Given its sheer size and length, Sweden is incredibly diverse, offering something for everyone, whether they are inveterate snow bunnies or die-hard urbanites. Take stock of your personality and see which bit of Sweden you should head to first.
For coffee junkies
The art of fika is practised with great flair all over Sweden, but Malmö is that little bit ahead when it comes to offering the best coffee in a country that truly is dedicated to its java. Whether it’s fair trade, organic, specially brewed or ground, no matter where you turn in Malmö, they’re taking coffee drinking to new heights. Some particular favourites to check out include Uggla, which gets its brew from Denmark’s Coffee Collective; Te & Kaffee Huset, which offers well-known roasters such as Johan & Nyström; and Solde Kaffebar & Kafferosteri, which offers coffee made from its own roasted beans.
The rest of the country may consider themselves fashionable, but no one does Scandi style quite like a Stockholmer. The capital has plenty of second-hand shops complementing top Swedish and international brands, and a distinct sense of sleek, modern and slightly quirky style; any fashionista worth his or her salt will make Stockholm their first port of call when visiting Sweden. Try Drottninggatan for high street favourites H&M, Södermalm for secondhand legend Lisa Larsson, or Biblioteksgatan for your more top-end choices. And remember, Stockholmers do street style like no one else, so prepare to try something new and surprisingly flattering.
For wine connoisseurs
Skåne is the newest European region to enter the wine sweepstakes, with a number of small vineyards taking advantage of climate change and longer growing seasons to put forth some tipple that may not yet be winning awards, but which more than holds its own, and which promises to improve over time. You can tour the vineyards and sample their fare, as well as buying some to take home. Many vineyards also offer wonderful restaurants on the premises, so you can make a day of it.
Multi-culti Malmö has a foodie scene that is heavily influenced by both the New Nordic Manifesto that has taken Scandinavia by storm, and the more than 160 nationalities that live in Sweden’s third-largest city. This means high end, low end and middle of the road are all catered for in spades, and Malmö is heaven on earth for dedicated foodies. While legendary eateries such as Daniel Berlin (located about an hour from Malmö) and Bastard shouldn’t be missed, the city is also home to an incredible array of Middle Eastern restaurants, which reflect not only the diversity of Malmö, but the diversity that is inherent in one of the world’s great cuisines.
For snow bunnies
If you’re into snow and winter sports, Sweden is definitely the place for you, with plenty of great spots for skiing, snowboarding and myriad other winter sports. But if you want the finest snow and the best conditions, head to Åre or Sälen: both are world-class ski destinations that also benefit from some glamorous nightlife and excellent after-skis. For Nordic skating you’re also spoiled for choice, as it’s one of the most popular activities in the country. And for regular ice skating? Hit one of the many city rinks or, if you’re brave, go out on one of the many frozen lakes – but remember to check that they’re properly frozen!
For nature lovers
Swedes are by nature nature lovers. They get out into the countryside any chance they get, and they know how to enjoy the time spent there, whether that’s picking berries and mushrooms, hiking in the woods or simply taking in the stunning nature that covers the country. Because the entire country is basically one big nature paradise, you’ve got plenty of places to choose from for communing with nature, but if you want to see Sweden’s countryside at its finest, try Dalarna, Småland or Norrland – all three regions are remote enough for you to really get away from it all, and all three offer a distinct experience.
For water sport lovers
With more than 3,000 kilometres (1,864 miles) of coastline and nearly 100,000 lakes, it will come as no surprise that water sports are extremely popular in Sweden, despite the somewhat short warmer season. While Stockholm and the surrounding areas, such as the archipelago, are great for those into water sports, the west coast is really where you want to head, particularly in and around Gothenburg (the Gothenburg archipelago, for some, far outshines the Stockholm archipelago) and a bit further south to Falsterbo. The west coast offers top-notch Nordic surfing, as well as the best beaches and summer conditions in Sweden, meaning that whatever you’re into, you can find it here.
The Stockholm archipelago, particularly the island of Sandhamn, is where the Swedish Royal Yacht Club is based, which tells you pretty much all you need to know about sailing on the east coast. A bit further afield you have Gotland, the Baltic island playground, where the annual Gotland Runt sailing race takes place. All along the lower east coast, sailing is widely enjoyed, so if you’ve got wind in your sails, this is where you belong.
For culture vultures
Sweden as a whole is very into culture, with art galleries and other cultural institutions popping up in the most extraordinary and unexpected places, but for a heavy concentration of culture you really have to head to Stockholm, which is home to not just nearly 100 museums, including the incredible Modern Museum, but also plenty of art galleries, live music venues, jazz clubs, bookstores and nearly every other cultural pursuit you can dream up, including some pretty amazing public art, including the much vaunted subway art gallery. Even that heady list is barely scratching the surface of the culture you’ll discover on a visit to Sweden’s capital city.