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Picking Mushroom
Two-thirds of Sweden is covered in forest, making it a great destination for hikers who want to explore the serenity and varied landscape of the north. Autumn is a good season for hiking as there is a lot of mushroom and berries to pick. The most popular mushroom is chanterelle, also called "nature's gold".
Photo credit: Lindsten & Nilsson/

The Right of Public Access – Swedish freedom to roam

"The Right of Public Access", or 'Allemansrätten' as we call it, gives everyone the freedom to roam and explore the beauty of Sweden. A unique right where the only thing you have to pay, is respect for nature and the animals living there.

What is the Right of Public Access?

The Right of Public Access is a principle, protected by the law, that gives all people in Sweden the freedom to roam free in nature. Sleep on mountaintops, by the lakes, in quiet forests or beautiful meadows. Take the kayak out for a spin or experience the wildlife firsthand. Pick berries, mushrooms and flowers from the ground – all completely free of charge. The only thing you have to pay, is respect for nature and the animals living there.

The freedom to roam in Sweden means that you have the right to walk, cycle, ride, ski and camp on any land with the exception of private gardens, near a dwelling house or land under cultivation. We call it 'Allemansrätten'. Literally, it translates to "The all mans right" which means that everyone has the right to roam in the Swedish nature.

The Right of Public Access is a unique right, but with this right comes responsibilities – to take care of nature and wildlife and to show consideration for landowners and for other people enjoying the countryside.

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Picking mushrooms, Småland

There are plenty of delicious berries and mushrooms in Sweden in the autumn, which you are free to pick. 'Allemansrätten', or The Right of Public Access, allows anyone to roam freely in Swedish nature, as long as you cause no harm or disturbance.

Photo: Alexander Hall/

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Picking mushrooms, Småland

Photo: Alexander Hall/

Chanterelles in a basket

Berries in the forest, Sarek

Photo: Gösta Reiland/

Picking blueberries, West Sweden

Photo: Clive Tompsett/

Picking wild mushrooms and berries in Sweden

One of the most thrilling aspects of Sweden’s Right of Public Access is that the delicious treasures of nature are free for all to feast on. Mushrooms, blueberries and lingonberries thrive in Swedish forests, and you’ll even find nuts in some regions. Picking mushrooms is hands down one of the top Swedish leisure activities. It's a convenient and rewarding way to experience the woods in the fall. It challenges your senses and your patience. Lastly, to cook and eat what you have gathered is an undeniable pleasure. The absolute freedom to do all this is a matter of course.

Wild berries and mushrooms belong to the landowner, but the landowner may not prevent people from picking them if they grow on land where the Right of Public Access applies. When it comes to truffles, however, there is some ambiguity. According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, you need to ask for permission from the landowner to pick truffles, as they usually need to be dug up. Such picking is not part of the Right of Public Access.

Remember that there are some poisonous mushrooms and berries in Sweden, so it's a good idea to hire an experienced guide for your mushroom and berry hunt. Before setting off with your basket in hand, bear in mind that no picking of mushrooms, berries, flowers and nuts (or anything else) is allowed in national parks or nature reserves.

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Wilderness camping, Värmland

Most of Sweden’s open space remains essentially untouched, and the Right of Public Access means that people are free to roam the forests, camp, fish and pick berries and mushrooms. Spending time in nature is an essential part of the Swedish lifestyle.

Photo: Clive Tompsett/

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Wilderness camping, Värmland

Photo: Clive Tompsett/

Camping, Värmland

Photo: Clive Tompsett/

Cooking over open fire, Swedish forest

Photo: August Dellert

Campfire, Värmland

Photo: Clive Tompsett/

Camping in the Swedish wilderness 

Fancy waking up to birdsong in the unspoilt Swedish wilderness? Take advantage of the freedom to roam and pitch up a tent for a night or two. Providing you don’t disturb the landowner or cause damage to nature, 'Allemansrätten' is allowing you to freely choose your wild camping spot. Please remember to take every scrap of litter with you, to help preserve the natural wonderland of Sweden.

For a makeshift outdoor toilet, find a spot far from any trails or campsites, and dig it into the ground. And make sure you don’t leave any paper behind. Make a habit of carrying plastic bags and a small spade, which will enable you to bury any evidence.

Points to bear in mind before pitching up your tent: 

  • Make sure your wild campsite in question is not near houses, part of farmland or used for grazing.
  • Large groups must obtain the landowner’s permission.
  • Tents are generally not allowed in sports grounds, national parks or nature reserves – but each municipality has its own rules – and indeed exceptions. You’ll find information on the municipalities' websites, on noticeboards or at the local tourist offices.

Fire bans in Sweden and how to find out about them

'Allemansrätten' states that making fires is allowed in the Swedish countryside, but only when conditions are safe. It's recommended to use existing barbecue areas and fireplaces, which can be found in forests, by lakes and along hiking trails. They are safer than a campfire lit directly on the ground.

Campfires make some landowners nervous – and understandably so. Many forest fires are unintentionally caused by campfires every year, and with dire consequences. Sweden has suffered significant fires in recent years due to the unusually dry, hot summers Scandinavia has experienced.

Fire bans are issued frequently in Sweden during spring, summer and autumn to prevent forest fires. County administrative boards and the fire brigade are behind these bans, and it’s up to you to find out when and where these are in force.

So how can you go about this? Most municipalities provide information relating to current fire risk levels. You’ll find this information on the municipalities websites or at the local tourist office. On the website (crisis information), run by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, you can see a map of which municipalities, if any, that have a temporary fire ban at the moment.

A fire ban doesn't normally apply to residential areas where houses are adjacent to each other. This means that you can barbecue in your own garden, in courtyards and the yards of apartment blocks. If you are staying at a nature campsite, or live in a remote forest area, you need to find out what the rules are for that particular area.

It’s important to remember that no fires may be lit in the open during a fire ban –this includes the use of purpose-built fireplaces.

Lighting a fire – dos and don’ts:

  • The safest option is to use an existing campfire pit. You can also make a new one – just make sure to keep it small and well-contained.
  • Choose a spot where your campfire runs no risk of spreading or causing damage to the vegetation or ground. Avoid moss, peat bogs and humus-rich forest soils – fire is more likely to spread on these types of soils. And, just as destructive, fire can smoulder underground and flare up at a later stage.
  • Fires must not be lit on, or next to, a rock – the heat will cause the rock to crack.
  • As for finding small twigs and kindling, The Right of Public Access allows you to collect fallen twigs and pinecones – but it’s not permitted to remove these from living trees. Neither should you cut any shrubs or carve off the bark. It’s also forbidden to use fallen trees as firewood.
  • Special rules apply in national parks and nature reserves, where there may be a total ban on fires. In other cases, purpose-made fireplaces might be provided. Look out for rules in English posted on noticeboards in the area.
  • Always keep your fire under close control and supervise it carefully! Be sure to fully put your fire out before leaving the premises. It's recommended to stay put at least ten minutes after you have extinguished the fire.
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Swimming in West Sweden

The Right of Public Access also applies to water, so you're free to enjoy a swim in the Swedish lakes and the sea.

Photo: Little Gypsy

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Swimming in West Sweden

Photo: Little Gypsy

Sailing, Swedish archipelago

Photo: Simon Paulin/

Red cabin in Sweden

Photo: Doris Beling/Folio/

Take a dip or set sail with freedom to roam

Sweden is studded with beautiful, clean, lakes from north to south. And since the Right of Public Access applies to land and water alike, you’re free to enjoy a swim, a kayaking trip or set sail almost anywhere – including the spectacular Swedish archipelagos. Fancy staying a night or two on a boat? Feel free to do so. Just like on land, the Right of public access exclusions apply. Please remember to hold on tight to everything you bring to the beach, the jetty or on the boat, to ensure that no rubbish ends up in lakes or the sea.

Things to bear in mind before entering Swedish waters:

  • You may moor a boat temporarily or enjoy a swim off a jetty, providing it doesn’t adjoin the grounds of a house. 
  • Boating and swimming in bird sanctuaries and nature reserves is often prohibited. 
  • Jet-skis are only permitted in public navigation channels and designated areas. 

Does the Right of Public Access apply to fishing?

Hunting and fishing in Sweden are not part of the Right of Public Access. However, the right to roam freely is still important in this context, as it allows access to hunting grounds and fishing grounds. This means that you can be temporarily on someone else's land, under the motto of the law: Don't disturb and don't destroy. Fishing enthusiasts can be happy though, because there are exceptions. Along the coasts and in Sweden's five largest lakes you can fish freely with a fishing rod and other hand tools. The five lakes included in 'Allemansrätten' are Vänern, Vättern, Mälaren, Hjälmaren and Storsjön.

If you want to fish in other Swedish lakes, rivers or streams, you need a fishing licence or permission from the fishing rights holder. Information on where to buy a fishing licence can usually be found at local tourist offices or on municipal websites. Please note that there are individual rules for crayfish fishing. The Swedish Agency of Marine and Water Management is responsible for questions regarding fishing in Sweden and for providing information on the fishing rules.

Freedom to roam near houses – how near is too near?

The freedom to roam in Sweden permits you to hike, jog, cycle, kayak, swim, ski, ride a horse and even pitch a tent pretty much anywhere. However, some rules must be observed: roaming freely in the vicinity of a house – be it a permanent dwelling or a summer cottage – is not included in the Right of Public Access.

The regulation known as 'hemfridszonen' which translates roughly into English as “peace-at-home-zone” is somewhat vague. No precise distance has been directed as to how far from a house one must keep. Common sense will usually suffice when determining how near a house you can go without intruding on its residents. A good rule of thumb is that you should not linger near a property, particularly if it is obviously being used.

Landowners are allowed to put up signs to prevent visitors from entering areas where the Right of Public Access clearly does not apply. These areas are protected under the provisions of the Swedish Penal Code and include the grounds of houses, cultivated land and easily damaged ground. But without signs in place, it can be tricky to establish exactly how far one is allowed to venture.

Five tips on how to determine what distance to keep: 

  • In rural settings, let natural boundaries be your guide – a ditch, a field-edge or forest fringe for example. Other indicators might include greenhouses, sheds or private roads. However, you are allowed to walk, cycle and ride along private roads unless they lead directly to a house.
  • In cases where vegetation is dense, or the topography is up and down, you run a smaller risk of disturbing residents. By contrast, if a house is set within flat terrain with little vegetation surrounding it, the boundary to prevent disturbance will be greater.
  • In a residential area, the zone is likely to be tighter, perhaps a few metres from a house and its surrounding garden. In this case, a hedge, fence or cycle lane can indicate where the zone begins. 
  • One should always show consideration near houses, and therefore not remain for too long on a path or trail within eyeshot of a residential dwelling.
  • If you fancy pitching a tent, mooring a boat or stopping for an al fresco 'fika' (Swedish for a coffee and cake) you may need to keep more of a distance than if you’re simply passing by. As always, the golden rule of freedom to roam applies – don't disturb and don't destroy.
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Driving in Sweden

Driving on bare ground with any form of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) is prohibited in Sweden to protect wildlife and safeguard nature.

Photo: Heléne Grynfarb/

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Driving in Sweden

Photo: Heléne Grynfarb/

Mountain bike in Lofsdalen, Jämtland

Photo: Martin Olson

Bike ride through oilseed rape fields, Southern Sweden

Photo: Simon Paulin/

Off-road driving in Sweden

Given the vast expanse of countryside Sweden has to offer, it might be tempting to opt for a motor-driven vehicle, but please be aware that driving on bare ground with any form of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) is prohibited. This applies to all motor-propelled vehicles, including mopeds, 4WDs, camper vans and even electric bicycles. 

The ban on caravans, ATVs and the like, on all types of countryside trails – and indeed open terrain in general – has been implemented to protect wildlife, safeguard nature and ensure that the Swedish countryside remains the peaceful haven that it is.

There are a few exceptions to the rule however, including off-road driving directly associated with agriculture or forestry, engineering work for public utilities and work related to reindeer herding. 

Roam freely on a bike in the Swedish countryside 

Pedal through the Swedish wilderness on your bike – cycling, including mountain biking, is part of the Right of Public Access. Unless the local municipality or police have issued regulations with a “No cycling” road sign, there’s no ban on cycling along Sweden’s well-established network of jogging and hiking trails. But do bear in mind that the vast majority of trails were originally established as footpaths for walkers, well before the current popularity of mountain-biking. Therefore, cyclists should limit their speed accordingly, and give way to any joggers or walkers.

Show the same respect when cycling on paths used for trail riding, as a horse taken by surprise can result in dire accidents. If you are on a trail that is frequently used for horse riding, you’ll usually find a sign to indicate this. 

A few tips for off-road cyclists:

  • You may cycle cross-country along private roads and countryside trails, but never ride across the grounds of a house, as this would disturb the residents. 
  • Make sure not to pedal across ground that is sensitive, soft and easily damaged, such as lichen and moss-covered soil. 
  • Generally, avoid unmade paths, particularly during spring and autumn when the ground tends to be wet. 
  • Do not cycle across cultivated land, such as gardens, farmed fields or plant nurseries. 
  • Special rules for cyclists often apply in national parks and nature reserves. Cycling is in some cases banned altogether on these types of sites or confined to certain trails.
Beech forest
A beech forest is a serene setting for hiking, or picking mushroom or berries in autumn. Swedish forests are free for anyone to explore, as Allemansrätten allows everyone to roam freely in Swedish nature.
Photo: Gösta Reiland/

The Right of Public Access in practice

When asked about the origins of 'Allemansrätten' most Swedes would probably mumble something about medieval customs. Historical sources tell us this is incorrect.

Today, the amount of text in the Swedish constitution that concerns itself with this law is modest. One concise sentence under property law is all: ”Everyone shall have access to nature according to the everyman's right, independent of what is prescribed above.”

The Right of Public Access is somewhat more detailed in its own section of the law. Breaking it down, here is how it goes:

  • You are allowed to access any land, except private residences, the immediate vicinity (70 metres) of a dwelling house and cultivated land.
  • You can put up a tent.
  • You are allowed to collect mushrooms, berries and flowers (as long as they are not protected species)
  • Driving on private roads is allowed unless there’s a sign saying otherwise.
  • Swimming in lakes is allowed.
  • You can access any beach as long as you stay away from private residences.
  • You are allowed to catch fish in the five big lakes and along the entire coastline.

Source: The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket).
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