Fika: The Swedish Coffee Break That Promotes Rest & Restoration
Image Credit: PEXELS

"Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax". 

IF there is one culture that has mastered the art of relaxed living, it has to be the Scandinavians. Particularly in Sweden, where coffee breaks are not incidental but representative of a social ritual that allows individuals a pause from their daily activities and indulge in a hot beverage and a snack. Known as Fika, this Swedish tradition holds a significant place in the hearts of its people, fostering connections, relaxation, and a celebration of the present moment. It is an integral part of the Swedish lifestyle that involves setting aside quality time to enjoy coffee slowly, often accompanied by a sweet cinnamon bun. 

Fika is the opposite of hastily consuming a strong espresso shot while multitasking. It is a deliberate and unhurried practice that can be enjoyed alone or with loved ones, whether in a café, outdoors, or at home — embodying the essence of ‘hygge’. Fika has become so deeply rooted in Swedish culture that it is used as both a noun and a verb. You might overhear phrases like "let's go for a fika" between long-lost friends or exchanged among coworkers in the office. Many Swedish companies have incorporated fika breaks into their employees' contracts, recognising its therapeutic and restorative effects.

Coffee holds great significance in Sweden, with the average citizen consuming nearly four cups per day. Sweden ranks third in the world for coffee consumption, surpassed only by Finland and Norway. However, coffee in Sweden is more than just a source of caffeine — it is a ritual that is integral to the Swedish quality of life, hospitality, and socialising.

Originally, fika centred solely on coffee, which was introduced to Sweden in the 18th century. At that time, coffee was a luxury reserved for the affluent. But as time went on, coffee gained popularity among the general population, and the baked treats, known as fikabröd (fika bread), became just as essential to the fika tradition. With the arrival of patisseries in the 19th century, the ritual of enjoying coffee and cake with friends became firmly established.


Across Sweden, numerous cafés and bakeries, commonly known as Konditori, provide ideal settings for fika. In Stockholm, the capital city, the picturesque Gamla Stan (Old Town) area offers a charming backdrop for a fika experience. With its colourful medieval buildings and cobblestone streets, this historic neighbourhood fosters a cosy atmosphere that only adds to the fika experience. The Södermalm district in Stockholm is a perfect choice for those seeking a trendier vibe. 

In Gothenburg, the Haga old town neighbourhood welcomes fika enthusiasts with its oversized Swedish cinnamon buns, known as Kanelbulle. These delectable treats, bigger than one's head, are a perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee or tea.

To embrace the ceremonial fika tradition, one can brew a classic Swedish cup of coffee in a drip machine and serve it alongside small sugar cookies or buns flavoured with cinnamon or cardamom. What is important, though, is that having strict rules or restrictions goes against the very essence of fika. The key is to give yourself downtime during the day, enjoy a warm cup of coffee, savour a sweet treat, and catch up with a loved one. Fika can be observed at any time of the day and should be practiced frequently to truly embrace its spirit.


The value of mindfulness and balanced living is espoused in every aspect of Scandinavian living. 

Lagom, for example, is the Swedish concept of balance, moderation, and sustainability. It emphasises finding the "just right" amount in various aspects of life, be it work, consumption, or personal relationships. Lagom encourages individuals to live a harmonious existence by avoiding excess and embracing a sense of frugality. It means not overworking or neglecting personal well-being, but instead finding an equilibrium between work, rest, and leisure. Lagom encourages sustainable practices and being mindful of the impact on the environment, promoting a sense of responsibility and conscientiousness.


On the other hand, the Danish hygge is all about creating an atmosphere of cosiness, contentment, and well-being. It revolves around embracing the simple joys of life and finding comfort in everyday experiences. Hygge encourages individuals to create a warm and inviting ambience, often through soft lighting, cosy blankets, and the warm glow of candles. It's about savouring a hot cup of tea or coffee, enjoying delicious homemade meals, and relishing the company of loved ones.

The idea extends beyond physical comforts and encompasses emotional well-being, encourages cultivating meaningful connections and spending quality time with family and friends. Hygge promotes the idea of slowing down, disconnecting from the demands of the outside world, and being present at the moment. It's about appreciating the small pleasures, whether it's reading a book by the fireplace, going for a leisurely walk in nature, or simply engaging in a tranquil activity that brings joy and relaxation.

Elsewhere, the Dutch embrace idleness, not as a Christian sin, but as an ‘art’ — of doing nothing. This idea, Niksen, encourages individuals to take a break from the constant hustle of life and simply be in the present moment. It is not about being lazy or unproductive, but rather about intentionally setting aside time for rest and relaxation.

Niksen allows the mind to wander freely, without any specific purpose or goal. It's about letting go of the pressure to always be busy or productive and instead embracing stillness and quietness. By giving ourselves permission to do nothing, we create space for creativity, reflection, and self-care. Niksen can involve activities like gazing out of a window, sitting in nature, or engaging in a hobby that brings a sense of calm and rejuvenation. Or, you know, letting your mind wander as you sip on a cup of hot coffee.