Seven events to tick off your Sweden bucket list in 2017

Which are the don't-miss events for a real Swedish experience in 2017? We've listed seven of them.

Seven events to tick off your Sweden bucket list in 2017
The reindeer race at Jokkmokk's winter market. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

1. Jokkmokk Winter Market

This small northern Swedish town has hosted the winter market of its indigenous Sami people every year since 1605. Try dog sledding, buy Sami handicrafts and check out the biggest attraction: the reindeer race. Finding accommodation is the main problem for visitors here, but its friendly residents often open their homes to strangers during the bustling market week. You may be too late to get a place to stay this year, but it is high time to start looking for one for 2018.

When: February 2nd-4th

Where: Jokkmokk

Sami representatives at Jokkmokk's winter market. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

2. Melodifestivalen

For most nations participating, the Eurovision Song Contest is something that crops up at some point in spring, but in Sweden it is pretty much a year-round event (well, almost). It takes Sweden six weeks and several competitions to select their Eurovision entry, a process known as Melodifestivalen. It is a touring event, meaning that fans from all over the country get to see the hopefuls strut their stuff, and also attracts international visitors travelling to Sweden specifically to witness the entire spectacle in the flesh. Join them at your peril.

This year it kicks off in Gothenburg and will then travel to Malmö, Växjö, Skellefteå and Linköping before the Melodifestivalen final at Friends Arena in Solna, Stockholm.

When/where: Gothenburg, February 4th; Malmö, February 11th; Växjö, February 18th; Skellefteå, February 25th; Linköping, March 4th: Solna, March 11th.

Sweden's Frans Jeppsson Wall at Eurovision Song Contest 2016. Photo: AP Photo/Martin Meissner

3. Swedish Classic Circuit

The Swedish Classic Circuit (en svensk klassiker) is a diploma awarded to those who complete a certain number of various kinds of races. To qualify you have to ski the iconic 90 kilometre Vasaloppet race (alternatively Engelbrektsloppet at 60 kilometres, but Vasaloppet is more famous), cycle the Vätternrundan bike race around Lake Vättern, swim three kilometres at the Vansbro swim, and run the 30 kilometre Lidingö cross-country race. You have to complete them within 12 months. Or you could just enjoy that cinnamon roll instead, that's fine too.

When: Vasaloppet, February 26th; Engelbrektsloppet, February 12th; Vätternrundan, June 16th-17th; Vansbro swim, July 7th/8th; Lidingö race, September 23rd.

The Vansbro swim. Photo: Ulf Palm/TT

4. Nordenskiöldsloppet

Inspired by a race organized by polar explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld in 1884, Nordenskiöldsloppet (the Nordenskiöld race) is the world's longest, and probably toughest, classic ski race: 220 kilometres of gruelling cross-country exercise in northern Sweden, starting and finishing in Jokkmokk, north of the polar circle. Last year 335 contestants from more than 17 countries competed for the top spot, but a word of warning: this is not for first-time skiiers.

When: April 15th

Where: Jokkmokk

The Nordenskiöld race. Photo: Magnus Östh/Red Bull Content Pool

5. Symposium Stockholm

Symposium Stockholm was launched by Spotify founder Daniel Ek and Avicii's manager Ash Pournouri in 2015. Now in its third year running, the creative tech festival culminates in the Brilliant Minds conference, where tech gurus, music stars and entrepreneurs get on stage to share ideas. Its CEO Natalia Brzezinski told The Local ahead of the 2016 festival that she wants it to be the startup event of the year and as much of a Swedish trademark as the Nobel Awards.

When: June 7th-16th

Where: Stockholm

6. Håkan Hellström

Sweden's indie darling is touring this summer. Hellström's out-of-tune voice may be an acquired taste for many, but ask a Swede for their opinion and you're bound to get a strong response. His fans adore the Gothenburger's lyrics and his understanding of love and, aged 42, he keeps helping them relive their heart-wrenching teenage years. The tour kicks off in Stockholm and will see him visiting Gävle, Umeå, Örebro, Karlstad, Borgholm, Malmö and Gothenburg. Find out why your Swedish friends love (or hate) him so much.

When/where: Starts on June 9th at Stockholm Stadium

7. Stockholm Pride Festival

There are plenty of Pride festivals held across Sweden every year, but the biggest one in the Nordics is the one in the capital. Almost half a million spectators turn out on the streets of Stockholm for the festival's crowning glory, the Pride Parade, every year, on top of the people actually marching in the parade (this in a country with a population just shy of ten million). It takes over the city, with Pride flags flying from every single public bus, from the City Hall and from many foreign embassies – it's pretty amazing.

When: July 31st-August 6th

Where: Stockholm

Stockholm Pride in 2016. Photo: Erik Nylander/TT



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LISTEN: Who’s in the running to represent Sweden in Eurovision

Ben Robertson has been following Melodifestivalen around Sweden for the past six weeks. Ahead of the final on Saturday, here are his thoughts and predictions on the 12 remaining songs competing to represent Sweden at Eurovision 2020.

LISTEN: Who's in the running to represent Sweden in Eurovision
Finalist Paul Rey performing during the earlier heats. Photo: Naina Helén Jåma / TT

Victor Crone – Troubled Waters

This is Victor's second Melodifestivalen appearance, after taking part in 2015. He also represented Estonia in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019.

Despite a different songwriting team, Troubled Waters builds on that same 'Avicii-lite' sound that's bound to be popular on radio stations across the country and makes it a great show opener.

Ben's view: I prefer this song to Storm, and Victor's voice sounds strong. Pleasant if not particularly groundbreaking.

Prediction: Feels like the kind of song lots of people will like but few will love. Competing to beat Robin Bengtsson, another male soloist in the lineup.

Paul Rey – Talking in my sleep

Paul Rey has tons of global musical influences, born to a Finnish father and Chilean mother and having spent years in the US recording music with Quincy Jones and Snoop Dogg. He is the only artist of the remaining 12 making his Melodifestivalen debut.

This is a very modern take on the ballad; gone are the overblown dramatics, key changes and power vocals – instead Talking In My Sleep holds a simple hooky melody that builds through the three minutes on stage.

Ben's view: A perfectly functioning song that builds nicely. My biggest question mark is about the ability of the artist rather than the song to emote and tell the story effectively.

Prediction: Likely to score better with the juries than the public vote. Sneaking into the top five would be a great achievement.

The Mamas – Move

The Mamas helped John Lundvik win Melodifestivalen last year with Too Late For Love. Three of them returned to perform Move which gives the pop-gospel smashup we were all expecting. Expect big vocals and something danceable for all aged from three to 93.

Ben's view: The Mamas are great performers, although I wish the track was just a bit less generic, especially in the post-chorus.

Prediction: Top five seems likely, it would be a surprise to challenge for the win however.

Mohombi – Winners

Mohombi is back in Melodifestivalen after his 2019 song Hello that became a favourite in preschools across Sweden. Mohombi left life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a teenager to move to Sweden, and has forged a musical career spanning both the European and African continents with success.

Winners is a pop song track with a slightly oriental mix, especially within the verse. Expect plenty of charming the camera from popular Mohombi during the three minutes on stage.

Ben's view: A fairly anonymous song saved by Mohombi's presence.

Prediction: He's too popular to be last, surely?

Hanna Ferm – Brave

19-year-old Hanna Ferm competed last year in Melodifestivalen with Hold You, a duet with Liamoo.

Brave is on the quirky end of pop, with frantic phrasing and hooks that sink into your vocal chords after just a couple of listens. You will be whistling along.

Ben's view: This isn't for me. I may sing along, but I'm craving a deeper meaning and spend the three minutes wondering what Hanna is being Brave about.

Prediction: Top half but unlikely to be challenging.

Mendez feat. Alvaro Estrella – Vamos Amigos

Mendez came to Sweden from Chile along with thousands of other families during the 1980s. He grew up in Farsta outside of Stockholm and fell into a community of crime and drugs, but music was his release. He was in the final of Melodifestivalen 2018, finishing last, but finished second in 2002.

Mendez's musical career has taken him to stardom here in Sweden but also back home in Chile with many other stops in between. This song unsurprisingly has many elements in it from the second wave of Latin music infiltrating Western pop, with Mendez rapping alongside Alvaro, also of Chilean upbringing, singing the chorus.

Ben's view: There are a few nice melodies in here, but nothing that hasn't been done before and likely to get lost in this final field.

Prediction: Juries were the reason Mendez came last in 2018. This should score better with them than that effort, but not being last will be a success for this duo.

Dotter – Bulletproof

Johanna Jansson is the Arvika-born artist known as Dotter (Daughter), coming from an image of being a daughter to mother Earth. Despite releasing a few singles since her 2014 debut she is better known as a songwriter.

Together with Dino Medanhodzic and Erik Dahlquist they have loaned influence from Sia for Bulletproof – a big production mid-tempo arena pop number.

Ben's view: I happily admit that this isn't my normal style, but the laser glitter ball effect is fantastic and Dotter has hugely grown as a performer.

Prediction: Currently the favourite, and is getting tons of vocal support on social media, especially from abroad. Would have been a shock victory a month ago, now would be a shock if not in the top three.

Robin Bengtsson – Take A Chance

'Robin won Melodifestivalen in 2017 and his appearance on Let's Dance last year made him even more likeable to the Swedish TV watching audience.

Set in London, this arena singer-songwriter style track has a great clap-a-long verse mixed in with a chorus melody that took me straight to the heydays of iconic Swedish superstars Abba.

Ben's view: Nobody oozes sexiness down the camera as well as Robin this year, but musically this runs out of good ideas by the first minute.

Prediction: Mid-table.

Mariette – Shout It Out

Mariette broke history by becoming the only artist ever to qualify for four Melodifestivalen finals in just four attempts. Shout It Out is a driving powerhouse of a song about letting go of your doubts and trusting your heart.

Ben's view: Mariette is such a strong on-stage character and that drives the song's message home well. That said, musically it doesn't offer anything new and creative to be in Eurovision contention.

Prediction: As Mariette has finished third, fourth and fifth previously… sixth?

Felix Sandman – Boys With Emotions

Felix Sandman has been here before, but his earlier floppy-haired look has been replaced by a bleached and shaven look, and the attitude to match.

Boys with Emotion' is a challenging track, written and recorded in LA and sounding and looking like a piece of MTV circa 1995. This is a song with a central theme encouraging men not to hide their feelings.

Ben's view: This takes a few listens, but I adore the slick production both musically and visually. The message does come across as rather abrupt, but that's partly the point and this is as much art as music.

Prediction: Dark horse for victory. Felix has over 500,000 Instagram followers and a song that I hope a jury will appreciate.

Anna Bergendahl – Kingdom Come

Anna was the only Melodifestivalen winner in Sweden's history not to qualify to the Eurovision final back in 2010.

True to Anna's style with her enchanting voice in focus, this is a frantic clap-a-long track at 148 bpm with grandiose-sounding lyrics that in reality mean very little. Six hunky male dancers in kilts do little harm.

Ben's view: For those in those Eurovision and Melodifestivalen bubbles, this is the song that's going to be filling our dance floors for months to come. Judge us accordingly.

Prediction: It's in the mix. Anna's hugely popular amongst the older Melodifestivalen voters, the question will be if enough children button-bash their apps to push her from top three to victory.

Anis Don Demina – Vem E Som Oss (Who is like us)

Anis Don Demina is here for his third Melodifestivalen appearance after playing saxophone for Samir and Viktor in 2018 and featuring on Mina Bränder last year.

This song is a shoutout to all of Anis' fans with an uncompromising rap and uptempo chorus that's going to be another relentless loop around Swedish preschools for the next year. Learn for yourself the Swedish slang word 'Shurda' – the kind of guy who's part of Anis' fun-loving gang.

Ben's view: Brilliant staging, full of energy and a superb crowd-pleaser, this is a great twist on pop music with local flair.

Prediction: Chanceless with international juries and anybody over the age of 40, meaning it would be amazing if this gets anywhere inside the top ten.

And that's your Melodifestivalen line-up. You can still buy tickets to see the show live or one of the two rehearsals beforehand inside Friends Arena. Alternatively tune into SVT 1 at 8pm on Saturday, March 7th.

You can vote by ringing or sending a text during the show, or you can download the Melodifestivalen app to vote for free.

The winner of Melodifestivalen is set to take part in the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest's first semi-final in Rotterdam on Tuesday, May 12th.

Ben Robertson is covering Melodifestivalen 2020 for both The Local and ESC Insight.