Leisure, culture and civil society
Last updated: 7 11 2022
Leisure time is the time when you are off work, not in school and not doing household work. You yourself choose what you want to do in your leisure time.
Common leisure activities in Sweden include various sports, dance and theatre, playing music, playing video and computer games, and reading books. Many associations and municipalities have different types of specialisations and leisure activities you can participate in. Examples of associations are sports and culture associations, adult educational associations and faith groups.
Everyone is entitled to take part in cultural life. There are many different forms of culture, and what they all share is that they contribute to the development of the individual participant. In other words, culture makes people grow and develop. Just like many other countries, Sweden has a lot of culture to offer in the form of nature, history and food, for example.
Nature and outdoor recreation
Outdoor recreation is when you walk or do some other form of exercise in nature for your own enjoyment and benefit, and without competitive pressure.
As soon as you step outside the door, you are in nature. You have the open sky above you, the sun shining on you, and you are breathing fresh air. These are all things that we humans need in order to be well. If you also do some form of exercise outdoors, you will feel even better. You will be stronger, food will taste better and you will sleep better. Spending time in nature can help prevent certain diseases and make you feel better. Doing exercise outdoors is known as outdoor recreation.
Sweden has many clubs and associations that can help you find activities you enjoy. Through these associations, you can learn more about nature, the right of public access (Allemansrätten) and different things you can do outdoors. With the help of such associations, it then becomes easier to go out and enjoy nature on your own or together with friends.
The Right of Public Access
Nature in Sweden is very beautiful and varied. There are several national parks you can visit. The right of public access in Sweden means that people have the right to move freely in nature. For example, you can walk in the woods and pick berries and mushrooms. This right also comes with the obligation to show respect for nature and animal life.
Svenskt Friluftsliv have made videos about the Right of Public Access. The videos are in Swedish with subtitles in Swedish, Arabic and English.
Are you going mushroom picking?
There are many poisonous mushrooms in Sweden. Some of these may be similar in appearance to edible mushrooms in other countries. If you have little experience of picking mushrooms in Sweden, it’s a good idea to just pick a few types to begin with. Learn to recognise a few easily identifiable types – that way you can be certain you pick the right mushroom.
There are municipal libraries all over Sweden. In libraries you can borrow films and books at no charge, though some libraries charge you a small amount if you want to borrow a DVD, for example. To borrow from libraries you need a library card. You can get one by showing your ID at the reception.
You can also choose to stay in the library to read a book or a magazine. Most libraries also offer access to computers and the internet. If you want to print a document or make a photocopy, you have to pay per page.
Occasionally libraries arrange activities such as language cafés, lectures and visits by authors.
There are many cinemas all over Sweden. You can buy a ticket online, via the cinema's website, or you can go there and buy your ticket. Often there are smaller cinemas that show foreign films. If you have a DVD player you can rent films in special shops. You show your ID and pay a fee to have the film at home for one or more days. If you don't return the film on time you get charged an extra fee.
If you are interested in keeping fit or doing training there are many possibilities. You can use public parks, swimming pools or ice rinks, for example. There are also sports centres where you can play tennis or do other activities.
If you want to train at a training centre or gym you have to pay a fee. This is often paid on a monthly basis. You can also buy a single-use card if you want to try out an activity. Most gyms offer both individual training (such as weight training) and group training activities such as aerobics, dance or yoga.
Museums and galleries exhibit art in various forms, including painting, sculpture and graphic design. Sometimes you have to pay an entrance fee, but other times there is no fee.
Sweden has a rich musical life with concerts, choral singing and opera, for example. Some bars have live music performances on some nights. You can also sign and play music in the streets, though there are special regulations for playing music in a public space. These regulations may vary between municipalities.
There are many churches and other religious sanctuaries all over the country, which are open. In a church you can light candles and find time for peace and reflection. Some cities also have mosques and synagogues.
You can learn about the history of Sweden in many museums around the country. Several of these museums charge an entrance fee.
There are also ancient remains, which are traces of people from the distant past.
Scientific research is carried out in Sweden in a number of areas. Everyone is entitled to learn about scientific advances. Scientific work is protected under copyright law.
Food and drink
There are many restaurants and cafés to choose from. "Fika" is the Swedish term for meeting friends and colleagues to chat and drink coffee or tea, often accompanies by a cake or bun.
There are also bars and pubs with varying age policies. In order to buy and drink alcoholic beverages in pubs, bars and restaurants you must be 18 years old.
If you have been granted a residence permit but are still living in one of the Migration Agency's accommodation centres you can participate in activities for asylum seekers.