• Sweden's news in English
The Swedish Christmas market with a twist
The Gamla Linköping Christmas market. Photo: The Local

The Swedish Christmas market with a twist

The Local · 17 Dec 2015, 06:01

Published: 08 Dec 2014 13:35 GMT+01:00
Updated: 17 Dec 2015 06:01 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

It's no secret that Swedes love to celebrate Christmas. Despite the country's widespread secularity, Swedes flock to anything festive - and the winter season is a particular highlight with Advent, Santa Lucia, and of course Christmas itself.

Christmas markets are no rarity, with the events popping up in squares, museums, universities, and even castles throughout the country.

And the more traditional the better, which puts the Christmas Market at Gamla Linköping, the old quarter of Sweden's seventh-largest city, in a league of its own.

While the entire city is decked out in holiday style, Gamla Linköping receives special treatment. So The Local headed south – just a two-hour trip from central Stockholm – to see what all the hype was about.

Gamla Linköping, an open-air museum featuring hundreds of old buildings from the city's earlier days, is modelled upon Stockholm's Skansen - but nevertheless offers something truly unique. For one, there are no fences surrounding the area - and entrance is free.

In pictures: Scenes from the Linköping market

“Gamla Linköping is part of the city, and our politicians want it to be accessible for everyone,” Tina Karlsson, head of the Gamla Linköping open-air museum, tells The Local.

And as a result, locals and tourists alike enjoy the old city quarter year round.

The grounds include beautiful old buildings in classic Scandinavian style, a bank museum, children's bookshop, police museum, cafes, woods, and much more.

“We hand-pick the vendors and check them for quality,” Karlsson explains. “All the food must be locally produced, for example.”

Linköping has been an educational and religious epicentre for centuries, as a key bishopric of Sweden since the 1100s, and a seat of cutting-edge technological innovations today.

A welcome side-effect is the city's wealth of culture. As a seasoned cultural and educational hub of Sweden, it's no wonder that it also is one of the best places to celebrate Christmas – as the day’s festivities demonstrate.

Hundreds of vendors are gathered on the unpaved, cobble-stone streets, selling everything from peppermint candy to suitcases to Christmas trees.

The air is filled with the scent of candied almonds and warm spiced glögg, and a scruffy-looking man in patched-up 19th-century clothing wanders around playing Christmas tunes on his harmonica. Hungry visitors huddle in the queue to buy strömning (herring) burgers and saffron buns.

Languages mix as shoppers haggle and children laugh, careening across the cobble stones and circling the grand tree in the square's centre.

"There’s actually been a Christmas market here, hosted by the local Lions Club, for 30 years or so,” Karlsson explains. "It's been very popular, and we decided we wanted another one, an even better one.”

The Lions Market still takes place one weekend, Karlsson says, but Gamla Linköping now has its own market as well.

Launched only five years ago, the new market already draws some 6,000 visitors each day. Attractions such as candle-making, baking traditional pepparkakor in a wood stove, and stumbling upon that unexpected Christmas gift bring audiences young and old to the market.

“It's incredible,” German tourist Katrin tells The Local as she surveys the scene. “We're from Berlin where Christmas markets are a big deal, and we were told that they don't have them here.”

Thinking first that the market encompassed a single street, Katrin and her husband Martin were amazed to discover an entire old village filled with Swedish charm.

”I thought things like this only existed in Pippi Longstocking,” Katrin exclaims with a laugh, as Martin notices forlornly that his cup of glögg is empty.

A steady stream of visitors winds its way along the alleys between the quaint red buildings, no less jolly for the lack of snow so far this year. And the graphic museum, filled with hand-printed Christmas napkins and century-old newspapers, draws a sizeable crowd of its own.

The museum maintains a functioning printing press, and Göran Hallberg, a white-haired employee clad in what looks like a 19th-century vest, presses another round of paper onto the machine as visitors look on.

”I'm just afraid the art will disappear,” he remarks, carefully inspecting the purple ink border on a sheet of paper.

Other visitors muse over the true meaning of art, cocking their heads in alarm as they examine a pile of light brown paper. The label reads ‘paper made from elk shit’.

For some the market is a novelty, an annual fair of curiosa and cheer. For others it’s a Christmas blessing on all levels, offering the chance to interact with locals and do the merriest kind of work.

At a stall selling pepparkakor-flavoured cupcakes, Josie Schroeder and her daughter Molly are doing brisk business, playing their role perfectly in this traditional Swedish scene.

But the New Zealand family moved to Linköping from the US only two years ago when Josie’s husband won a research post at the university.

“It’s one of the few countries where spouses also get a work visa,” Schroeder says. “We’ve met a lot of international people here – it’s going very well.”

It’s a common sentiment, and as the sky darkens, the mood only becomes brighter.

”Who's ready for dancing?” a stout accordion-player with a long white beard shouts out across the square. ”Gather around the tree, make two rings!”

And in resolute Swedish style, the audience complies.

See more pictures from the Linköping market

"Ten for the large and five for the small, hurry, hurry, the carousel is about to go," the Swedes sing, joined by gleeful tourists and expats who jump, clap, and twirl along with the traditional dance.

But dancing around the tree isn’t the only highlight. In classic Linköping style, with a salute to tradition but a flair for the modern, the bustling market goes out with a bang.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome! Please stand behind the line of candles,” a burly man in black tells the audience.

Bare-armed despite the cold, he and his female colleague proceed to set fire to batons, pitch forks, and flails, dancing and performing acrobatic tricks in time to the music.

With the fire show coming to a spectacular close, vendors begin packing up their wares and visitors trickle out from the park.

But the end of another Christmas market is just the beginning of another magical Christmas in Linköping.

And indeed, the market is just one of many attractions taking place in the village. Christmas activities carry on all winter long, and families can even pick up their Christmas presents on December 18th from Tomten himself (provided sneaky parents drop them off in advance).

Gamla Linköping is open all year round, always free of charge, with unique activities for all ages and every season. 


This article was produced by The Local and presented by Visit Linköping

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Hundreds protest Swedish asylum laws
Around 1,000 people protested in Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Persson/ TT

Hundreds of people on Saturday demonstrated in Stockholm and in many other parts of the country to protest Sweden’s tough new laws on asylum-seekers.

Dylan removes Nobel-mention from website
The American musician has more or less responded to the news with silence. Photo: Per Wahlberg

American singer-song writer Bob Dylan has removed any mention of him being named one of this year’s Nobel Prize laureates on his official website.

Refugee crisis
Asylum requests in Sweden down by 70 percent
Sweden's migration minister Morgan Johansson. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Sweden received 70 percent fewer requests for asylum in the period between January and September 2016 than it did during the same time last year, the country’s justice and migration minister Morgan Johansson has revealed.

The unique story of Stockholm's floating libraries
The Stockholm archipelago book boat. Photo: Roger Hill.

Writer Roger Hill details his journeys on the boats that carry books over Stockholm's waterways and to its most remote places.

Refugee crisis
Second Stockholm asylum centre fire in a week
The new incident follows a similar fire in Fagersjö last week (pictured). Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Police suspect arson in the blaze, as well as a similar incident which occurred last Sunday.

More misery for Ericsson as losses pile up
Ericsson interim CEO Jan Frykhammar presenting its third quarter results. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

The bad news just keeps coming from the Swedish telecoms giant.

Facebook 'sorry' for removing Swedish cancer video
A computer displaying Facebook's landing page. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant had censored a video explaining how women should check for suspicious lumps in their breasts.

Watch this amazing footage of Sweden’s landscapes
A still from the aerial footage of Sweden. Photo: Nate Summer-Cook

The spectacular drone footage captures both Sweden's south and the opposite extreme, thousands of kilometres north.

Sweden could be allowed to keep border controls: EU
Police ID checks at Hyllie station in southern Sweden. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Sweden could be allowed to keep ID controls on its border with Denmark beyond the current end date of November, following discussions among EU leaders in Brussels last night.

Why women in Sweden will work for free by November
File photo of a woman working in a Swedish office. Photo: Anders Willund/TT

A new study into the gender pay gap suggests Sweden still has some work to do.

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Here's where it could snow in central Sweden this weekend
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden's 'a-kassa'
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
People-watching: October 12th
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available