When someone mentions Sweden what comes in your mind is ABBA, Volvo, and IKEA not to mention high alcohol prices and a modest society. Despite the skyrocketing prices in alcohol, Swedes love to drink, but at the right time and place.
Perhaps their undying love for alcohol is the main reason prices for this commodity are high. Since many people can at least afford one or two or even three drinks, there is more than meets the eye if you are underage.
Most importantly, your time in Sweden can be a memorable one if you understand and follow the rules to the letter. It is not that these rules are too many to muster, but the few that are in place are indeed set in stone.
This brings us to the question, “what is the drinking age in Sweden?” Read on to find the right answers and learn more about drinking in this beautiful Scandinavian country.
The Minimum Drinking Age in Sweden
According to the law, the minimum age for one to drink alcohol in Sweden is 18 years old.
But some joints such as nightclubs and bars might set a higher age limit lets say 20 to 25. You must have this information at the back of your mind when buying alcoholic beverages in major cities within Sweden. Let’s get into more details about this subject matter so you may not get confused all along.
The minimum age you can buy alcoholic drinks containing more than 3.5 percent alcohol content is 20. However, this age limit does not guarantee you the freedom to buy your favorite beer or wine anywhere in Sweden. You are only allowed to buy at Systembolaget, which is commonly known as “Systemet” or “Bolaget”. These terms stand for “The System” as well as “The Company” in that order.
Systembolaget is a Swedish chain of stores selling liquor and is run by the central government. You can easily recognize these chains of stores from their conspicuous green signs with yellow lettering.
The main objective of the government in setting up this chain of stores countrywide is not just to sell alcoholic beverages but to help in the reduction of alcohol-related diseases and deaths. This explains why Systembolaget doesn’t have special deals on specific brands of alcohol over others within their stores.
If you want to buy light beer (with an alcohol content below 3.5 percent), then you can walk in any convenience store or grocery store and place your order provided that your age allows you to drink.
But if you want to purchase spirits, wine or anything with more 3.5 percent alcohol content, then you have to visit the state-run liquor stores in your city. Here, you will show your proper ID to prove your age before you are allowed to buy a drink of your choice. Keep in mind that you can only obtain drinks from those stores provided that you get there at the prescribed hours.
The Prescribed Hours For Buying Drinks in Sweden
The age limit is an important factor when it comes to drinking in Sweden, but there is something else you must know. The hours anyone can buy alcoholic beverages are relatively strict and this should come to you as a shock if you are not aware of the prescribed hours.
According to Systemet (as it is popularly known by locals), the prescribed hours to buy alcohol start from 10 am to 6 pm from Monday to Wednesday. Thursday and Friday these government-run liquor stores open from 10 am to 7 pm. On Saturday, the right time to secure your favorite drink is within 10 am and 3 pm and on Sunday the stores remain closed.
Therefore, you must observe all these prescribed hours to avoid last-minute disappointments. It may look restrictive if you are not used to this system but that’s what the law demands.
The Good News!
Forget about the rumors about expensive alcoholic beverages in Sweden as some people would want you to believe. In fact, prices at Systemet are reasonably priced. For instance, you can walk into one of these stores with five Euros and come out with a bottle of decent drink or stroll in leisurely and grab yourself that drink that costs several thousand, depending on your taste and budget.
Cities such as Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo have several liquor stores scattered all over while smaller cities have at least one of these stores to serve their smaller population. But if you are staying on one of the islands, you may need to make your order earlier and later pick it from the local grocery stores between certain hours of the day.
Bars, Restaurants and Nightclubs
What happens when you miss out on the prescribed opening hours of the government-run liquor stores? If this happens, you might go for your drink in one of the local bars, restaurants or nightclubs. These joints follow their own rules and regulations regarding alcohol consumption.
The law is clear in this Nordic country and it states that anyone aged 18 and over can enjoy their drinks in bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. As mentioned earlier, individual establishments have the liberty to set their own rules of which they always do. On the flip side, prices are a little higher in these drinking joints, forcing many Swedes to drink in the comfort of their homes.
Drinking in Public is Forbidden
Drinking in public is forbidden by quite a number of municipalities. If you are found doing so, you will face the law and a fine of about 500 SEK or 50 Euros will be imposed on you. In some cases, law enforcers might confiscate the drink and disposes of it.
When it comes to driving, ensure that your blood alcohol limit is about 0.2 per millimeter. Anything more than that will jeopardize your driving license for a period not exceeding one year or a jail term if the limit is 1.0 per millimeter or more.
Swedes are known for their ambivalent relationship to drinking and alcohol in particular. The majority of them don’t drink at all or if they do, they choose an appropriate time in a week when they are not working.
So, the rules about drinking in this Northern Europe country are flexible and friendly if you understand and follow them. Before you get out to look for your favorite beer, wine or spirit, check your ID again to ensure that your age allows you to enjoy alcoholic beverages in Sweden.