Swedes have a saying that there isn’t any such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.
I disagree. Swedish winters can be brutal!
More so further north of Stockholm, but Sweden’s capital city is cold enough for me.
Stockholm winter is similar to other cities that experience winter weather.
Just like in other cities, there isn’t any place to put the snow.
If there’s snow, you’ll see buried cars and plowed single lanes in the road that look like they have snow walls on either side.
Of course, you can find ice skating or take a winter food tour. Swedes are used to winter, so there’s always something to do.
What Is There to Do During the Stockholm Winter??
The Vasa Museum, ABBA Museum, Nordic Museum, and a host of other museums are available. Yes, they have plenty of heat even in the middle of winter to get warm.
If you want to brave the cold you can take a walking tour of City Hall and see where the Nobel Prize banquet is held. Stockholm is beautiful in the winter, especially with a light dusting of snow on the trees and historic buildings.
There are plenty of Christmas markets. Most Americans aren’t familiar with European Christmas Markets, but they’re a wonderful annual tradition.
They make you want to get out, socialize, shop, and drink a little Swedish Glögg (warm spiced wine similar to German Glühwein).
Along the same lines, Gamla Stan, or Old Town in English is a hit any time of year for tourists.
The royal palace at the edge of Gamla Stan is nice and there are plenty of heated buildings and hardly any tourists during winter Stockholm days.
When you get cold, you can take a boat tour of the Stockholm archipelago. Expert tip, ask for extra blankets and stay away from the water. Yes, the air coming off the archipelago is pretty chilly.
There are several ways to save money in Stockholm. One is the Stockholm Pass.
The Stockholm Pass does more than save money, it simplifies museum entrance, and public transit, and can be combined with other tours and offers.
You’ll have to go to their website and plug in your dates to see what’s available when you’re there.
But how about the weather? If you haven’t picked up on the subtle hints already, it’s cold, so pack accordingly.
One Stockholm Christmas the airlines lost my luggage, so it didn’t matter that year how much I had packed. Bbbbbrrrrrrrr!!!!!!
The best description of Stockholm, and generally Sweden’s fall weather is from my Swedish brother-in-law. He likes to say there are various shades of gray, i.e., light gray, medium gray, gray, dark gray, etc.
Don’t worry, the fall clouds give way to the winter sun that highlights the beautiful skyline. But…
Did I mention how short the winter days are? Sweden has wonderful summers where the sun doesn’t really set. Unfortunately, they pay for these wonderful daylight summers in winter when the sun may only be up for six hours.
If you look at the annual weather patterns the temperatures hover around freezing or just below from November through February. Don’t let these statistics fool you, it feels colder as the wind comes off the archipelago.
If I frightened you from visiting Stockholm during the winter that wasn’t my intent. I’m just offering my thoughts, something some bloggers might call travel tips.
Stockholm is a wonderful Scandinavian city that you’ll love no matter when you visit. But if you have a choice, summer is a much better season.
Let me be clear, Sweden has a condensed summer. When I say summer, I’m talking about generally between June 15th and August 15th.
Show up before and you might be rained out, show up after and you’ll be sitting under heat lamps with blankets eating crawfish.
Things to See
My wife is originally from the Stockholm area so we spend more time there than the average person. I’ll skip recommending family reunions, christenings, birthday parties, flag day, midsummer, and a host of local events.
Instead, I’ll focus on some traditional tourist adventures that you’ll be sure to enjoy.
Did I mention Swedes speak English? It’s their second language. They might have adorable accents, but anyone under about age 65 was required to learn it in School.
Stockholm is a tourist city, so English signs, maps, etc. are normal. They also drive on the same side of the road as Americans, well, at least since 1967.
Gamla Stan (Old Town)
Stockholm residents tend to avoid Old Town like the plague, but that’s fine with me. I like the old buildings, narrow cobbled streets, and glimpses of Stockholm’s past.
I tell Swedes that we foreigners don’t look at pictures of drab modern Swedish architecture and think, “Wow, I really want to see communist-looking apartment buildings in the suburbs that were part of the Million Program!”
Nope, we want to see the Viking stuff. Unfortunately, the Viking Age (793-1066 A.D.) was so long ago that very little remains outside of the Viking Museum. But Old Town is a nice substitute.
Gamla Stan square was the site of the 16th Century Stockholm Bloodbath where a new king executed quite a few nobles. Don’t worry, it’s lined with colorful buildings, cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops now.
I recommend adventuring off the main streets in favor of the smaller streets and alleys with quaint little cafes and restaurants.
There are a ton of picturesque places to enjoy lunch or “fika” (A Swedish word for a coffee and pastry break with friends). Don’t worry, it’s safe and you won’t get lost.
The Kingdom of Sweden is a constitutional monarchy. That means they have a parliament and royal family similar to England.
Don’t get too excited, with a population of about 10 million that means Sweden is comparable to the state of Michigan.
Going to see the Michigan royal family doesn’t sound quite as interesting as visiting the Queen of England, but there’s plenty to see.
The Swedish parliament and Stockholm castle are in Old Town, along with the royal chapel. You can watch the changing of the guards at the palace before touring the inside if your timing is good.
This is only one of the Swedish royal palaces, but you’ll need to rent a car or take a bus if you want to see the others that are scattered around the countryside.
Museums and Other Attractions
Full disclosure, my wife loves to drag me to museums. I don’t mind one or two, but whirlwind tours of one museum after another tend to wear me out.
If you identify with that statement, I’ll try to save you some time by pointing out a few of my favorite Stockholm locations.
You can get a guide to help you understand the exhibits better at the different attractions, or meander at your own pace.
The Nordic Museum is housed in a fantastic building. The exhibitions are interesting and professionally done. It’s a museum where you can get a feel for Swedish life, interests, and traditions without being overwhelmed.
The Nordic, Vasa, and Viking museums are fairly close to one another on the island of Djurgarden.
There are a ton of things to do on the island including the ABBA Museum, Skansen open-air museum, Gröna Lund amusement park, and many other sights to see, especially in the summer.
One of our favorite parks with walking trails is on the left as you enter the island. Just look for the famous Blå Porten (Blue Gate).
The Vasa Museum is a must-see. The Vasa was a battleship commissioned by the king in the 17th Century. Unfortunately, the government didn’t listen to the builders, so it immediately sank in front of a large crowd on its maiden voyage.
The beauty of the Vasa is that it was preserved by the cold water until they raised it, and literally built a museum around it. The museum itself is very well done and will pique your interest as you learn about the ill-fated ship and crew.
It’s Stockholm Sweden, so I’m compelled to mention the Viking Museum. Be ready, the staff will do their best to paint a picture of real Swedes during the Viking Age.
I like to ignore most of that and instead think about how the exhibits relate to the Vikings television show. It’s much more fun to channel your inner Ragnar Lothbrok while you take it all in.
If you’ve read the MyRetirementDoc about page this next recommendation won’t surprise you. The Army Museum and nearby royal stables if you like horses are nicely done.
I personally like the Army Museum’s life-size displays dedicated to life during wars of the previous centuries.
The National Museum is fairly standard, but the location and building are fantastic. It sits on a corner overlooking the water just down from the Grand Hotel.
If it was a summer trip, I’d recommend walking across the bridge to Skeppsholmen. But I’m afraid the weather might dictate your route during a Stockholm winter visit.
Chances are this isn’t your city hall, and that you’ll never see a city hall as ornate as this one again. Think gold. Lots of it. Yes, a gilded city hall for the people.
In Sweden, they say the government buildings are the people’s houses, but this one is pretty fancy.
Other Things to Do On Stockholm Winter Days
That’s enough about museums and government buildings. If you want to take a break from culture there’s plenty of shopping to be had in Stockholm.
Or if you want to get out of the city there are also winter sports available at world-class destinations.
NK (Nordiska Kompaniet) is Stockholm’s most famous department store. It has everything you could want, including a café and restaurant.
It’s also centrally located in the shopping district if you want to use it as the starting point of your shopping adventure.
I like to shop at my favorite café in the area, Vete-Katten. They have several locations, but I’m talking about the Kungsgatan 55 location specifically. No, I don’t really shop there, but I do like their pastries and endless coffee.
This is a throwback coffee shop that started in 1928, so bring a book and kick back and enjoy while the other members of your group spend all their money.
This blog is about Stockholm in the winter, but this recommendation takes you out of the city and into the mountains.
There are a few ski slopes closer to Stockholm, but I highly recommend the famous ski resort town of Åre (pronounced Or-A). Get ready, because it’s really cold up north.
Åre has great Alpine skiing and is a location for the Alpine FIS Skiing World Cup. You can get there by plane, train, or bus. It’s about 10 hours by train, but I recommend it.
You’ll see the countryside from the train, or if you prefer, book a sleeper car. This is as close to teleporting as you get. Go to sleep in Stockholm and wake up in Åre.
The mountain is fantastic and many places are set up for ski-in, and ski-out. We’ve rented apartments with saunas before. A sauna is a nice warm end to a cold day on the mountain.
Skiing seems to be more affordable in Sweden. Don’t ask me how, but it is for some reason.
In the End
Sweden’s a wonderful place to visit in winter or summer. If you choose the Stockholm winter, bundle up.
There are plenty of other websites with travel tips, but this short blog should be a good start if you’ve never been to Stockholm.
The city is very walkable, and in the summer, everyone is outside with a ton of outdoor events to choose from. But those are subjects for a summer blog.
Hejdå och lycka till! (Goodbye and good luck in Swedish)
*Note, if a link comes up in Swedish look for the English tab. If you don’t see one, switch the website to English by right-clicking your mouse and selecting translate to English.
Also, I don’t buy travel insurance, but if you want peace of mind, by all means, go the extra mile.