Sweden is arguably one of the best places on Earth to eat, visit, and live. But the fact is that despite having a rich history and culture, Sweden is famous for the wrong things. Sure, Swedish meatballs are tasty and we’ve all been to IKEA or heard an ABBA song; but is that really all Sweden has to offer?
Thankfully, the answer is a resounding no.
A country with a relatively small population is a diverse place with a storied past. And in some cases, Sweden is a world leader in things like proficiency in foreign languages like English and healthcare for its people.
Here’s a look at some the of the greatest inventions, brands, and people that have burst forth from this Scandinavian land.
Whoever said the best vodka had to be Russian is completely wrong. The origins of Swedish vodka dates all the way back to the 15th century when Swedes first started distilling spirits called “bränvin“, which translates roughly to”burnt wine”. Distilled from wine or grain, the resulting spirits were mostly used mostly as medicine and for making gunpowder. By the 17th century, these spirits that we today refer to as vodka had become a national drink.
Absolut was first introduced in 1879 by Lars Olssen Smith, who for the better part of the 19th century was referred to as “the King of Vodka.” Absolut Pure Vodka was made using a revolutionary new distillation method called rectification, a method we still use today.
It was then in 1979 that Absolut vodka began to exported all over the world, soon becoming one of the most well-known premium spirits worldwide. By 1985, Absolut was one of the largest exporters of vodka.
Probably one of the more recognized manufacturers from Sweden, Husqvarna makes a huge array of outdoor power products including chainsaws, trimmers, brushcutters, cultivators, garden tractors, and mowers. There’s little doubt why they’re power products are lauded worldwide for the quality and innovation — they’ve been in business for over 328 years.
Admittedly, Husqvarna didn’t always make lawnmowers and chainsaws, as they were originally founded in 1689 as a weapons foundry. Over a couple hundred years, Husqvarna has produced a large range of different products, including motorcycles, kitchen equipment, and sewing machines.
By the 1980’s, Husqvarna had some organic growth through several acquisitions but is now one of the leading outdoor power manufacturers.
When people tend to think of high-end, luxury sports cars, they tend to think of German or Italian luxury car brands like Mercedes, Ferrari, or Lamborghini. But what if you found out that one of the best supercar manufacturers was Swedish?
An up and coming car manufacturer from Ängelholm, Sweden is Koenigsegg Automotive, maker of finely engineered supercars like the Agera RS. Founded in 1994, Christian von Koenigsegg set out to manufacture a “world-class” supercar right in his home county of Sweden. After several years of development and prototypes, Koenigsegg has its first street-legal production car in 2002.
Koenigsegg has quickly gained a reputation after breaking several Guinness World Records, receiving multiple accolades and awards. The company was even rumored to purchase Saab back in 2009, although that deal never happened.
Scandinavian Style Furniture
Throughout the world, Many consumers love the convenience and cost-savings from one of Sweden’s most popular brands, IKEA. For furniture the fraction of the cost of most other furniture manufacturers, it’s easy to see how IKEA became so huge across the globe.
But IKEA represents something bigger than selling budget furniture and their generic Swedish meatballs. Sweden is home to a thriving fashion and design community known the world over. IKEA has come to represent what makes Scandinavian style furniture look so cool. This style has been known to feature classic lines and minimalistic tendencies along with quality leather and fabrics.
What people see in IKEA showrooms across the globe are watered down or cheapened versions of the coolest looking furniture in Sweden. And Scandinavian style furniture has an essence of cool design principles.
If trends continue as they have for the past several years, odds are that you are reading this article on a mobile device. Apple is one of the biggest reasons for the boom of smartphones, but there were two companies that previously held a near monopoly on the mobile phone market for nearly a decade.
Starting in 1999, Nokia (founded by a Finnish-Swede) and Ericsson (a Swedish company) were two mobile phone manufacturers that dominated the space. If you owned a cell phone in that 10-year span, there’s a good chance it was either a Nokia or Ericsson phone. Despite their current popularity, Apple can’t even come close to boasting such a feat.
Lauded as one of the greatest directors to have lived, Ingmar Bergman was a Swedish film director born in Uppsala, Sweden. Most known for winning multiple Academy Awards for films such as The Virgin Spring,Through a Glass Darkly, andFanny and Alexdander, Bergman is still considered to be a wildly influential director.
Martin Scorcese, director of films like Goodfellas and The Departed had this to say about Bergman, “I guess I’d put it like this: if you were alive in the ’50s and the ’60s and of a certain age, a teenager on your way to becoming an adult, and you wanted to make films, I don’t see how you couldn’t be influenced by Bergman. You would have had to make a conscious effort, and even then, the influence would have snuck through.”
Bergman passed away in 2007, but his vision is still being felt across the world.
There are times when a device is invented, it’s impact is felt right away and the quality of life is lifted. Pacemakers do just that and have saved countless lives of patients who are at high risk of heart attacks. Good thing the first battery-operated pacemaker was invented by a Swede.
In 1958, Rune Elmqvist developed a battery-run artificial pacemaker, which was used for the very first pacemaker operation performed by surgeon Åke Senning at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm. The pacemaker is placed under the heart patient’s skin and the electrical pulses it generates ensure that muscles expand and contract normally, regulating the heart.
Prior to 1959, two-point lap belts were the standard and the only kind of seat belt available in automobiles. And even then, the majority of people who regularly buckled up were race car drivers. Automotive crashes could mean certain death and injury as two-point lap belts were insufficient to protect drivers and passengers.
But then in 1958, 1958, Volvo Car Corporation hired Nils Bohlin as the company’s first chief safety engineer. Bohlin had designed ejector seats for Saab fighter airplanes in the 1950s. Within a year, Bohlin had developed the three-point seat belt, introduced in Volvo cars in 1959.
Bohlin’s innovation has saved innumerous lives and will continue to save lives well into the future.
With the exception of a few countries, measuring temperature via the Celsius scale is something virtually the whole world does every day. It’s practically the standard for temperature scales across multiple scientific disciplines, and we have a Swedish astronomer to thank for that.
Born in Uppsala, Sweden in 1701, Anders Celsius built Sweden’s first observatory in 1741. Although the term “Celsius” was adopted in 1948 by an international conference on weights and measures, the Celsius was first invented in 1742.
When it comes to an invention that can be credited with shaping the world we know today from both a figurative and literal sense, dynamite is a unique creation that has been able to do both. The inventor of dynamite is one of the most famous Swedes to have lived, building his legacy as a chemist, engineer, inventor, businessman, and philanthropist.
Born in 1883 in Stockholm, Alfred Nobel was working as a chemist when he found that if nitroglycerin was incorporated with an absorbent inert substance it became safer and more convenient to handle, eventually leading to his invention of dynamite in 1867. Nobel was essentially able to build an empire on his invention but some had worries about what his legacy would be.
Before his passing, Nobel created the Nobel Prizes, annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural or scientific advances.
Sweden is a fantastic vacation destination with vast natural beauty and enough fun activities in the heart of its cities. But if you are looking for something of a more unique experience, you may want to stay in an ice hotel during a Sweden winter.
Although ice hotels are becoming popular across the Nordic region of the world, the first ice hotel was created in 1990 in the village of Jukkasjärvi, in northern Sweden. The hotel, including the chairs and beds, is constructed from snow and ice blocks taken from the nearby Torne River. Artists are invited to create different rooms and decorations made of ice.
Available for lodging between December and April, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more unique vacation experience.
There are countless reasons which make Sweden such an amazing place. This is just a small list, but there’s nothing like experiencing a place first hand to see the real reason Sweden is so fantastic — its people.