American travelers in Sweden and elsewhere in Scandinavia will find that they enjoy a unique right that we don’t have here in the States: the Allemansrätten, or “the everyman’s right.” Simply put, this is the right to roam, and it is the foundation of many opportunities for outdoor fun to which Swedes and tourists have access. This is just another reason visiting Sweden is on my bucket list!
The right to roam is protected by the Swedish constitution, and allows travelers a reasonable degree of access to undeveloped land throughout the country, regardless of whether it is privately owned. In general, this means that someone is entitled to basic, temporary use of any land that is not cultivated, not too close to a residential building, or not restricted in some way for ecological or safety reasons. This right allows for a range of activities, including crossing a property, navigating rivers and streams, single-night camping, and limited foraging.
Because of this right, the Swedish people have established a strong outdoor culture, from sunbathing and picnicking in the summertime, to cross-country skiing in the frigid winter. For example, it is easy to take out a canoe and paddle anywhere among the picturesque islands on which the capital city, Stockholm, is built. Likewise, swimming in the clean waters off the piers in Stockholm is permitted, as it also is from any of the country’s beaches and sea cliffs.
Anglers can fish with hook-and-line on practically any natural waterway in Sweden, even in the heart of the nation’s cities and towns. Hiking enthusiasts enjoy hundreds of miles of trails that wind through Sweden’s countless acres of forests and fjords.
Of course, the ‘right to roam’ is not a license to just do whatever you want! It should go without saying that visitors are expected – and legally required – to be respectful of the land and its owners, to pack out litter, and to avoid damaging the area. There are also a number of locales where certain activities may be expressly forbidden: building campfires in drought areas, or picking endangered wildflowers anywhere, for example.
A traveler to Sweden can have a truly amazing outdoor experience owing to the Allemansrätten. The trip will be all the better for visitors who take the time to understand the limits of this right to roam, and respect the equally valid rights of property owners.