Driven by the flygskam (flight shame) trend of switching from short-haul flights to rail, Swedish train travel was booming prior to the pandemic. Now that travel restrictions have been lifted across Scandinavia, it’s the perfect time to discover the joy of Sweden’s railways for yourself.
Despite the drop in demand for domestic air travel, Sweden still has many small regional airports. While flying around Sweden does save time, it’s often an expensive option.
If you’re not in a rush, then the train is a great value travel alternative if you want to see Sweden on a budget, especially between the cities.
The centerpiece of Sweden’s 9,324-mile-long national rail network is the high-speed lines linking the major cities Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö multiple times per day.
Travel between the two big cities Stockholm and Gothenburg takes just over three hours. That’s about one hour quicker than driving and usually quicker than flying when you take into account the travel time to and from the airport and waiting time at the gate.
Beyond the major intercity lines, there’s plenty of other lines of interest to tourists too. Here are some of the most notable, from the sunny south to the Arctic north.
Stockholm and eastern Sweden
The capital city is the starting point for most travelers, but your train experience doesn’t have to begin here. Direct connections are available to Stockholm from Copenhagen in Denmark and Oslo in Norway.
Sweden’s busiest rail routes start in Stockholm, including the Southern Main Line to Malmö via Linköping and Norrköping. There’s plenty of day trips available on the rails too, such as the historic university city Uppsala with its magnificent 13th-century cathedral.
Malmö and southern Sweden
From Malmö, it’s easy to visit the Danish capital Copenhagen on a day trip thanks to the Öresund Line that crosses the iconic Öresund bridge. By train, the two city centers are just 40 minutes apart.
Other routes of interest to tourists in southern Sweden include Malmö to Helsingborg and Malmö to Ystad, the southern coastal town that’s a must for fans of the fictional Swedish detective Wallander.
Gothenburg and western Sweden
The Gothenburg area is well served by rail, including a direct connection from Oslo, Norway. Routes of note within the region include the route to border town Strömstad, which is a popular summer destination and has direct ferries to the islands of Kosterhavet, Sweden’s first marine national park.
Elsewhere in the region, the Kinnekulle line was voted Sweden’s best rail route by passengers of government-owned train operator SJ. The Lidköping to Mariestad stretch offers views of the flattop Kinnekulle mountain and lake Vänern.
From central Sweden into the Arctic
To see the real Sweden, consider a trip on the 800 mile-long Inlandsbanan that slices through the heart of the country from Kristinehamn in central Sweden to Gällivare in the north, beyond the Arctic circle.
While individual seats can be booked for single journeys just like any other train, the service offers summer package deals aimed at tourists. A 6-day trip including five nights in hotels, entry to various attractions along the route and an onboard host starts at $860.
The journey doesn’t have to end there though. From Kiruna, a stunning route runs all the way to Narvik on the Norwegian coastline. Landscape includes mountains and the vast Torneträsk lake before the exciting descent down to the Ofotfjord.
Wherever you plan on traveling, book tickets at least a week in advance for the best deals. Just as with traveling by train in Norway, on-the-day fares are much higher. Timetables and fares are available from sj.se.