Geography, industry and infrastructure

Last updated: 30 8 2018

Image Boken om Sverige
This material is from the book About Sweden.

Sweden is located in northern Europe on the eastern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The area containing Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Finland is called the Nordic region. Sweden is a large, oblong country. It is 1,600 kilometres from north to south and 500 kilometres from west to east. It has a total area of 450,000 km². Sweden is divided into three parts: Götaland in the south, Svealand in the middle and Norrland in the northern part of the country. Sweden is also divided into 25 provinces, 21 counties and 290 municipalities.

Countryside and climate

The landscapes of northern Sweden are very different from those of the south. Northern Sweden is home to mountains, forests and lakes. Many of the rivers in Norrland are used to generate hydroelectric energy. Central Sweden is densely forested, while southern Sweden has more open agricultural land and plains. The west and east coasts have deeply indented coastlines and lots of islands. The biggest islands are Gotland and Öland, borh located off the east coast, south of Stockholm. Sweden's tallest mountain, Kebnekaise, is 2,099 metres high and located in northernmost Sweden, near the Norwegian border.

Sweden's three biggest lakes are Vänern, Vättern and Mälaren.

Sweden has four seasons – spring, summer, autumn and winter – and a climate that has large temperature differences. The weather in Sweden is affected by the warm North Atlantic Current. As a result, Sweden has a warmer climate than many other places at that are just as far north.

Mountain scene Photo: Colourbox 

Nature reserves

A nature reserve is a large area of land that the authorities have protected because the environment, plants and animals in the area are particularly sensitive, rare or beautiful. There are about 4000 nature reserves in Sweden. These can be old forests, high mountains, farmland or islands in archipelagos. There are always signs in a nature reserve that describe what you are allowed and not allowed to do in the area. Different nature reserves may have different rules.

Nature reserve at Herrestafjället. Photo: Maria Nobel 

The Right of Public Access

In Sweden three is something called the Right of Public Access, known in Swedish as allemansrätt. This means that everyone has the right to move freely in the countryside, even on land that someone owns. This also means that we have to be careful and respect the environment. The Right of Public Access is written into one of the fundamental laws that make up Sweden's constitution and sets out what you may do and what you may not.

The Right of Public Access allows you to do the following:

  • You may walk, cycle, ride a horse and be almost everywhere in the countryside, but not too close to buildings. If you open a gate, you must close it behind you.
  • You may walk, cycle and ride a horse on private roads.
  • You may camp for one night. If you want to camp for longer, you must ask for the landowner's permission.
  • You may swim, drive a boat and land, but not too close to buildings.
  • You may pick wild flowers, berries and mushrooms.
  • You may fish using a rod along the coast and in the five largest lakes.
  • You may make a small fire, provided you are careful. But it is better to make a fire where there is a specific place to make one. It is often forbidden to make fires in the summer.


The Right of Public Access forbids you from doing the following:

  • You may not cross building sites, gardens, plantations or cultivated land such as fields.
  • You may not drive a car, motorcycle or moped off road.
  • You are also not allowed to drive on footpaths, in parks or on exercise trails.
  • You may not make a fire if the weather has been very dry or there are strong winds as the fire may spread.
  • You may not make a fire directly on exposed rock as this can crack. It is often forbidden to make fires in the summer.
  • You may not damage trees and bushes or take them home with you.
  • You may not take fruit, berries, vegetables or anything else that is growing in gardens, plantations or fields.
  • You may not litter or leave rubbish behind.
  • You may not hunt, disturb or harm animals. You may not take birds' eggs or disturb their nests or chicks.
  • You may not fish in lakes or watercourses without a permit.
  • You may not let your dog off its lead between 1 March and 20 August. This is when the animals in the forest have their young. A dog off its lead can scare or harm the animals. It is best to always keep your dog on a lead.
  • You are not allowed to pick protected species of flowers. The purpose of protecting species is to prevent their extinction.

Animal welfare

Sweden has a law for the protection of animals – the Animal Protection Act. It contains regulations for how animals must be kept and looked after. Animal protection is about treating animals well and protecting them against suffering and disease.

Natural resources

Sweden has a great deal of natural resources, primarily forests, iron ore and hydroelectric power.

More than half of Sweden is covered by forests, mainly pine and spruce. Energy – electricity and heat come from hydroelectric power, nuclear power and imported oil. There is also some wind power.

About 7.5 per cent of the land in Sweden is used for agriculture. Less than 5 per cent of the population work in agriculture. It is now mostly cereals, fodder plant, potatoes, oil-yielding plants and sugar beet that are grown. Milk production is an important aspect of Swedish agriculture.

Trade and industry

Trade with other European countries has always been important to Sweden. For example, Sweden is the only major iron ore exporter in the EU. At the beginning of the 20th century, when Sweden began to have increasing numbers of major industries, sales to other countries increased. Sweden sold a lot of wood, paper, steel and iron. A little later in the 20th century, Sweden sold more manufactured goods such as cars, telephones, trucks, ball bearings and various machines. Not as many goods are made in Sweden these days. Goods such as furniture and clothes are often manufactured in other countries, but are sold by Swedish companies. Another important industry in which many Swedish companies are involved is telecommunications and IT.

Photo: Johnér


Sweden has many roads and railways, primarily in areas where many people live. The majority of the railways are around Stockholm, Gothenburg and in southern Sweden. It is more common to travel by bus or in your own car in northern Sweden. People who are travelling a long distance in Sweden can fly. There are airports close to the majority of larger cities. Arlanda outside of Stockholm is the largest airport in the country. Gothenburg's largest airport is called Landvetter. Many people in southern Sweden use Kastrup airport in Copenhagen, in Denmark.