedes are very friendly people. It turned out that only once you get to know Swedes, they can be very warm.

Luckily, I chose to stay at a hostel, where I met a fun-loving bunch (two guys from the US, two guys from New Zealand and one Welsh!). They kept me company during my trip to Sweden.

My advice:

Get a shared room in a backpacking hostel or an inn. It’s a great way to meet awesome people, and it is, in fact, the essence of travel. Or just go with a friend.

All in all, my trips to Europe would not have been complete without my last excursion to this amazing Scandinavian country. The Swedish countryside is so stunning, you can stare through the train window for hours. Both Stockholm and Malmo are incredible cities, and I would love to visit Sweden again.

Visit Sweden: 6 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Trip

Visit Sweden: 6 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Trip

About Emanuell Harnik

Emanuell HarnikThe love of wandering and exploring has driven Emanuell Harnik to study Russian, and then French, and Spanish.. and then Portuguese! She now studies German online and considers it guten fortune she got to work for RoutePerfect and thus, combine her passion with her experience in the marketing management world and her Hispanic & Linguistics studies. Emanuell was previously a social media manager and digital marketing manager in several fast-growing start ups.

2 thoughts on “Visit Sweden: 6 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Trip

  1. Avatar
    Graham Keating
    December 17, 2014
    Reply

    Sorry but this post is not the whole picture, speaking as a London who has lived in Stockholm for 14 years I feel you have done Stockholm a disservice.

    1. Yes there is not much daylight in the winter but in the summer it’s light for 18 hours a day! At midnight it is still twilight and it does not get fully dark.

    2. Most bars you pay 49kr ($6) for a beer unless you drink bottles of Bud or something like that! A bottle of local beer is the same price, 49kr.

    If you go to Systembolaget (the alcohol store) you can get bottles of Bud (for example) for 18kr and bottles of Wine from 49kr.

    It’s like London. In the suburbs I would pay £3 for a pint but in the centre in, say, Leicester Square I would expect to pay upwards of £7 or £8.

    3. God knows where you went to! Arlanda is 45 minutes by car to the city centre. Yes, trains and buses are cheaper but that is true of any city such as London, Paris, Frankfurt, etc. The taxi driver probably just wanted to rip you off.

    4. I sympathise with you here but any city is difficult to navigate the first time you arrive. The underground is very simple to use and luckily there are a lot of apps for phones.

    5. Mexican isn’t massively popular here, it’s pizza and Thai food are the top foods but maybe in the centre of the city are a few tapas places but I’ve never really noticed them.

    6. I find Swedes quite friendly but maybe it’s down to attitude (I’ve never met you so I can’t say) and that I meet them in different social situations to you?

    If you ever come back to Stockholm I’d be happy to show you around! 🙂

    • Avatar
      December 18, 2014
      Reply

      Well said, Graham! I’ve only been here 8 months but I felt exactly the same as you while reading through this post.

      Also, as an addendum to your #2, Systembolaget is open on the weekends (Saturdays)! And you can buy alcohol at places other than Systembolaget (like the grocery store), but your choice is limited to low-alcohol beer (still alcohol, though!).

      And to the original post’s #2: did you try a fika instead? 🙂

      And #4: I’m from NYC and I think that Stockholm’s transit system is incredible—and if you don’t limit yourself to just the subway, the bus and ferry system will get you anywhere else you need to go, though I do agree, if you have the time, experiencing Stockholm by foot is something special.

      This truly is a beautiful city and country–hope lots of people are inspired to visit and see for themselves! And, thanks for tagging me on Twitter—fun to see how someone else experienced their first trip to Sweden!

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