Sweden, although classified as one of the largest countries in the European Union, also happens to have the lowest population. Sweden is perhaps most well-known for its history of Vikings but today is one of the most popular tourism destinations for Northern Europeans seeking the best in vacation options, locations, and opportunities.
Since before the Middle Ages, Sweden was occupied by a variety of Germanic tribes, who over the years became known as the Vikings. During the Middle Ages and into the 17th century, Sweden became a more unified and independent country, expanding territories until she formed the Swedish Empire. Sweden has a reputation of being a neutral country, last involved in a war in the early 1800s. She continues to be a global leader in humanitarian efforts.
Languages and Religion
The official language of Sweden is Swedish although in the southern portions of the country, the language is influenced by the Danish language. Finnish is also spoken, classified as a minority language. Additional minority languages spoken in Sweden include Romani and Yiddish. Most Swedes today belonged to Lutheran denominations, classified as the Church of Sweden, although Swedes are not what one would call regular churchgoers. Other religions practiced in Sweden include Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christian. Small numbers of immigrants practicing Islam are also scattered throughout the country.
The climate in Sweden is surprisingly temperate despite its location in the northern latitudes. Sweden enjoys four distinct seasons although temperatures throughout the year remained relatively mild. The southern portions of the country enjoy an oceanic climate, while the central portion of the country is more humid. The northern part of the country enjoys a sub-Arctic climate, although even the winters are relatively mild due to the Gulf Stream. The average high summertime temperature in Stockholm is 23°C, with winter time lows averaging -10ºC.
Places and Cities to Visit
Sweden is a beautiful country with plenty of things to do and see. The Swedish people are big on the preservation of nature and recycling. Because of her climate and things to do, the country receives just as many travelers in winter as in summertime. From watching the Northern Lights to skiing in winter, Sweden offers it all. The Northern Lights are most visible from October to March and are easily viewed from any location in northern Sweden. One of the favorite spots for viewing the Northern Lights is the Abisko National Park.
Other popular tourist destinations in Sweden include:
- Visiting and swimming in any one of Sweden’s 96,000 lakes. Lake activities also include windsurfing and waterskiing.
- Canal cruises along the historic and beautiful Göta Canal.
- There’s nothing like experiencing Christmas in Sweden. Visit the city of Mora to meet Father Christmas at the Center World Theme Park.
- Visit Djurgården Island, where you can see the Nordic Museum, the former home of royal artist Prince Eugen at Waldemarsudde House, or the Liljevalchs Art Gallery.
- Fish in any number of mountain streams or surrounding seas in Norbotten, located along Sweden’s “Midnight Sun Coast” along the Baltic coastline – easily classified as an angler’s paradise.
- Drive through Bohuslän province, site of some of the earliest landmarks and discoveries of Swedish civilization dating back to the Viking era and the Bronze Age.
Car Hire Services
In Sweden, well-known domestic as well as international car rental companies are located in most cities as well as airports. For example, Europcar has dozens of car rental stations located throughout Sweden, from Almhult to Visby. Some of the most popular car companies in Sweden include:
- Holiday Autos- http://www.holidayautos.co.uk/car-hire/sweden.htm
- Europcar – www.europcar.com/car-SWEDEN.html
- Auto Europe – www.autoeurope.com/go/car-rental/sweden/
Compare rates and prices depending on your travel dates.
Sweden is one of the most beautiful Scandinavian countries, and visitors driving rental cars have a unique opportunity to visit every part of it. However, be aware of the driving rules and guidelines in Sweden to ensure a peaceful and safe journey. In Sweden, drive on the right hand side of the road. It is compulsory for front and back seat passengers to wear seatbelts, and headlights must be turned on during daylight as well as nighttime hours.
You must be 18 years of age or older and own a valid driving license in order to drive in Sweden. International drivers should always carry on their person their domestic driving license as well as an international driving permit, passport, insurance documents, and the vehicle rental or registration documents. Ensure that a warning or hazard triangle is in the vehicle before you leave the car rental parking lot.
When in Sweden, avoid drinking and driving. If you are caught with more than 0.02% blood-alcohol levels, you will be considered a drunk driver and at the least will be heavily fined.
Drivers in Sweden should also be aware that a majority of the country is heavily forested and where there are forests, there are animals. Obey the speed limit signs to avoid a collision with deer or other wildlife routinely crossing the roads. Also be aware that trams are commonly used in Sweden, and trams and their passengers have priority over vehicle traffic and right-of-way.
Unlike other European countries, police officers do not collect on the spot fines in Sweden, but do be aware that parking laws are strictly enforced.
Obey posted speed limit signs in urban as well as rural areas. In general, speed limit ranges include:
- Main highways – 110 kph (65 mph)
- Smaller, rural roads – 70 kph (43 mph)
- Town and city limits – 50 km an hour (31 mph)
Visit Sweden – www.visitsweden.com
Sweden – the Lonely Planet – www.lonelyplanet.com/sweden