This is a repeat of one of my earliest (and most popular!) blog articles...
Purchasing alcoholic beverages at a store in Sweden isn't a simple matter as in many other countries. Here in Sweden we have a state-run chain of liquor stores called Systembolaget. These are the only retail stores allowed to sell alcohol (more than 3.5% volume)! There are no privately owned liquor stores... nor do grocery stores sell wine or hard alcohol. This does not include Duty Free shops at airports and such. There are quite a few Systembolagets spread throughout the country (25 in downtown Stockholm alone- not including suburbs) so chances are you will not have to go far to find the nearest location... especially when visiting a larger town or city. One great aspect of Systembolaget is that they have a wide selection of products as well as very knowledgable staff who are only too happy to help you choose the perfect wine or beer for the occasion.
Interior of the Drottninggatan store. Photo by Magnus Skoglöf.
Problems, however, arise often due to their opening hours... especially for unaware visitors. The stores generally close somewhere around 6 or 7pm on weekdays, depending on store and day. On Saturdays they close even earlier... around 2 or 3pm depending on the store. All Systembolaget are closed, without exceptions, on Sundays and holidays! So you need to keep this in mind if you plan on purchasing wine or hard alcohol while visiting Stockholm. For example, don't wait until the last minute to pick up a bottle of wine if you are invited to a friend's house for dinner. Keep also in mind that while the drinking age in bars & restaurants in Sweden is 18, you have to be 20 years old to purchase alcohol at Systembolaget. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, then the closest Systembolaget is on Rosendalsgatan 7... just a 5-7 minute walk from the hotel. If you find Sweden's relationship to alcohol fascinating then I can heartily recommend a visit to the interesting Museum of Spirits!