Piping hot glögg, ice skating in the middle of the city, a table loaded with a Christmas buffet – in December, Stockholm takes on an extra romantic glow. Here are the best tips for getting the most out of a Christmas weekend in the Swedish capital.
Take the Arlanda Express to experience Christmas in Stockholm
Arlanda Express is a fast, comfortable and environmentally friendly way to travel between Stockholm- Arlanda Airport and Stockholm City. The journey takes only 20 minutes. Trains depart six times every hour during peak hours, and every fifteen minutes at other times. The train interior has received several awards for its design, interior and service. Arlanda Express has also been named the best express train to and from an airport.
Gamla Stan (Old Town)
The Stortorget Christmas Market
The traditional Christmas market on Stortorget (the Great Square) in Gamla Stan is Sweden’s oldest. Though it started back in 1837, it has its origins in Sweden’s medieval market fairs. Here, you can have a browse among booths painted red, selling everything from sweets to art metal work, crafts, and much more. Around the square are several cosy cafés to warm up in – for example Grillska Huset, which donates part of its proceeds to charitable causes.
The market is open every day until December 23
Right next to the Royal Palace, Storkyrkan (Stockholm Cathedral) rises over the neighbouring buildings. Kings have been crowned here, and princes and princesses have been married. It is also a place for tranquillity and contemplation – something that can be nice at Christmastime.
A number of different Christmas concerts are arranged here in December, including St. Lucia’s Day concerts with a traditional Lucia procession. On December 16 and 17, Swedish and Anglo-Saxon Christmas carols will be mixed with majestic organ music and grand arias. Many of the concerts require ticket purchases in advance, but on December 20 it will be free of charge to listen to Christmas music in the church.
Address: Trångsund 1
Stockholm’s biggest Christmas tree
Every year, Stockholm’s biggest Christmas tree brings flocks of tourists and Stockholm residents to Skeppsbrokajen (Skeppsbro Quay). It’s even said that it’s the biggest in the world, but we’ll leave that for others to decide.
Address: Skeppsbron 18
One of the highlights in Stockholm at this time of year is Christmas Shopping Sunday, when NK (Nordiska Kompaniet) – the department store steeped in tradition – unveils its Christmas decorations. Every year, there is a new theme that attracts both young and old to the huge shop windows on Hamngatan.
Address: Hamngatan 18-20
Across from NK lies Kungsträdgården, Stockholm’s most central park. It is transformed into a lyrical winter wonderland in December every year. In the centre is an ice rink, which offers the attraction of ice skating in the middle of the city. Ice skates can be rented here, and there are booths with hot chocolate and glögg as well.
The Light Walk
In December, the city of Stockholm lights up with over one million LED lights on its streets and squares. The city has designed a special Light Walk that takes about 60 minutes to go through, but it can be broken up into smaller stages. There are many sights worth seeing along the way.
The map of the lights can be obtained at selected hotels and tourist offices, or downloaded as a digital map.
Seeing Stockholm in winter from the water is an enchanting experience, especially when the city is covered in snow and the boat is making its way through the ice. There are a number of different sightseeing tours to choose from. Strömma’s Stockholm Winter Tour goes along the quays of the city, then out to the Fjäderholm islands and back. Along the way, the vessel’s guide relates interesting anecdotes, and glögg is served in the cafeteria.
The tour departs from Stromkajen and costs SEK 280. Strömma also has boat tours that include Christmas buffets.
Anyone who has seen Ingmar Bergman’s film Fanny and Alexander certainly has a clear picture of a traditional Swedish Christmas. But was it really celebrated like that around the turn of the twentieth century? At the Hallwylska Museum, which is a private home from 1898, visitors can go back in time one hundred years and experience the Christmas of the time among the aristocracy and upper class. Dramatized exhibitions in English are also offered every Saturday.
This year, for the first time, a Christmas buffet will be offered in the glassed-in winter garden – filled with home-made delicacies and the Hallwyl family favourites, all in an enchanting winter milieu.
The museum is open daily except Mondays.
Address: Hamngatan 4
The Skansen open-air museum is one of Stockholm’s most popular tourist destinations. It is extra cosy this time of year, as the houses and courtyards are filled with singing, warmth, food, and Christmas decorations. Every weekend up through December 17, there is an old-fashioned Christmas market with wandering choirs.
You can also learn how Swedish Christmas has been celebrated throughout history, and for children there are Christmas crafts.
Address: Djurgårdsslätten 49
For places to visit in the summer, Rosendals Garden is hard to beat. It’s also a fantastic experience this time of year: large greenhouses filled with the food, plants, and pastries of the season. St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated on December 10 with a Lucia procession through the greenhouse, and on December 17 is Winter Lights, an afternoon of fire, lanterns, and light shows. Glögg and the garden’s own hot apple cider will be served at the winter bar.
Lunch, and sweets from biodynamic and ecological ingredients, are always on offer at the café. Christmas dinner will also be served on December 2 and 9.
Address: Rosendalsvägen 38
There are several museums on Djurgården that are worth a visit: The Abba museum, the Vasa museum, and the recently opened Vikingaliv, to name a few. If you would like to pick up some topics of conversation before New Year’s Eve, we recommend a visit to Spritmuseum, the museum of alcohol. A new exhibition about champagne is currently on display here. Champagne tastings will also be offered in December, under the guidance of the museum’s colourful experts on drinks.
And the museum restaurant – one of the city’s best gourmet restaurants – is serving a tasting menu with the flavours of Christmas. It includes five courses with everything from pickled Baltic herring with ramson capers to buttermilk sorbet with grilled clementines, rice meringue, and hopped cream.