Hearty husmanskost, aka classic home cooking, meets progressive New Nordic techniques and an explosion in global influences for conscientious, exciting dining that justifies Sweden’s reputation as Scandinavia’s culinary supremo. Read on for our tips on getting the most from your foodie experience.
Malmö’s claim to fame used to be that it’s just 30 minutes from Copenhagen by train, but an exciting food and drink scene has changed the narrative and today it’s a destination in its own right. In a city of excellent coffee shops, Kaffebaren på Mollan is the undisputed king. Go for the caffeine and linger for the vibe.
With one of the country’s most ethnically diverse populations, it’s perhaps no surprise that Malmö has been dubbed the falafel capital of Sweden – Värnhems Falafel, Badrans Super Falafel and Jalla Jalla all come highly recommended from those in the know. Excellent plant-based cuisine is a highlight throughout the city, too. Head to hip spot Mineral, for sharing plates of upgraded veggie fare and natural wines.
A welcome addition to the gastro scene is Malmö Saluhall. Once a derelict warehouse, it now houses a fantastic range of artisan traders, regional and speciality producers. Here you can pick up free-range meats from Skåne County, Asian-influenced salad and poke bowls, cheeses, ice cream and much more.
The neighbourhood joint Lyran is also on every foodie’s agenda, thanks to its eclectic and sustainable menu served up by self-taught chef and owner Jörgen Lloyd; it also offers an excellent low-intervention-wine list. Oh, and save room for a late-night sausage at Korvhuset. With more than 100 varieties to choose from, you might be there for some time.
With trains running at regular intervals between Gothenburg and Malmö, it’s a no-brainer to make the two-and-a-half-hour journey northwest by rail. Gothenburg is Sweden’s second city, but it takes first place in the seafood stakes, thanks to its west-coast location on the icy North Sea.
Start the day with an early-morning tour of the Fiskauktion for the lowdown on fishy business, before a wander around the Saluhallen indoor food hall. You’ll find the catch of the day at Hedlunds Havsbar, plus masses more to try – think artisan liquorice, cheese from Hugo Ericson OST (a producer since 1888), fika goodies and tapas.
An al-fresco lunch at hipster food truck Strömmingsluckan is all about the sustainably sourced fried herring with mash and lingonberries. Or head to the top floor of Gothia Towers, at Heaven 23, to try a king-size open sandwich comprising a monster mound of hand-peeled shrimps on sourdough, complete with mayo and a squeeze of lemon. It’s a dish that has had a reputation for excellence since it was first served in 1984.
Mollusc fiends will go nuts for the plump oysters at Sjöbaren, the perfect palate cleanser, before kicking back for dinner with what’s dubbed the “messy wine package”, at the home of natural wine nerds Natur, where seasonality and sustainability rule.
Hop on a bus to Jönköping and you’ll arrive in Småland province in less than 2.5 hours. This region is renowned for three delicacies: ostkaka, isterband and lingon, aka cheesecake, smoked sausage and lingonberry. You can hunt them all down at Bauergården, where the Tastes of Småland menu features all three.
Sweet tooth? Gränna, situated just north of Jönkoping on Lake Vattern, is best known as the home of rock candy, or polkagris – hard canes of flavoured sugar spun into colours of the rainbow. There are plenty of producers here that also offer demonstrations and crafting sessions.
Lake Vättern, Sweden’s deepest and second largest lake, is best appreciated from the Gränna Hotel, a charming heritage building with fabulous views over the water and a restaurant that prides itself on using local produce.
Äppledalen, or the Apple Valley, between Gränna and Huskvarna, offers miles of orchards to explore. Embark on an Apple Safari organised by fruit specialists Rudenstams, then check out the farm shop to sample its famous sparkling whitecurrant drink, served at several Nobel Prize gala dinners.
The Flättinge Gårdscafé is another destination not to be missed. A countryside farm and café run by three sisters, everything is either made or baked on site – think cakes, sandwiches and cookies (from an old family recipe), plus juices pressed from homegrown berries.
It’s a train ride to Sweden’s chic capital, a hub of creativity and innovation. You’ll find sustainability is at the core of Stockholm. Start the day right with a healthy breakfast at Pom & Flora, then sack off the diet for fika at Rosendals Trädgård in Djurgården, for conscious dining and a model of sustainable city living – the simple lunch buffet is a must.
For something more sophisticated, try Oaxen Slip, the sibling to the two-Michelin-starred Oaxen Krog, which offers fabulous bistro fare and lovely sea views from its dockside home. Or, check out the pizza at neighbourhood joint Babette, with a diverse wine list to complement the changing menu. Veggie? Rutabaga, by renowned chef Mathias Dahlgren, is a plant-based paradise, or try Växthuset, which serves a seasonal menu with a focus on the environment. The colourful smoothie and salad bowls at Insta-friendly spot Mahalo are also worth a try.
Further groovy eats are found at furniture store and restaurant Woodstockholm, with a changing themed menu based on organically produced food and wine. Stockholm loves a set menu, so make a dinner commitment to 12 seasonal courses at new hot ticket Aira – or opt for a table at perennial favourite, Lilla Ego.
Catch a train or coach to Nynäshamn, a port town just south of Stockholm, to board the three-hour ferry to Gotland. It’s a mecca for Swedes come summer, although it’s worth keeping in mind that some businesses on the island are seasonal. That’s not to say a winter visit won’t hold its own. Gotland is a truffle hotspot, with a yearly festival dedicated to the delicacy. Truffle menus are found island-wide, such as the truffle brunch at Smakrike Krog & Logi, and the six-course extravaganza at Clarion Hotel Wisby.
Visby is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and after a wander along the cobblestone streets (with a pit stop for pickled herring with sour cream and onions at Bakfickan), make a beeline for Rute Stenugnsbageri for its legendary cardamom buns and wood-fired pizzas, ran by the same folks behind Fabrique.
Still hungry? The Katthammarsvik Rökeri, a harbourfront smokery that has been run by the same family for three generations, will sort you out with lashings of fish and aioli, followed by a local speciality of saffron pancakes with salma berry jam and silky whipped cream.
Thanks to a mild climate, produce thrives on the island, and Hotel Stelor (about 20-minutes by car from Visby) showcases it best. Almost everything served at this farmhouse hotel is sourced from neighbours – organic veggies from farmer Janne, venison from local hunter Erik, and fresh milk and yoghurt from Lotta, the dairy farmer. In the farm shop, you’ll find more homespun delights such as ferments and pickles.
Take the ferry back to Stockholm, then settle down on the night train and sleep away the miles to Luleå. You’ll wake up in Swedish Lapland, an Arctic region, where the midnight sun shines in summer and the Northern Lights illuminate winter night skies.
Despite its far northern location, Lapland is rich in produce. You’ll find reindeer, vendace roe, arctic char and hundreds of wild berry varieties. It’s these flavours you’ll find on the menu at CG in Luleå, a restaurant that revels in traditional techniques – drying, marinading, smoking – and seasonal produce cooked over a charcoal grill. Try the reindeer or moose with deep fried Västerbotten cheese crème, fried mushrooms, cabbage and pickled lingonberries.
The renegade team at Bistron also makes a point of using local ingredients, creatively repurposed with Asian fusion flavours. Kalix löjrom, however, is always best served straight up. A classic dish of vendace roe with sour cream and red onion, it was the first product in Sweden to be labelled Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), as issued by the European Union. It’s essentially Swedish caviar, a must-try that is often on the menu at the Nobel Prize dinner.
Rent a car and make a pass by Gammelstad Church Town – a Unesco World Heritage Site and the largest and best preserved church town in Sweden – then continue en route to Kukkolaforsen by the Finnish border. Here, while your simple dinner of freshwater fish grills over the open fire, along with baked Sami bread (ghakku), you’ll be entertained by local stories and legends. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
At the Huuva Hideaway, some 45 minutes away, you can sign up for a guided Sami food experience, comprising traditional dishes and insights into Sami culture. The outdoor restaurant Edible Country is only open during the summer, but you can be sure of a warm welcome all year round at the family-run lodgings.
Welcome to Sweden – when the time is right. To find out more about Sweden’s rich and varied cuisine, head to Visit Sweden.