Wondering what Sweden is famous for? I’m sure you already know some of their most popular exports – IKEA, ABBA, Minecraft. But there are lots of other things that this Nordic country is known for around the world, and we’ve listed them all!
Sweden is an amazing country, known for its clean streets, successful welfare and high percentage of non-religious people. But none of those things are as well known or as popular as PewDiePie, Roxette and Stieg Larsson.
So, read on to find out exactly what Sweden is famous for around the world!
Perhaps Sweden’s most famous export is ABBA, the Stockholm pop group that dominated the world in the 1970s. ABBA is one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time and they were the first group from a non-English-speaking nation to reach success in the English-speaking world with hits like “Dancing Queen,” “Mamma Mia,” and “Waterloo.”
The group continues to sell 1 million albums a year! ABBA hasn’t faded from the Nordic country’s memory, despite breaking up more than 30 years ago. Stockholm is home to ABBA: The Museum which has had more than 1.5 million visitors since opening in 2013.
There’s a good chance you have the Spotify app on your phone. Did you know Spotify is one of many things Sweden is famous for? Spotify has grown into a household name since it was founded in 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon in Stockholm as a response to piracy in the music industry.
Today, Spotify is worth an estimated $26 billion with more than 200 million active users around the world and a massive library of more than 35 million songs. In 2018, Spotify began to branch out into live music in the United States by hiring producers to launch Latin and urban concerts, events, and performances after success in the UK.
If you’re familiar with IKEA, you already have a good idea of the famous Swedish design: an emphasis on clean, simple lines and function over design with a truly minimalist approach. Swedish design is part of the broader Scandinavian design trend that started in the early 20th century.
In Sweden, design often incorporates traditional crafts like Sami craftsmanship. In the Nordic country, walls are typically white and furniture is functional and innovative but simple in appearance. That doesn’t mean Swedish design is bland; color is a big part of design, too, in textiles.
There’s no way to compile a list of things Sweden is famous for without including IKEA — even though it isn’t actually Swedish! IKEA — an acronym for the founder’s initials (Ingvar Kamprad), the farm on which he grew up (Elmtaryd), and the farm’s town (Agunnaryd) — was founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad when he was just 17 as a mail-order business.
IKEA didn’t even sell it’s now-famous flat-pack furniture until 1956 when the concept was created by a technical design drafter named Gillis Lundgren. The founder of IKEA may be Swedish but the company itself is owned by a Netherlands-based foundation.
You may not be able to name another Swedish pop group or musician off hand except for ABBA, but that doesn’t mean the Nordic giant’s impact on pop music stops there. Turn on the radio in the United States or the UK and you’ll probably be listening to a song written or produced in Sweden.
Sweden is the world’s third-largest exporter of music after the UK and U.S. In 2012, half of the top songs on the Billboard Hot 100 were produced or written by a Swede and their domination of the radio continues.
The reasons for their success in music? Swedes speak English very, very well, they stay on top of trends, and Swedes put melody above all else, whereas Americans tend to place lyrics first followed by production.
Nothing says Sweden quite like tasty Swedish meatballs, a culinary hit in the Nordic nation. In IKEA stores alone, more than 2 million Swedish meatballs are consumed every day.
In Sweden, meatballs or köttbullar aren’t just made from beef (nötkött) and pork (fläsk); you can also enjoy moose or elk meatballs (älgköttbullar). There’s even a “meatball boutique” in Södermalm that serves up organic meatballs made from wild boar, salmon, reindeer, turkey, and rooster.
Sweden is a pretty big exporter of music, and it is famous for many of its bands. Roxette is one of those – the famous rock duo was formed in the 80s, and has continued to enjoy fame and success since. Perhaps their best known hits are Listen To Your Heart and It Must Have Been Love, which are played on radio stations all over the world even today.
The rock duo consists of Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle. They met in the 70s in Halmstad, and at the time both were already established artists in Sweden. Fredriksson had released several solo albums, while Gessle was the lead singer in Gyllene Tider – another Swedish pop group with several No. 1 albums.
Roxette remains active today, but without Fredriksson. The lead singer announced she would stop touring due to health issues, back in 2016. This did not stop Gessle from focusing on a solo project and doing a tour in 2018 – and we’re glad for that!
Volvo Group is a multinational company with headquarters in Gothenburg. Their main focus is the production and distribution of trucks, busses and construction equipment. In fact, in 2016, AB Volvo was the second largest manufacturer of heavy duty trucks in the world.
Even though they share the same brand, Swedish AB Volvo does not actually own the luxury Volvo cars. That division of the brand was sold to Ford Motor Company in 1999, and is now owned by China’s Geely Holding Group.
Saab Automobile is another car manufacturing company that was founded in Sweden. They are famous for the safety of their cars, which is one of the main priorities of the design. And Saab is pretty popular for the endurance of their cars – there are several notable examples of this, but the most famous one is the man who donated his Saab to an automotive museum. What made his car special is that it has more than 1,000,000 miles on the original factory engine!
The popular fashion giant is one more brand that Sweden is known for worldwide. H&M is the second largest clothing retailer in the world, just after Spain’s Inditex. Which makes sense, considering that Inditex owns more brands than H&M.
In addition to the actual H&M clothing brand, the company owns 7 other brands, and has more than 4,500 stores worldwide. But H&M is by far their most popular one; they are known for fast-fashion, or rather being able to copy runway fashion in a matter of few weeks. And for their affordable prices.
In the last few years, there were several controversies surrounding the Swedish giant. Perhaps the most memorable incident was the image of a young black child wearing a hoodie that read “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle”. This caused several celebrities to sever their ties to H&M, most notable of whom were the popular rappers Weeknd and G-Eazy.
Sweden is famous for being a monarchy and for its royal family. The current King of Sweden is Carl XVI Gustaf, who ascended the throne in 1973. He is also the longest-reigning monarch in Swedish history.
And of course, just like with most monarchies in the modern world, Carl XVI Gustaf is related to Queen Elizabeth II – they are third cousins. He is also related to royals from Denmark, Monaco, Norway, Spain and most others.
The monarchy in Sweden is constitutional, meaning that all the duties of the monarch are regulated by the constitution. And, since the early 19th century, House of Bernadotte has been the royal house of Sweden. It was originally established in 1918, when Charles XIV John ascended the throne. Funnily enough, his birth name was Jean Bernadotte and he was French.
Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, is the most popular YouTuber on the planet. For a really long time his channel was the most-subscribed channel ever, despite all the controversies surrounding this Swedish YouTuber. He is best known for his gaming commentary videos, as well as comedic formatted shoes.
Kjellberg claims that all of his racial slurs, anti-Semitic incidents and Nazi-sympathetic statements were all jokes and that people overreacted. Luckily for him, his fan base is so large that all of these incidents were quickly forgotten thanks to his apology videos, and his channel continued to grow rapidly.
His most viewed view of all time is bitch lasagna; a satirical diss track dedicated to T-series. The video was released when certain online services like the Social Blade predicted that the Indian music record label and film production company would overtake PewDiePie as the most subscribed YouTube channel. Which is actually the case in August 2019 – T-Series is the channel with the most subscribers, and PewDiePie is in the third place.
Aurora Borealis is one of the most famous natural occurrences in the entire world. And, even though it is not exclusive to Sweden, it is still one of the best places in the world where you can go and see the magnificent Northern Lights for yourself.
The best time to see Northern Lights in Sweden is between November and March. And you have the best chance of witnessing them if you go to Abisko National Park – they are known for clear skies, and they even have an Aurora sky station.
Just make sure you dress appropriately – it is really cold up in the mountains, and you won’t be able to enjoy the dancing lights if you’re freezing to death.
Sweden is famous for being the home country of the original Ice Hotel. Which is exactly what it sounds like – a hotel and an art exhibition made out of ice. It was first founded in 1989, but its design and appearance are constantly changing. It is located 200km north of the Arctic Circle, in the Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi.
Even though they are the Ice Hotel, they do offer a mixture of hot and cold rooms. And they actually recommend that you book both – in the cold room, you are literally sleeping on a bed made of ice. It’s neither comfortable nor warm, so if you plan to stay longer than one night, definitely book a warm (normal) room for the rest of your stay.
You also need to dress properly for this stay. It is recommended that you wear at least three layers of clothing – a base layer, a mid layer and an outer layer, since temperatures in this Swedish village reach well below zero Celsius in the winter.
You’ve heard of dynamite and the Nobel Prize – both exist because of a famous Swedish businessman, chemist and engineer, Alfred Nobel. Even though Nobel held more than 355 different patents, he is best known for the invention of dynamite.
Which is actually the reason why he established the fund for the Nobel Prize – when his brother passed away, a French newspaper published an obituary for Alfred Nobel instead. The obituary condemned him for inventing dynamite and profiting from sales of arms, so he decided to leave a better legacy.
Therefore, he left the bulk of his estate in order to establish Nobel Prizes, which were to be awarded annually, without any distinction of nationality. Even today, this remains one of the most prestigious awards in the scientific and literary worlds. Some of the most famous Nobel Prize winners include Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Jean Paul Sartre and Martin Luther King Jr.
Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past decade, you’ve most likely heard of Minecraft. The iconic video game has sold more than 176 million copies across several platforms, which makes it the best-selling video game of all time. In addition to the original game, several spin-offs were also released – Minecraft: Story Mode, Minecraft Earth and Minecraft Dungeons.
Minecraft was developed by Markus Persson, a Swedish video game programmer and designer. He founded the company Mojang, which released the popular sandbox video game. But, Persson was eventually overwhelmed with pressure of being the creator of Minecraft, and expressed his desire to sell his share in the company on Twitter.
Several major companies were interested, including Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts. But, Mojang eventually closed the deal with Microsoft Studios in 2015, who bought the company for a whooping 2.5 billion dollars.
Yup, the world’s most popular torrent site was founded in Sweden, all the way back in 2003. It is one of the few such websites that are still live and operating today, despite numerous attempts to shut it down.
The founders of the website served a prison sentence, but were released in 2015. Since then, TPB has faced several shutdowns and domain seizures, but has managed to continue operating by switching web addresses frequently. This has also spawned a lot of proxy websites, due to ISPs blocking the original TPB in several countries.
The founders of the website, the Piratbyrån think thank, were also central figures in the anti-copyright movement. And TPB was their attempt to encourage free sharing of information. The original group disbanded in 2010 due to the death of a member, but most other members are operating today in a different group known as Telecomix.
Sweden is known worldwide for its mild summers and freezing winters. Temperatures frequently drop to -15 degrees Celsius, and sometimes to -30 degrees Celsius in February, the coldest month in the country – particularly in Northern Sweden.
And that also means lots of snow and ice. In fact, in April 2019 while the rest of the Europe was significantly warming up, a ski resort in Northern Sweden shared that four meters of snow had fallen. In April. Sure, it is a stunning thing to observe, the clear sky and the fluffy white snow, while it’s not even too cold outside – just a little below zero.
As long as you’re sitting inside your warm home sipping on a cup of hot tea, that is.
Sweden is famous for being the birthplace of one of the best selling fiction authors in the world, Stieg Larsson. The Swedish journalist and writer is best known for his Millennium trilogy, which was published posthumously by Norstedts Förlag. Larsson sadly died of a heart attack in 2004, after climbing the stairs to work.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest sold over 80 million copies in the world, by 2015. The three books were adapted into four movies in Sweden, and the first one was also adapted into a Hollywood movie, starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig. And of course, Stellan Skarsgård.
Since 2015, Norstedts Förlag commissioned a different Swedish writer to continue the series. Two books written by David Lagercrantz were published so far, and the third is expected to arrive soon. And with Lagercrantz’s instalments, the series has sold over 100 million copies worldwide, which makes it one of the best-selling book series of all time.
The Skarsgårds can almost be considered the second royal family of Sweden. Most of them are famous actors, and you had to have seen at least one of them in a movie by now. Stellan Skarsgård is a Swedish actor, famous for his roles in Good Will Hunting, Mamma Mia, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, as well as his role as Dr. Erik Salveg in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
He is the father of eight children total, six with his first wife, My Skarsgård, and two with the second, Megan Everett. My was also an actress, known for Jim & piraterna Blom, but not nearly as popular as three of her sons.
Alexander Skarsgård is Stellan’s oldest son, best known for his role in True Blood. He has also acted in numerous films, and is the winner of several awards, including an Emmy and a Golden Globe.
Gustaf is the second oldest son, best known for Vikings, Westworld and The Way Back. And then there’s Bill – one of the youngest children of Stellan and My, famous for his performances in Allegiant, Deadpool 2 and It.
Fika is a very important part of Swedish culture and tradition. It is usually translated as a “coffee and cake” break, which is mostly correct. Yes, Fika includes having a cup of coffee or tea and a bite to eat, but it is much more than just that.
It is a state of mind, an attitude and an essential part of a Swede’s daily routine. And it is not something you can experience on your own – fika is shared with friends or colleagues. Otherwise, you’re just sitting alone at your desk drinking coffee and eating a cupcake.
There is no right or wrong food you can eat during fika – it is much more about companionship, than it is about what you are eating and drinking.
Ice Hotel image courtesy of bjaglin
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!