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Sweden, general information

Interesting facts on Sweden

Note that some of the information (gas prices!) can be outdated since we made this page after visiting the country for the last time!
Official name Konungariket Sverige (Kingdom of Sweden)
Area 449,964 sq km (10x Holland)
Number of inhabitants 8,878,085 (July 2003 est.)
Population density 19 people per square kilometer
Capital Stockholm
Monetary unit Swedish krona (SEK); The Swedes turned the Euro down in a referendum in September 2003. One crown is about € 0.11. € 1 = 9 SEK.. (1 € = $ 1.24; 1 Dollar = € 0.7; Rate in Jan. 2009)
Fuel prices Gas: € 1.00 to € 1.20; Diesel: € 0.80; LPG: € 0.60
License plate of cars S
Telephone country prefix 46
Internet country code .se
Time difference GMT+1; the same as in Holland
Road network The roads are in good shape
Prices in general Sweden is more expensive than Holland
The best in Konungariket Sverige (Kingdom of Sweden) We liked Stockholm, but also the lakes and the tundras in the north. And all the woods...

Geographical data

Sweden (full name: Konungariket Sverige or Kingdom of Sweden) is the biggest country in Scandinavia, covering an area of 450,000 sq km. It borders Finland to its northeast and Norway to its west. The dominant characteristics of the landscape can be attributed to glacial activity. The 7000 km-long (4330mi) coastline, particularly in the west and near Stockholm, is constantly cut by fjords (long, narrow sea inlets). There are about 100,000 lakes in Sweden. The islands of Öland and Gotland, south of Stockholm, consist of flat limestone, but they're sand-fringed and have been turned into beachy retreats for urban escapees. Norrland (a practical term for the northern 60% of the country) is sparsely populated, comprising a near uniform expanse of forest, river and rapid. Norway provides a natural frontier to the west on the other side of Skanderna, Sweden's modest mountain range. Sweden's highest peak is the glacier-capped northern peak of Mt. Kebnekaise at 2111m (6924ft).
The south and southwest of the country are gently undulating, picturesque holiday lands, and fringed with some of Europe's finest beaches. The west coast harbours a host of historic ports – Gothenburg, Helsingborg and Malmö, which is now linked by bridge to Copenhagen – while off the southeast coast, the Baltic islands of Öland and Gotland are the country's most hyped resorts, supporting a lazy beach-life to match that of the best southern European spots but without the hotel blocks and crowds.
Stockholm, the capital, is the country's supreme attraction, a bundle of islands housing monumental architecture, fine museums and the country's most active culture and nightlife.

Population

Sweden has almost 9 million inhabitants. About 600,000 people are foreigner, of whom a third Finnish.
Sweden has one of the lowest population densities in Europe, with an average of 20 people per sq. km. But there are great regional differences: in the utmost north the density is only 3 people per sq. km., whereas this number is 250 in and around Stockholm. One third of he population lives in the urban areas of Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö. Sweden is divided into 24 provinces and has 280 municipalities. The capital of Sweden is Stockholm, where one million and a half people live (including suburbs). The other big cities in Sweden are Goteborg, Malmö, Uppsala, Norrkoping and Orebro. Cities in the north rarely have more than 20.000 inhabitants.
The only native minority in Sweden are the 15.000 Sami (indigenous Lapp inhabitants) in the north, who differ from the other Swedes both in body characteristics as in language and culture. Since the prehistory the Sami live in the north of Sweden.
The average life expectancy for men in Sweden is 75 years and for women 81 years.
1 million Swedes emigrated at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, most of them to the USA.

Languages

Swedish is a Germanic language, belonging to the Nordic branch, and is spoken throughout Sweden and in parts of Finland. Swedes, Danes and Norwegians can, however, make themselves mutually understood since their languages are similar. Most Swedes speak English as a second language. In the north the Samen still have five Samish dialects.

History

For more information, also check out our more extensive page about the history of Denmark to which Sweden belonged for some time.

Prehistory
Sweden was covered by ice during the last glacial period and the first known settlings are from 10000 to 8900 BC. They were hunter-gatherers and probably came from Denmark. The first farmers settled about 4000 BC. They built a lot of megalithic tombs. Metallurgy made late appearances and only in the Bronze Age, after the arrival of Indo-Europeans, was there rich trade. The country's early cultural life is still vividly represented in the hällristningar (rock paintings) that survive in many parts of Sweden. In the Mälaren valley, the first known trading posts were established and monuments with runic inscriptions appeared.

Viking Age
The Viking Age was getting under way by the 9th century, and vast repositories of Roman, Byzantine and Arab coins attest to the wealth and power Swedish Vikings accumulated over the next century. Swedish Vikings travelled mostly to the east (the Danes and Norwegians went more to the west and south), making their mark in Russia, as well as trading with (and pillaging) Byzantine territories. Pagan gods and slightly more earthbound kings held sway over the domestic population, with Christianity only taking root in the 11th century.
There are different opinions on when the nation was established and united. Some say during the 9th century, others assert that it happened about 1000 AD. Written records survive only from late in the Middle Ages. But the number and variety of fortifications, assembly places, votive sites and graves from that time period is impressive.

Middle Ages
In the 12th century Swedes started to colonize Finland, which at the end of the 13th century became a part of Sweden.
From 1389 to 1523 Sweden, Denmark and Norway were united and reigned by the Danish kings. At the end of the period several attempts were made to break the union, which succeeded in an uprising lead by Gustav Vasa. He was crowned king in 1523.
Since the 13th century the Swedish parliament, riksdagen, contains representatives from all free citizens, which makes it the oldest in Europe with so wide representation.

1523 - 1905
In 1527 Sweden broke relations with the catholic church and the reformation started.
Through several wars from the 16th to the 18th century Sweden gained control over vast areas and became the dominating power in northern Europe. Besides todays Sweden it contained Finland, parts of Russia, Estonia, Latvia, and many towns and regions in northern Germany.
In a war against Russia 1808 to 1809 Sweden lost Finland. The same year, Sweden produced a constitution that divided legislative powers between king and Riksdag (parliament). The post of ombudsman appeared as a check on the powers of the bureaucracy. 1813-1814 Sweden participated in the campaign against Napoleon. At the peace conference Sweden obtained Norway in exchange for the dependencies in northern Germany. This was the last war Sweden has participated in.
The union with Norway was dissolved in a peaceful way 1905.

1905 - present
Sweden declared itself neutral at the outbreak of WW I and was governed by liberals until 1917. But food shortages caused unrest and consensus was no longer possible. For the first time a social democratic government took control. The social democrats dominated politics after 1932, reworking the liberal tendencies of the 1920s to join economic intervention with the introduction of a welfare state. These trends were scarcely interrupted until the 1970s when economic pressures began to cloud Sweden's social goals. It was then that support for social democracy first wavered, looking particularly shaky after the 1986 assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme and its murky aftermath.
The political breeze shifted to the right in 1991 when a Moderate-led coalition won power. The experiment with rightist economics and the move to EU membership left many Swedes uncertain and disillusioned, allowing the social democrats to sneak back to form a minority government in 1994. The social democrats suffered further losses in the 1995 elections, but have managed to cling to power under Prime Minister Göran Persson who relies on the support of the Centre Right party or the Greens. In late 1996, 10 years after Palme's assassination, a leader of a South African hit-squad accused a former Rhodesian soldier of Palme's murder, citing him as a mercenary - Palme was a tireless critic of South Africa's apartheid policies.

Climate

Sweden is the 6th biggest nation of Europe and oblong (more than 1500 km from north to south) with great differences in nature and climate. Close to 10% of the area are lakes, more than 100 000, but most of them are very small.
The summers of Sweden can be very hot. In general the summer begins in June and ends in September. The warmest month is July. The average temperatures of that month vary from 18 degrees Celsius in Stockholm to 15 degrees Celsius in Haparanda. The midnight sun is to be seen between mid-May and mid-June above the Arctic Circle. The winter in Sweden lasts from late October until April and can be bitterly cold, especially in the northern regions of Sweden. The coldest month is February with temperatures all over Sweden below 0 degrees Celsius. Snow is very common in central and northern Sweden, and winters in the north are cold and long. Sometimes the winters are even dark, because some areas experience only 4 hours of sunshine per day.
The average percipitation is above 600 mm. Temperature in the capital Stockholm during January is averagely -4°C and during July +17°C.

Flora and fauna

Flora
More than 55% of Sweden is covered with woods, mainly pines, fir and larch. The beech dominates the south and the oak can still be found in the middle of Sweden. The birch grows even more to the north but in the most northerly regions the dwarf oak is common. The tree line declines from 900 to 1000 m. above sealevel in Dalarna to 500 m. above sealevel near the border between Swedish and Norwegian Lapland.
In the summer the country is covered with blooming flowers, especially poppies, bluets, marguerite and several kinds of wild flowers. Sweden has about 2000 plant species. Bilberries and raspberries are very common in the wild. The islands Öland and Gotland have a special vegetation because of their limestone soil, which can retain the warmth of the sun for a long time. On sheltered places peaches, mulberries and walnuts can grow. Also special are the thirty kinds of orchids.

Fauna
Moose, deer and fox are common throughout Sweden and, of all Sweden's wild creatures, these are the ones you're most likely to spot, though hopefully not as they come through your windscreen. Wolf, lynx and brown bear populations have suffered at the hands of encroaching agriculture and eager hunters, but are making a comeback in some western provinces and the mountain regions. Wolves survive in the mountains only by preying on domestic livestock, making no friends with farmers in their fight against extinction. More than 300 bird species live throughout Sweden, with the kingfisher perhaps the most beautiful, and the woodpecker the best at carpentry. The northern lakes and streams are choice places to spot salmon and trout.
There are many national wildlife parks spread all over Sweden, with the Abisko National Park in Lapland being the best well-known.

Economy

Sweden is a strongly industrialized Western nation with a free enterprise economy. Several of its companies enjoy a worldwide reputation, and names like Ericsson, Volvo and Astra stand for high quality and state-of-the-art products. The industry is based both on rich mineral resources, vast forests, and a number of Swedish inventions by the turn of the century. Sweden is one of the worlds leading exporters of iron ore and forest products (paper pulp and paper). Highquality steel is another Swedish speciality.

Forestry
The Swedish forest industry has played an important part in the Swedish economy since the middle of the 19th century. It has over the years become mainly export-oriented and accounted for almost half of Swedish exports during the 1950s. Swedish forestry is considered very modern and it operates with long-term ecological objectives.

Mining industry
The mining industry is dominated by the LKAB company and 90% of its production is exported, mainly to the German steel industry. The exports of iron ore have decreased since the mid 1970s but Sweden is still among the top ten exporters in the world. The steel industry is also exporting most of its production. Swedish steel producers have concentrated on quality and more than half of the sales value consists of the more expensive special steel used for precision tools and ball bearings, etc.

Production
The engineering industry is the largest manufacturing industry in Sweden. The industry has a very high technological level. Swedish engineering companies like SKF, ABB and Ericsson and inventions like the ball bearing have given Sweden a good worldwide reputation in this sector. The car and airplane industries are also significant. Volvo and SAAB are well-known companies in these fields and produce both cars and trucks under various brand names. SAAB is also a producer of commercial and military airplanes. Many traditional Swedish mechanical manufacturing companies have diversified into the electronics industry, which has grown rapidly. Sweden has one of the most automatized manufacturing industries in the world, and Sweden's ABB is the largest producer of industrial robots in Europe.

The Service Industry
The service sector is by far the largest in the Swedish economy in terms of employment. It consists not only of traditional services like financial, educational and medical but also of an increasing service part in production industries. Large parts of the Swedish service industry belong to the public sector, for instance are almost all hospitals, schools and child care centers owned by the State. A privatization process has started in this sector and former monopolies like Posten (mail services), Telia (telecommunications) and SJ (railway transports) have been or are in the process of being introduced on the stock market.

The Chemical Industry
Chemical products have been manufactured in Sweden for over a hundred years. The Swedish chemical industry was in the beginning mainly producing matches and explosives, while paint and plastics have grown to become a large share of chemical production after World War II. The medical part, dominated by Astra and Pharmacia & Upjohn, is the most research intensive of all industries and its products have been very successful during the last decades.

Tourism

Many visitors heading for history- and monument-rich France or Italy mistakenly think Sweden lacks attractions. This is not the case. Sweden possesses 1,140 historic fortresses, 2,500 open-air runic stones, 25,000 protected Iron Age graveyards, and 10 royal castles around the Stockholm area alone. Stockholm is the centre of cultural life, which attracts most visitors. Ystad and Båstad are well-known seaside resorts. The island Gotland and Öland in the Baltic Sea are popular destinations because of their mild climate and subtropical vegetation.
Every year about 6 million people visit Sweden.

The actual weather in Sweden:

Stockholm Malmö Göteborg Lulea
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