Sweden is a country that sits high on a lot of lists. From the quality of life and economic growth to the happiness of residents and civic responsibility. And that's probably the most famous thing about Sweden - besides ABBA, of course!
Yet, one thing Sweden is not as well-known for is being bike-friendly. Many other countries, particularly its Nordic and European neighbors, receive way more recognition as being great for cycling. The most recent Copenhagenize Index, self-described as "the most comprehensive and holistic ranking of bicycle-friendly cities on planet earth," doesn't feature a single Swedish city.
But there are places in Sweden that are ideal for cycling. In fact, the country's diverse landscape requires different types of "bikeability" and cycling styles for each community. Some cities may share one or two attributes, but each one seems unique in its own way.
Here are eight of the most bike-friendly cities in Sweden. Whether you are a casual biker passing by or a dedicated roadie, you want to know all about the cycling rules, and the best bike gear and accessories to enjoy your ride in Sweden.
Sweden’s capital isn’t ranked as bike-friendly as its counterparts (Copenhagen and Oslo), but it’s still a fantastical city for pedalling with picturesque routes, which is why most guidebooks recommend tourists get around by bike. But cycling is also big with locals.
“I love biking around Stockholm,” says Adam Thompson, one of our Ambassadors. "You can only reach some beaches and hidden swimming spots by foot or on bike, so it's great for exploring hidden gems!”
Stockholm’s intricate system of bike paths of varying types was designed with commuters in mind. Riders will find bike parking not only in front of most subway stations but also in some office buildings. Many of the bike paths are separated from traffic, but some -- particularly in the city centre -- share the road with cars, which is a downside. The city operates around 60 public stations for riders to pump their tires. There has been a city bike program that operated from April to October in previous years, but its current status is unclear, but a private bike sharing company is in operation.
A Tip for Cycling in Stockholm: “I would say to plan your route carefully when running errands,” says Thompson, “so that you get to all your locations efficiently without wasting energy!”
Essential Biking Gear for Sweden: A bell, lights, and a helmet. Swedish law requires that all bicycles have a working bell, as well as front and backlights if riding at night. Lacking either while cycling in any part of Sweden can lead to a fine of 500 kr. Helmets, meanwhile, are only required for riders under the age of 15, but everyone should still always wear one.
Many people credit the naturally flat land of Skåne, Sweden's southernmost region, as the primary factor for the region’s bike-friendliness, but Skåne’s biggest city Malmö shows that there’s a little more to it. Malmö is the only Swedish city that has ever been included in the Copenhagenize Index (although it’s not listed in the current edition). Since the early 2000s, the city has made a concentrated effort to foster cycling on its street: encouraging residents to bike more and investing in infrastructure.
All of Malmö’s bike paths are separated from road traffic and there’s a massive bike garage at the central city train station, but as a Dutch bicycle blogger pointed out in a write-up on the city: it’s the attention to details that matter. The transitions between bike paths and roadways are level without curbs to bump on, stoplights feature stands for cyclists to hold on to while still, and there are even road signs that clearly differentiate dead-ends for cars but not bike paths. Malmö’s bike paths are named, and on maps, so they show up on GPS. And unlike most public transit in Sweden, the trains and busses in Malmö allow passengers to bring bikes on board -- even if they’re not foldable
Advice for Biking in Malmö: Look up and make sure you understand how to use the infrastructure of wherever you're cycling. When there’s as much assistance for cyclists as in Malmö, it helps to know what’s available on the route you’re traveling before you start pedalling.
Located on Sweden’s west coast, Gothenburg is the country’s second-largest city and offers some of the most diverse biking opportunities around. Riders can explore the city via its many bike paths or take a cycling trip to one of the nearby islands.
At the same time, those who cycle for health reasons have plenty of options for mountain biking and road biking. Less-dedicated bikers, who may find pedalling to be tiring and don’t see the point of owning a bicycle, can take advantage of the city’s recently launched new electric bike rental program. There’s also the option to expand their knowledge by joining Cykelköket Göteborg, a cycle workshop that teaches bicycle repair and pairs new members with a free bike when they join (which requires a nominal fee).
What to Know for Cycling in Gothenburg: Make sure you have the right bike for what you want to do -- you can’t use a road bike on a mountain bike trail, and fixed gear won’t be fun on lots of hills.
Recommended Biking Accessories for Sweden: A biking backpack. Anyone using cycling as their primary way to get around in Sweden (and probably anywhere else) should have a biking backpack. It serves the need to carry one’s stuff, but unlike other bags biking backpacks are specifically designed to be worn while cycling. They include features to keep the pack comfortably secured and its weight evenly distributed, in ways an ordinary backpack never could.
Named as Sweden’s best city for cycling by Cykelfrämjandet, the country’s leading bicycle advocacy group, for 3 years in a row, Uppsala is dedicated to biking. The city has made a serious effort to get residents biking and significantly invested in infrastructure with bike garages and bike parking, free air pumps, and even a bike care station. The layout of a traditional university town, with a historic downtown and charming canal, and the nearby recreation areas with fields and pastures of the bucolic countryside, are perfect for relaxed and laid back bike rides.
“What I love most about biking [in Uppsala], is that it is so easy, you just take your bike and ride where you want,” says resident Maja Norrestam. “I cycle every day to work and I really recommend it if you have the opportunity. It's fast, it's easy and you also train at the same time.”
A Key Tip for Biking in Uppsala: Take full advantage of the city’s services for cyclists. Uppsala offers many of the same public facilities as the other bike-friendly cities listed here, but it also operates a bike care station. Open 24 hours a day, the station allows cyclists to wash, pump their tires, and fix their bikes. All for free.
Anyone passionate about cycling will be drawn to Örebro. The city has made all its bike-related public works a priority. It offers bicycle parking facilities, public air pumps, and a system of bike paths with designated fast lanes and regular maintenance that includes snow removal and de-icing in the winter. The area has a long history of cycling enthusiasm and connection to the international cycling community. In fact, it’s home to Bergslagen Cycling - Sweden's most densely populated and largest cycling area!
Örebro County was one of the first places for mountain biking in Sweden, specifically in Bergslagen. As more mountain bike trails were added, along with routes for road biking and leisure riding, the original name Bergslagen was kept. Today, Bergslagen Cycling encompasses almost 1000 km of mountain bike trails and 900 km of paved bike routes.
Örebro Cycling Tip: Know the different bike paths and pick the right one for you. In Örebro, not all bike paths and trails are the same. Some within the city are designated for cyclists biking at faster speeds, while mountain bike trails and other bike paths are marked by skill level.
Useful Biking Accessories for Sweden: A waterproof bag. Sweden sees its fair share of precipitation with yearly rainfall of over 500 mm (20 in) and more than 40% of days of rain per year. So, a waterproof bag -- whether it's a biking backpack or a smaller bag within it. The two key features to look for in any waterproof bag are water-resistant material and a secure watertight seal created by a roll-top closure.
It may be the home to the oldest and largest university in Scandinavia, but Lund is also in Skåne -- probably the most bike-friendly region in all of Sweden -- and not far from the internationally recognized cycle haven Malmö. So, it’s no surprise to see some of the same affinity for biking there. Bicycling is essentially the best way to get around the city. It’s not only cheaper but faster than driving or using public transit. Most people own their bikes, but if anyone ever finds themselves without a bike, they can use the city's public bike rental system, Lundahoj, which unlike many others in Sweden, is available 24 hours a day.
Biking in Lund Tip: Buy a used bike. Because of the constant influx and departure of students in Lund, affordable and high-quality bikes are almost always for sale on online marketplaces, sites, and apps that connect buyers and sellers one-on-one. Just try to avoid making your purchase in August, when students arrive and raise demand (as well as prices).
The general consensus is that the southern half of Sweden is more bike-friendly than the northern half, with most of the areas north of Stockholm lacking adequate places of bikes to travel, including roads that are safe to share for bicycles with cars and trucks. But one place where there is plenty of space for biking is in the ski town of Åre, which is a mountain biker’s paradise in the warmer seasons.
The main attraction is Åre Bike Park, the largest bike park in Scandinavia and Northern Europe, which uses four lifts to take riders to the top of a mountain. There are nearly 35 different bike trails in varying skill levels, leading to the bottom and on which riders can reach incredible speeds. Guests can rent all their equipment, including bikes and protection gear, and hire locals to help them navigate. There are also more traditional mountain bike trails and courses in the valley, a dirt and pump track for BMX bikers, and even country roads for road biking.
Advice for Biking in Åre: Hire a guide. No matter your skill level or experience in downhill biking, any trip to Åre should include hiring a guide to teach you the best methods and techniques for downhill biking and the best routes to ride. Several local companies offer their guide services.
A haven for outdoor activity, the coastal city of Luleå in Swedish Lapland attracts lots of visitors to its archipelago in the summer months. Like many other seaside summer destinations, guests and residents frequently use bicycles to get around on the mainland and the islands. The area also attracts some mountain bikers to ride trails in the surrounding wilderness in the summer. But Luleå has started to attract riders during the winter months.
Tourists have been coming to Luleå in the winter for years to witness the northern lights and partake in different winter sports on the solidly frozen sea. But in recent years, cyclists have been coming to Luleå to ride on the ice using fatbikes, modified mountain bikes that were first created in Alaska and have wider than usual tires. The fatbikes allow riders to safely travel on the ice between the islands, exploring and taking in the surrounding nature. It's an experience to behold.
What to Know for Cycling in Luleå: Keep your fatbike tires slightly deflated with medium pressure. It allows for better handling on an icy surface in winter conditions.