We can all enjoy a good beer or glass of wine once in a while. Sometimes even multiple times in a while. At home, we know the customs and laws, but abroad they sometimes differ. Especially if you are going abroad to Sweden. So let’s clarify some of the laws and habits of alcohol in Sweden.
The drinking habits in Sweden
Let’s start with the habits. Usually, these are even more important the local laws. I recommend always following the law, but also respect the habits of the locals. This way you won’t stand out too much and can enjoy your drink in peace (with the locals).
- Swede’s don’t drink during the week. So if you are having a drink at a restaurant or bar on a Wednesday night, you might get stares, or worse, side-eyed!
- That being said, in Sweden they go all out on the weekends. Friday and Saturday night are intense and you will see drunk people in front of pubs.
- Although there is an age restriction, bars and clubs are free to set age restrictions even higher.
- If you are invited over to someone to have dinner, you need to bring your own bottle. Don’t forget this!
- Don’t offer a ride to someone if you even had one drink. They will think you don’t take their safety seriously.
The actual alcohol law in Sweden
You know the habits by now, but what about the law? This one can cost you more than just a side-eye. You don’t want to end up in jail during your trip, do you?
- You have to be over 18 to drink in a bar.
- You have to be over 20 to buy in a Systembolaget (liquor store).
- You have to bring an ID with you when buying alcohol.
- It’s illegal in some places to drink publically.
- If you are caught driving drunk, you lose your drivers license.
Where to buy alcohol in Sweden?
Alcohol in regular Swedish shops
For alcohol, there are three options. The first one is just in a regular shop. The catch is they are only allowed to sell drinks with less than 3,5% abv. So you will find light beers and ciders, but no liquors or wines.
Buying alcohol in Swedish bars and restaurants
At bars, you can get drinks starting at the age of 18. However, some bars and clubs have a higher age restriction. So check yourself, before you wreck yourself. In bars and restaurants, you can get alcohol for the entire time they are open. The only thing you are not allowed to do is take the alcohol with you outside or home.
Buying liquor, wines and good beers in Sweden
If you do want to have a bottle of wine for your Netflix night, you have to go to the government-owned Systembolaget. There are a lot of things to keep in mind when visiting one though.
- There are no limitations to how much you can buy (except your bank account)
- The drinks are not cooled. This is to keep all drinks equal (and also to keep you from cracking a cold one on the streets immediately after leaving the store).
- They have no discounts or special offers, ever.
- They try to sell alcohol-free drinks too. So ‘Alkoholfri’ means alcohol-free, not free alcohol.
- They don’t sell to you if you are already drunk.
- They don’t sell to you if you look underage and don’t have an ID.
- They don’t sell if they think you are passing the drinks to underage kids.
- You have to pay for the plastic bag at the register.
Have a good look at their openings hours too:
- Monday to Friday open from 10 am to 7 pm
- Saturday: 10 am to 3 pm
- Sundays and holidays they are closed.
These hours are very strict and often the stores have a long queue on Saturdays and Fridays. Make sure to go early, because not being able to pay before closing means no drinks.