The Perfect Guide to Stockholm in winter
Stockholm is the largest city in Scandinavia, but instead of being a hectic capital, it is probably one of the most beautiful cities I´ve visited. It is a perfect combination of the pulse of the big city life and the calm of nature and history. Stockholm itself is made up of 14 islands and is situated in the magical Stockholm archipelago, thus surrounded by another 30 000 islands, each one unique in its own way.
While the archipelago is a sight in the summer, bringing your thoughts to a lazy holiday destination and being everything you imagine a midsummer nights dream to be, it is really something else in the winter!
It is almost impossible not to fall in love with this winter wonderland, with frozen canals, typical blonde Swedish stereotypes laughing and ice skating, enjoying a hot chocolate or Glögg, the Swedish version of mulled wine at the cozy Christmas markets as well as the surrounding forests and incredible nature.
Stockholm in winter
Stockholm, being the capital of Sweden, is also the most expensive city in Sweden. Luckily there are ways to do Stockholm on a budget, but be prepared, just like the rest of Scandinavia, it is not exactly a budget-friendly destination. Check my top travel tips for Stockholm on a budget below.
Stockholm has two airports, Stockholm Arlanda airport for international and domestic flights, and Bromma airport for domestic flights. Coming from abroad you will arrive at Stockholm Arlanda airport and your cheapest alternative to get into the city center is by bus “Flygbussarna”. A one-way ticket is around 9 Euros and the same goes if you arrive at Bromma airport.
Your two other options are taking the train, the Arlanda express, for around 25 Euros or a taxi for 50-60 Euros depending on your destination.
Arriving by train to Stockholm you will arrive at Stockholm Central, which is located in the city center.
While Stockholm is a great city to walk around in, it is too big to cover only on foot. If you can bear to ride a bike during winter, it is a cheap alternative to rent one to get around town, if not, there is an excellent public transport system. A single ticket is 4 Euros, a 24-hour ticket is 16 Euros, a 72- hour ticket for 31 Euros and a 7 days ticket 41 Euros. The tickets or passes combine both the metro and bus system, making it easy to navigate all over the city. I highly recommend that you combine using the metro and bus system in combination with walking, to cover and experience as much as possible of the city.
The metros and buses run 24/7.
Another beautiful way to see the city when visiting Stockholm is on a boat tour under the bridges. It’s not the cheapest way but it certainly is a beautiful trip well worth the time.
Food and alcohol
Stockholm is packed with restaurants in various price ranges. A lot of the restaurants keep a high standard as well as high prices. Lunch will usually set you back 12-15 euros while you are unlikely to find the main course for dinner for less than 22-28 euros. Due to a high tax on alcohol the prices on alcohol are also high, especially in bars and restaurants. Expect to pay 7-10 euros for a beer and 15-23 euros for a cocktail in a bar. If you buy the alcohol in the specially designated shops for alcohol, “Systembolaget”, the prices will be lower, but still high, the cheapest beer will be around 1 Euro and the cheapest bottle of wine 6 Euros.
Buy your groceries in the local supermarkets and your costs for food will be remarkably lower than if you eat in restaurants. There is a lot of money to save here, try to avoid doing major grocery shopping the market halls (Saluhall in Swedish), they are charming, with the most divine vegetables, local cheeses and pastries and they sure give an authentic feeling, but the prices are high!
Swedes are friendly and your cheapest option is to couch surf. If this isn’t for you there are plenty of hostels in and outside of the city. The hostels keep the good standard, but beware and check the location before you book it, some of them are situated far outside the city center and will make it challenging to enjoy the city to its fullest. In a lot of the hostels, there will be cooking facilities, making it easier to save money on food.
Sustainability is big in Sweden and you can refill your water bottle anywhere for free. The tap water is not only for free and drinkable but also delicious! So make sure to bring your own water bottle and save both money and the environment.
The Stockholm Pass
The Stockholm Pass can be bought as a one to five-day pass, starting at 72 Euros, up to 160 Euros and offers 60 top attractions, monuments and museums, including a wide range of boat and bus tours. Among other attractions, it includes entry to the Viking Museum, the Vasa Ship Museum and the Royal Palace. In my experience, it is more profitable to buy a pass for several days, as you might not have time to cover a lot of attractions in one day. In order for the Stockholm pass to be worth the expense, you will have to use the pass for at least 4 attractions or more, depending on which attractions you choose. The website is easy to navigate, and if you plan your visits before buying the pass you are also able to figure out if the pass is worth it for you or not.
The Stockholm Pass offers you to add a travel card for the busses, metro and trains.
The i-Venture Pass
While the prices are a bit lower for the i-Venture Pass, it only offers 21 attractions. However, it also offers a one week pass, which is cheaper than the 5 days Stockholm Pass. Both passes need a bit of planning for it to be worth the splurge, but the i-Venture pass even more so, which is why I would only recommend it if you don´t mind a lot of planning and you´re set on which attractions you want to visit.
The passes are especially worth it if you want to cover the expensive attractions like the tours or the Royal Palace (regular entry fee is 34 Euros). Most of the sights are usually around 12-18 Euros. On the plus side you might also end up doing things that you maybe would´ve skipped otherwise and you also skip the ticket lines. In the summer the ticket lines can be pretty long, less so in the winter.
When to visit
If you want to experience real winter and have the highest chance of snow my recommendation is that you go between December and February with Febuary usually being the coldest. These months are usually very cold, with crisp air and beautiful sunsets making the city skyline look like it is on fire.
If you want to cover the Christmas markets and beautifully decorated windows in shops and homes, you should definitely go between the first and third week of December. Between the 24th and 27th of December, most Swedes spend time with their family and you will not see as many people out as normal. Between the 27th and 31st of December, there´s the Christmas sale going on and it can become pretty hectic in the city center.
Remember that Stockholm winter weather and temperatures are unpredictable, and you need to be prepared for it. Even if there´s a great chance of snow and temperatures below zero in the winter, it might just as well not happen.
Top 10 Things to do
1. The Royal Palace Drottningholm, Sweden
On the list of World Heritage Sites protected by UNESCO is the Royal Palace of Drottningholm. The Palace has been compared to the one of Versailles and is the residence of the Swedish King and Queen. The southern wing of the Palace is reserved for the royal family only, but visitors are allowed in the rest of the Palace all year around.
The palace is impressive from the outside, but even more so from the inside!
There are also several museums inside the Palace, so make sure to have plenty of time when visiting.
All year round there is a parade and change of guards outside the palace, in the winter it generally takes place on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays around midday, for exact times check the website here.
The admission fee is 34 Euros.
2. The City Hall
The City Hall, while beautiful in itself, is situated at Kungsholmen, facing the islands of Riddarholmen and Södermalm, making it a stunning viewpoint. The building is made up of grand ceremonial halls and the walls covered with unique art, it is also the place where the Nobel Prize banquet is held on the 10th of December every year.
Make sure not to miss out on the stunning Golden Hall which has more than 18 million pieces of a gold mosaic depicting scenes of Stockholm’s history on its walls.
The admission fee is 13 Euros.
If you ever wanted to see a real Viking ship – here is your chance! The Vasa ship capsized and sank in Stockholm 1628 and was almost intact when it was rediscovered in the 1950s. Vasa is the world’s best-preserved 17th-century ship and the most visited museum in Scandinavia.
The museum is 4-stories high and is built around the ship, making it easy to see each part of the ship as you go through the museum.
You also get to learn a whole lot about the Swedish history and power during the era, how the warship was built, how and why it was capsized, and how it was recovered from the bottom of the sea. Make sure to spend at least 2 hours in the museum.
The admission fee is 15 Euros.
4. The Old Town (Gamla Stan)
The Old Town with its colourful building and narrow winding cobblestone streets are like a free outdoor walkable museum. It is filled with sights, restaurants, cafés, bars and shops. Many of them are, no surprise, a tourist trap, but walking around and taking in the atmosphere is for free and something you shouldn´t miss out on while in Stockholm!
5. The Museum of Photography (Fotografiska Museet)
Fotografiska Museet is the largest photography museum in the world and also the best one I´ve visited. The exhibitions are developed directly with the artists, estates, collections and galleries or curated around a central theme. The museum doesn´t just display the photographs, but build the surrounding around the artwork. You can spend a few hours in the museum and it is open from the morning until late evening, with a great restaurant, to enjoy good food or a glass of wine, while overlooking the canals and the silhouette of Gamla Stan. It is an amazing spot to watch the winter sunsets, so make sure to time it.
The admission fee is 15 Euros and well worth it!
6. The Nordic Museum (Nordiska Museet)
The Nordic Museum is Sweden’s largest museum of cultural history. It is home to over one and a half million exhibits of modern and historic Sweden including clothes and fashion, textiles and jewellery, homes and furniture, photography, toys, folk art, glass and porcelain. There is also an exhibition about the only indigenous people in Sweden, the Sami.
The admission fee is 14 Euros.
7. The ABBA Museum
Mamma Mia, if there is one pop museum to visit in your life it is the ABBA Museum located at the island of Djurgården. While it is not only a museum of the artist’s lives and careers it is also an interactive experience where you can sing and become the dancing queen you ever dreamt of. The tagline of the museum is “walk in and dance out” and if you are a fan it is exactly what you will do!
The admission fee is 25 Euros, which is a bit steep, but if you are interested in pop culture, Swedish culture or simply in ABBA, it is definitely worth it.
8. Fika – the Swedish way of enjoying coffee and something sweet
Trying to explain the concept of Fika is impossible. While it might sound just like the British afternoon tea, or just a regular coffee break, it is just as important to the Swedes as the siesta to the Spanish people and is a custom that all Swedes enjoy, whether at work or in their spare time with friends. Swedes drink an average of four cups of coffee each day, usually with a cake or bun.
Make sure to try the traditional cinnamon bun or the national princess cake, a light-as-air sponge cake base topped with vanilla pastry cream and lashings of fluffy whipped cream and thin layers of raspberry jam, all covered with green marzipan and topped with a pink marzipan rose.
For a traditional experience, try the well-preserved, tradition-packed café Vetekatten, dating back to 1928 where you can sample traditional Swedish pastries of superior quality.
Stockholm is every fashionista’s dream. The city is packed with world-famous Scandinavian fashion. You will find Sweden´s oldest department store, NK, a Swedish shopping landmark. It is not cheap, but it is worth a visit, especially at Christmas time, when they put a lot of effort into making the window displays fairytale-like. But more than anything you will find quirky and unique shops, with everything from famous brands like ACNE to bijouterie and a wide range of hipster accessories as well as fashionable clothes for wild party nights and equipment for nature adventures, in short Stockholm is a shopper´s paradise.
10. Try Swedish meatballs
If you´re not familiar with Swedish food you might think of the Italian golf ball-sized meatballs in tomato sauce. Swedish meatballs are nothing like it. Swedish meatballs is probably the first dish any Swede will mention if you ask them about Swedish traditional food. The meatballs are small, a bit dense but still juicy in texture and come with a side of perfectly fluffy mashed potatoes, incredible gravy, Swedish lingonberries and pickled cucumber. This is a real Swedish treat that Swedes themselves enjoy regularly. Vegetarian? No problem, luckily most restaurants have a vegetarian option or can offer you another Swedish meatless delicacy.
Even if Stockholm can be done on a budget, you need to account for that it is not as cheap as you would want it to be.
1. Consider buying a city pass to save money on attractions and sights.
2. Bring your own water bottle for free refills everywhere.
3. Most shops, attractions and sights offer student discount, make sure to use it!
4. Buy food and drinks in the local supermarkets and make sure your accommodation has cooking facilities.
5. Join free walking tours to get an overview of the city and what you want to spend more time on.
6. Don’t be afraid to approach people, Swedes, and especially people in Stockholm might seem a bit stand-off-ish, but once you approach them, they are super friendly, happy to help and might even show you around their city.
7. It can get very cold during the winter, so make sure you pack accordingly. This mean dress in layers with a wool base layer if its really cold and you plan to spend the whole day outside. , Waterproof boots are super important, a good pair of mittens, scarf and a beanie or something ells to at least cover your ears are essential as well to stay warm.
8. Generally there are a lot of free cultural events, make sure to check what is going on during the time you visit.
Ready to visit Stockholm in winter? Let us know if there is something ells you’d like to know in the comments below
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