The Kingdom of Sweden is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden has land borders with Norway to the west and Finland to the northeast, and it is connected to Denmark by the Öresund Bridge in the south.
At 450,000 km² (174,000 sq mi), Sweden is the third largest country in the European Union. With a total population of over 9.2 million Sweden has a low population density of 20 people per km² (52 per square mile), but is much higher in southern half of the country. About 85% of the population live in urban areas. Sweden's capital is Stockholm, which is also the largest city in the country (population of 1.3 million in the urban area and with 2 million in the metropolitan area). The second and third largest cities are Gothenburg and Malmö.
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government and a highly developed economy. It ranks first in the world in The Economist's Democracy Index and 7th in the United Nation's Human Development Index. Sweden has been a member of the European Union since 1 January 1995.
Sweden emerged as an independent and unified country during the Middle Ages. It received a modern centralized administration beginning with King Gustav Vasa in the 16th century. In the 17th century the country expanded its territories to form the Swedish empire. Most of the conquered territories outside the Scandinavian Peninsula were lost during the 18th and 19th centuries. The eastern half of Sweden, present-day Finland, was lost to Russia in 1809. The last war in which Sweden was directly involved was in 1814, when Sweden by military means forced Norway into a personal union with Sweden, a union which lasted until 1905.
Since 1814, Sweden has been at peace, adopting a non-aligned foreign policy in peacetime and neutrality in wartime.
Situated in Northern Europe, Sweden lies west of the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Bothnia, providing a long coastline, and forms the eastern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula. To the west is the Scandinavian mountain chain (Skanderna), a range that separates Sweden from Norway.
Sweden is surrounded by Norway (west), Finland (northeast), the Skagerrak, Kattegat and Öresund straits (southwest) and the Baltic Sea (east). It has maritime borders with Denmark, Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, and it is also linked to Denmark (southwest) by the Öresund Bridge. At 449,964 km2 (173,732 sq mi), Sweden is the 55th largest country in the world. It is the 5th largest in Europe, and the largest in Northern Europe. The land area is slightly larger than the U.S. state of California, or equal to Uzbekistan with a population in 2008 of over 9.2 million people.
The lowest elevation in Sweden is in the bay of Lake Hammarsjön, near Kristianstad at -2.41 m (−7.91 ft) below sea level. The highest point is Kebnekaise at 2,111 m (6,926 ft) above sea level.
Sweden has 25 provinces or landskap (landscapes), based on culture, geography and history; Bohuslän, Blekinge, Dalarna, Dalsland, Gotland, Gästrikland, Halland, Hälsingland, Härjedalen, Jämtland, Lapland, Medelpad, Norrbotten, Närke, Skåne, Småland, Södermanland, Uppland, Värmland, Västmanland, Västerbotten, Västergötland, Ångermanland, Öland and Östergötland. While these provinces serve no political or administrative purpose, they play an important role for people's self-identification. The provinces are usually grouped together in three large lands, parts, the northern Norrland, the central Svealand and southern Götaland. The sparsely populated Norrland encompasses almost 60% of the country.
About 15% of Sweden lies north of the Arctic Circle. Southern Sweden is predominantly agricultural, with increasing forest coverage northward. The highest population density is in the Öresund region in southern Sweden, and in the valley of lake Mälaren near to Stockholm. Gotland and Öland are Sweden's largest islands; Vänern and Vättern are Sweden's largest lakes. The lake Vänern is the largest lake in Northern Europe and the third largest in all Europe, after Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega in Russia.
Most of Sweden has a temperate climate, despite its northern latitude, with four distinct seasons and mild temperatures throughout the year. The country can be divided into three types of climate; the southernmost part has an oceanic climate, the central part has a humid continental climate and the northernmost part has a subarctic climate. However, Sweden is much warmer and drier than other places at the similar latitude, and even somewhat further south, mainly because of the Gulf Stream. For example, central and southern Sweden has much warmer winters than many parts of Russia, Canada, and the northern United States. Because of its high northern latitude, the length of daylight varies greatly. North of the Arctic Circle, the sun never sets for part of each summer, and for part of the winter the sun never rises. The capital of Stockholm's daylight lasts for more than 18 hours in late June, but only around 6 hours in late December. Most of Sweden has between 1,600 to 2,000 hours of sunshine annually.
Temperatures vary greatly from north to south. Southern and central parts of the country have warm summers and cold winters, with average high temperatures of 20 to 25°C (68–77°F) and lows of 12 to 15°C (53–59°F) in the summer, and average temperatures of −4 to 2°C (25–36°F) in the winter, while the northern part of the country has shorter, cooler summers and longer, colder and snowier winters, with temperatures that often drop below freezing from September through May. Occasional heatwaves can occur a few times each year, and temperatures above 25°C (77°F) occur on many days during the summer, sometimes even in the north. It is possible during summertime for northern Sweden to have warmer weather then the middle or south of the country. Northern Sweden can experience warm, sunny weather with high pressure and temperatures in the range 25-30°C while some cities, such as Stockholm, Malmoe/Malmö and Göteborg have low pressure with temperatures in the range 15-20° with rain. Northern Scandinavia occasionally experiences high temperatures, with the record for the north being 37°C in a village called Norrbotten in Lappland, the northernmost province of Sweden. The highest temperature ever recorded in Sweden was 38°C (100.4°F) in Målilla in 1947, while the coldest temperature ever recorded was −52.6°C (−63.7°F) in Vuoggatjålme in 1966.
On average, most of Sweden receives between 500 and 800 mm (20 and 31 in) of precipitation each year, making it considerably drier than the global average. The southwestern part of the country receives more precipitation, between 1000 and 1200 mm (39 and 47 in), and some mountain areas in the north are estimated to receive up to 2000 mm (79 in). Snowfall mainly occurs from December through March in Southern Sweden, from November through April in central Sweden, and from October through May in Northern Sweden. Despite its northernly locations, southern and central Sweden tends to be virtually free of snow.