Ah, the land of Volvo and IKEA (There’s more IKEA catalogues in this country than there are bibles). Sweden is a Nordic country nestled in between Norway and Finland. Swedes enjoy a high quality of life, and this place consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world.

The nature here is incredible, and so are the cities. Stockholm, the capital city, is home to the Riksdag (Swedish parliament), Sager House (The prime minister’s residence), and Stockholm Palace. Malmö, the country’s third-largest city and home to a diverse immigrant population, is simply a 50 minute train ride from Copenhagen, Denmark- Some Copenhageners commute to Sweden for work! (It’s very mind-blowing for my American heart to find out that some Danes work in a different country while I was studying abroad in Denmark) In Malmö, you can visit Stortoget, St. Peter’s Church, and Malmö Castle. Gothenburg has the Gothenburg Museum of Art and Haga District. There’s also the picturesque places of Lund and Uppsala.

While you can’t travel at the current moment, you can bring the spirit of Sweden home with music, books, movies, and TV shows. Curl up with a book set in Sweden or grab a blanket and unwind at the end of the day with a TV show set in Malmö. You’ll be mentally transported to Sweden. Here are some ways to celebrate the country that gave us author Astrid Lindgren and actor Stellan Skarsgård.

1. Listen to Roxette and ABBA

Singer Marie Fredriksson and guitarist Per Gessle founded Roxette in 1986. Their pop rock emphasis gained attention with the release of the album Look Sharp! They were one of the U.K.’s Top 40 hits. Their songs “The Look,” “Listen to Your Heart,” “It Must Have Been Love,” and “Joyride” all performed well on U.S. charts.

And who can forget about ABBA? Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad won the 1974 Eurovision Song Content and have captured the hearts of many people around the world with their addicting, cheerful songs.

Here are some songs from these two groups:

  • Crash! Boom! Bang! – Roxette
  • The Look- Roxette
  • Listen to Your Heart- Roxette
  • It Must Have Been Love- Roxette
  • Joyride- Roxette
  • Dangerous- Roxette
  • Dancing Queen- ABBA
  • Mamma Mia- ABBA
  • Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! – ABBA
  • Thank You for the Music- ABBA
  • Knowing Me, Knowing You- ABBA

2. Read Yesterday’s News

Kajsa Ingemarsson’s feel-good novel is perfect to read now that summer is getting closer and temperatures are getting warmer. 25% of Swedish women have read this uplifting novel. Ingemarsson writes about Agnes, a girl who is fired by a prejudiced restaurant owner and gets dumped by Tobias (Tobias leaves Agnes for another girl. Ouch). But nothing phases Agnes, as she opens her own restaurant and learns something unexpected about her neighbor next door.

This book exemplifies the “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade phrase.” Ingemarsson lures you in with Agnes’s optimistic, cheerful mindset. You’ll devour this book in two days.

3. Read A Man Called Ove

Ove is an elderly man, and his neighbors aren’t too fond of him: They say he’s grumpy, easily irritated, and is an overall bitter man. Yet he’s multi-faceted: There’s a reason why he’s so temperamental, but the novel doesn’t disclose why in the beginning pages.

Enter Parvaneh. She’s a pregnant Iranian woman that moves in with her husband and two daughters right next door. On move-in day, the family accidentally runs over Ove’s mailbox. So begins an unlikely friendship between Parvaneh and Ove. These two even go to a café together. As Ove relaxes, we hear more about his upbringing, and this reveals why Ove is the way he is. There’s also a movie- it’s free on Amazon Prime Video!

4. Read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Scandinavian crime fiction is amazing (The Danish Institute for Study Abroad had a class on it). This region has secured a reputation for writing outstanding thriller books. There’s Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø, but let’s focus on Stieg Larsson for now.

Larsson’s worldwide bestseller features Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist that spends three months in prison after losing a libel case. After he is released, he meets Henrik Vanger, the retired CEO of the Vanger Corporation. Vanger receives an annual, anonymous flower in November. He says his grandniece Harriet disappeared in 1966 at a Vanger family home on Hedeby Island. Blomkvist delves into this mystery after arriving on the island.

Perhaps the star is Lisbeth Salander, a reserved, intelligent computer hacker who already researched Blomkvist’s history before meeting him. She begins to play a crucial part in this story. You’ll also discover her past, and this part of her life reveals why she acts so distant.

You can then read The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Lisbeth really shines in this trilogy!

After Larsson’s death, three more books were released. 2015 saw the publication of The Girl in the Spider’s Web: Blomkvist gets a phone call from the United States and teams up with Lisbeth. The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, published in 2017, delves into Lisbeth’s past: You’ll learn more about her sister Camilla. The Girl Who Lived Twice was published in 2019.

Then, there’s even The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie– The movie is on Amazon Prime Video and stars Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. The 2010 Swedish version stars Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace and is free on Amazon Prime Video.(Production company Yellow Bird actually made three films: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest).

5. Watch The Bridge

Books aren’t the only things that demonstrate just how good Scandinavians are at creating thrillers. TV shows also happen to have great crime plots. Nowhere is this more evident than in The Bridge TV show.

The Bridge has four seasons, and is a partnership between Sweden’s Sveriges Television and Denmark’s Danmarks Radio. A dead body is found on the Øresund Bridge, the bridge that links Malmö to Copenhagen. Half of the body is literally on the Swedish side of the bridge, and the other half is on the Danish side of the bridge. The two countries must work together to solve the mystery. Sofia Helin plays Swedish detective Saga Norén, and Kim Bodnia plays Danish detective Martin Rohde. It’s shot right on location in Malmö and Copenhagen, and the first episode premiered in 2011.

6. Watch Moomins

Finnish artist Tove Jansson created a comic strip depicting Moomins. These characters live in Moominvalley, and the 2017 animated series on Amazon Prime Video highlights the journeys they go on. Moomins are white-colored animals, and they look like hippos with their big snouts.

The comic strip was first published in Swedish in Finland. Now, Moomins are a beloved staple in Scandinavian culture. You’ll find them on stationary, kitchen towels, plates, and mugs. Amazon even has stuffed animals!

The series follows Moomintroll, Little My, and Snufkin. The quotes are pretty resonating too. Take a look:

  • ” I have found my first friend, and so my life truly began.”
  • “I only want to live in peace, plant potatoes, and dream.”
  • “The world is full of great and wonderful things for those who are ready for them.”
  • “You must go on a long journey before you can really find out how wonderful home is.”
  • “I’ll go away into the mountains. I need solitude.”
  • “I’m frightened,” whispered the smallest little one, pulling on Snufkin’s sleeve. “Keep hold of me. Everything will be all right,” comforted Snufkin.

7. Take a virtual tour of Sweden with Google 360/Google Arts and Culture

You can view Gothenburg Concert on Google 360! Get your art fix-Swedish style-with Google Arts and Culture: You can visit Nationalmuseum Sweden, Skokloster Castle, The Royal Armoury, and Nordiska Museet.

Happy listening, reading, and viewing!

– Maya