Overview of Sweden

Sweden is a country in northern Europe located on the Scandinavian Peninsula. The word Sweden comes from the Svear, or Suiones, a people described by the Roman author Tacitus as early as 98 CE, and Svithiod was the old name for the country. Since 1523, Stockholm has served as the permanent capital.


Finland is to the southwest of Sweden. The country’s eastern boundary is formed by a long coastline that stretches along the Gulf of Bothnia and the Baltic Sea; towards the south, a short strait known as The Sound (Oresund) divides Sweden from Denmark. Sweden’s border to the southwest is formed by a shorter coastline along the Skagerrak and Kattegat straits, whereas Norway is to the west. Sweden is 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) long in the north and south and 310 miles (500 kilometers) long in the east and west.

The country is traditionally divided into three regions: Norrland, a vast mountain and forest region to the north; Svealand, a lowland to the east and highland to the west in central Sweden; and Götaland, which includes the Samland highlands and, at the southern extremity, the small but fertile plains of Skin. Lappland straddles the border between Norrland and northern Finland in the extreme north.


Norrland is the country’s largest and sparsely populated region, covering around three-fifths. The area is characterized by an undulating topography of rounded hills and mountains, vast lakes, and extensive river valleys. The Kölen (Kjlen; Scandinavian) Mountains are to the west, and through them runs the border between Sweden and Norway. Numerous glaciers dot this range, the southernmost of which can be found on Helags Mountain (Helagsfjället), close to the Norwegian border. Sweden’s tallest peaks, Mount Kebne (Kebnekaise) at 6,926 feet (2,111 meters) and Mount Sarek (Sarektjkk) at 6,854 feet (2,089 meters) in the spectacular Sarek National Park, are located at the region’s far northern boundary, north of the Arctic Circle.


The country’s major rivers begin in the Norrland Mountains and run southeast, with several falls and rapids, before draining either the Gulf of Bothnia or the Baltic Sea. The Klar-Göta River originates in Norway and runs 447 miles (719 kilometers) to Lake Väner (Vänern) before continuing southward to the North Sea at the lake’s southern end; the famous Trollhättan Falls are located along its southernmost route. The Muonio and Torne rivers constitute the border with Finland, while the Dal River in the south marks the border with Svealand. Except in the far north, where they are protected, rivers are used to generate hydroelectric power.