10 Best Places to Live in Sweden for Expats

USNews ranks Sweden the 9th Best Country in the world, with high marks being received for its quality of life, handling of social issues, and its business environment. The country’s 10.2 million people enjoy free access to high-quality education, health care, and more.

Sweden is also at the top of the list for expats looking to make a life in a new country. Expats enjoy the high standard of living, work-life-balance, and flexible work culture. It is also convenient that the Swedes are second best in the world at speaking English as a second language.

The following article provides the Top 10 cities in Sweden that a future expat should consider when deciding where to move in this sometimes dark and frozen land.

A note about taxes: As we compare salaries below, please keep in mind that Sweden has the highest taxes in the world, with a tax rate reaching 57% for some people. These taxes are going to make after-tax salaries look very low when compared to America. But in return for these high taxes, the Swedes get retirement pensions, sick leave, health care, parental leave, childcare, eldercare, and much more. Expats must decide if the unique Swedish social/economic model is a good fit and worth the huge tax burden.

1. Stockholm

An aerial view of Stockholm. Many brightly colored and oddly shaped buildings surrounded by water.

When in doubt, the country’s capital, located on the east coast with 1.5 million people, is a great place for an expat to land and start a new life. Stockholm is a diverse city where the majority of the population has a foreign background. The city has all of the recreation, culture, and arts one would expect from a major city, with a world-class public transportation system to move you around. Stockholm is one of the cleanest cities in the world, and has abundant parkland inside and surrounding the city. Thanks to a friendly business climate and well-educated workforce, Stockholm is home to several major tech companies and is becoming the “Silicone Valley of Europe”. 

Rental prices in Stockholm are similar to that found in Chicago, averaging $1,600 per month. Costs for food, utilities, and other common goods average out to costs similar to Chicago. Average after-tax salaries in Stockholm are $3,500 per month, well below the Chicago average of $5,200. 

2. Gothenburg

Located on the west coast with 600K residents, Gothenburg is a diverse city where the majority of the population has a foreign background. The city is a major transportation hub for goods, having the largest port in Scandinavia. It has a blue-collar history, with Volvo being the largest employer, though the white-collar industry in tech and finance continues to grow. Gothenburg offers a recreation, culture, and arts lifestyle similar to Stockholm.

Rental prices in Gothenburg ($1100) are more affordable than rents in Chicago ($1600). Costs for food, utilities, and other common goods average out to costs similar to Chicago. Average after-tax salaries in Gothenburg are $3,300 per month, well below the Chicago average of $5,200, and slightly under Stockholm salaries.

3. Malmo

Located on the southwestern coast, Malmo is Sweden’s third-largest city with 316K residents. Malmo is about 400 miles south of Stockholm, giving it warmer temperatures and less snow cover. The city’s shipping industry has dramatically shrunk over the last 50 years, but the city still remains an important transportation connection to Copenhagen, Norway, which can be reached by crossing a relatively new 10-mile bridge/tunnel. 

The population of Malmo skews younger, with most residents being below 35 years old. There is a definite hipster scene. Blue-collar transportation and construction jobs remain common, but the city has a growing tech industry. It is estimated that 7 new companies are started every day in the city. Malmo is also made famous by being the headquarters of IKEA. Malmo offers a recreation, culture, and arts lifestyle similar to Gothenburg and Stockholm.

Rental prices in Malmo ($900) are more affordable than rents in Chicago ($1600). Costs for food, utilities, and other common goods average out to costs similar to Chicago. Average after-tax salaries in Malmo are $2,700 per month, well below the Chicago average of $5,200. 

4. Uppsala

An aerial photo of a large cathedral in Uppsala. A tall, red brick church with gothic features, surrounded by green trees

Uppsala, with 160K residents, is located just 45 miles north of Stockholm. Uppsala is the seat of the Church of Sweden, and home to the oldest university in Scandinavia, Uppsala University, founded in 1477. The historic quarter of the city lies on its west side, where the church, university, and museums reside. The east side of town is the more modern residential and commercial area of the city. 

The city is a leader in biotech, and many residents take the 40-minute train ride to work in Stockholm. 

Rental prices in Uppsala ($900) are more affordable than rents in Chicago ($1600). Having rental prices half of those in Stockholm explains why so many Uppsala are eager to take the train into the capital. Costs for food, utilities, and other common goods average out to costs similar to Chicago. Average after-tax salaries in Uppsala are $3,000 per month, well below the Chicago average of $5,200. 

5. Vasteras

Vasteras, with 128K residents, is located about 60 miles to the west of Stockholm. It is located towards the geographic center of Sweden and connects to the Baltic Sea via Lake Malaran. This is one of the oldest cities in Sweden, first established as a Viking settlement. In the old section of town, you can see Viking burial mounds, ancient wells, and an old church.

Vasteras is primarily an industrial city with companies that produce parts for high-voltage power grids and lithium-ion batteries. The city also produces nuclear fuel and associated parts for nuclear power plants. Sweden’s largest heat/power plant is located in Vasteras.

Rental prices in Vasteras ($1100) are more affordable than rents in Chicago ($1600). Costs for food, utilities, and other common goods average out to costs similar to Chicago. Average after-tax salaries in Vasteras are $3,500 per month, well below the Chicago average of $5,200, but similar to Stockholm salaries.

6. Orebro

Orebro, with 120K residents, is located about 60 miles further west of Vasteras, in the geographic center of Sweden, connecting to the Baltic Sea via Hjälmaren Lake and the Svartan River. Its central location has made the city a popular hub for transportation and shipping companies, and the repair of transportation equipment. 

Orebro has a fairly diverse economy with top employers in real estate, livestock processing, truck parts, banking, fashion, and more. Orebro is also known as “Robot Valley” as it is the home to some world-leading robotic companies. 

Rental prices in Orebro ($675) are more affordable than rents in Chicago ($1600). Costs for food, utilities, and other common goods average out to costs similar to Chicago. Average after-tax salaries in Orebro are $3,100 per month, well below the Chicago average of $5,200, but similar to Uppsala salaries. The income-to-rent ratio of Orebro is just 21% (meaning 21% of monthly salary goes to rent).

7. Linkoping

Linkoping, with 111K residents, is located 125 miles southwest of Stockholm, towards the center of Sweden. Linkoping is home to the famous Church of Sweden cathedral, Domkyrka. Top employers of the area include Saab airplanes, software companies, medical technology companies, Motorola, Ericsson, and Toyota. The city offers a recreation, culture, and arts lifestyle similar to Stockholm.

Rental prices in Linkoping ($625) are much more affordable than rents in Chicago ($1600), and the lowest so far on this list. Costs for food, utilities, and other common goods average out to costs similar to Chicago. Average after-tax salaries in Linkoping are $3,100 per month, well below the Chicago average of $5,200, but similar to Uppsala and Orebro salaries. The income-to-rent ratio of 20% (meaning 20% of monthly salary goes to rent) is the best so far on this list

8. Helsingborg

An aerial view of the City Hall building in Helsingborg. A tall building made of red bricks. In the front are the tops of neighboring buildings, and in the back is a large body of water.

Helsingborg, with 110K residents, is located in the southwest corner of Sweden, just 40 miles north of Malmo. It is one of the oldest cities in Sweden, dating back to at least 1085. Today, the city is a blend of modern commercial buildings and historic structures, including a 600-year old medieval fortress that sits in the center of the city. Helsingborg’s main pedestrian shopping street, called Kullagatan, was the first pedestrian shopping street in all of Sweden.

Helsingborg sits just 2.5 miles from the coast of Denmark and ferries run 24-hours a day to move people and goods between the 2 countries. Major corporations in this city are IKEA, Nicorette chewing gum, Ramlösa mineral water, Spectronic phones, Zoegas coffee, and the online clothes retailed Tailor Store. 

Rental prices in Helsingborg ($885) are much more affordable than rents in Chicago ($1600). Costs for food, utilities, and other common goods average out to costs similar to Chicago. Average after-tax salaries in Helsingborg are $3,100 per month, well below the Chicago average of $5,200, but similar to Linkoping, Uppsala, and Orebro salaries. 

9. Eskilstuna

Eskilstuna, with 107K residents, is located 70 miles west of Stockholm, across the lake from Vasteras. This city is home to a number of Finnish-speaking Swedes.

The city used to be Sweden’s largest steel producer during the Industrial Revolution. Today, it is still an important industrial city. Key companies include Volvo heavy construction equipment, Assa locks and keys, and Outokumpu stainless steel manufacturer.  The city is also home to one of the largest hospitals in the region which employs about 3000 people.

Rental prices in Eskilstuna ($700) are much more affordable than rents in Chicago ($1600). Costs for food, utilities, and other common goods average out to costs similar to Chicago. Average after-tax salaries in Eskilstuna are $3,200 per month, well below the Chicago average of $5,200, but similar to other cities listed above. 

10. Jonkoping

Jonkoping, with 97K residents, is located 80 miles south of Linkoping, on the southern tip of Lake Vattern. The city is placed near the geographic center of Sweden, at a natural crossroads for various trade routes by land and water. Unfortunately, the location has been so prized in history that enemy forces destroyed it several times; but the town always rebuilt.

Today, Jonkoping continues to be a major logistical center of Nordic trade, with several major corporations having central warehouses in the city (Elkjøp, IKEA, Electrolux, and Husqvarna). The city also has a busy convention center that holds the largest multiplayer eSports event in the world, as well as the largest convention dedicated to industrial forestry. 

Rental prices in Jonkoping ($850) are much more affordable than rents in Chicago ($1600). Costs for food, utilities, and other common goods average out to costs similar to Chicago. Average after-tax salaries in Jonkoping are $3,100 per month, well below the Chicago average of $5,200, but similar to other cities listed above. 

Is it Expensive to Live in Sweden?

A photo of the Swedish flag, blue with a yellow cross, hanging from a balcony overlooking the water. A body of water and a white ship ca be seen behind the flag.

Sweden has the highest taxes in the world, with a tax rate reaching 57% for some people. In return for these high taxes, the Swedes get retirement pensions, sick leave, health care, parental leave, childcare, eldercare, and much more. Expats will need to do some cost/benefit analysis on whether their personal situation makes it worth paying such high taxes.

The cost of renting in a Swedish city is typically less than the rent charged in a comparable American city. However, after taxes take a big chunk of the Swedish salary, you can expect Swedish rent to consume upward of 50% of after-tax take-home pay. That may make rent feel expensive.

Costs for food, utilities, and other common goods average out to costs similar to that found in America. Some items will be really cheap in Sweden (e.g. child care, heat, utilities, etc) while some items will be much more expensive (e.g. gas, clothes, taxis, milk, etc). Again, you will be paying for these costs on a much smaller Swedish salary.

Where is the Safest Place to Live in Sweden?

According to government reports, the areas with the lowest crime rates in Sweden are:

  • Habro, which is just north of Jonkoping (#10). 
  • Ockero, just west of Gothenburg (#2)
  • Salem, on the south edge of Stockholm (#1)
  • Lomma, just north of Malmo (#3)
  • Bollebygd, to the east of Gothenburg (#2)

Where do Most Foreigners Live in Sweden?

Sweden is very welcoming to refugees from war-torn areas, and as a member of the EU, folks from other countries in Europe can easily immigrate to Sweden. An estimated 26% of Sweden’s population has a foreign background. The largest populations of foreign-born residents come from Finland, Iraq, formerly Yugoslavian countries, Poland, Iran, and Syria. These immigrants are mostly concentrated in the urban areas of Svealand and Götaland. Foreign-born residents outnumber native Swedes in the following municipalities: Botkyrka (58.6%) Södertälje (53.0%) and Haparanda (51.7%)

What are the Richest Cities in Sweden?

Nearly all of the top wealthy areas in Sweden are located on the outskirts of Stockholm.

The most affluent area of Sweden is the Danderyd Municipality, located just north of Stockholm. The average net wealth in Danderyd is $400K per capita, driven mostly by the fact housing prices are so high in that area. Danderyd has the highest median income ($47K) and the highest rate of highly educated residents (57%).

Related: 25 Pros and Cons of Living in Sweden