Buying alcohol in Sweden

Posted in Something Swedish by

The comment that is most often given when I say that I am going to Sweden (or by extension Scandinavia) is “Gosh, isn’t Sweden very expensive?” My answer is often: “Well, actually it isn’t more expensive then other West European countries. Sometimes you indeed pay a bit more but I think you also get more value for money. If you like to drink a glass of wine, well, that’s when Sweden gets expensive as you will pay around 10 euros * for a glass.

* I haven’t seen prices less than 70 crowns for a glass of wine.

Buying alcohol in Sweden - systembolaget

How about alcohol in Sweden

You can buy drinks with an alcohol percentage of less than 3.5% in the supermarket. All alcoholic drinks with a higher percentage can only be purchased in the Systembolaget. These state stores have had a monopoly on alcohol sales of drinks + 3.5%, wines and spirits since 1955. You will find a Systembolaget in every city (or as the locals call it: Systemet) and where there is no local Systembolaget, you can often place an order in the local supermarket that will be delivered a few days later.

The prices for alcohol in Sweden are quite high. This is partly due to the high taxes on alcohol. A number of Swedes try to escape these high prices by firing alcoholic beverages themselves, but this is actually illegal. Others sometimes make the crossing to Denmark, Germany or the Baltic States to stock up.

To buy alcohol in Sweden you must be 20 years old and be able to proof your identity. You can drink alcohol in bars or in a restaurant from the age of 18. Bars may only serve alcohol if they also have food on the menu. Until 1977 they were only allowed to serve alcohol to customers who also bought something to eat. The staff must also always open the bottles on site so that the bottles cannot be taken home.

Systembolaget: practical

In the past you had to draw a number, wait your turn and then pass your order on to the employee. Nowadays you can just walk through Systembolaget and take your bottles out of the rack yourself, after which you pay at the cash register like at a normal supermarket.

The purpose of Systembolaget is to ensure that alcohol-related problems are minimized. The sale is not for profit and is in function of public health. Offers are excluded anyway.

The employees of Systembolaget have a great knowledge of their products and can, for example, perfectly advise on which wine fits a particular dish. They also have a huge range. You will even find an extensive selection of Belgian (special) beers.

The shops are generally open from Monday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm and on Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm. Just before closing time it is usually somewhat busier. Especially on Friday evening if everyone wants to make their purchases for the weekend.

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