This study investigated the diurnal cycle of precipitation in Sweden using hourly ground observations for 1996–2008. General characteristics of phase and amplitude for the diurnal cycle of precipitation, both in amount and frequency, were identified. In the warm season (April–September), the ‘typical’ afternoon (14–16 LST) peaks are dominant over inland Sweden, whereas late night to early morning (04–06 LST) peaks with relatively weak amplitude are discernable in the east coast along the Baltic Sea. The diurnal variation is almost negligible in the cold season (October–March), due to the weak solar radiation at high latitudes. The variations of convective activity forced by solar heating and modulated by geographical characteristics were suggested as primarily factors to invoke the cycles and spatial variation identified. The observed cycle was compared with the cycle simulated by a regional climate model. The model fairly well captures the spatial pattern of the phase of the diurnal cycle. However, the warm season afternoon peak is simulated too early and too uniformly across the stations, associated with too frequent occurrences of convective rainfall events with relatively light intensity. These discrepancies point to the need to improve the convection parametrization and geographic representation of the model.