What is a ‘kolonilott’ and why do Swedes love them so much?

What is a 'kolonilott' and why do Swedes love them so much?
Alottment in Eriksdalslunden, Stockholm. Photo: Alexandra Bengtsson/SvD/TT
It is a not too uncommon sight in Sweden’s cities to stumble upon what at first glance looks like a miniature town; small patches of land rife with little houses atop carefully cured gardens.

The kolonilott or koloniträdgård is a popular way to access nature for the city dwellers of Sweden, with allotments being rented through allotment organisations. But where does this trend come from?

According to Koloniträdgårdsförbundet, the allotment movement began in the late 1800s and came to Sweden through Denmark and Germany. The politician and nurse Anna Lindhagen brought the movement to Sweden after first seeing them in Denmark.

Their purpose was originally to offer workers a place to grow food. As the cities grew in the late 19th century due to industrialisation, people moved from rural Sweden into cities to find work. Lindhagen saw the tough health conditions faced by the workers as a nurse and wanted to develop the allotments to offer workers and their children a place for everything from fresh air to homegrown food.


Anna Lindhagen (1870-1941) in her allotment at Fjällgatan, Stockholm, 1928. Photo: Pressens Bild

The first allotment association in Sweden was the Pildamm allotment in Malmö which was established in 1895 but which has been shut down since. The Citadellet in Landskrona (1904) and Söderbrunn (1905) are the oldest allotments still in use.

During the two World Wars, the allotments served an unexpected function; they were crucial to combat the food shortages in the cities. After the wars, as more people had access to cars, the interest fell. However, allotments have seen another upswing in the 2000s.


Family in front of their allotment in Eriksdalslunden, Stockholm early 1900s. Photo: Nordic Museum/Wikimedia Commons

So why do allotments remain so popular in Sweden?

Today, they are used less for food production and instead offer a chance for city dwellers to enjoy a garden that is more accessible than a summerhouse in the country. In an interview with real estate publication Hem & Hyra, allotment owner Lina Rylander says that the proximity to their apartment in the city and their children’s friends are both advantages which made them choose an allotment over a summer house.


An allotment in Sweden. Photo: Helen Alfvegren/Flickr

Getting an allotment can however be tricky, due to their popular demand. You both have to rent the patch of land from the local allotment association that owns it, and buy any cottage or shed on the land from the previous owner. The process varies slightly depending on the association; some allotment associations regulate the prices of the cottages while others sell them to the highest bidder. 

The waiting time to get your hands on a patch of land is often long. Tanto Södra allotment association in Stockholm has one of the longest queues in the country, with 110 allotments, where according to their website, around four free up every year. At the same time, there are currently 580 people registered in its queue, with some 30 new people joining it every year. It is difficult to estimate how long it would take, although estimates say up to 20 years.


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