Sweden's main airports, in Stockholm and Gothenburg, are well-connected to the rest of Europe, and there are direct flights to the U.S. West Coast through Norwegian Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). Chances are you’ll be arriving in Sweden via Stockholm Arlanda Airport, which is a 45-minute journey from the heart of the Swedish capital—or just 20 minutes if you take the Arlanda Express train. Budget airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair fly into Stockholm Skavsta Airport, which is 1.5 hours from the city. Elsewhere, airport buses such as Flygbussarna and Swebus tend to be the fastest way to get into town.
Sweden’s public transportation system is effective, efficient, and punctual. SJ operates long distance trains within the country and hopping on domestic flights (SAS and Norwegian) can often be cheaper and more time-efficient than cross-country trains. Most of the major cities have a subway or aboveground tram network, and there are also Baltic Sea ferries that shuttle travelers around islands to other countries within the Baltics and Nordics. Avoid taxis. They are the most expensive form of transport.
Sweden’s official capital, Stockholm, is built on 14 islands, each with its own personality and flair—from edgy Södermalm and glitzy Östermalm to old town Gamla Stan and Kungsholmen filled with young creatives. Its subway, T-bana, is the world’s longest art exhibition. Gothenburg is Stockholm’s nicer cousin, with a more laid-back feel despite being a port city. It has a noticeable hipster culture, and is framed by Sweden’s largest amusement park, Liseberg. Gothenburg is also Sweden’s culinary capital, with great emphasis placed on seafood, and is home to the largest fish market in Sweden. Culturally diverse Malmö is just a 35-minute train ride over the Öresund Bridge from Copenhagen, Denmark. Trace Sweden’s Viking and medieval history every summer on the island of Gotland. Umeå was the official European Capital of Culture in 2014. In Northern Sweden, Luleå is the gateway to Swedish Lapland, and Jokkmokk and Kiruna give you access to indigenous Sámi culture. For your best chances to see the Northern Lights, head to Sweden’s northernmost town, Abisko.
Valborg is a festival celebrating the arrival of spring with bonfires, vigils, and revelry around the country. You’ll find the blue-and-yellow Swedish flags flown all around towns on National Day, June 6. Midsummer, celebrated every year in late June, remains Sweden’s most iconic cultural event. Also in summer is the three-day Way Out West Music Festival in Gothenburg. Stockholm Film Festival takes place in fall, and in winter, Swedish Lapland celebrates an ice festival as well as the 410-year-old indigenous Sámi market in Jokkmokk. Other key events in winter include Gothenburg Film Festival and Sonar music, creativity, and technology festival in Stockholm. There are several iconic Christmas markets in various cities and towns, and Stockholm hosts the prestigious Nobel Prize awards and dinner every December.
Lola Akinmade Åkerström is a Stockholm-based award-winning writer and photographer whose publication credits include National Geographic Traveler (US & UK), BBC, CNN, Fodors, AFAR, Slate, New York Magazine, amongst others. She is also editor-in-chief of Slow Travel Stockholm. Her photography is represented by National Geographic.