While in some ways, Sweden is a fairytale country - we have a king and queen, and the moose and wolves go as they please - one aspect of Sweden is unusual compared to much of the world: anyone can move in nature, almost anywhere. You can cross private land, pick berries, even make camp and a campfire.
Of course, it comes with responsibility too - you must not destroy anything, or kill anything (plants, trees or animals), and you must leave the land in the shape it was when you came. You must not disturb animals, or people's homes and gardens, and you can't damage agricultural land.
The origins of this are hidden in history, but the concept - allemansrätten - didn't get established until the 1940s. It was included in Swedish Law in 1994. The custom as such has been mentioned in writing as established since at least the year 1900, and may even have been around since medieval times. Other countries have similar customs, especially in Scandinavia and some other places in continental Europe.
So, what can you do – and not do?
As mentioned, you can cross almost any land (even military practice fields, unless they are actually practicing that day).
You can pitch your tent, and even make a campfire on privately owned land - but you must stay out of sight of people's homes - unless they give explicit permission - and you can only stay one night. You must leave no garbage, and if you made a campfire, ensure that there's no risk of it spreading, and no trace of it when you leave. You can pick fallen wood for fuel, but don't cut down trees. (Fresh wood doesn't burn well anyway, so that's rather pointless.)
You can pick berries, mushrooms1 and nuts, but restrict it to personal needs (or maybe just for a close relative or friend). Don't demolish the plants that grow the berries, but allow them to bear fruit in the coming years too. Pick some flowers if you like, unless they are listed as endangered.
You can swim in lakes and rivers, and use your boat, canoe or kayak too, but don't land where people live. You can ski and ice-skate, and the same rules apply.
You can ride your horse and bring your dog - but don't ride where the land could be damaged, and keep your dog on a leash when the animals have their young. Always leave the wildlife in peace - observe, but don't disturb. Certain areas can be closed off for public at times, eg when seals have their pups.
You can cross cattle enclosures, but if you open a gate, you are responsible for closing it too. And you are responsible for maintaining a safe distance - so don't hassle the bull, the goats or the sheep. You can't sue the farmer for any damage, since you are the fool if you let the animals get you. If the animals are hurt, you have the responsibility for compensating the farmer.
You can read about the rules in more detail at The Right of Public Access.
Hunting and Fishing
Hunting is not included within the Allemansrätt - you need to fulfill several criteria for that. You must have:
- A hunter licence: you must pass training and an exam to show that you have the required skills and knowledge to be a hunter.
- A weapon licence: and you can only get a licence for a hunting weapon from the police if you have obtained your hunter licence. There are rules on how to store and transport your weapon and ammunition, for example.
- Approval from the landowner: you can't just hunt anywhere, so ensure you have their consent.
- Paid a yearly hunting fee to the authorities.
Fishing is almost always restricted, so be careful to check before bringing your fishing gear, and apply in the correct place for a fishing licence. They are usually issued per day or weekly. You can get one from Fiskekort, or at least find links there to the waters you are interested in.