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To Fika or Not to Fika

In Sweden, the coffee break, is a national pastime. It’s so important that it even has it’s very own word: FIKA (ka-fi backwards). Fika is both a noun and a verb, so you can go for a fika, or be in the act of fika-ing.

The Swedes take their fika very seriously, and various cities have competed for the crown of largest fika. The city of Kalmar was the first, with 2,620 people sitting down together for a fika on June 6, 2007. This record was eventually broken by Östersund in 2009, with 3,563 people fika-ing together all at once.

Swedes fika-ing

Swedes fika-ing

Usually involving a cinnamon bun, a caffeinated beverage, a friend, and a lot of conversation, the FIKA, was one Swedish social institution I was most happy to join in.

Where we Fika-ed

flickorna Helin Voltaire
Located along the pedestrian path in Stockholm’s Djurgarden, this cafe is popular with locals for its peaceful surroundings and castle-like exterior. It’s also a great after-Vasa museum stop for tourists.

The classically Swedish kanelbulle (cinnamon bun) and kafi combo wasn’t available for order, so we settled for giant lattes and an apple cake instead.

Lattes and apple cake

Lattes and apple cake

Espresso House

Our second fika took place at the Espresso House coffee chain, which is basically the Starbucks of Sweden. Here I was able to try the kanelbulle, which is decidedly different than its North American counterpart, with less butter, more cardamon, no icing, and a flakier texture. I am still undecided about which I prefer.

Kanelbulle and latte

Kanelbulle and latte

Unfortunately, we were only able to fika twice during our time in Stockholm, due to financial issues. For some reason, despite working in every other Scandinavian country we visited before and after, our Canadian credit card did not work in Sweden, for purchases OR cash advances. Thank god we’d brought some euros with us.

Another reminder to always have some good-old cash with you when you travel.

Do you drink coffee? What’s the best fika you’ve had on your travels?

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. ka-fi = fika! oh I love it! And I love coffee. I’d be more than happy to participate in an afternoon coffee break as a national pastime. 🙂 sorry to hear your credit card wouldn’t work – when I traveled to South Africa in 2011, I forgot to call my bank beforehand and had to go through a rather expensive “verification process” before I could withdraw cash from an ATM there!

    March 13, 2014
    • Me too! Coffee is a serious addiction! Oh, the credit card was so frustrating…to be in one of the most expensive cities in the world and not have much cash was kind of stressful. Nothing we did would change things. Even calling the bank made no difference. I think it was an issue with the chip technology on Canadian cards…not up to speed with Sweden or something…

      March 17, 2014
  2. Some thing happened to us in Okinawa. My friend and I had to walk distances just to find the right ATM that will take our cards. It took us a long while just to end up with nothing. When we came back to the food chain, they decided to accept our American dollars.
    Love what you shared here. Kind of like Spaain’s siesta or Italians always having a quick coffee breaks.

    March 22, 2014
    • Ohhh, it was sooo frustrating!! Especially being in a country that was so expensive. We really felt a lot of limitation! 😦 Yes, I really enjoyed the leisurely Swedish fika, though of course, the quick Italian espresso breaks are fun too. Coffee’s better there too. 😉

      March 23, 2014
  3. I am a Fika fan too, although I stick to the varm chokalade (hot chocolate) ot tea. The best hot chocolate I had was in Switzerland, (think pure hot Lindt chocolate with a dash of milk), but Scandinavian versions come a close second. The comments re expenses and cards in Sweden, are interesting, as I found Sweden to be much less expensive than Denmark and Norway and Visa cards are definitely preferred in all three.

    April 10, 2014
    • Ohhh, now I wish I’d tried the varm chokalade. It sounds divine! We didn’t visit Norway, and I agree with you that Norway was more expensive!

      I think we felt more limited in Sweden because of our credit card issues. It was really, really strange…the card worked everywhere, before and after, except for Stockholm. I did some research, and apparently there could be some issue with compatibility between Canadian chip cards and the machines they use in Sweden. Who knows!?

      April 10, 2014

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  1. Is it Really Possible to Visit Stockholm on a Backpacker Budget? | Travel-Stained
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