Sweden is a country very extended in latitude, and it has different types of climates: subpolar in Lapland and the Scandinavian Mountains, Baltic semi-continental in the northern and central coasts (including the capital Stockholm), and almost oceanic in the southern coasts and islands.
Compared with Norway, the Swedish climate is usually less rainy and more continental, therefore colder in winter and warmer and sunnier in summer, because the westerlies, mild and humid winds which prevail throughout the year, are partially blocked by the Scandinavian Mountains, and are able to penetrate with some ease into the Swedish territory only in its southernmost part.
The Baltic Sea has a limited moderating capacity, because it is closed and not extended, especially in the north, where it narrows into the Gulf of Bothnia, which can freeze in winter.
Here are the average temperatures in the capital Stockholm.
Average temperatures - Stockholm
Min (°C)-4-4-2271114141061-2
Max (°C)0141016202321161052
Min (°F)252528364552575750433428
Max (°F)323439506168737061504136

Precipitation in Sweden is generally not abundant: it is lower than 500 millimetres (20 inches) per year in Lapland, also because of the cold that lasts for many months a year, it hovers around 500/600 mm (20/23.5 in) in much of the country, while it exceeds these values in the ridge of the Scandinavian Alps, where it can surpass even 1,500 mm (60 in) per year, and along the southwestern coast, exposed to Atlantic currents.
In Stockholm, about 530 mm (21 in) of rain or snow per year fall, so precipitation is not abundant, although it is well distributed throughout the year, and it experiences a minimum in spring, and a maximum in summer, as also happens in the rest of Sweden. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Stockholm
Prec. (mm)402530303055656050504545530

Winter is the season with the most noticeable contrasts, between the different parts of the country, but also between different meteorological situations: when Atlantic air masses move over the country, the temperature fluctuates around freezing (0 °C or 32 °F) in much of the country, at least in the plains, and may even exceed freezing in Stockholm and in southern regions, with rain replacing snow, but when the country is affected by Siberian air masses, the temperature drops across the country, to about -20 °C (-4 °F) in the southern regions, and as low as -40 °C (-40 °F) in the northern ones.
The average winter temperatures also vary greatly between different areas, in fact they are around 0 °C (32 °F) in January and February in the far south, -1.5 °C (29 °F) in Stockholm, -10 °C (14 °F) in the north-central part, and -15 °C (5 °F) in the far north. Consequently, winter's duration also varies depending on area, from three months in the far south, to nine months in Lapland. In Sweden, as in general in Nordic countries, winter is also characterized by the length of the days: in December the days are very short, and the sun doesn't even rise on winter solstice in the far north; February is typically colder than December, but the days begin to lengthen fairly clearly.
Here are the average daily sunshine hours in Stockholm, where the day lasts just over 6 hours in the winter solstice (December 22), and just over 18 and a half hours in the summer solstice (June 21).
Sunshine - Stockholm
Sun (hours)1346910875321

During winter, it often happens that almost all of Sweden is covered with snow, except the southern tip, i.e. the area of Gothenburg and Scania. On milder periods, in which the westerlies blow, snow melts in a broader area, which often includes Stockholm, while the North remains permanently covered with snow.
In this satellite image we can see a situation of this type, in which the south of Sweden is free from snow. Note also the frozen sea in the northernmost part of the Gulf of Bothnia (Bothnian Bay or Bottenviken in Swedish).

Sweden from the satellite, snow cover in the centre-north

Summer in Sweden is usually mild or pleasantly warm, and it is the season of the year with the least differences between north and south. In the northernmost part, north of the Arctic Circle, in the Swedish part of Lapland, the three summer months (June, July and August) are the only ones in which the temperature rises steadily above freezing, with mild daytime temperatures, around 18/21 °C (64/70 °F), and sometimes even hot, while nights remain very cool, around 10 °C (50 °F) or below. Daytime temperatures are more or less the same throughout the country, at least in the plains, because in hill cities, like Kiruna, which is located in the far north and at 500 metres (1,600 feet) above sea level, temperatures are slightly lower.
Average temperatures - Kiruna
Min (°C)-19-18-14-8-15761-5-12-17
Max (°C)-10-8-41714171482-5-8
Min (°F)-20718304145433423101
Max (°F)141825344557635746362318

The peaks of summer heat are similar across the country as well, around 28/32 °C (82/90 °F); hot periods are typically short, and do not last more than two or three days.

In the western parts of Sweden, the temperature decreases with altitude. In the Scandinavian Mountains there are several peaks above 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) in Lapland, while in the central regions they reach 1,800 metres (5,900 ft). The ski season is longer than in the Alps, so much so that the final races of the ski World Cup are normally held in Sweden, in March (eg in Åre). The snowline is of course lower than in the Alps as well, due to the colder climate.
At lower altitudes, in the valleys between the mountains, summer is cool, also for the presence of lakes, which are frozen in winter, and remain cool in summer.
East of the mountain range, there is a plateau, with many cities at around 300/500 metres: here the winter is long and cold, and in summer the daytime temperatures hover around 18 °C (64 °F), with cool nights, as we can see from the temperatures of Östersund, located in the central part of the country.
Average temperatures - Ostersund
Min (°C)-10-9-6-238101062-3-8
Max (°C)-5-305121618171260-3
Min (°F)141621283746505043362718
Max (°F)232732415461646354433227

In the southern part of Sweden, the coastline facing west, overlooking the straits of Skagerrak and Kattegat (see Gothenburg), has a climate often rainy, cloudy and windy, because of the prevalence of the westerlies; however, even here in winter there are periods with snow and frost, when the wind blows from the east.
In Gothenburg, 670 mm (26.5 in) of rain or snow per year fall, with a maximum in summer and autumn. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Gothenburg
Prec. (mm)503530403555858575656055670

In the far south, even Scania (see Malmo) has a climate that shows the influence of the ocean, with average temperatures in January and February just above the freezing point, and relatively cool summers; even here there is often cloudiness, wind and rain throughout the year.
Average temperatures - Malmo
Min (°C)-1-103811141410730
Max (°C)3361117202222171274
Min (°F)303032374652575750453732
Max (°F)373743526368727263544539

The island of Gotland, has a relatively mild micro-climate, with an average winter temperature just below freezing, and is also less rainy and windy that the southern part of the mainland.


In the northernmost part of the Gulf of Bothnia (see Lulea), the sea is often frozen in winter, while it remains cold also in summer, since it reaches at most 14 °C (57 °F) in August.
Here are the average sea temperatures in Lulea.
Sea temperature - Lulea
Sea (°C)0-1-1037131412852
Sea (°F)323030323745555754464136

The sea temperature in Stockholm, on the south-east coast, is close to freezing for a few months, while it reaches 16 °C (61 °F) in August.
Sea temperature - Stockholm
Sea (°C)3222510151613964
Sea (°F)373636364150596155484339

The sea temperature in Malmo, on the south-west coast, is similar to that of Stockholm, barely warmer, and reaches 17 °C (63 °F) in July and August.
Sea temperature - Malmo
Sea (°C)32359141717151184
Sea (°F)373637414857636359524639

When to go

The best time to visit Sweden is summer, from June to August. June is the month with the longest days, with the midnight sun in the north and the white nights (midnight twilights) in the south, but July is the warmest month. From mid-August, the increase in rainfall and the decrease in temperature show how soon the summer tends to decline at these latitudes.
As mentioned, the sea is a bit cold for swimming even in summer.

To visit Sweden in its winter appearance, in February the days are longer than in December and January, and in March they are even longer, besides the temperatures are less cold, although they are usually still below freezing, therefore with snow on the ground, at least in the north-central, while in December and January the days are very short. However, the more daring traveller may search precisely this kind of atmosphere, and maybe plan a Christmas trip to Lapland, with the omnipresent darkness, lightened at times by the aurora borealis.
Even for skiing, March is preferable to the winter months. In June, in the northernmost mountain resorts, you can even ski with the midnight sun.

What to pack

In winter: very warm clothes, especially for the interior and the north: fleece, down jacket, hat, gloves, scarf; for Stockholm and the south, you can add a raincoat or umbrella.
In summer: spring/autumn clothes, being ready to add or remove the outer layer, t-shirt, but also long pants, jacket, sweatshirt or sweater; raincoat or umbrella. Warmer clothes for the mountains.