How to buy alcohol in Sweden

Everything in Stockholm was pretty straightforward in our experience, but we had one burning question which doesn’t necessarily have an easy answer: how do we buy alcohol in Sweden?

It’s not that we have a problem and ‘need’ alcohol in our lives, but actually, buying alcohol in Sweden comes with strings attached.

As a visitor, you’re likely to wonder about how to buy alcohol in Sweden too.

Sweden has a state-run chain of liquor stores called Systembolaget (or locally known as ‘systemet’), and these are the only stores allowed to sell beer, wine and spirits stronger than 3.5 percent.

If you think you might like to enjoy a beverage while visiting, we suggest you ask your accommodation provider where the closest systemet is.

Sweden has a reputation (which is somewhat justified) for being expensive for travellers.

To avoid paying for overpriced beverages in bars or at hotels, if you fancy a wine, the Systembolaget is the way to go.

Ready to let our hair down post-TBEX conference, you can imagine our shock when we discovered the local Systembolaget (downtown Stockholm has over 20) was closed at 1pm on Saturday afternoon.

We arrived to closed doors at 2.30pm!

Systembolaget store

There are no privately-owned liquor stores in Sweden and select supermarkets like the Co-op can only sell light beer.

These restrictions have evolved over a few hundred years following concerns that drinking excessively was a real problem here.

The government set this up, in the hope these chains will minimise alcohol-related health problems. The idea is to sell alcohol in a responsible way, without the incentive of making a profit. They are strict about checking ID too.

You need to be 20 years old to purchase alcohol at Systembolaget stores. In bars, clubs and restaurants the drinking age is 18.

How to buy alcohol in Sweden: Systembolaget open hours

  • Monday to Friday 10am – 6pm
  • Saturdays 10am – 1pm
  • Sundays and public holidays: closed

Do you have tips or questions on how to buy alcohol in Sweden? Let us know in the comments.

For suggestions on where you could go to enjoy some time out at a bar or restaurant, take a look at our insider’s tips here.

48 hours in Stockholm

All I can say about Stockholm is that you really should add the city to your travel bucket-list – at least 48 hours in Stockholm, if not more. I insist.

From the moment you arrive at the airport (Arlanda, in our case), the fresh, contemporary vibe is obvious and alive.

I gazed around the deserted airport and was instantly impressed by its creative, interesting spaces. Stockholm is one of those neat, efficient cities too, and I’m glad because it’s one expectation I had.

We landed late at night (well, it was the wee hours of the morning actually), but regardless of the time, taxis were on hand, as was a speedy shuttle bus that makes the rounds every ten minutes to collect travellers who are destined for one of the surrounding hotels.

 

We’d flown in across a skyline lit up by a midnight sun – novel! It’s the latest I’ve ever witnessed the sun setting, and a sure sign we’d made it pretty far north.

Despite the 12.30am time slot, the sky still glistened with fading evening light, so we got a good look at the unique airport hostel suspended in the air within a Boeing 747. Pretty cool, almost like a living outdoor piece of art.

 

Stockholm, capital of Scandinavia, was the first of our 2016 summer destinations because we were headed to the TBEX conference (my fourth), and we’re so glad the city hosted us! To be honest, we may have put it off because countries in this region have a bit of a reputation for being expensive.

While the majority of costs we came across as travellers (accommodation, food, alcohol, tours, taxis, transfers etc.) were on par with London prices, I would say that yes, most visitors might feel a bit of a price pinch.

However, there are economical ways to experience Stockholm, and I’d definitely not let the exchange rate determine whether you visit this very magical city.

Stockholm city travellivelearn Sarah Blinco

Stockholm is …

Built on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges and the very first European Green Capital, Stockholm really is one of the most beautiful cities we’ve been to.

It probably is up there within the top five prettiest capitals in the world (as the customs officer proudly boasted to us).

Other things we love about Stockholm include the decent, free WiFi (particularly important for digital nomads and bloggers, but then there are plenty of business travellers here too); transport is straightforward and easy to navigate, the people are really helpful and friendly and there’s no language barrier for an English speaker. The purchase of alcohol can be a bit tricky, but it’s ok if you’re organised (video coming on this topic soon).

Stockholm is a city of music, art, fashion and technology, not to mention being the home of the Nobel Peace Prize and annual awards.

If you’re on a budget, consider planning for two to four days to really get a nice taste of what Stockholm is all about.

We were in town for five days, but I’d booked flights and accommodation well in advance in the hope that I’d secure the best price.

Day one of our adventure (pre-conference) was a trip to Sweden’s oldest town, Sigtuna (post coming soon). By the time the conference ended, we really did only have a couple of days to see and do as much as we could. I felt happy by the end of the trip that I’d scraped the surface of this pretty city, and touched upon some terrific, highly-recommended experiences.

Here’s my best tips for you on how to spend 48 hours in Stockholm.

Stockholm stairs travellivelearn Sarah Blinco

 

48 hours in Stockholm

We were staying near Central Station in Stockholm, and while I understand there are plenty of other options in other areas, if you can find accommodation near here it is very convenient for access to and from Arlanda airport, as well as being an easy point to explore from.

There’s also a mall that forms part of the station which includes supermarkets and convenience amenities.

City sightseeing

When we are short on time we tend to head straight for a hop-on-hop-off tour bus option which enables us to get our bearings and work out our priorities for the rest of the trip.

On the ground, you can buy a pass that offers 48 hours in Stockholm for exploring and doubles as a transport ticket.

There are three main tour-operators of this nature in Stockholm, and all include a boat tour option. It’s an easy place to start and provides an excellent overview of Stockholm which is actually a much bigger city than I imagined.

Stockholm city2 travellivelearn Sarah Blinco

Vasa Museum

This place is a real treat – built around a huge old war ship which was destined to sink back in 1628.

The king at the time insisted that a double row of canons be built along each side, despite engineers’ pleas that it would never hold up. Within twenty minutes of the ship setting sail, it had capsized taking crew with her.

The ship sat preserved under the water in Stockholm’s harbour for over three hundred years. By 1961 Stockholm had the right combination of skills and post-WWII enthusiasm to raise Vasa to the surface, and because the water is low in salt here, the ship had hardly deteriorated (within reason, of course).

As such, you can walk around her now, and touch a little (or a large) bit of intriguing history. It really is very cool, and this attraction is listed in many top 10 lists of the best museums to visit in the world. Find out more here.

The ABBA museum

Just up the road from the Vasa Museum is a place not just dedicated to one of the world’s most famous pop groups, but to the evolution of modern music too: the Abba Museum.

It’s worth walking here from the Vasa Museum because this area of Stockholm (on the island of Djurgården) is filled with pretty parks and waterways, so the entire experience is just lovely!

Inside the glittery world of the ABBA museum, you’ll discover fun disco and music rooms featuring memorabilia and hits from different eras over the past 80 years or so. If music is your thing, and/or if you’re a child of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, in particular you’ll probably (secretly) love this place.

Top tip: Visit late in the afternoon, because there’s a nice bar and restaurant attached to it, and it’s a feel-good excursion so you’re likely to want to take that energy into a night out in Stockholm…

Stockholm old town square travellivelearn Sarah Blinco

By boat

One of the city’s charms is that everywhere you look there are mesmerizing bodies of water, so we didn’t want to leave without taking in the views from this perspective.

In one day we enjoyed two delightful options – a quick trip out to the archipelago to the Fjäderholmarna islands (a mere few of the area’s thousands of pristine islands), and a more localised tour (linked with the hop-on-hop-off coach tour) which presented views of the Old Town (Gamla Stan), Nordic Museum and Vasa Museum, Gröna Lund (Stockholm’s amusement park that’s lit up the waterfront since 1883) and all of the city’s steeples and colourful buildings in a way that’s impossible to experience on land.

 

Photography museum (Fotografiska)

We found this creative oasis was most easily accessible via one of the local boat hop-on-hop-off tours, when you can step off your ride and walk right in.

I’m a fan of photography (even over art) and found the exhibits at Fotografiska beautifully presented and engaging.

My favourites (exhibiting in 2016) were the stunning portraits of famous Swedish actress Greta Garbot from the earlier part of last century, and Bryan Adams’ showcase, ‘Exposed’. Yes, the Canadian singer-turned-photographer (I had no idea!) is actually wonderfully talented and his exhibition includes candid celebrity shots as well as thoughtful images of young injured returned-soldiers.

Top tip: Make your way to the top of the museum to its large café, and for the price of a cup of tea, you can indulge in amazing views of the city and waterways.

Stockholm Gamla Stan alley travellivelearn Sarah Blinco

Old town (Gamla Stan)

Gamla Stan is a large, wonderfully preserved old city center, and one of the most popular medieval spaces in Europe.

Ideal for exploring on foot, it is a photographer’s dream brimming with narrow alleyways, old churches, cobbled streets, grand central squares and tall, brightly coloured buildings that seem untouched by time (this region hasn’t seen war in over 200 years, so the city is in pretty good shape).

The Nobel Museum which presents information on the Nobel Prize, Nobel laureates from 1901 to present, and the life of the founder of the prize, Alfred Nobel, is situated in the heart of the area.

Stockholm Gamla Stan travellivelearn Sarah Blinco

The Old Town is also a good spot to top up on any gifts or souvenirs – there’s plenty of stores targeting visitors.

Alternatively, you might simply choose to enjoy a fika (coffee and cake break), or a treat from one of the specialty ice-cream stores producing very large, freshly-made waffle cones that smelled mouth-wateringly good. My favourite!

Top tip: read our special foodie-insider’s guide on the best bars, restaurants and cafes to visit and chill out in Stockholm.

Stockholm pass

We actually utilised the Stockholm Pass to access every one of these experiences, and with loads more on offer (including longer boat trips and a whole host of excellent museums and attractions) this is definitely worth considering if you have time and the inclination to take in as much as you possibly can.

Stockholm old town 2 travellivelearn Sarah Blinco

 

~

Do you have tips or questions? Let us know in the comments.

Wellness travel | book a yoga retreat in Turkey

Flavia Munn is a London-based health journalist and yoga teacher, and friend of travellivelearn.com. Last year she embarked on an adventure to Turkey to attend a yoga retreat.

If you’ve ever thought of combining international travel with the chance to further your creative or spiritual interests, then read on for Flavia’s best tips and details on why you need to do a yoga retreat in Turkey…

When did you travel?

During May (2015) for seven days.

Why a yoga retreat in Turkey?

Life had been really busy and I knew from past experience that this kind of break away was exactly what I needed to reset and relax.

Most people probably decide on a holiday based on destinations they want to visit, but with yoga retreats I think it’s fair to say many students base the destination decision on what kind of yoga they want to practice and with which teacher.

I booked my trip through Free Spirit Yoga because I had heard many good things about the company. I made my final decision based on the description of the teachers who I carefully cyber-stalked (‘researched’) beforehand.

The teachers were Zoe Martin and Gary Ward, of Yoga Leicester who are inspired by the teachings of the legendary T. Krishnamacharya and his son T.K.V Desikachar.

They also brought their very sweet baby daughter along, who entertained everyone at mealtimes! I liked the description of Gary and Zoe’s yoga on the Free Spirit and their own website, particularly their emphasis on yoga’s therapeutic qualities and working with movement, breath and sound. I thought they looked like kind, friendly people – a warm smile can be a deal-clincher when deciding who to spend a retreat with, particularly when travelling alone. I also liked the idea of having two different but complementary teachers.

Flavia Turkey yoga mats travellivelearn 1500x

Where exactly did you go?

The retreat was based at Grenadine in Dalyan, about an hour or so drive from Dalaman airport (about a four-hour flight from London Stansted).

Grenadine Lodge is situated on the outskirts of the small town of Dalyan and within a conservation area. Photos simply do not do the location justice. It really is peace and paradise on earth! Imagine waking up to the sounds of nature (OK, sometimes the birds were interspersed with a dog barking but not an aggressive one). Then you wander across the dewy lawn to one of the two yoga shalas (or huts) for an hour and a half’s yoga – a more energetic style taught by Gary in the morning – before a traditional sweet and savoury Turkish breakfast, eaten beside the pool which is the focal point of the garden.

Next up is the highly stressful decision of what to do with the rest of the day – a lounge beside the pool ordering fresh salads, ice creams and juices; or a 15 to 20 minute walk into town to the shops and market and where you can catch a river boat to the Iztutu turtle beach. Or you could have a hamman, a traditional Turkish bath, which includes a good scrubbing.

Flavia Turkey yoga travellivelearn 1500x

For those who have never been to a yoga retreat before, what’s on the itinerary?

How much yoga you do on a retreat is entirely up to you. Don’t feel you can’t come as you don’t think you’ll be able to do two classes a day (which can mean three or four hours of yoga a day).

The yoga is at both ends of the day – before breakfast and before dinner. Gary’s morning class was energetic while Zoe’s evening one was soulful. They both were on the same theme of that day, based on the chakra system. The body’s seven chakras – or energy centres – is a common and effective theme for retreats.

How you spend the time in between is entirely up to you. There are many options for group trips, be that to a hamman bath or the twelve island boat trip, or a massage or other holistic treatments in the solitude of Grenadine Lodge (all very reasonably priced).

Personal highlights from this retreat?

The location was divine and the entire group was friendly and funny. In fact, I spent many times laughing to tears! More seriously, it was an incredibly supportive environment and while Zoe and Gary were also on hand for anyone who needed to talk, the amazing staff at Grenadine would literally sort out anything you desired.

The yoga, of course too. It was a different approach for me and I loved it.

The twelve islands boat trip was stunning. We had a boat to ourselves and we could jump into the sea for a cooling swim, and had delicious barbecued food on board.

Flavia Turkey yoga setup travellivelearn 1500x

One big lesson you came away with from this particular trip?

Suspend your judgement. I was a bit uncertain when I saw most of the group were of quite different ages to me and many knew each other from Leicester, but I put that aside and I was right to do so as they were so much fun and incredibly welcoming, warm people.

How many retreats have you been on?

This was my third yoga retreat. Previously, I’ve booked through Yogatraveller and have been to Morocco and Gozo (Malta) with them. I chose the first trip to Gozo based on their website and emails I’d exchanged with Michael Moroney, who runs the business with his yoga teacher wife Michelle. He was very helpful and put at rest any apprehension about travelling alone.

Flavia Turkey travel signs travellivelearn 1500x

What tips do you have for people who are interested in seeking creative, yoga and/or meditative experiences around the world?

Do your research and ask questions – this gives you an idea of the kind of people who run the retreat and whether it’s for you or not.

I’ve recently booked two retreat centres in India based solely on Tripadvisor and other review sites, and my email exchanges with the teachers who run them.

As a yoga teacher, why do you think retreats are a good idea?

They give you a chance to try something different. I never go on a retreat with a teacher I already practice at home with – no offence to them but I like to use retreats to try a different teacher and approach.

Retreats give you the time and space to explore your practice, learn and develop in a supportive, relaxed environment. I’d attend a retreat three or four times a year if I could (work and finances permitting).

Flavia Turkey photo travellivelearn 1500x

Top three essential items required for a trip to Turkey?

Mosquito repellent, sun cream and a good camera.

What’s next on the travel bucket-list for Flavia Munn?

At the end of March I’m off to southern India for six weeks. I’m very excited about this! It will include two yoga retreats – one in Goa and another in Kerala. In between these, I’ll be cycling around the region including stopping a couple of days in Mysore, which is the yoga capital of India and the home of ashtanga which was taught by Sri Pattabhis Jois until his death in 2009.

I’ll be writing about my experiences on my website flaviamunn.com – do check it out and let me know what you think!

Your advice for a first-timer who is keen to try a yoga retreat but tentative because they feel inexperienced?

Just go for it! You won’t regret it. You will only wish you had done it sooner. I’ve only ever met lovely, friendly people on retreats and had truly amazing life-changing experiences.

Would you recommend this experience in Turkey, and why?

Definitely! The yoga was suitable for all – those with no experience, plenty still for the more experienced and a safe and supportive environment for people looking personal development or healing.

Where can we find you online?

My website and blog is flaviamunn.com and I’m @flavers on Twitter.