1. January: admire the Northern Lights in Lapland
The area around Kiruna in northern Sweden is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. The Aurora Sky Station in Abisko is a particularly good location.
In the meantime, there are plenty of spots in and around the village of Abisko and in the rest of the region. But even the greatest location won't help you if you go at the wrong time, as the sun hides the northern light in the summer. That's why January is one of the best time of the year to hunt for the aurora borealis – just remember you're never guaranteed to see them.
Swedish Lapland. Photo: Hjalmar Andersson/imagebank.sweden.se
2. February: go skiing
February's the season for skiing in Sweden, especially around sportlov, the winter sports break – but even at the busiest times, don't expect the crowds and long queues of the better-known French or Italian resorts.
The biggest destination for winter sports is Åre, Sweden's largest alpine skiing area, but there are over a hundred resorts to choose from, and most are guaranteed to have snow. If downhill skiing's not your cup of tea, there's also plenty of opportunities for cross-country skiing, ice skating, dog sledding, and more.
3. March: Melodifestivalen
Sweden spends six weeks every year choosing its Eurovision entry in a competition known as Melodifestivalen. This year, 28 contestants will perform in six shows around the country, starting in February.
The biggest event is undoubtedly the final, with fans from all over the country and even international visitors gathering to watch the performances and discover this year's winner. In 2019, it will take place on March 9th in Stockholm. Tickets always sell out fast but if you miss out, there's the “Second Chance” live show on March 2nd in Nyköping.
Melodifestivalen in all its glory. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
April 30th is Walpurgis Night, known as Valborg in Sweden. On this night, Swedes get together to welcome spring by singing and lighting bonfires. Students have made this tradition their own, making this one of the biggest parties of the year in university town like Uppsala and Lund. Join them for drunken antics including entirely too much champagne, or, for a quieter celebration, check what your local council is organizing. There's also a Walpurgis celebration with choral singing at the Skansen outdoor museum in Stockholm every year.
READ ALSO: What exactly is Swedish Walpurgis?
Valborg. Photo: Aline Lessner/imagebank.sweden.se
5. May: cycle
Cycling is a popular – and environmentally friendly – way to explore Sweden in the spring and summer months. The cities are cycle-friendly, with Malmö once named the fifth most bike-friendly city in the world, and some of them offer a public rental scheme making it easy to make inner-city bike journeys. There are well-marked routes throughout the countryside, like the Klarälvsbanan trail spanning 220 kilometres in western Sweden or Kattegattleden, the country's first national tourist cycling route.
Cycling in Skåne. Photo: News Öresund/Johan Wessman
6. June: celebrate Midsummer
If you thought the bonfires and singing of Walpurgis night were strange, you clearly haven't been to a Midsummer party. Get ready to dance like a frog and down shots of flavoured brännvin. And don't forget the pickled herring, of course.
READ ALSO: Ten things to hate about Midsummer in Sweden
There will be Midsummer parties all over the country, but it's best celebrated outdoors, in the countryside (there's more space for dancing there, after all).
A classic, wet Midsummer. Photo: Werner Nystrand/imagebank.sweden.se
7. July: go for a midnight swim
In northern Sweden, the sun stays up late into the night in summer. The light isn't the same for twenty-four hours though: it takes on a beautiful orange colour, like what you'd usually see at sunrise. It's the perfect time for a nocturnal swim. For a more adventurous experience, join a race like Swim the Arctic Circle, an open-water competition in the Torne river, crossing the border between Sweden and Finland.
8. August: go to a crayfish party (kräftskiva)
Crayfish parties are an opportunity for Swedes to get together in August and, you guessed it, eat crayfish. Boiled crayfish is eaten cold, with your fingers, and everyone wears paper hats and bibs around their necks.
READ ALSO: How to survive a Swedish crayfish party
Like any good Swedish party, it also involves drinking snaps, singing, and toasting. The tradition goes back to the early 1900s, when crayfish harvesting was restricted to late summer by law.
Silly hats are a must when it comes to crayfish parties. Photo: Carolina Romare/imagebank.sweden.se
9. September: go to a festival
Sweden's most famous festivals take place in July and August, but if you were too busy dancing like a frog, swimming in the Arctic circle, or eating crayfish, you can still catch up in September. The biggest festival at this time of year is Stockholm-based Popaganda, usually held in early September (the date is still to be confirmed at the time of writing).
If you're in Örebro, there's the Live at Heart festival from September 4th-7th, featuring independent movie screenings and more than 200 music acts in the heart of the central Swedish city.
Later in the month, 12th-14th, is Gather, a mix between a conference and a music festival, in Stockholm.
Popaganda. Photo: Henrik Petterson/Flickr Creative Commons
10. October: Go mushroom picking
Autumn is the season for mushroom picking. Fortunately, Swedish law allows you to wander around the countryside and forage for wild food, as long as you don't cause any damage. And with over half the country covered with forests, it shouldn't be too difficult to find a good spot for mushroom hunting. Be patient and watch out for poisonous mushrooms – don't pick anything you don't recognize and bring a good guidebook if you're a beginner.
11. November: try food from the Arctic
The November cold is the perfect excuse for some hearty food from Lapland – not that you need an excuse. Arctic cuisine is made from fresh ingredients found in the wild, such as reindeer, elk, Arctic char, and berries. This means dishes like reindeer stew and, of course, the bright orange roe harvested from the vendace, a type of fish. It's admittedly not ideal for vegetarians.
12. December: enjoy a traditional Swedish Christmas
Sweden has a host of Christmas traditions spanning the whole month of December. It starts with the Advent candlesticks popping up at everyone's windows and ends with a traditional Christmas meal and presents on Christmas Eve. Along the way, there's Lucia – December 13th, the Feast of Saint Lucia – when children wear white gowns and one lucky girl gets to carry candles (nowadays usually electric) on her head. It's also yet another excuse for a party, this time to drink glögg.
Lucia. Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
Article written by The Local Sweden contributor Valentine Baldassari in 2018 and updated in 2019.