Yes, yes, you’re a big fan of IKEA, you know all the words to Abba’s Dancing Queen and you knew Avicii was going to make it big even before he did – good for you. But how much do you really know about this northern European nation? Part of that scandi-cool collection of islands that includes Norway, Finland and Denmark, Sweden sprawls across approximately 450,000 square kilometres, making it the fifth-largest country in Europe. So far, so unsurprising? Well, hold onto your Sverigedräkten, because we’ve rounded up a few interesting facts about Sweden that might just blow your mind.
The most interesting facts about Sweden
1. More than half of Sweden is covered in forest
Forest accounts for 280,650 square kilometres of Sweden’s total landmass. Around half of this is owned by private individuals, a quarter is owned by private companies and the rest are public. There are 29 national parks in total, featuring a variety of terrain including boreal forests, soaring mountains, and glaciers.
Despite all of those trees taking up a lot of space, Sweden has twice the population of Norway, with 10.3 million people. Around 63% of the population live in cities.
2. Sweden has an official coffee and cake break
‘Fika’ is the Swedish custom of getting together to eat cake, drink a steaming hot drink and have a chinwag. It’s popular at the weekend, but it’s also a deeply rooted work tradition too. This designated sitting-down time is basically obligatory.
Historically, fika involved at least seven different cakes but times are changing and now just one will suffice. Interestingly, despite all that time away from the desk, Sweden is one of the most productive countries in the world. Is a sweet treat the secret to success? We’re willing to give it a go… for the greater good of course.
3. They really love recycling in Sweden
Only 1% of waste in Sweden ends up in landfills. Just over 50% is recycled or composted and 49% is incinerated for energy. In fact, Sweden actually imports waste from Norway and the UK. It’s a real win-win situation for Sweden since both nations pay to dispose of it and Sweden can then transform it into energy.
Swedish Plastic Recycling will also invest €98 million in a new facility that it says will be able to recycle “practically all kinds of plastic packaging” completely without CO2 emissions. The ground-breaking facility is set to open Motala in 2023.
4. Sweden has the most islands in the world
Yes, you read that correctly. Not the Philippines, not the Maldives, it’s Sweden that gets the crown on this one. Sweden has a staggering 221,831 islands, but only 24,000 are open to the public through the country’s Right of Public Access policy. An even smaller proportion are inhabited, less than 1,000. Most of these islands are dotted along the east coast of Sweden, with a sprinkling off the west coast too.
The most famous islands make up the Stockholm Archipelago, which includes more than 8,00 islands and islets. Most outlets agree that it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.
5. Spotify is from Sweden
You probably haven’t given much thought to where Spotify comes from, but if you had we’ll wager Sweden didn’t come top of the list. The ground-breaking audio streaming and media services launched in 2006 to compact increasing issues with piracy. It’s now the world’s largest music stream service provider, with over 365 million monthly active listeners and 165 million paying subscribers.
Daniel Ek, who invented the revolutionary platform, was impressively young when he invented it too – an entrepreneurial genius from birth basically. It was recently valued at $25 billion.
6. Sweden has one of the most powerful passports in the world
According to the latest research from Henley Passport Index, a London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm that has been analysing the world’s most travel-friendly passports since 2006, Sweden boasts the fifth most powerful passport in the world. With said passports, citizens can enter more than 124 countries across the world without applying for a visa.
Europe comes up trumps on the list for the most part, but interestingly Japan currently boasts the most powerful passport with access to 192 countries. Afghanistan is at the bottom, with rights to travel to just 26 countries without a visa.
7. Sweden is still growing
Sweden is one of the few countries in the world which is still gaining landmass, without war. Generally, sea levels are rising at a rate of more than 3 mm per year due to climate change, but they’re not rising everywhere. In Sweden, they’re dropping. The country’s landmass is rising between 3–9 mm each year due to a post-glacial uplift that started when the last Ice Age ended. It might sound like good news, but it’s not. It’s causing issues along the coastlines, particularly for shipping industries. For instance, Lulea – an important port – depends on easy access to the Baltic Sea – and that’s now threatened.