How to make the most of Sweden’s 2016 holidays

The Local looks ahead to the nation's 'red days', to help you make the most of your vacation in 2016.

How to make the most of Sweden's 2016 holidays
A Swede enjoying her vacation. Photo: Erik Leonsson/Image Bank Sweden
If you're working in Sweden, take note that you're already one of the luckiest employees on the planet when it comes to annual leave, before you even factor public holidays into the equation. By law, firms have to give workers 25 days off, with many offering even more generous policies. Swedes take an average of 33 days paid holiday each a year, compared with 25.2 elsewhere in the EU. Plenty of companies also allow their employees to enjoy four consecutive weeks off, with big cities emptying out in June and July as residents disappear to their summer houses or head south in search of sunshine.
But as well as paid vacation days, there are more than a dozen so-called 'red days' in the Nordic nation. Plenty of workers schedule their breaks away around these public holidays. However, you don't usually have to.
Here are our top tips for navigating time off work in Sweden
1. Check your company's approach to annual leave around public holidays 
Some firms offer de facto bonus half days ahead of public breaks, while others ask staff to take annual leave in the days before or afterwards, in order to synchronise company work schedules. Businesses may also offer a 'first-come-first-served' policy for those wanting popular days off around red days (the dates between public holidays are known as klämdagar which means 'squeezed days') especially during school holidays.
However many Swedish employers are very flexible, so consider whether you might actually want a few quiet days in the office while your boss sticks around at their summer house after a national holiday, perhaps saving your annual leave for those dark November days or during frozen February. 
If you do shift work or are a member of a union, you're likely to get extra pay for working public holidays. If red days take place over a weekend, some firms offer an alternative week day off instead.
Don't be afraid of discussing holidays with your employer. Sweden's approach to work-life balance means they more likely to think less of you if you don't plan any time off. However, by law you can actually skip your vacation and take home the money instead.

The west coast is a popular spot for summer houses. Photo: Per Pixel Petersson/Image Bank Sweden
2. Book early if you want to travel during red day periods
Swedes love to plan, so if you're thinking about going travelling around Sweden over Midsummer or enjoying an Easter getaway, now is the time to get organising. Hotels, flights and restaurants can get booked up months in advance, with prices rising as the holidays get closer. If you're an expat or immigrant, it could also be more expensive to return to your home country or for friends and family to visit you from abroad.

Swedes plan how to spend their red days well in advance. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT
3. Beware of restaurant and attraction closures 
While in some countries, public holidays can often be a chance for tourist attractions to cash in on extra visitors, many Swedes consider their time off to be sacred, so check online to make sure that museum, cafe or climbing centre you've been longing to visit is actually open.
4. Be prepared for your Swedish friends to leave town
Public holidays are a classic time for Swedes to leave the country's big cities and head to their parents' places or second homes in the countryside, so they can be a lonely time for foreign workers. Start dropping hints early if you're hoping for an invitation to a Swedish summer house or check online social forums such as Meetup, Couchsurfing and Internations to connect with other expats and immigrants who are in the same boat.

All alone in Stockholm's Old Town (Gamla Stan). Photo: Nicho Södling/Image Bank Sweden
Below is a full list of national holidays in Sweden in 2016
Friday January 1st – New Year's Day – Public holiday (klämdagar are popular between Boxing Day and the weekend after Epiphany)
Tuesday January 5th – Twelfth Night – De facto half day for some companies 
Wednesday January 6th – Epiphany – Public holiday 
Friday March 25th – Good Friday – Public holiday
Saturday March 26th – Easter Saturday – Public holiday
Sunday March 27th – Easter Sunday – Public holiday
Monday March 28th – Easter Monday – Public holiday
Saturday April 30th – Walpurgis Night – Usually a de facto half day for some companies, but takes place on a weekend this year
Sunday May 1st – Spring holiday – Public holiday
Thursday May 5th – Ascension Day – Public holiday (klämdagar are popular around this date)
Saturday May 14th – Pentecost Eve – Public holiday
Sunday May 15th- Whit Sunday – Public holiday
Monday June 6th – National Day – Public holiday
Friday June 24th – Midsummer Eve – De facto holiday or half day in most companies (time off is very popular around this date)
Saturday June 25th – Midsummer Day – Public holiday 
Friday November 4th – All Saints' Eve – De facto half day in some companies
Saturday November 5th – All Saints' Day – Public holiday
Saturday December 24th – Christmas Eve – Public holiday
Sunday December 25th – Christmas Day – Public holiday
Monday December 26th – Boxing Day – Public holiday (klämdagar are popular between Boxing Day and the weekend after Epiphany – see above)
Saturday December 31st – New Year's Eve – De facto holiday or half day in most companies