Travel

Why Sweden Is a Dream Destination for Dessert Fans

And, no, it's not because of red fish-shaped gummies
Traditional Swedish Desserts
Photo: Malcom P Chapman/Getty Images

With the average resident eating through a staggering 35 pounds of candy each year, it's no secret Sweden loves its sweets. And thanks to an abundance of eclectic confections and distinct desserts, the country is the perfect destination for any traveler looking to satisfy a sugar craving. Here, some of the must-try sweets to sample during your next Scandinavian escape.

Godis

In a country consistently ranking among the world's top 10 consumers of sweets per capita, you'll find a time-honored tradition known as lördagsgodis, which translates to "Saturday sweets" and is a custom cherished by young and old alike. On weekends, it's not rare to spot an entire family visiting the local "pick-n-mix" shop. These pay-per-weight candy stores put Willy Wonka to shame with rows upon rows of rainbow-colored confections, collectively referred to as godis. Don't miss sockerbitar (super-chewy marshmallows), zoo klubba (bubble gum-flavored lollipops) or Daim bars (crunchy almond toffee treats dipped in milk chocolate).

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Salmiak

Scandinavians have also developed an obsession with salmiak, a salted licorice candy flavored with ammonium chloride that gives it a pungent kick. Some say this love affair traces back to the 1800s, when licorice root was prescribed as a natural remedy to aid common ailments, such as psoriasis and dry coughs. Others believe it simply evokes the comforting salty flavors so closely tied to traditional Swedish cuisine. Whatever the truth may be, head to any Lakritsroten, a store where you can sample all things licorice, including gummies, toothpastes, teas and more.

 

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Kanelbullar

It's hard to find another pastry that can top authentic Swedish kanelbull. The long strip of dough is spiraled and bound by sticky cinnamon syrup, infused with saffron and vanilla, and topped with a sprinkling of pearl sugar. The cinnamon roll is adored so much there's actually an entire day devoted to the delicacy called Kanelbullens Dag, celebrated on October 4. One of the best places to score one is at Lisa's Café & Hembageri in trendy Södermalm, where they're baked fresh each morning.

 

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Semlor

Another iconic Swedish pastry is the semla, a petite cardamom cream bun that's filled with marzipan, whipped cream and almond paste, and then finished with a generous dusting of powdered sugar. The confection is rooted in the tradition of Fat Tuesday, when it was served as the final celebratory treat before the fasting period of Lent officially commenced. Today, the semla is more closely associated with Christmas: As the holiday approaches, bakery windows overflow with the pastry throughout the winter season. The leading authority on the country's best semlor is an anonymous blogger known as Semmelmannen—the semla man—who tirelessly tastes and rates as many of the pastries as humanly possible.

 

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Glogg & Aquavit

Anyone who prefers to drink down their dessert would be glad to sip on glogg. Another seasonal favorite during the frostbitten winter months, this Swedish variation of mulled wine typically combines a full-bodied red spiked with liquor (oftentimes vodka), almonds, raisins and spices such as cloves. For something a bit stronger, try a cocktail made with aquavit. The neutral liquor (and official spirit of Scandinavia) tastes of caraway but is often highlighted in sweet and sugary tipples. Sip one for yourself at the capital city's most beloved bars, such as Riche or Linje Tio by Tjoget.

Ian Centrone is a native New Yorker and freelance writer always on the hunt for his next adventure. Follow his travels at @iancentrone

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