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A man wearing a white t-shirt, glasses and a thick beard and an apron is pouring steamed milk into an espresso cup.
Barista at a Swedish café
Few nationalities consume as much coffee as the Swedes. While drip coffee is still hugely popular, espresso drinks are increasing their market share, and baristas are in demand at coffee shops. In Sweden, a coffee break even has its own name - fika.
Photo credit: Alexander Ruas/Folio/

Swedish café culture – steeped in tradition yet forward-thinking

Ever since the first cluster of patisseries arrived in Sweden at the end of the 19th century, the Swedish café has continued to flourish in a style uniquely its own. There are cafés for all tastes, whether you are particular with your brew, your pastries or into design and interior.

Sweden has a proud café tradition. The first few decades of the 1900s could be described as the golden era of the Swedish café. Patisseries where locals congregated for a ‘fika’ livened up streets across the country. Some years after the arrival of the very first Swedish patisseries, the café was considered quite a game-changer as it provided Sweden’s emancipated female population with dedicated places to socialise outside the home.

As for the interior style of these sugar-laden havens, cafés in Sweden could never compete in grandeur with their glittering equivalent found in cities such as Vienna or Prague, nor did they intend to. The Swedish café was – and still is – a quaint and homely place to relax with good company, a home away from home. While many traditional patisseries from the 1920s and onwards still thrive, new breeds of cafés have been ushered in to modernise the scene.

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Gildas Rum, Stockholm

Gildas Rum is a traditional and quriky café in Stockholm, serving a wide selection of 'fika' and food in a relaxed atmosphere.

Photo: Agence les Conteurs

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Gildas Rum, Stockholm

Gildas Rum, Stockholm

Photo: Agence les Conteurs

Drop Coffee, Stockholm

Drop Coffee, Stockholm

Photo: Agence les Conteurs

Different types of Swedish cafés to try

The Swedish café culture of today is quite refined, something you should take advantage of next time you visit this land of coffee and cake devotees.

Traditional patisseries

A must for the fika lover. You’ll find traditional Swedish cafés (‘konditorier’) in most Swedish towns, many of which feature original interiors from decades past. And they take cake-making seriously – something you’ll realise from the first nibble. Swedish classics such as princess cake, ‘mazarin’ (small almond tarts covered with thin icing) and vanilla hearts are much-loved staples.

Coffee bars

Swedes love their strong brew and are the second largest consumers of coffee in the world, beaten only by the Finns. In short, the Swedish coffee culture is flourishing and the palate searching for robust blends, complex flavours and sustainably sourced beans is never-ending. Over the last decades, a number of craft coffee roasters have surfaced to satisfy these hard-to-impress Swedes.

Artisan bakeries

Swedes love their bread almost as much as their coffee, and artisan bakeries making bread and sweet rolls from locally sourced, organic ingredients have carved a niche for themselves. These bakeries often offer a few seats so you can enjoy their freshly baked bread for breakfast, lunch and fika on the spot. How about a classic prawn sandwich, a heated sourdough bread filled with hearty ingredients or a simple yet delicious cheese sandwich?

Café chains

While Starbucks never really took off in Sweden, there are several Swedish café chains spread over the country. Perfect if you’re after a quick coffee or a central location to rest your feet over a fika and free wifi after a shopping spree. Espresso House was founded in Lund in southern Sweden and is the largest café chain in the Nordic countries. Their sticky chocolate cake is still made from the recipe of one of the founder’s grandmothers. Waynes is Sweden’s first coffee chain, which opened in Stockholm with the ambition to infuse the Swedish fika tradition with Italian coffee and American pastries. Waynes was the first coffee shop to serve Caffe Latte in Sweden. Bröd & Salt is a younger café chain rapidly expanding in Stockholm. Their bread, cookies and buns can be found in stores and hotels all over the city, and everything is baked in the main bakery in Stockholm’s Old Town.

Someone picking pastries from a buffet table of sweets.


A Swedish 'fika' with a variety sweets. Fika is however much more than having a coffee and a bite to eat - it is an important social event, where you get the opportunity to recharge and share a moment with friends, or just yourself.

Photo: Tina Stafrén/

Where to find the best Swedish cafés?

Bookmark our local café guides, listing everything from traditional patisseries to hip hangouts in Sweden’s largest cities.

Alingsås – The Capital of Fika

If you fancy trying as many Swedish cafés as possible within a tight radius, head to Alingsås, the so-called “Capital of Fika”. In this cosy town – located in West Sweden, a 45-minute train ride northeast of Gothenburg – there are some 30 cafés to discover. Café Viola is one example. Opened in 1899, it’s the oldest café in town. You’ll have to try its famous meatball sandwich; it’s as Swedish as it gets. Or discover several of the town’s most popular fika spots on a caffeine-fuelled Fika Tour.