As we become more interconnected, both via the Internet and through global travel made easy, finding things that you can only buy in Sweden isn’t as easy as it used to be – but it’s not impossible by any stretch. Here are 12 things you can only buy in Sweden, and where to find them.
Maybe you’ve heard of the Gävle goat (the giant straw Swedish Christmas goat in the town of Gävle, placed in its main square each year) and that locals attempt to burn it down before Christmas arrives. It’s been a battle of the wills for years, with the wannabe arsonists generally winning, and you too can have your very own Julbock (‘Christmas Goat’) to bring home, and perhaps set ablaze in good Swedish tradition. You can find them in most Christmas markets in Sweden, with Skansen in Stockholm possibly having the finest.
Pärlan’s is not your ordinary candy shop. From the name (Pärla means ‘dear’) to the decidedly mid-20th century feel to the store itself, you know when you enter that you’ve discovered something different. Their legendary caramels (try the vanilla and sea salt) are the result of wanting to let people enjoy the sweet year-round, not just at Christmas, as had happened over the years. Grab a few boxes of caramels, or the unbelievable caramel sauce, and amaze everyone back home.
You could try to take this cake home with you, but then once you try it there probably wouldn’t be any left to wrap up. A staple of Sweden’s many cafés, Princesstårta is a traditional layer cake that alternates sponge cake with pastry cream and whipped cream, all topped by marzipan, which is usually green. While it can be found in many cafés, try Princessan just over the Lidingö Bridge in Lidingö Centrum. This classic café is known for making one of the best.
Lovikkavantar (Lovikka Mittens) are made in Norrbotten, in the north of Sweden, and are among the most famous in Sweden. They come in just white and grey and you can recognise them by their distinctive yellow, blue, and red tassels and embroidery. They’re the perfect hand-covering when visiting Sweden during the refreshingly cold, dark winters.
Swedish snaps are sometimes mistaken for schnapps by visitors but while they both pack a punch they are quite different. Every region of Sweden has its own flavour of snaps unique to the area and reflective of local ingredients. While you can buy bigger bottles at your local Systembolaget, it’s more fun to buy a 6, 8, or 12 pack, which will have a variety of small bottles of different flavours; perfect for shots over dinner with friends, all washed down by beer.
Directly translated as ‘Polka Pig’, Polkagris is a Swedish stick candy invented in the town of Gränna back in the mid-1800s. While it comes in a number of flavours, the most traditional is white and red and peppermint flavoured; and while that might sound like your typical candy cane think again – this is a whole different level of candy. If you happen to pass through Gränna (in Skåne) you can go to the shop that makes them and buy them fresh.
Falsterbotofflor means ‘wooden clogs from Flasterbo’, a gorgeous area in southern Sweden where the famous Falsterbo Horse Show is held each year. The clogs are handmade, hand-painted, and come with a variety of motifs. The most famous are painted with a goose surrounded by flowers and yes, both men and women wear them when gardening.
Toini Berg is relatively new to the jewellery design scene but her unique one-of-a-kind and limited edition signature pieces are swiftly gathering a following. Taking inspiration from her native Gotland, Toini works in metal and stone, creating bold earrings, rings, and bracelets that make a statement. Definitely the place to find that perfect signature piece.
A cheese slicer is exactly what it says: a utensil designed for slicing cheese. But this isn’t cutting chunks off a block of cheese; Swedish cheese slicers shave thin slices off the block, perfect for those cheese sandwiches Swedes love so much (particularly for breakfast). You can find them pretty much everywhere but NK (in Stockholm and Gothenburg) will have some really special ones.
A tray may not seem all that unique but Swedes have taken tray design to an entirely new level. Everywhere you look you’ll find unique designs – some that reflect a particular place, such as Stockholm’s Sergels Torg, and others that are just reflective of Sweden’s particular version of Scandi design. Two great places in Stockholm to find completely unique trays are Design Torget and Svenskt Tenn; Design Torget is more affordable, while Svenskt Tenn will cost you a bit more but the designs are truly one of a kind.
If you think you’ve had black liquorice think again; Sweden’s salted black liquorice (saltlakrits) is unusual to say the least, and it’s beloved by nearly everyone. The taste is what we like to call ‘special’ and it’s something you’re either going to love or you’re going to hate. Try salted black liquorice ice cream while visiting, but take home the candy or chewing gum.
Also known as a Dalecarlian horse or Dala Horse, the Dalahäst is a traditional hand-carved, painted wooden horse from the province of Dalarna. What once was a children’s toy is now not just a symbol of Dalarna, but of Sweden itself. The classic Dalahäst is panted red with a white, green, yellow, and blue harness motif, and while there are factory made ones for sale, spend a bit more and get the classic one which is only made in Dalarna.
Lingonberries are cousin to the American cranberry but the taste is a bit more tart, the berries are a bit smaller, and how they are made into jams and sauces is just that little bit different. The jam is loose and not overly sweetened and goes perfectly with game and other meats, as well as cheese and spread on your morning toast. You can find specialty homemade version at food markets, as well as factory produced ones in local grocery stores. Even better, get out into the forest and pick your own lingonberries, then make your own jam.