Updated: Jan 24
After years of spending the New Year’s (Eve) in my home country, I decided to take on a different approach this time. In my search for a snowy experience, I weighed my options and set my sights on Stockholm (only to be later disappointed by the snow part).
I found out that, if you don't mind a little cold and a looot of wind, Stockholm in winter is one of Europe's best destinations. If I were to describe the atmosphere of this urban utopia in a word, that word would be 'coziness' (or, how the Swedes call it, 'mysig').
I arrived at 15:30 at the Stockholm Skavsta Airport and, as you can imagine (as with all northern countries), it was already night out. This can feel quite unusual. Your brain is telling you to go home, get cozy and prepare for sleep, but the clock is telling you to go out and enjoy the “day”. It’s a tough battle.
The road from the airport to Stockholms Centralstation is quite long, lasting about 1h30m, but you get to cross a good part of the suburbs and the city. I couldn’t help but notice how almost all apartment windows were decorated with traditional Scandinavian Christmas lighting (of course I also bought one Scandinavian candelabra for myself). Stockholms Centralstation is the melting pot of all Stockholm transport acting as a central hub for buses, all three metro lines, suburban trains and, of course, long-distance trains.
You don’t need cash in Stockholm. You can spend a year here without knowing how a single bill looks like. Paying with card is available everywhere, including public toilets, but keep in mind that the city is quite expensive. If you want to find cheap accommodation, I recommend choosing Airbnb. You can find a cozy or stylish apartment close to the center if you take your time and search thoroughly. I stayed in a period apartment located in a good neighborhood, just three stations from the center. On my last Stockholm trip, I stayed in a modern New York-esque style apartment located on the 14th floor, with a fantastic view of the bay. Just remember to not rush and search for that sweet perfect deal.
From exploring museums, stopping for coffee breaks and Swedish pastries (Kanelbullar - yum!), visiting Christmas markets and enjoying boat rides through canals, there are countless things to do in Stockholm during the winter season. One important note is that Christmas markets close immediately after Christmas, so, if you want to visit them, make sure you arrive before or during the holiday.
So here are some activities that I didn't complain about. Just kidding, I really thought they were fun and you should try them if you visit Stockholm in winter. I have also included some places to eat or just to have a drink.
Visit Vasa Museum - this was our first stop and I was pretty impressed by the beauty and size of the ship. It’s a must if you are a history fan. The warship Vasa sank on its maiden voyage in the middle of Stockholm in 1628 and was salvaged 333 years later in 1961. Today the Vasa Museum is the most visited museum in Scandinavia, with over one million visitors a year.
Spend a day in Skansen - which is the world's oldest open-air museum (with wild animals), showcasing the whole of Sweden with houses and farmsteads from every part of the country. Here you can see Nordic wildlife, rare breeds, pets and exotic creatures, from fatty seals to playful otters or wolves. What I especially enjoyed was that a few people had crumbs or peanuts, attracting squirrels and sparrows to come eating from their palm.
Take a day trip to Nynäshamn - a fishing town with an opening to the Baltic Sea, about an hour from Stockholm. You should try seafood specialties from Nynäs Rökeri, one of the harbor dining places. After you discover the harbor, explore the rest of the city - it is quiet and lovely, especially in winter, when it is festively decorated.
Don't miss skating at Kungsträdgården - if you're disappointed that you didn't catch the Christmas markets, as I was, the festive atmosphere from the ice-skating rink and the Scandinavian glogg (red mulled wine) will cheer you up. If you are lucky and catch some snowy weather, you can go skating on one of the frozen lakes around Stockholm. It is very common among locals.
Catch a magical sunset beside the water - don't miss visiting the town hall, even if only on the outside. It’s one of the most imposing buildings in the city, from where you can have a pretty nice view of the town; continue your walk beside the water. I caught the most astonishing sunset ever, which I tried to capture as accurately as possible. Here are a few pics.
End your evening at Restaurang Himlen - Skybar - the view from here is amazing, as you can see the city from above at 360 degrees. I personally am a fan of rooftops, so I especially liked it. You can either eat or just have a drink.
Katarina Elevator - you can have a pretty nice view of Stockholm from here too, not as spectacular as from the Skybar, but you get to see another perspective of the city.
New Year’s Eve party at Södra Teatern - it’s a theater which was used as a location for the New Year's Eve party (we were here too). The building has several floors and on each floor there was a different kind of music. So, it was a party for all tastes. Before we came here, we watched the fireworks from Monteljusvägen hill on Bastugatan street, with the locals.
Drottninggatan Street - one of the most popular tourist streets in Stockholm, which is great for going shopping. Don’t forget to buy yourself a traditional Scandinavian candelabra and a small Swedish Tomte (literally means 'homestead man’, looks like a gnome Santa) from the souvenir shops, like I did.
Vapiano and TGI Friday’s - if you want to take a break from Swedish specialties, you can try one of these two restaurants. Vapiano is an Italian restaurant with several locations open in the city. It is not a classic restaurant, meaning that at the entrance you receive a card which you use to order and serve yourself and, at the end, before leaving the restaurant, you pay the added value on the card. Treat yourself to some pizza, pasta or risotto. You can also find a couple of TGI Friday’s around Stockholm center area where you can enjoy a genuine American burger.
I can honestly say that I particularly enjoyed and connected with the city - maybe the late Christmas feeling got to me. Plus, I got to witness the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. On the downside, I really hoped to see some snow, but the weather failed me. Just my luck ☹.