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Seven must-do activities to add to your Swedish summer bucket list

Wondering how to fill those long summer days? Here are seven suggestions of things you simply must do if you want to enjoy the warmer season like a Swede.

Seven must-do activities to add to your Swedish summer bucket list
The Swedish summer is short but sweet, so pack as many of these activities in as possible. Photo: Tomas Utsi/imagebank.sweden.se

You could summarize the Swedish summer experience by saying it's all about making the most of the long days by spending them outdoors — ut och njut! (get outside and enjoy it!) as the Swedes say. That means doing your shopping at a flea market, eating in parks and on outdoor terraces even if it means being bitten alive by mosquitoes, and spending weekends hiking.

These are seven highlights of any Swedish summer.

Berry picking

As long as there have been humans living on what we now call Sweden, they have lived off the land, picking the berries that grow in the country's vast forests. These days, a summer's day spent hunting for fruit is a cheap and fun activity with a delicious reward. The season usually begins around mid-July, and you'd better be quick because there's sure to be competition for the best patches.

There are two caveats to mention before you head out into nature with your basket. The first is to exercise caution, since there are poisonous varieties of berries too, so either go with someone who knows what they're doing or do your own research. 

The second is to be aware that Swedes are often protective about the best spots for foraging, so don't be offended if they refuse to divulge where they get their annual berry haul, and if a friend does let you in on the secret, make sure not to share it with anyone else.

You're most likely to find wild blueberries, which grow all over Sweden, while those in the know can hunt down strawberries, lingonberries, and cloudberries too.

Photo: Anna Hållams/imagebank.sweden.se

Swim in still-cold water

If you haven’t yet taken your first outdoor swim of the year, it’s time to change that.

There’s something truly special about jumping into water that you might be walking or skating over when it freezes later in the year. Sweden has plenty of lakes, many of them right by the major cities, so you're never too far from a bathing opportunity, and luckily most of the country's swimming spots are extremely clean.

It’s true that temperatures are often on the chilly side, but that’s what the sauna is for — or you can use this map to find the warmest body of water near you.

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Photo: Clive Tompsett/imagebank.sweden.se

Use an outdoor toilet

OK, this might not be as Instagram-worthy as the other items on this list, but if you’re serious about wanting an authentic Scandinavian summer, it’s a must-do. Many Swedish summer houses have an outdoor, dry toilet rather than indoor plumbing, and for a lot of people it’s seen as a feature rather than something you just have to put up with.

If you don’t have the chance to visit a summer cabin, you’ll find outdoor toilets along many of the country’s hiking trails and in nature reserves. Instead of dreading the experience, try to find the joy in getting back to basics (and remember to bring toilet paper).


Photo: Helena Wahlman/imagebank.sweden.se

Go to a concert

Dancing along to your favourite music outside is one of the best ways to spend a sunny evening. There are several major festivals that take place in Sweden each summer, including Way Out West in Gothenburg, Storsjöyran in Östersund, and Summerburst in Stockholm. Here's our pick of ten of the best.

Alternatively, just look for an outdoor concert. In the capital, the Gröna Lund theme park plays host to internationally known names and up-and-coming Swedish acts throughout the summer, and once you’ve paid for entry once, your ticket is valid for the rest of the season. The Mosebacke Terrassen in the Södermalm neighbourhood is another great outdoor music venue.

Trädgården is another Stockholm spot for outdoor music. Photo: Tove Freiij/imagebank.sweden.se

Try a new sport

The long days, summer vacation, and relaxed vibe in the cities make summer the perfect time to pick up a new sport. Perhaps you've always dreamed of paddle-boarding or kayaking around your local lake, trying out yoga in a park, or taking up climbing. 

Alternatively, hiking or cycling is a great way to see more of the country while keeping fit, and you might even decide to try the classic Swedish sport of orienteering.

READ ALSO: The Local's readers share the Swedish habits you inevitably pick up

Photo: Henrik Trygg/imagebank.sweden.se

Eat the right food

Swedes tend to eat with the seasons, so swap the warming husmanskost of the winter for a barbecue (just check up on any local fire bans beforehand) or a classic crayfish party. Other typical summer dishes include anything you can make with berries, strawberries, or rhubarb, and of course, herring (just not all in the same dish).

The doubters might point out that in Sweden herring is eaten year-round, and that's certainly true, but late August is the traditional start of 'fermented herring season' when people crack open tins of the country's stinkiest delicacy. Not one for the faint-hearted.


Photo: Lola Akinmade Åkerström/imagebank.sweden.se

Visit an island

Really, any island will do, and Sweden is home to thousands. The archipelagos around Stockholm and Gothenburg are a good place to start for quick break from the big cities, but there’s no need to stop there. There are more archipelagos in Sweden’s largest lake, Vänern, where you can take a boat trip or kayak between islands, or up north in the Gulf of Bothnia.

For those seeking a livelier island experience, Gotland is a classic summer destination with plenty of restaurants and nightlife as well as sand and sea, reachable by flight or ferry, and Öland can be reached by a bridge across the mainland.

And up in Lapland, there are islands that feel like remote idylls: Brändöskär and Sandön near Luleå, the stunning Arjeplog among the mountains, and the unique haven of Skvalpen, which is only open to visitors from August onwards to protect the sea birds that live there.

READ ALSO: The ultimate guide to exploring Stockholm's archipelago islandsThe ultimate guide to exploring Stockholm's archipelago islands

 

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The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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