Hello, hello peeps! I hope it is all good in your neck of the woods! In this episode of “Vegan Travellers” I’ll take you to another Nordic country, this time in Scandinavia: Sweden. Following is my experience, with the various mistakes I made (because of some very poor assumptions by my side).
Let’s start with mistake number one – The Weather
I already told you how I like cold places, that’s just how my body works and decided to go in August as that’s when I had a bit more holiday and thought that it would have been cooler in Sweden. The place where I would have spent more time was Stockholm, as that would have been the easiest way to reach other places. Oh boy, the disappointment weather-wise! I wasn’t expecting snow, but I sure wasn’t prepared for the +20 C! I took for granted that it would have been colder… Silly and unprepared me.
Anyway, it is what it is. At least, I had brought with me a mix of clothes: two sweaters and a few light T-shirts, trekking shoes and trousers, a pair of jeans and my loyal wind-and-waterproof double-layered jacket (of the kind that it’s basically a two-piece thing, with the fleece inside and a shell outside so that you can wear it all together or separately).
Like all the Scandinavian countries, Sweden is not cheap and if you go on a budget like I did, you have to look for the best options in terms of food, accommodation and travel so that you can still enjoy yourself while going easy on your wallet.
Mistake number two – The Accommodation
Regarding the accommodation, I stayed in a hostel that was quite central: it was the least expensive option without being too far away from the city centre (being by myself and having heard a lot about the rising levels of criminality in Sweden, I didn’t feel like taking chances). Having used hostels in Iceland, I thought that it would have been somewhat similar. Nope.
True, the most important things are cleanliness and safety. So they did deliver on that. But the place was very small and crowded. And very warm.
Also, when booking the room, there were a few options for the shared rooms: all-females, all-males, mixed. The all-females rooms were fully booked, but there was one last space in the mixed dorm, so having taken into consideration the location of the hostel and the prices of accommodation elsewhere, I decided why not? Well, I ended up in a small room with 3 guys: no, nothing untoward happened and I felt that anyway there was some kind of safety. They were okay guys, one was a student and the other two were tourists and it is nice to meet other people, which is one of the perks of hostels, but I had a sense of uneasiness underneath. This wasn’t only for the bedroom situation: in the kitchen and lounge area, there was a weird vibe. But maybe that was me, not used to the European hostels? To be honest, I have always looked for the cheapest B&Bs when around, or I have been lucky enough to stay with friends, so this was the very first time I was on a hostel on the continent.
While I am writing this, I think on one side, this doesn’t really matter: if you are lucky enough to be able to travel for leisure, what is important is visiting historical sites, cultural places, experiencing different food, immersing yourself in the nature of that place. On the other side, I think that where you sleep has also some kind of importance so not to spoil the whole experience. But “always look on the bright side of life” is one of my favourite mottos, so let’s get on with this Scandinavian adventure!
Mistake number three (might not be a mistake for everybody) – The General Hustle of the Place
Generally speaking, I love quiet places (so surprising!) and as a lone traveller, I find that I can experience best the places I visit if there isn’t much chaos around me.
On that holiday, I went from Stockholm to Uppsala and to Göteborg: even in Uppsala, which is very much a university city, places were full of families and children. Not very peaceful. Maybe was the time of the year, or maybe it’s because Sweden is very big on families: I found that it was all very busy and noisy.
But what doesn’t suit me, it might very well suit other people, so this is to say that Sweden is very much a family-friendly place.
What did I visit?
A great aspect of the places I went to when in Sweden, is that they are quite walkable and if you can’t walk, there are many services that you can use to go from one place to another. Here are the three places I visited.
When I arrived in Stockholm it was a mid-afternoon day of August 2019: it was sunny and fairly warm and the timing gave me some good time to still be able to check into the hostel and go for a short wander around the city centre to explore and have a taste of the place.
As I said, it was warm: almost every day it was sunny and albeit this made the temperature higher it wasn’t too bad for walking. During my walk, I got a map from a tourist point so that I could see what was within walking distance from the hostel and the various attractions. I kept mostly around Vasaplan and Norrmalm and in my wandering, I explored a couple of supermarkets to see what kind of food was available for us vegans and actually found that there was quite a lot of stuff! So, all good on that side.
Just a few photos from that first day and from the third day. You will see the Public Library: the building with the round hall and cupola is, a beautiful place free to access that I would suggest you visit if you happen to visit the city.
Before my visit to the library, I stopped at the lovely MyVegina, a vegan place just 5 minutes from the library: I had a warm sandwich, a smoothie and probably the most delicious donught ever!
On the first day, for dinner, I had an avocado and a small frozen vegan pizza from one of the markets, while on the third day I had another avocado and a salad from one of the supermarkets.
After food, on the first day I studied the map to look what I could visit the next day. While looking at some stuff online, I found out about Uppsala, a University city and I thought of going for that.
Uppsala is also very walkable and there were two main places of particular interest to me: the Botanical Gardens and the University.
First I went to the Botanical Gardens,: they are gardens, with beautiful flowers (see the dahlia below!) and tres, so what’s not to like?! Then I went to the University. Why go there? Well, they have an impressive collection of old manuscripts on Sweden and this was very intriguing. If you are concerned about the price, don’t because most of these places are free! Also, it’s here that I found out that the classification in libraries is not the Dewy Decimal Classification: Swedish libraries created their own classification system around the 1920s and they’re sticking to it. I was so positively impressed and thought then that a change in the classification system I possible (there is a continuing discussion in the library world on changing the current DC system because Dewey was basically a racist, misogynist, etc. so we would like to find another way to classify the library stock).
In terms of food, for lunch, I bought a sandwich at one supermarket while for dinner I stopped at a 7/11 on the way to the hostel and got some food from their buffet (probably that’s something that has disappeared after COVID, because they had food in different containers, similarly to a buffet where you would pick your ready-made items).
On the fourth day, I went to Goteborg: caught a train early in the morning so that I could spend some 6 hours in the Southern city. In order to get an idea of the place, I took the little boat that goes around the city and it was brilliant! Goteborg is quite big, hence the boat can be e a good place to start on your visit to the city. After the boat, I jumped off at a stop fairly close to the area of the Natural History Museum, which I visited briefly (not too keen on the taxidermy areas). As per my usual, I wandered around the city, with the aim to go back to the train station but taking it slowly to enjoy the view. Also, along the way there was a vegan place in a very cute district, with indie shops, pubs, etc. and as it was around lunch time so I stopped there: the name of the place is Julie’s Cafe and I would highly recommend it, with amazing food and very reasonable prices.
The walk to the train station was very pleasant, visited a couple of churches along the way, and obviously had to visit the library: ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL! It is a modern multistorey building, but still beautiful. They host so many things, from a game room, to an art room and so much more. Another warmly recommended place to visit.
At the train station there was a little kiosk called Happy Me Centralstation in the middle of the hall that was selling vegan food such as Buddha bowls: couldn’t resist so I got my dinner there, took it on the train with me and I don’t know how I managed to not munch it all there and then!
The last day
When I was reading about the things to do in Stockholm, I found out that there are beaches in the city that are used by the locals to swim. I wanted to see this! So on the last day I went to find two of these places: one was very enclosed and small, while the other was much bigger, with chaise longs and chairs freely available. I spent a bit more time here, just to soak in the view and the absolute sense of tranquillity: could have spent the entire time there.
I closed my tour with a visit to the Vasa Museum
And for the last dinner in Sweden, I chose the Bastard Burgers as they have vegan burgers and nuggets and whatnot: again, delicious stuff!
This trip has been short and sweet: I haven’t managed to do much in terms of visiting indoor places because I mostly wanted to get an idea of the cities, but I definitely have enjoyed the experiences I had, walking around, the boat in Goteborg, the old manuscripts at Uppsala University and the quiet beaches in within Stockholm.
Some places I would definitely recommend are the two public libraries, the one in Stockholm and the one in Goteborg. Uppsala University is also something worth a visit!
Also, I haven’t been Norther, so I cannot talk about that area of Sweden and these are my experience of 5 days in Sweden.
Let me know what you think.