Copenhagen Rocks

What is Sweden Famous For? 41 Swedish Claims to Fame

“What is Sweden famous for?”

Wait, you’re saying to yourself “I thought this was a Copenhagen blog….right?”. So why am I talking about Sweden?

Well, as the two countries butt up against each other it is a question worth asking and answering.

In fact, most people traveling to Copenhagen also meander across the Øresund Sound to Sweden.

That’s why today we will take a slight break from exploring Denmark. I know it’s a rough life. And I thought we would take one second and answer the question about all the famous things in Sweden.

First things first, if you are on the fence about visiting Sweden let me just say that it is a magnificent country. And one that is worth taking the time to travel.

And while I love Denmark, Sweden is my 2nd home.

It’s an incredible country on the cutting edge of some extremely cool concepts and ideas.

Let’s take a break from Copenhagen and discover what Sweden is famous for!

Table of Contents

What is Sweden Famous For?

Vikings

When it comes to these Norse farmers, warriors, and sailors Denmark gets most of the credit. It’s actually one thing that Denmark is famous for around the world. However, the Vikings spread all throughout Sweden as well.

History shows that Ragnar Lodbrok (The main character in the History Channel’s epic hit Vikings) conquered Sweden.

Vikings from Sweden traveled around countries like Germany, Poland, and Russia. The Swedish Vikings pillaged the land to the east and south of Sweden, along the Volga and Dnieper Rivers.

Vikings have an infamous reputation for being brutal warriors. And that’s true to a point. But at their heart, the Vikings were farmers, who had a strong focus on family.

IKEA

Come on, did you think we would make it through this list without mentioning IKEA?

Perhaps the most famous thing to come out of Sweden recently.

Famed around the world as the go-to-place to get your furniture! Today the IKEA brand has spread from Sweden to numerous countries across the globe.

One fun fact, IKEA’s still very much Swedish. Even to this day they name each product after a Swedish word.

IKEA’s stores are enormous and often boast a cafeteria. The average size of an IKEA store is 300,000 feet – insane!

Sidebar, next time you visit an IKEA, head to the cafeteria and try the Swedish meatballs. Cheap, and good!

One reason that IKEA’s successful is because the company focuses on providing quality while still offering consumer-friendly prices.

Here’s more facts about Sweden and IKEA. Did you know that IKEA sells entire flat packed houses?

Design

Don’t worry, I’m not going on another long tangent about IKEA.

If it’s not IKEA then what is Sweden famous for when it comes to design?

Well, the answer might surprise you. Swedes are known for their creative designs.

This includes items like building styles and textiles. Many of these designs focus on sustainability.

Swedes are creative, and resourceful, which is one reason why Sweden’s so great!

Denmark’s no slouch when it comes to design either, I mean, some of the best hostels in Copenhagen have incredible designs. 

Recycling

Anyone who has traveled to Sweden can tell you about the country’s obsession with recycling. (It’s a very good obsession, I might add).

Throwing anything away trash in Sweden leaves you with a plethora of choices of trash bins to throw it in. The sheer number of trash bins can easily confuse foreigners like me.

Remember when I said Swedes are resourceful? Well, here’s a prime example! 99% of trash in Sweden is either recycled or turned into energy.

And understandably it’s a huge point of pride in the country. I mean, name another country in the world only produces 1% waste?

Furthermore, many swedes take their own trash to the recycling center and sort it out themselves! That’s commitment.

Nature and Landscapes

One reason Sweden’s so keen on recycling is that they love and respect their nature. Sweden’s a lush, green country. It’s a country of rich sweeping views, verdant landscapes, and untouched valleys.

The landscapes of Sweden are also diverse with everything from rugged valleys to thick forest. And from snow-capped mountains, to still lakes.

In fact, 10% of the entire country’s covered by lakes.

Sweden has more than 30 national parks that highlight the contrasting landscape. Some highlights of the parks are beaches, woods, mountains, coral reefs, and sand dunes.

Sweden has almost any landscape you could ask to visit. And in such a tiny country, that’s an impressive fact. In fact, ⅔ of Sweden is covered by forested around.

What is Sweden famous for? Beautiful views, pristine nature, and more still lakes! Not a bad claim to fame.

The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights While we are talking about nature I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the world’s best light show.

What is Sweden famous for? Well, the Northern Lights of course.

Commonly known as the Aurora Borealis, mother nature’s greatest light show is one of the best things to see in Sweden. To see the northern lights in Sweden you need to head to the far north – around the Kiruna area.

Because of the interminable summer days, the light show isn’t visible all year. You can see the lights starting in September and visible throughout most of the winter.

They begin to disappear in January. If you haven’t seen the northern lights. Then imagine a jaw-dropping spectacle of pinks, greens, and purples dancing in the sky. The Northern lights are easily one of the best things to add to your Scandinavian bucket list!

Spotify

Few people know that the world’s most popular music app, Spotify, is one thing that Sweden is famous for!

Well, it’s true. This groundbreaking music app was founded in Stockholm. The goal of the app was to help end music piracy.

And since the company is worth around 26 billion dollars, and has over 200 million active users, I would say they have accomplished their mission.

Spotify’s shows some of the creativity found in Sweden.

Abba & Pop Music

Since we’re on the topic of music, there’s one band in particular that Sweden is famous for! Don’t know who I’m talking about? Ever heard of Abba? I thought so.

Abba, who won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest is the most famous band to come out of the country. However, famous Swedish musicians number more than just Abba. The country has produced and written songs that top charts around the world.

Sadly, most people don’t realize the song’s Swedish roots. Many musicians and DJs, like Avicii and Zara Larsson, hail from Sweden.

Music is one of Sweden’s biggest exports and most of the world doesn’t realize it!

Salty Licorice

Like it’s neighbor, Denmark, the Swedes are obsessed with salty, black licorice.

Step into any grocery store in any part of Sweden and there’s a good chance that you’ll discover a large pic-n-mix section filled with the stuff.

I’ve realized salty licorice is one thing I’ll never understand about Scandinavia. And personally, I don’t subscribe to the notion it’s an acquired taste. I believe it’s something you have to grow up with in order to like it (like Skyline Chili in the American Midwest). I’ve come to this conclusion after spending a lot of time in Denmark and Sweden… and I still hate the stuff.

The 6 Hour Work Day

While this isn’t all over Sweden yet, it is sending ripples through the country as well as the rest of the world. Many places in Sweden are starting to throw out the traditional 8-hour workday and replacing it with a shorter 6-hour workday.

The thinking behind the 6-hour workday is that it will make employees more focused, driven, and happier. Resulting in more productivity. Many companies using the strategy have reporters increase profit and lower turnover rates. So far it seems to be working!

What is Sweden Famous For? Happiness! 

Sweden comes in as the 7th happiest country in the world. The ranking is based on the prestigious World Happiness Report. While it’s not as high as Denmark, Sweden still graces the top ten for happiest people in the world. (One fun fact about Denmark is that it is always number one or two on the list.)

The WHR rankings are measured by dopamine levels, opinions on voting policies, personal achievement and satisfaction, and community.

Why are Swedes so happy? This could partially come from the high quality of living. Maybe it is the 6-hour workdays? Don’t forget the high life expectancy, which is about 4 years longer than in the United States.

Human Rights

If you know facts about Denmark then you know that both countries are at the forefront of Human Rights.

Sweden was the first country in the entire world to pass a law that gave freedom to the press.

Today the country welcomes immigrants and is one of the forefront of human rights – specifically for women and children.

It’s cool to live in a country like Sweden that is famous for how it treats people.

Tall, Blonde Women

I’m not one to believe Stereotypes. And after living in Sweden I would say this one isn’t necessarily always true. At least not in Skåne (the south of Sweden.)

However, Swedish women are known around the world for being tall and blonde. It’s estimated that somewhere between 50 to 80% of women in Sweden and Norway are blonde.

Though, in all fairness, the study was conducted over 50 years ago. And I wouldn’t say it is 100% accurate today.

That being said there are a lot of blondes blue-eyed boys and girls. But it doesn’t feel more than anywhere else…or maybe I’ve just spent so much time in Sweden that I’ve used to it.

My wife is from Sweden, she isn’t blonde, and she is the only woman I notice! (Racking up those brownie points!)

MidSummer

Midsummer is probably the most well known Swedish celebration around the world. And is arguably the most important holiday in the country. The Midsummer’s celebrated start in late June, and it’s a celebration of the summer solstice.

Even to this day, people dance around the midsummer pole or maypole. Girls wear flowers in their hair, people dress up in colorful outfits, and there are a lot of traditions and events. And drinking!

If you want to see Sweden at it’s craziest and happiest, then Midsummer needs to be added to your bucket list. Midsummer is one of the best times to visit Copenhagen, and the south of Sweden.

Sweden is Famous for Having the Most Islands in the World

If I asked you which country has the most islands in the world you might guess “ The Philippines, Indonesia, or Denmark” Those are all good guesses… but wrong, the answer is Sweden. To be fair, I think this is something that most people don’t know. So it’s something that Sweden should be famous for. I mean, I’ve spent years traveling the world and those were my guesses when my wife asked.

But no, Sweden has more islands than any other country in the world. The entire country has 221,800 islands.

Let’s put that in prescriptive a little bit. That means Sweden has enough islands that every 50 Swedes could share their own island. Of course, many of these islands are uninhabited.

Even the capital of Stockholm is spread across a 14 island archipelago and fused together with more than 50 bridges.

Food in Tubes

This is something that drives me a little crazy, in a funny way, about Sweden. The country loves to put food in tubes. You can get everything from fish, and caviar to ketchup and mustard in a tube. 

If it’s possible to squeeze it out of a tube, well, you can probably find it in Sweden. I’m not sure, but I think this is a way to cut down on plastic use.

Seafood: Sill and Surströmming

When I think of the seafood that Sweden is famous for, two things come to mind. The first is called Sill. What is Sill you ask? Sill is pickled fish – especially pickled herring – which is associated with many traditions and holidays in Sweden, like Midsummer, and Easter.

Sill comes in a variety of flavors from Dill to Mustard. Literally, there are dozens of types of Sill in grocery stores. And while Sill might sound gross to those of us hailing from the far west, it isn’t as bad as it sounds. That being said, I don’t want to eat either one every day.

Surströmming is another seafood product Sweden is famous for. Surströmming is salted fermented herring and it’s often severed on sandwiches, potatoes, or onions. And while either isn’t bad…. I would choose Sill if I would pick sill.

Lagom

Lagom is a word that has no direct translation in English. However, it is a popular phrase around the country. Lagom is roughly translated as “just enough”; Or moderation. 

This is a code of society. For example, “did you eat too much?” No, lagom

Meaning your not full, just satisfied. Spend more than a couple days in Sweden and you’ll hear them say it in any situation from gambling to eating.

The Iconic Ice Hotel

When talking about what Sweden is famous for, we have to mention the world-famous Sweden ICEhotel.

This unique hotel’s located up north in the frigid arctic area of Sweden. The temperature of the ice hostel’s constantly kept at -4°C (24 °F).

Don’t worry though! Guests are kept warm with cozy reindeer covers, layers of warm clothing, and even a heated sleeping bag. It’s unlike any other hotel you’ve ever stayed in and the views of the arctic only make it worth it.

More Cool Hotels

Who would have thought Sweden is famous for hotels? But it’s true. Besides the ice hotel, there are Treehouse hotels, hotels in abandoned jumbo jets, and more.

Sweden is famous for Startups like Skype, and CandyCrush

This is a more recent claim to fame in Sweden. However, the southern part of Sweden, also known as Skåne is quickly becoming a popular hotspot for new startups. Of course with a resume like Skype, Candy Crush, and Spotify it is easy to see why.

This plays into what I was saying earlier about Swedes being creative and resourceful!

Sauna’s

Yep, just like the rest of Scandinavia, Sweden is known for it’s sauna culture. You see them everywhere in the country. I mean, why not. Saunas are awesome.

In many places, they have them by the sea, with the idea that you can take an icy dip in the ocean before quickly running into the warm safety of the sauna.

You can’t spend three days in Copenhagen, or Sweden without having at least one Sauna.

What Sweden Famous For? 8 Things Sweden Gave the World

GPS

Yep, today the GPS world standard was made in Sweden by Hokan Lans. This is the basis of GPS whether you are using it in your car or on your phone.

Skype

Skype was co-developed by a Niklas Zennström from Sweden. Just a little fun fact Microsoft bought Skype in 2011 for 8.5 billion dollars.

The Zipper

To be fair the zipper was a collaboration of prototypes from all over the world. However, it was Gideon Sundbäck – born in Sweden – that took the prototypes and developed the zipper we use today.

Dynamite

The Dynamite was invented in Sweden in 1866. Well, it was invented in Germany, but by a Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Noble.

The Mouse

Chances are you reading this on a computer, and scrolling through using a mouse. Well, you have a little bit of Sweden right there next to you. The computer mouse was developed by Håkan Lans ( the same Swede that made GPS).

Adjustable Wrench

Thanks to Johan Petter Johansson, from Sweden, we have the adjustable wrench that is used in construction sites all over the world.

The Pacemaker

Yep, the pacemaker was made in Sweden. The first patient survived the tests and lived a much longer life.

The Ultrasound

Yep, the ultrasound comes from Sweden in the 1950s. Hellmuth Hertz and Inge Edler developed the technique.

What Sweden Famous For? Celebrities

Max von Sydow

Born in Lund, in Southern Sweden. Max von Sydow has been in over 160 movies like Minority Report, Flash Gordon, and the Seventh Seal.

Stellan Skarsgård

You might not know his name but I can almost guarantee you would recognize him in any movie. Stellan Skarsgård, born in Gothenburg, has been in a ton of popular movies like Good Will Hunting, Avengers, Amistad, and Mamma Mia. 

He’s also playing a key role in the upcoming Dune reboot which I am uber excited about.

Peter Stormare

Peter Stormare, born in Gävleborgs län, Sweden, has appeared in some major blockbusters like Fargo, Constantine, Armageddon, and the Brothers Grimm. He also plays in the Starz Tv Series American Gods, which is as wonderful as it is strange.

Alicia Vikander

Alicia Vikander is a Swedish actress born and raised in Gothenburg. She is the new Tomb Raider, has played in hits such as Ex Machina, The Man of U.N.C.L.E. Jason Bourne, and the Danish Girl. And play the voice of Mira in Netflix’s: The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

Joel Kinnaman

Joel Kinnaman is a Swedish, American actor that has played some major parts.

He was the star of season one of Altered Carbon. Played in House of Cards. As well as the Suicide Squad, Knight of Cups, and Hanna. He is a great actor that plays the strong silent type perfectly.

What Sweden Famous For? Musicians

Abba

We already touched on Abba, however, they are the most famous musicians to come out of Sweden. And are still one of the most listened to bands in the world. That’s nuts!

Avicii

Today the most popular musician from Sweden is Avicii. Avicii is famous around the world as a D.J, remixer, producer, and songwriter.

Zara Larsson

Zara Larsson is a songwriter, and singer from Sweden. She is popular all over Europe, Northern America. Basically all over the world. If you asked “ What is Sweden famous for with music” Zara Larsson will be of the first names to pop up.

Sweden has many famous musicians to name in one blog post but other ones include Robyn, Sebastian Ingrosso, Axwell, Agnetha Fältskog, Benny Andersson, and Eagle-Eye Cherry.

There we go! You have a ton of answers to the question “what is Sweden famous for?”. I hope this post ignited your curiosity about Denmark, Sweden, and Scandinavian in general.