Snow-sprinkled streets, the smell of freshly-baked saffron buns and a large glass of glögg (mulled wine) -- Stockholm is as magical in winter as it is lush and green in summer.
If you’re tired of Gamla Stan and you’ve done the Vasa Museum to death, get off the beaten track and experience the city like a Stockholmer instead. Here are five things to do once you’ve made the 18-minute journey on the Arlanda Express from the airport to the city centre.
Fika and farm shop
Rosendals Trädgårdskafé - a rustic greenhouse-cum-garden-café on the island of Djurgården - is a favorite haunt for many Stockholmers in the summertime. But the fun doesn’t stop when the mercury drops. From the end of November, it’s transformed into a winter wonderland and adorned with wreaths and twinkling fairy lights. Stop by for a traditional Swedish bulle (that’s a bun, to you and me), a glass of warm äppelmust (fresh pressed apple juice) and a serious dose of winter cosiness. There’s also a farm shop next door to the café, so you can take a (most likely cinnamon-based) taste of Sweden home with you.
Go for a dip (yes, really)
Photo: Helena Wahlman/TT
Many people don’t realise that the city of Stockholm is situated on fourteen islands -- and that it’s part of a wider archipelago made up of some 30,000 islands. Over summer, the entire city empties out as Swedes flock to their summerhouses on remote islands (but don’t worry, even on the farthest island the 4G never wavers -- Swedes have got their priorities straight).
Ferries from central Stockholm to the archipelago run year-round so you can explore the islands off-season too. Some might even argue it’s a better time to visit as you can indulge in a favourite Swedish pastime: jumping into icy water before sprinting to the sauna. There are several spots for winter swimming like Abborrvass Bad on the island of Svartsö or the floating saunas at Sandhamns Seglarhotell -- both just a couple of hours from the city by ferry. If you're strapped for time, you can go for a winter dip closer to the city at Hellasgården, a huge recreation area where there's as much to do in winter as there is in summer.
Good news if you only have hand luggage: this is Sweden so there’s no need to pack your swimsuit -- your birthday suit will do just fine.
Snow place like the slopes
One of Stockholm’s most attractive features is that it’s a city that isn’t really like a city at all. It’s packed full of nature reserves, wild swimming spots (many which double as ice rinks in winter) and you can even hit the slopes without travelling too far out of the city centre.
There are real and artificial slopes like Hammarbybacken, a 100-meter man-made hill just a 10-minute drive from the city centre or Ekholmsnäsbacken, a family-friendly ski area where beginners can take some lessons at a reasonable rate.
Have an ice day!
Photo: Tobias Röstlund/TT
Stockholmers love to strap on their skates and glide around the many frozen lakes in and around the city. If you’re not an experienced skater, hire the help of a professional wild Nordic skating guide. ICEguide offers guided skating tours - and hires out all of the required accoutrements, like ice skates and helmets - on natural ice between December and March. Feeling the winter sun on your face and the brisk wind in your hair as you skate across an icy lake is a bona fide bucket-list experience.
Sausage and spice at Skansen
If you’re visiting Stockholm in December, don’t miss the Christmas market at Skansen. The open-air museum - which is open all year round - is a highlight of the city in itself, showcasing homes and farmsteads from times gone by. Each year since 1903 the market square has filled up with stalls selling tasty treats like traditional sausages, sugared almonds and marzipan. Visitors can also take part in Swedish traditions like dancing around the Christmas tree and handcrafting their own decorations.
Skansen in winter. Photo: Tuukka Ervasti/imagebank.sweden.se
There’s still plenty to see and do at Skansen outside of Christmas time. Outdoor activities are planned throughout the year and it’s also home to a number of rare Nordic animals including brown bears, European bisons, Gute sheep and some sizeable moose AKA the undisputed kings of the Swedish forest.
With so much to do in Stockholm this winter, make getting there as fast and easy as possible by booking your airport transfer with the Arlanda Express, the fastest route between Arlanda Airport and downtown (a mere 18 minutes). Click here to book your tickets before you land.
This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Arlanda Express.