Winter in Stockholm
Alex Dudley shows us how to spend winter in Stockholm.
The winter months are really when Stockholm comes alive in a different way. Everyone who visits the city always expects to have their stereotypical experience of cold weather and snow; after all that is what people first think about when they think about Sweden, let alone Stockholm. For those that want that kind of experience; photogenic Stockholm is the perfect location for a winter getaway.
Of course, museums are good to do all year round and the museums located indoors are particularly popular through the winter, but it’s outdoors where you should be exploring. With skating experiences, frozen lakes and Christmas markets with unlimited glögg, there is something for everyone.
Before you come
Winter does feel like it lasts half the year, with the weather getting extremely chilly; so be prepared to wrap up warm should you visit between October and March. The second thing that you should be prepared for is the amount of daylight, there is as little as six hours during the winter months; it is especially noticeable just before Christmas.
Get cosy with fika
There is no question that the best time to visit the city is just before Christmas. You will find all sorts of festive activities across the city, not to mention the numerous restaurants across the city offering the traditional Swedish julbord (Christmas buffet.) There are numerous cosy cafes scattered across the city, so if you were thinking of getting your fika on, be sure to check out these places.
Café Sten Sture
Two hundred years ago, this subterranean lair was a bona fide dungeon. Sten Sture has also enjoyed spells as a monastery and during the First World War, a military arsenal. At one stage, secret passages connected its 700-year-old vaults to the Royal Palace. Nowadays, in its current incarnation as a café, it wears its history on its labyrinthine walls.
Trångsund 10, Gamla Stan,Mon–Sun 10am–9pm
Grillska Husets Restaurang & Café
Grillska Huset is run by Stockholms Stadsmission, a non-profit organisation devoted to improving the lives of people who have slipped through the gaps of Sweden’s social safety net. The café is living proof of their dedication. Grillska is located close to the Nobel Museum, so it is the perfect place for a coffee after visiting the museum.
Stortorget 3, Gamla Stan, Mon–Sat 9am–9pm, Sun 10am–9pm
Board the 618 tram carriage with a big coffee cup from its roof and take a seat in one of Stockholm’s cosiest, quaintest, and most charming cafés. Place your order, sit back, and enjoy the view as you trundle along Strandvägen.
Tram no. 618, Djurgårdslinjen 7N, Departs from Norrmalmstorg (Norrmalm)
To find some more popular cafes around Stockholm, check out our list here.
Should you be hoping for snow; it would be wise to come early in the New Year with snow more likely in January and February than in December.
Away from getting a cup of coffee and taking into the wintery views, what else can you expect to do? Here’s a rundown of what you should be doing when you come to town to experience winter in Stockholm.
Experience the julbord
In December, most Swedes love to sit down and enjoy a beautiful Christmas smorgasbord. This is traditionally a loaded buffet with dishes that are prepared especially for the occasion.
You can enter a restaurant or boat, and usually pay a flat fee and enjoy everything you can see on the buffet table. Food that you can expect to find include Christmas ham, salmon, meatballs and pickled herring. The famous glögg (mulled wine) is also a personal favourite among Swedes and visitors alike.
I experienced my very first julbord a few weeks ago and it was great, there is nothing better than a choice of all the delicious Swedish foods. It’s fair to say my plate was full of meatballs and my personal favourite is potatisgratäng (scalloped potatoes). My experience was on a boat journey from Grisslehamn to Åland as part of our Christmas celebrations. I couldn’t recommend the glögg highly enough.
With dozens of ponds, rinks and squares there is no shortage of places to skate during winter in Stockholm. There is that many options around the city that you won’t even need to leave the city while on your trip. Should you happen to have your own skis or skates you will be able to ski free of charge. However, there are numerous places where you can rent equipment for a small fee.
The most popular rink is the one located at Kungsträdgården. Here, the rink lights up with numerous funky colours during the evenings to make an exciting disco scene. However, should you want to avoid the huge volume of people, you could check out the rinks at Vasaparken and Medborgarplatsen. You should also keep your eyes peeled for the numerous artificially frozen sports halls, most of which are done like this for ice hockey or skating; just look out for the word Idottsplats.
If you’re looking to do something that is a little uncommon, you can do an ice skating tour. These tours go daily during the winter months and are a lot of fun. Furthermore, you will get fika and lunch. It is also perfect for beginners as well as elite skiers. IceGuide is one of the leaders for skating adventures during winter in Stockholm.
Like most cities across Europe, Stockholm boasts impressive Christmas markets. If you are visiting during December, it would be worth your time to look out for these little stalls. You can expect to find an array of things on the stalls such as seasonal candy and candles, decorations for the tree and reindeer meat. Of course not forgetting about the glögg.
You should head straight to Stortorget for the classic Gamla Stan Christmas market. Failing that, the traditional crafts market at Skansen is also a must.
Should you require an expert leader for your trip, the most affordable and best option is to do a Christmas tour. This walking tour will take you around all the best areas in the city, while also ensuring that you have the best chance to find the perfect Christmas gifts from the markets.
Our Way Tour’s offer the best option on this front, but of course, I would also recommend doing it by yourself as you aren’t on a tight schedule.
Skiing at Hammarbybacken
People who come to Stockholm during the winter are often surprised when they find out that Stockholm has its own ski slope; especially when you consider that it’s right in the city center. Hammarbybacken isn’t a massive location a,nd by all means it isn’t going to keep elite skiers happy, but if you are a beginner and just starting out, then it would be the ideal place to practice.
Furthermore, you are able to rent equipment at the slopes so there is no need to bring your own. If you’re looking to warm up after, fear not there is hot chocolate and coffee on offer in the cafe.
Since the weather in Stockholm is typically below freezing point for the majority of the winter, it is worth knowing where to go to warm up again. Fear not, Stockholm has an array of options of places to go for those of you that would rather remain warm.
Experience a sauna
Swedes love to sauna, but unless you’re staying at a very fancy hotel it can be tricky to know where to find one. Lots of saunas in Stockholm are actually located in spas and swimming pool complexes such as Centralbadet in Drottinggatan.
If you’re looking to do a spa day while you’re in Stockholm, the obvious choice is Sparadiset. It’s a slice of heaven and the service by all staff throughout your day is excellent. However, don’t expect it to be cheap, no spa experiences in Stockholm are cheap and are considered a luxury. But with an entrance fee, you will also have access to the swimming pools, thermal baths and hydrotherapy pool, so it is worth the price.
A friendlier and cheaper option is Farsta Simhall at Farstaängsvägen. This is set around a 25m pool and for a price of 80 SEK, you will have full access to the sauna as well as the pool. It is a steal.
Indoor Water Park
During the winter months Swedes often fantasise about being in warmer climates, sitting on the beach in a tropical environment. Luckily if you head an hour outside the city to Västerås, you will be able to experience all of this, at an indoor water park.
The harbour area plays host to the Kokpunten Water Park. It is housed inside an old steam power plant and stretches over three floors of heated pools and hot tubs. It would also be the perfect place to bring your kids as there is no shortage of slides and wave pools. There is even an infinity pool outside that overlooks the dock, which is perfect should you want a hot soak while surrounded by ice and snow.
How do you like to spend winter in Stockholm? Please share with us below.