Europe has always been a popular holiday destination, but the Scandinavian parts of Europe doesn't seem to share the same limelight. Little is known about the attractions these Scandinavian countries offer, and more importantly, whether its Muslim-friendly for travellers. The good news is, Sweden offers more than just its unique Nordic attractions; its also such an inclusive place!
With an ever-expanding Muslim community that makes up of immigrants mostly from Africa and the Middle East, you can be assured that your meals won't just be instant noodles. Here’s why Sweden offers a unique experience for travellers ?
1) Get up close and personal with Nordic animals
Yes, these animals do exist in real life, not just in fairy tales ? Located in the capital city, Stockholm, Skansen Open Air Museum and Zoo is a popular tourist destination renowned for its culture preservation and unique Nordic animals. This historical open-air museum houses over 160 buildings from all over Sweden as it depicts actual Swedish life in the 1900s.
Step back in time as you immerse yourself with traditional Swedish culture as Skansen recreates what real life was like in the past (think folk dresses and bonnets!). The zoo offers spectacular animals like brown bears, wolves, elk, lynx, snowy owls, wolverines, and of course, moose! You can also pet some of them! How’s that for a memorable experience?
2) When in Sweden, do what the Swedes do and FIKA!
"Fika" is a national pastime that Swedes prioritize. You cannot simply go to Sweden and not "Fika". It essentially means coffee break, and is best enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee and some cakes and chocolates ☕️ Swedes love their sweets so its not surprising to see every shop and convenience store offering their traditional Kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls) or Chokladbollar (chocolate balls) as a great accompaniment to a nice cup of coffee. Their coffee tastes really phenomenal, by the way!
If you visit Sweden in the summer, the weather can get really sunny so cool down with ice cream! Ice cream kiosks can be found everywhere, and you can get one easily at every attraction. Their ice cream is so delightful with delicious flavours ranging from traditional vanilla ice cream to butterscotch infused with meringue and marshmallows all in one scoop! Yum ?
#HHWT Tip: Remember to stock up on Swedish chocolates like Kex and Daim. Great for souvenirs!
[P.S For other Muslim-friendly European snacks you have to try, check them out here!]
3) Take comfort in Halal food available
Sweden is such an inclusive country that there is sure to be a halal restaurant nearby – simply Google (cross-check with Zabihah.com), or ask the sellers! Since majority of the Muslim community in Sweden are from the Middle East, its very common to find a kebab joint or restaurant, so your Mediterranean food cravings will always be satisfied. Some shops even offer pizza in the menu so not to worry, your Italian food craving will be satisfied too ?
You can also indulge in other kinds of food as almost all the restaurants offer vegetarian, seafood, and vegan options in their menu, but at your own discretion of course. You'll never go hungry here!
4) Cook your own Swedish meal with ingredients from halal supermarkets!
Tired of eating out? Cook your own meals! Yes, there are halal supermarkets in Sweden ? Yes, you can buy all kinds of meat from these halal wholesalers.
If you miss Asian food, you can even whip your own complete Nasi Lemak meal using the ingredients (yes, Asian ingredients!) found in all major supermarkets like Hemköp, Willy’s, and ICA.
There are even Asian supermarkets (complete with Asian spices and vegetables) should you feel like whipping up some pad thai or fried rice!
5) Unleash the inner kid in you at these amusement parks!
In Stockholm, and just beside Skansen Open Air Museum and Zoo, lies the best amusement park called Gröna Lund. After immersing in rich Swedish culture in Skansen, pop by Gröna Lund for a more modern and exhilarating experience with thrilling rides that suit everyone’s needs!
Don’t feel like taking all the rides, or short of time? Not to worry, because the parks here offer a pay-as-you-go system where visitors merely need to purchase a minimal entry ticket, and for every ride they wish to take, visitors just need to purchase tickets for those rides. For those who wish to spend the whole day here, there are day tickets too. A must-ride attraction in Gröna Lund is the Eclipse as it offers a panoramic view of Stockholm city from 400 feet high!
In Gothenburg, there is Liseberg that offers its own unique and thrilling rides for everyone too. Take the Liseberg Wheel for gorgeous views of the theme park and city! Adrenaline rush, anyone?
6) Bask in the sights of amazing nature views
Sweden is synonymous with nature, and Swedes really value the environment. They take recycling seriously, and definitely preserve their natural environment impeccably. Be one with nature and breathe crisp, fresh air at any of the nature spots.
Its not difficult to enjoy the greenery in Sweden (in summer) because there are beautiful flowers even on the roadside ? A special place worth a visit is Naturum Tåkern in Väderstad. You will need a car to get here (road trip!) but the views this place offer is so majestic you would think the pictures you take here are photo-shopped ?
Another place worth going is Bergs Slussar in Linköping. This is the closest Swedes can get to a beach, but they make up for it with majestic views of the lake and canal.
A very popular place in the summer, visitors get to see Swedes with their boats and yachts enjoying a summer getaway with their loved ones. Grab a picnic basket filled with sandwiches and snacks, and you're ready for a lunch overlooking the lakes and seas (and ducks!). Also, there’s delicious ice cream available for purchase too!
7) Enjoy the gift of nature with strawberry-picking
For a more engaging activity with your loved ones, visit any of Sweden’s strawberry farms in the spring and summer! These strawberry farms might be a bit of a drive (there’s buses available too that runs every hour) but these farms are very popular with locals and tourists alike. Go in the morning as these delicious, ripe berries tend to be gone really quickly.
It’s not uncommon to see locals carrying big cartons filled with strawberries they’d picked. These berries are measured in weight so pick your strawberries carefully ? There's something about Sweden as their produce are really fresh and sweet (I have never had a sour fruit here!). Rest assured, even if you’re a strawberry picker novice like me, your strawberries will be deliciously sweet? Keep the berries refrigerated when you get back to enjoy the juicy strawberries for a few days.
#HHWT Tip: Always check the Facebook page of the strawberry farms where they pose status updates on whether their farms are open for picking (these strawberries need time to grow!).
8) Be mesmerized by castles and impressive architecture
As with all European countries, the architecture is always breathtaking.
In Sweden, visit some historical castles like Vadstena Castle, and marvel at the beautiful architecture of the buildings that line major cities.
In Stockholm, take a boat ride in the summer and experience Stockholm’s architecture from the waters that would be frozen in winter ❄️ Spot locals lounging on their boats and yachts, while enjoying a swim in the water. Guaranteed to be a memorable experience!
9) Experience Sweden’s colourful history
Sweden is famous for its Vikings history (this is just for tourism!), so its well worth a visit to the Vasa museum in Stockholm. Although the Vasa museum is not exactly about Vikings, it does report on the archipelago historical adventures of the Vasa.
Right in the middle of the museum lies an almost intact salvaged ship of the 17th century Vasa that sank during its maiden voyage?
Take any tours in the museum for an in-depth understanding of the ship’s majestic history. For those who are more interested in the Vikings history, visit the Vikingaliv- A True Adventure nearby for a unique take on Sweden’s history (complete with Rune stones!).
If you prefer to experience pre-modern life, apart from the Skansen Open Air Museum and Zoo in Stockholm, there is also Gamla Linköping (meaning Old Linköping) in Linköping. As you step into this town, you will be transported to the late 19th century, as the workers are all dressed in outfits of those times ?
Observe the historical classrooms, the houses, the activities, and the way of life in those days. Approach any free tour guide as they explain the history of Linköping, and even witness a bank robbery at certain timings!
There is also a Bed & Breakfast within Gamla Linköping itself for visitors to truly have a first-hand experience at what’s it like living in old Sweden. Definitely makes for an eye-opening experience ?
10) Always feel welcomed by friendly Swedes!
Swedes may have a history of ruthless Vikings, but they are the nicest Europeans ever, in my opinion. It can be daunting to visit Sweden especially if you don't speak Swedish, but fret not; most Swedes speak good English too (thanks to their impeccable education system!).
A simple “Hej! (Hello)” with a smile is enough to form a rapport with Swedes. From the moment you step into the airport, you'll be greeted kindly from friendly shopkeepers and immigration officers. Swedes are also very helpful, and will go out of their way to assist you in any way possible. They are just good-natured like that.
So go ahead, the next time you visit Europe, pop on by to friendly Scandinavian Sweden, and surround yourself with all the goodness life has to offer ?
Written by Wan Nur Riny Photos by Zahwah Bagharib and Najihah Abdul Razak
[P.S For other absolutely stunning cities in Scandinavia you've got to visit, this list covers it all!]