Is Alcohol illegal in Sweden?

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In Sweden, the sale and consumption of alcohol are regulated by the government. Alcohol is not illegal, but there are specific laws and regulations in place that control its distribution and sale. These regulations are designed to minimize alcohol-related harm to individuals and society.

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Systembolaget: The Swedish Alcohol Retail Monopoly

The most distinct feature of alcohol regulation in Sweden is the government-owned chain of liquor stores called Systembolaget. Established in 1955, Systembolaget holds an exclusive retail monopoly for selling alcoholic beverages that contain more than 3.5% alcohol by volume. The purpose of this monopoly is to reduce alcohol consumption without banning it outright.

Purchasing Alcohol in Sweden


  • Age Restriction: The minimum age to purchase alcohol at Systembolaget is 20 years old.
  • Product Selection: Systembolaget offers a wide range of alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, spirits, and liqueurs.
  • Store Hours: The hours are limited compared to standard retail stores, with most closing around 7 PM on weekdays and 3 PM on Saturdays. They are closed on Sundays and public holidays.
  • Identification: Valid identification is required for purchase, and the stores have a policy to ask for ID from anyone who looks under 25 years old.

Bars and Restaurants

  • Age Restriction: The minimum age to purchase alcohol in bars and restaurants is 18 years old.
  • Serving Hours: Establishments serving alcohol have specific licensed hours, usually until 1 or 2 AM.
  • Licensing: Bars and restaurants must obtain a serving license from the local municipality.

Alcohol in Grocery Stores

Grocery stores are allowed to sell light beers and ciders with an alcohol content up to 3.5% (known as “folköl” in Swedish). The minimum age for purchasing these beverages is 18 years old.

Import and Travel with Alcohol

Individuals are allowed to bring a limited quantity of alcohol into Sweden from other countries without incurring customs duty, provided they transport it themselves and it is for personal use or as a gift.

Penalties for Violation

Violating alcohol laws in Sweden can result in fines or imprisonment. Selling alcohol without a permit or to minors is taken very seriously and is subject to legal penalties.

While alcohol is legal in Sweden, the government maintains strict control over its sale through Systembolaget and other regulations. These rules aim to balance the availability of alcohol with public health and safety concerns. As such, Sweden’s approach to alcohol sales is often cited in discussions about alcohol policy and regulation in other countries.


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