swedish beachThroughout the years I have tried to go home every year. My favorite time is in July or August when the weather is usually the best and the summer nights seem to stay light forever.

I am originally from Malmo so most often my family and I have visited the southern part of Sweden. We spent many summer weeks at our timeshare in Smygehus, the most southern part of Sweden. Right on the sandy beaches and a half hour from Malmo, where most of my family and friends live. And then, of course, minutes away is the spettkakbageri, which is a bakery that makes a traditional spettkaka; a cake baked on a spit, where ribbons of batter, made of sugar, eggs and potatoflower, is poured onto a coneshaped form and baked over an open fire. It’s a very delicate and beautiful cake and only made in the Southern Sweden, in Skane.

Also close by are the beautiful beaches of Skanor and Falsterbo where many of our friends have their sommarstugor, summer houses. I spent many summers here as a young teen with my family and it became a tradition for my kids as well. There is nothing more beautiful to me than a Swedish white sandy beach on a warm summer day. I also love to explore all the castles that are scattered all throughout the country. Of course we also enjoy bicycling along the beaches and through the bike friendly cities, stopping at our favorite cafes or korvkiosk, hot dog kiosk for a snack.

Sommar Sverige är underbart!

Sweden in brief: Facts, emblems and map

Sweden is one of the largest countries in Europe, with great diversity in its nature and climate. Its distinctive yellow and blue flag is one of the national emblems that reflect centuries of history between Sweden and its Nordic neighbors.

 PDF (for screen)PDF (for print)Map of Sweden (high res)

The Swedish flag
The Swedish flag with a yellow cross on a blue background, dates back at least to the 16th century. Photo: Magnus Mårding/LinkImage

Sweden is a sparsely populated country, characterized by its long coastline, extensive forests and numerous lakes. It is one of the world’s northernmost countries. In terms of surface area it is comparable to Spain, Thailand or the American state of California. Sweden’s borders have been unchanged since 1905 and the country has not been at war since 1814.

Extreme contrasts

Sweden experiences extreme contrasts between its long summer days and equally long winter nights. In the summer, the sun stays in the sky around the clock in the parts of Sweden north of the Arctic Circle, but even as far south as Stockholm (59°N) the June nights have only a few hours of semi-darkness.

The Gulf Stream

Considering its geographic location, Sweden enjoys a favorable climate. This is mainly because of the Gulf Stream, a warm ocean current that flows off Norway’s west coast. Scandinavia has been completely covered by ice during several periods of history.

The most recent Ice Age ended only about 10,000 years ago, and the weight and movement of the ice sheet had a profound effect on the landscape.

The hard outcrops of underlying rock were polished into the rounded shapes characteristic of Sweden’s archipelagoes, and hollows were deepened into valleys and lakes.

Varied scenery with a rich wildlife

With its variety of landscapes, Sweden has everything from bears and wolves in the north to roe deer and wild boar in the south. The country also has a wealth of flora and aquatic life, which contribute to its biological diversity.

Much of the Swedish landscape is dominated by coniferous forests such as pine and spruce, with large forests of deciduous trees such as birch and aspen in the south. Because of their limestone-rich bedrock and favorable climate, the islands of Gotland and Öland and parts of the Scandinavian mountain range have an interesting flora that includes numerous varieties of orchid.

Numbers increasing

Along with its beautiful scenery, Sweden has a rich and varied wildlife. The wolf for example is expanding its habitat across northern and central Sweden. Bear, lynx and wild-boar populations are also increasing. Throughout the country there are large numbers of moose (elk), roe deer, foxes and hares. The moose is a great prize for hunters but is also a traffic hazard. Hunting is closely regulated, and many species of animal are completely protected. Winter bird life in Sweden is dominated by a few species, but summer brings large numbers of migratory birds from the south.

With its long coasts and many lakes, Sweden also has a rich variety of aquatic life. Fish species vary from the cod and mackerel of the salty Atlantic to the salmon and pike found in the far less saline Gulf of Bothnia and in lakes and rivers. Herring and the smaller Baltic herring used to be an important staple food, but today are seen more as delicacies.

National emblems of Sweden

Among the Swedish national emblems are the blue and yellow flag, two coats of arms, Three Crowns and the national anthem.

The oldest recorded images of a blue flag with a yellow cross date from the 16th century. The yellow cross was always borne on Swedish battle standards and banners, because the Swedish coat of arms was blue divided by a cross of gold.

The triple crown device has been used as the emblem of Sweden at least since 1336, when it had long been a familiar symbol of the “Three Wise Kings”.

The Lesser Coat of Arms The Lesser Coat of Arms. Reproduction: Swedish National Archives

Since 1916, June 6 has been celebrated as Swedish Flag Day. This finally also became Sweden’s National Day in 1983 and a public holiday from 2005.

The date was chosen for two reasons: the election of Gustav Vasa as Sweden’s king on June 6, 1523, laid the foundation of Sweden as an independent state; and on the same date in 1809, Sweden adopted a new constitution that included the establishment of civil rights and liberties.

Map of Sweden

Click here for a larger version of the map.
Map: Norstedts Kartor