Is it crazy to visit Stockholm in winter?

The cold is freezing your hands, the snow is bitting your face, it is lunch time but it is -15°C / 5°F! You are doing this!

You might have stumble upon some of my articles about Stockholm, where I recommend to visit the swedish capital between May and September, but a visit in winter will bring the city under a different lights, that few tourists get to know. In this post, I will tell you what to expect when visiting Stockholm in winter and give you tips to make it a rewarding experience. Gloves and hat on, let’s go!

stokcholm_winter

Yes, you are likely to freeze your ass when visiting Stockholm in winter, but it is worth it!

5 reasons to visit Stockholm in winter

  • the capital covered with snow looks like it comes from a fairytale
  • enjoy skiing during a city break
  • darkness and cold is a big part of the swedish culture, and it is an experience itself!
  • it’s less tourists, you will understand why!
  • perfect for a second visit to the swedish capital

 

The ugly truth – how bad can it be?

Really cold… but not always. Stockholm benefits from a “mild” climate  with in general maximals around -5C to +5C between December and early March. But the weather can be really different depending the winters. During my 5 winters spent in Stockholm, I have experienced heavy snow and long period of cold during 3 of them, the two other winter were quite mild… Some years temperatures can go down to -20C at night and around -15C during day time for a couple of weeks, combined with snow and frozen waters. This may seem extreme but keep in wind that -15C with sun can feel as warm as +2C with rain and wind.

Really dark, every year. Darkness on the other hand, occurs every year without exception. Swedes have not set up a big artificial sun over Stockholm yet. At the worst time (winter solstice) the day is only 6hours long: the sun rise around 08.45am and sets around 14.50pm. Expect to get tired around that time (the body thinks it is time to go to bed!). By the end of January it’s already 2h of additional day light, with a sunset at 16.00pm phew!

So when to go?  For snow and frost (not guarantee but possible), end of January or February is a safer bet, you will also have more day light.For Christmas market and food, opt for December. I will highly recommend to avoid November which combines darkness, rain and no animation as well as early January.

What to do in Stockholm in winter

For the braves, there are plenty of things to do when visiting Stockholm in winter!

For the braves, there are plenty of things to do when visiting Stockholm in winter!

If you are lucky to visit the swedish capital during a cold and white winter you have to try some winter activities. Swedes are really active people and love outdoors, it is not uncommon to meet people in the subway carrying their ski equipment as the slopes starts in the city! Also, going skiing is the perfect way to enjoy the nature in winter while staying warm!

Enjoy the nature at Hellasgården

Just 15min out of town, a visit to Hellasgården is a good occasion to try out some winter activities:  you can rent nordic skis (from 190SEK) and ice skates (from 160SEK) and go on the tracks or frozen lake for free. There is also a traditional sauna (65SEK, possibility to rent towels) where you can take a refreshing break by jumping in the frozen waters of the lake. You can also join their outdoors barbecues during the week-end. From Slussen station, take bus 401 towards Älta and get off at Hellasgården, after 15minutes. Check status of the activities and tracks and lake on their really informative website (in english).

Go downhill skiing at Hammarbybacken

If you are more a downhill skiing person, get to Hammarbybacken.  This 93m high hill is the capital mini ski station and hosts 5 slopes of different levels. This is perfect for half a day, to give you a taste of ski vacation. You can rent skis (from 200SEK) or snowboard there. Ski passes start at 125SEK . There is even a ski school! Hammarbybacken is also 15min from the city. Check all practical information on Hammarbybacken website.

Get on a cruise and dare to step outside

Brave the cold and go on a winter cruise to admire the frozen city and archipelago from the water.

Enjoy a sauna

End the day with a bastu (sauna) session. Initially a finish tradition but really appreciated by Swedes, the sauna will get you warm and relax you at the same time. Many hotels have their own sauna. If you are looking for a place to spend a few hours Centralbadet, with it swimming pool, jaccuzzi and baroque setting is perfect.

 

Stay warm in Stockholm

No snow, too cold or just not fancing to be out? Here a few ideas.

Visit museums
Stockholm is home of dozen of museums but there are two that really stand out: the VasaMuseet which show case a magnificent, well preserved wreck and Fotografiska which is home of photography collection and where you can enjoy beautiful views of the old town and Djugården.

Eat your way out

Embrace the “fika” habit and take a coffee break in many of the lovely coffee places accross town. There are many good places to enjoy a warm latte and a semla (creamy bun made for Mardi Gras) but here are a few of my favorite: on Petite France on Kungsholmen, Cafe Mineur on Gamla Stan, Saturnus on Vasastan, Chockladfabriken, Judith and Bertil or Cafe String on Södermalm.

If you plan to visit in December, book several weeks in advance a table for a julbord where you will enjoy a traditional swedish Christmas dinner.

Go shopping
In town, shopping galleries Mood, NK and Ahlens are the perfect place to get warm…. and check some swedish design!

How to dress in Stockholm in winter

Beautiful nordic landscape in Tyresö park, 30 min from Stockholm city center.

“there is no bad weather, only bad clothes” Swedish proverb

After living several years in Sweden I have to admit this proverb is true. If you are coming to Stockholm in winter, pack smart and you will have a good time!

  • Gloves and hat are essential (protect the extremities) as well as waterproof shoes.
  • Wear several layers: two pairs of socks, tights and jeans.
  • If the weather forecast predicts really cold weather, don’t hesitate to bring your ski jacket instead of your wool coat, it will protect you better from the elements.
  • The air can be really dry in winter, pack a lip balm and some body lotion
  • If you heading off to the outdoors, a thermos of tea or coffee is a great way to bring temperature and moods up!

{This article is part of the Little Big Stockholm series }

7 thoughts on “Is it crazy to visit Stockholm in winter?

  1. Juliette says:

    This blog is saving my life! I bought a travel guide but they only give advice for summer and I plan to go at the end of January. Thanks!

  2. Polly says:

    ooh some fab tips thank you. Off to Stockholm next week for work and taggin on afew extra days. Will definitely do the boat tour and pack extra tights 🙂

  3. Yuhalini Poopalasingam says:

    Thanks for the tips. I will be going to Helsinki in Feb for a wedding. Since I hail from Malaysia, a tropical country, I am afraid of being under prepared for the winter. I am planning to take one of the cruises to Stockholm. Is there anything else I should look out for?

    • Amandine says:

      Hi Yuhalini,
      Bring enough layers (2 long sleeve may be more efficient than one sweater) and remember to cover hands and head.
      Are you able to rent a proper winter coat? That may be a life saver… Alternatively having a downjacket under another jacket can help. Also consider buying hand warmers.
      Finally, you may not find as cold as you may think as the winter is usually quite dry, -10C and sun sometimes feels warmer than 5C and rain!
      Good luck, i am sure you will have a great trip.

  4. Michael says:

    We are visiting Stockholm for 5 days just after Christmas. We have a 4 year old. Any ideas of places to visit during this quieter time between Christmas and New Year? Also where might be good for New Years Eve

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