Geography of Sweden

Learn geographic facts about the Scandinavian country of Sweden

Boy with Swedish flag painted on his face

Mariano Sayno / / Getty Images

Sweden is a country located in Northern Europe on the Scandinavian Peninsula. It is bordered by Norway to the west and Finland to the east and it is along the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia. Its capital and largest city is Stockholm, located along the country's east coast. Other large cities in Sweden are Goteborg and Malmo. Sweden is the European Union's third-largest country but it has a very low population density away from its larger cities. It also has a highly developed economy and it is known for its natural environment.

Fast Facts: Sweden

  • Official Name: Kingdom of Sweden
  • Capital: Stockholm 
  • Population: 10,040,995 (2018)
  • Official Language: Swedish
  • Currency: Swedish kronor (SEK)
  • Form of Government: Parliamentary constitutional monarchy 
  • Climate: Temperate in the south with cold, cloudy winters and cool, partly cloudy summers; subarctic in the north 
  • Total Area: 173,860 square miles (450,295 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Kebnekaise at 6,926 feet (2,111 meters)
  • Lowest Point: Reclaimed bay of Lake Hammarsjon at -7.8 feet (-2.4 meters)

History of Sweden

Sweden has a long history that began with prehistoric hunting camps in the southernmost part of the country. By the 7th and 8th centuries, Sweden was known for its trade but in the 9th century, the Vikings raided the region and much of Europe. In 1397, Denmark's Queen Margaret created the Kalmar Union, which included Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark. By the 15th century though, cultural tensions caused conflicts to develop between Sweden and Denmark and in 1523, the Kalmar Union was dissolved, giving Sweden its independence.

In the 17th century, Sweden and Finland (which was a part of Sweden) fought and won several wars against Denmark, Russia, and Poland, which caused the two countries to become known as strong European powers. As a result, by 1658, Sweden controlled many areas—some of which included several provinces in Denmark and some influential coastal towns. In 1700, Russia, Saxony-Poland, and Denmark-Norway attacked Sweden, which ended its time as a powerful country.

During the Napoleonic wars, Sweden was forced to cede Finland to Russia in 1809. In 1813 however, Sweden fought against Napoleon and shortly thereafter the Congress of Vienna created a merger between Sweden and Norway in a dual monarchy (this union was later dissolved peacefully in 1905).

Throughout the rest of the 1800s, Sweden began to shift its economy to private agriculture and as a result, its economy suffered. Between 1850 and 1890, about a million Swedes moved to the United States. During World War I, Sweden remained neutral and was able to benefit by producing products like steel, ball bearings, and matches. After the war, its economy improved and the country began to develop the social welfare policies that it has today. Sweden joined the European Union in 1995.

Government of Sweden

Today, Sweden's government is considered a constitutional monarchy and its official name is the Kingdom of Sweden. It has an executive branch made of a chief of state (King Carl XVI Gustaf) and a head of government, which is filled by the prime minister. Sweden also has a legislative branch with a unicameral Parliament whose members are elected by popular vote. The judicial branch is comprised of the Supreme Court and its judges are appointed by the prime minister. Sweden is divided into 21 counties for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in Sweden

Sweden currently has a strong, developed economy that is, according to the CIA World Factbook, "a mixed system of high-tech capitalism and extensive welfare benefits." As such, the country has a high standard of living. Sweden's economy is mainly focused on the service and industrial sectors and its main industrial products include iron and steel, precision equipment, wood pulp, and paper products, processed foods, and motor vehicles. Agriculture plays a small role in Sweden's economy but the country does produce barley, wheat, sugar beets, meat, and milk.

Geography and Climate of Sweden

Sweden is a northern European country located on the Scandinavian Peninsula. Its topography consists mainly of flat or gently rolling lowlands but there are mountains in its western areas near Norway. Its highest point, Kebnekaise at 6,926 feet (2,111 m) is located here. Sweden has three main rivers that all flow into the Gulf of Bothnia: the Ume, Torne, and the Angerman. In addition, the largest lake in Western Europe (and the third-largest in Europe), Vanern, is located in the southwestern part of the country.

The climate of Sweden varies based on location, but it is mainly temperate in the south and subarctic in the north. In the south, summers are cool and partly cloudy, while winters are cold and usually very cloudy. Because northern Sweden is within the Arctic Circle, it has long, very cold winters. In addition, because of its northern latitude, much of Sweden stays dark for longer periods during the winter and light for more hours in the summer than more southern countries. Sweden's capital of Stockholm has a relatively mild climate because it is on the coast toward the southern part of the country. The average July high temperature in Stockholm is 71.4 degrees (22˚C) and the average January low is 23 degrees (-5˚C).

Sources and Further Reading

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Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Sweden." ThoughtCo, Jul. 30, 2021, Briney, Amanda. (2021, July 30). Geography of Sweden. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Sweden." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).