Are you busy packing your sparkly wig, facepaint and Swedish kronor while randomly blurting out ICEEEEBREEEAAAAAKEEEEER? Have you listened through this year’s line-up and picked your favourite?
Between all those key changes and wind machines, here are six things to know about the weird and wonderful world of Swedish Eurovision. As a Swede, travel blogger, and life-long Eurovision fan, I’m hoping these will make your Stockholm trip just that little bit more euphoric.
1. The Swedish Eurovision selection has six national finals
Translation: Eurovision is HUGE to Swedes. Melodifestivalen, as the Swedish national competition is called, is often the most-watched show of the year as millions sit down to watch “Mello.”
2. Alcohol is sold by the state
Spirits, wines and beers are only sold in state-operated Systembolaget off-licences, which shut at 3pm on Saturdays – if they’re open at all on a weekend. Stock up on alcohol before you head to the Family Final, unless you plan on only drinking in bars, clubs, and restaurants. Oh, and bring an ID. The official age limit in bars is 18 but in Systembolaget it’s 20. Even if you’re twice that age, chances are you’ll be checked. Some bars and clubs also invent their own age limits (23, 25 and 30 are not unheard of).
3. Plastic is fantastic
Nearly all shops, cafés and attractions take card payment in Sweden. Some places, like the ABBA Museum, don’t even accept cash. Which isn’t a problem since you probably booked your tickets weeks ago (like us – see you at the karaoke, yeah?). If you still want cash and forgot your kronor at home, there are plenty of ATMs (look for the turquoise “bankomat” sign) as well as bureau de change offices.
4. No need for taxis
Public transport is excellent in Stockholm, boasting buses, underground trains, overground trains, and even boats.If you’re travelling a lot, consider buying a top-up card, SL Access, which is similar to London’s Oyster card. Stockholm is also very walkable (just prepare for some cobbles if you’re hanging around the Old Town, known as Gamla stan). You can walk to the Globe arena through the fabulously hipster Södermalm district.
5. Even Zlatan supports Frans
Ten years before Frans was representing Sweden in Eurovision, he was repping his favourite footballer, Ibrahimovic. Aged seven (!) he released his first song – entitled ‘Who’s Da Man’ – which became a major hit in Sweden. Zlatan even sent Frans his good luck wishes. Although not strictly a Eurovision song, don’t be surprised to hear this reggae beat a fair few times over the week.
6. Petra Mede has said it all
This year’s host, Petra Mede, hosted Eurovision already in 2013 when it was last held in Sweden. Her interval act perfectly summed up Sweden (and how I felt having spent six years abroad explaining our traditions and society to people). Mede’s performance will teach you all you need to know about our cold Nordic country.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Mede and co-host Måns Zelmerlöw will do to top that. Catch you in the Eurovision Village!