Unlock the Joys of Shopping in Sweden: A Complete 2024 Guide



No Comments

From bustling mega malls in Stockholm to idyllic boutiques tucked away in the colorful streets of Gothenburg, shopping in Sweden is an experience that’s as varied as its landscapes and as deep as its historical roots. Here, you can find everything from iconic Swedish design pieces to fresh, locally-grown produce. So put on your most comfortable walking shoes and clutch that eco-friendly reusable bag close because we’re about to embark on a virtual shopping tour through the vibrant retail landscape of Sweden.

Contents show


  • Swedish shopping offers a blend of tradition, modernity, and quality across various types of stores.
  • Cultural nuances in shopping reflect Sweden’s focus on design, sustainability, and the principle of “lagom.”
  • A visit to a Swedish supermarket is an experience that offers both familiar and uniquely Swedish products.
  • Digital shopping in Sweden is a seamless extension of its physical retail landscape.
  • Specialty stores in Sweden offer curated experiences that delve deep into the country’s culture and passions.
  • Seasonal and holiday shopping in Sweden is a cultural affair that changes with the rhythms of the year.

Types of Stores: A Smorgasbord of Choices

Type of StoreDescriptionPopular Choices
SupermarketsEveryday groceries and household itemsICA, Coop, Willys
BoutiquesFashion, accessories, and unique itemsDesigntorget, Grandpa Store
ElectronicsGadgets, appliances, and moreElgiganten, Media Markt
Outdoor ShopsGear for hiking, camping, and outdoor adventuresNaturkompaniet, Fjällräven
BookstoresSwedish and international literatureAkademibokhandeln

Department Stores: Where Grandeur Meets Convenience

Department stores of Sweden. These aren’t just places where commerce happens; they’re essentially retail palaces. Ahlens City in Stockholm, for instance, is a must-visit, and not just for the shopping.

Even if you’re not a shopaholic, the architecture alone, with its spacious halls and intricate details, can give you a sense of Swedish grandeur. In department stores, you can find a variety of items—from high-end fashion labels to everyday household products—all under one ornate roof.

Local Boutiques: The Treasure Chests of Swedish Design

If the idea of mass-produced items doesn’t sit well with you, then Sweden’s local boutiques are where you’ll want to be. These charming stores are often run by artisans who embody the very essence of “lagom”—the Swedish philosophy of balanced living. Whether it’s handmade crafts, jewelry, or even bespoke furniture, these boutiques are the sanctuaries where Swedish creativity shines brightest.

Supermarkets: Your Everyday Stops

ICA, Coop, and Hemköp: if you haven’t heard these names before, you will soon become very familiar with them. These supermarkets are more than just grocery stores; they are miniature hubs of Swedish culture. You can always count on a pleasant shopping experience, whether you’re picking up some knäckebröd (crispbread) for breakfast or grabbing ingredients for a homemade köttbullar (meatball) dinner.

Second-hand Stores: A Nod to Sustainability

Sweden’s commitment to sustainable living is reflected in the popularity of its second-hand stores. Shops like Myrorna and Beyond Retro offer a wide array of vintage clothing, books, and furniture. Shopping second-hand in Sweden is far from a backup plan; it’s a conscious lifestyle choice celebrated by locals and encouraged for all.

Related: Credit Cards for Expats

Cultural Nuances in Swedish Shopping

The Word “Lagom”: Balance in a Shopping Basket

If you could capture the essence of Sweden in a single word, it would undoubtedly be “lagom.” Translated roughly, it means “just the right amount”—not too little, not too much. This principle of balanced moderation spills over into every aspect of Swedish life, including shopping.

You’ll rarely find carts overflowing with unnecessary items; instead, Swedes shop with a thoughtful approach. This ethos manifests in product design too, where function and form strike a perfect balance.

Environmental Awareness: More Than Just a Label

When you shop in Sweden, the phrase “eco-friendly” is not just a tag on a reusable shopping bag; it’s a way of life. You’ll notice it in the prevalence of organic produce in supermarkets and the eco-certifications that many products proudly display. There’s even an “eco-smile” symbol on products that adhere to strict environmental regulations. Moreover, don’t be surprised to find a majority of shoppers with reusable bags in tow, a small yet significant gesture that makes a big impact.

Swedish Design Aesthetic: Minimalism Meets Warmth

When people talk about the “Swedish design aesthetic,” they’re referring to the harmonious blend of functionality and beauty. Think clean lines, muted colors, and an emphasis on natural materials like wood and stone. This extends from furniture to fashion. Whether you’re window-shopping in a trendy Södermalm boutique or strolling through the aisles of IKEA, you’ll see this aesthetic philosophy in action.

‘Fika’ as a Shopping Pause

If you ever find yourself weary during your retail escapades, remember that in Sweden, there’s always time for a “fika”—a coffee break accompanied by a sweet pastry. Many stores and shopping centers have cozy cafes where you can practice this quintessential Swedish ritual. Consider it an interlude, a brief pause to savor the small joys in life before diving back into your shopping adventure.

A Walk Through a Swedish Supermarket

As you step into a Swedish supermarket—be it an ICA, Coop, or Hemköp—you’ll likely notice the welcoming atmosphere. Natural light filters through large windows, illuminating the seasonal produce prominently displayed to greet you. Ah, the strawberries from Småland, their vibrant red hues a promise of the juicy sweetness within, seem to whisper, “Välkommen” (Welcome).

Walking further, you’ll soon realize that Swedish supermarkets are thoughtfully designed to guide you through different sections—almost like chapters in a storybook. Fresh produce and dairy items often occupy the beginning, followed by bakery, meat, and frozen food sections. Each aisle feels like a different narrative, a new set of possibilities for tonight’s dinner or tomorrow’s breakfast.

Sweden’s love for dairy is evident as you approach the refrigerated section. A plethora of milk options greet you: from the full-fat “standardmjölk” to the lactose-free alternatives. And let’s not forget the cheeses—mild and creamy “Herrgård,” tangy “Västerbottensost,” and the uniquely Swedish “Mesost,” a sweet, caramelized cheese that almost tastes like fudge.

As you weave through the store, you’ll stumble upon a handful of distinctly Swedish products. “Kalles Kaviar,” a creamy, smoked fish roe spread tube that’s a breakfast staple. Nearby, the jars of “surströmming” command attention; this fermented herring is not for the faint of heart but is a cultural experience worth trying.

As you near the end of your journey, the treats aisle beckons. Swedish chocolates like “Marabou” and “Plopp” sit beside an array of “lösgodis” or pick-and-mix candies. Ah, the alluring smell of “kanelbullar” (cinnamon buns) from the bakery counter serves as a reminder that no Swedish shopping experience is complete without considering a little something for fika.

Swedish Retail Etiquette

Payment Options: Cards Lead the Way

As you make your way to the checkout counter, basket brimming with Swedish goodness, you’ll notice that most people aren’t fumbling with cash. Sweden is moving toward becoming a cashless society, and nowhere is this more evident than in retail spaces.

Credit and debit cards are accepted almost universally, and many stores also support contactless payments like Apple Pay or Google Wallet. So feel free to leave your paper bills and coins at home; your plastic card is your trusty shopping companion here.

Queue Culture: The Silent Symphony

Ah, the Swedish art of queuing! There’s an almost poetic harmony in how Swedes line up at the checkout counter. No pushing, no shoving, just an orderly queue where everyone respects personal space. Notice those small floor markings? They aren’t mere decorations; they’re cues for maintaining a respectful distance.

If you’re at a deli or pharmacy, take a number from the ticket dispenser and wait for your number to flash on the screen. It’s democracy in its purest form, even in the grocery line.

Customer Service: Efficient yet Warm

While you may not be greeted with the over-the-top enthusiasm common in some other countries, customer service in Sweden is generally efficient and respectful. If you need help finding that elusive jar of lingonberry jam or a particular size of rain boots, just ask. The staff will guide you with understated professionalism, pointing you in the right direction or walking you to the item you seek.

Self-Checkout: The Silent Wave of the Future

Increasingly common in Swedish stores is the option for self-checkout. If you’re in a hurry, or simply prefer the solitude, these kiosks provide a quick, streamlined process for completing your purchase. Simply scan your items, bag them, and pay—all without the need for human interaction. It’s the epitome of Swedish efficiency, with a dollop of “lagom” for good measure.

The Art of the Plastic Bag

If you’ve forgotten your reusable bag—which you’ll quickly notice is an uncommon oversight here—you’ll need to purchase a plastic bag at the checkout. But even these are often made from recycled materials or designed to be reused, in keeping with Sweden’s environmental consciousness.

Digital Shopping in Sweden

Clicks Over Bricks: The Rise of E-commerce

The Swedish penchant for efficiency and innovation isn’t just confined to physical stores; it has seamlessly transitioned into the digital realm. With the rise of e-commerce, a plethora of Swedish online stores now offer everything from furniture to fashion to friluftsliv (outdoor living) essentials, all at the click of a button. Websites like Zalando and CDON are digital department stores where you can shop for multiple product categories, while niche platforms like Babyshop cater to specific needs, in this case, children’s products.

‘Swish’ and You’ve Paid: The Magic of Mobile Payments

If you thought card payments were convenient, wait until you experience Swish, Sweden’s mobile payment app that has revolutionized digital shopping. With just a flick of the thumb, you can instantly pay for your online purchases. Linked directly to your bank account, Swish offers a secure and immediate payment solution that has been embraced by various online retailers as well as brick-and-mortar stores.

The Digital Window Shopping Experience

The browsing experience on Swedish e-commerce websites is often as enriching as strolling through a physical store. Attention to detail is evident in the website designs that reflect the minimalist aesthetic Sweden is known for. Beautifully curated product photos, concise descriptions, and a focus on sustainable options make online shopping a joyous affair, albeit from the comfort of your own home.

Subscription Boxes: A Piece of Sweden at Your Doorstep

One of Sweden’s more recent digital shopping trends is the rise of subscription boxes. Whether it’s beauty products, gourmet foods, or even Swedish literature, these curated boxes bring a slice of Sweden right to your doorstep. Brands like Sniph for perfumes or Smorgosbox for Swedish snacks offer monthly or quarterly boxes, adding an element of surprise to your regular shopping routine.

International Shipping: Sweden Goes Global

A significant advantage of digital shopping in Sweden is the ease of international shipping. Many Swedish online stores offer worldwide delivery, which means you can order your favorite Swedish products even if you’re not in the country. From iconic Fjällräven backpacks to exquisite Orrefors glassware, a piece of Sweden is never too far away.

Related: Electronic Stores in Sweden: The Top 3 Online Stores

Shopping Local: Swedish Farmers’ Markets and Artisan Shops

A Morning at the Farmers’ Market: A Symphony of Senses

There’s something infinitely charming about stepping into a Swedish farmers’ market on a crisp morning. Imagine the air tinged with the scent of fresh berries, the earthy aroma of just-harvested vegetables, and the inviting smell of freshly baked bread. Each stall stands like an individual island of abundance, where you can chat with local farmers whose faces light up as they talk about their produce as if discussing a cherished family member.

Swedish Berries: Nature’s Candy

As you wander through, you can’t help but notice the variety of berries that are native to Sweden. Lingonberries, cloudberries, and bilberries offer a mouth-watering palette of colors and flavors. You’ll often find vendors offering free samples, each berry bursting with sweetness or tartness that is as vibrant as the Swedish landscape itself.

Bread and Pastries: A Love Affair in Flour

Another highlight is the baker’s stand, where crusty loaves of sourdough lie next to delicate pastries like “kanelbullar” (cinnamon buns) and “semlor” (cream-filled buns). The aroma seems to beckon you closer, inviting you to experience the Swedish love affair with baked goods that transcends mere sustenance.

Artisan Cheeses and Smoked Meats: A Tapestry of Taste

Nestled between vegetable stalls and flower vendors, you might stumble upon a stand showcasing local cheeses and smoked meats. Whether it’s the smooth, buttery texture of Swedish “hushållsost” or the rich complexity of smoked reindeer sausage, each offering represents a culinary tapestry woven through generations of Swedish tradition.

Arts and Crafts: An Authentic Swedish Souvenir

Before leaving the market, don’t forget to explore the artisan crafts section. Here you’ll find beautifully crafted items, from intricate wooden figures to handmade textiles. Each piece, often crafted by the person standing behind the counter, embodies the Swedish ethos of quality and mindful craftsmanship.

Local Organic Shops: A Year-Round Option

If you can’t make it to a seasonal farmers’ market, fret not. Sweden is peppered with local organic shops that operate year-round, often sourcing directly from nearby farms. These stores are like condensed versions of a farmers’ market, where each item on the shelf feels handpicked as if the shopkeeper personally knows the story behind its journey from farm to shelf.

Specialty Stores: From Smörgåsbords to Abba

A Slice of Swedish Tradition: Delicatessens and Smörgåsbords

If you’ve fallen in love with the flavors of Sweden—the creamy gravlax, the rich meatballs, the tang of pickled herring—then a trip to a Swedish delicatessen is like finding your own culinary Eden. These are the kinds of places where each product has a story, often recounted by the person behind the counter who, more often than not, knows the artisans or fishermen who created or caught the goodies.

Imagine the smell of freshly baked “knäckebröd” (crispbread) wafting in the air as you explore the shop’s selection, each item an invitation to partake in a quintessentially Swedish smörgåsbord at home.

Vinyls and Memorabilia: The Abba Museum Store

Sweden’s influence isn’t limited to just furniture design and gastronomy; it’s also a pop culture powerhouse, as anyone who’s ever hummed to the tunes of Abba can attest. Specialty stores like the Abba Museum Store in Stockholm are almost like sanctuaries to pop music nostalgia. It’s a place where you can find everything from rare vinyl records to kitschy memorabilia.

Imagine standing amidst an array of 70s-style costumes, Abba-branded merchandise, and a collection of vinyl that takes you on a trip down memory lane.

Outdoor Enthusiasts: The Home of Fjällräven

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast or even mildly adventure-curious, you’ve likely heard of Fjällräven. This Swedish brand has specialty stores that are a treasure trove of sustainable outdoor gear. The moment you step inside, you’re transported into a world of forest greens and earthy browns, where durable backpacks and expertly designed trekking trousers promise adventures in the Swedish wilderness. It’s like stepping into a gateway of endless Swedish landscapes, each product an unspoken pact between you and the great outdoors.

The Modern Apothecary: Swedish Beauty and Skincare

Sweden’s penchant for beauty and skincare is as crystal clear as the waters of its thousands of lakes. Specialty stores like Aesop or the local brand Estelle & Thild offer a range of products that embody the Swedish focus on natural ingredients and sustainability. Picture yourself in an alchemy lab of modern beauty, where each lotion, serum, or cream is like a potion promising radiant skin and a healthy glow.

The Bookshop Corners: A Reader’s Dream

For bibliophiles, a visit to a Swedish specialty bookshop is akin to a child entering a candy store. These aren’t just places to pick up the latest bestseller but intimate spaces where literature is celebrated. At stores like Hedengrens in Stockholm, the wooden shelves creak with the weight of history and story, each book a window into another world or perhaps a mirror reflecting the snowy streets outside.

Seasonal and Holiday Shopping

The Yuletide Magic: Christmas Markets

As winter envelops Sweden in its icy embrace, the country transforms into a snowy wonderland adorned with twinkling lights and aromatic spices. Christmas markets, known locally as “Julmarknad,” become the heartbeat of Swedish communities. Imagine strolling through stalls illuminated by the soft glow of fairy lights, each vendor like a curator of Christmas cheer.

From handcrafted ornaments to home-baked saffron buns, the air is filled with the comforting essence of cinnamon and cloves. As you cup a steaming mug of “glögg,” a spiced wine that warms you from the inside out, you can’t help but feel enveloped in a cozy, communal hug of Swedish holiday spirit.

Midsummer Joys: Floral Wreaths and Outdoor Gear

When the days stretch long, and the sun barely dips below the horizon, Sweden celebrates Midsummer with an exuberance that rivals Christmas. Special pop-up stores offer a range of festive attire and accessories. Picture yourself entering a store awash in the colors of blooming wildflowers, where you can buy floral wreaths, light summer clothing, and even maypole decorations.

It’s also the season when stores like Fjällräven stock up on camping gear as locals and tourists alike prepare for nights spent under the Scandinavian sky.

The Autumnal Palette: Design and Décor

As autumn leaves paint the Swedish landscape in hues of gold and red, stores follow suit with a shift in their interior design and product line-ups. Expect to find an array of cozy home décor, from lush throw blankets to rustic lanterns that promise to make those increasingly shorter days a little brighter.

As you browse, each product feels like an offering to the gods of “hygge,” the Scandinavian version of comfort and coziness that transcends the borders of language.

Easter Curiosities: Candy and Crafts

Easter in Sweden comes with its own set of unique traditions. During this time, stores dedicate sections to Easter crafts and decorative items. Imagine walking into a playful setting where feathers and pastel colors take center stage, and where the spirit of spring is captured in every ornament and gift.

For the sweet-toothed, Easter also marks the season of “Påskgodis,” or Easter candy. Stores teem with an array of colorful sweets and chocolates, each piece like a sugary note in a delightful seasonal symphony.

Spring Forward: Activewear and Outdoor Living

As the snow melts away and spring blossoms start to unfurl, Swedish stores transition once more, this time focusing on outdoor living and activewear. Bicycles, kayaks, and hiking boots promise adventures filled with crisp air and vibrant landscapes. You can almost feel the refreshing spring breeze as you browse through the season’s latest offerings, each item a silent invitation to step outside and drink in the beauty of Sweden reborn.

Related: Cost of Living in Sweden


Sofia is our Relocation Expert, who brings first-hand experience in moving to Sweden from abroad. She moved to Sweden over a decade ago and navigated the complexities of relocation herself.

Leave a Comment