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Think snow-covered roofs, Christmas markets with mulled wine and eating as many Swedish meatballs as you can without feeling guilty, because it’s winter y’all and you need hearty food to stay warm.
While many people will discourage you from visiting Scandinavia or Stockholm in Winter, I’m here to tell you to ignore those people – it may seem like a crazy time of year to visit the Northern Hemisphere, but I promise you it can be really magical.
One of the travel moments that will stay with me forever was pulling open the curtains of our apartment on our first day in Stockholm, only to be greeted with a blanket of white, with little snowflakes trickling down past our window. As the morning progressed, I watched groups of school children sledding outside and throwing snowballs at each other.
The little girl inside was overjoyed at the idea of experiencing a white Christmas. Cue the Frozen movie soundtrack 😉
For those of you who dream of a magical snow-covered Stockholm (or any other major Scandinavian city), I’ve put together a guide to surviving (and THRIVING!) in winter:
1. IT’S COLD, SO COME PREPARED
This seems to be an obvious point, but if you’re from the Southern Hemisphere, nothing can prepare you for how cold it really can be. If you don’t come prepared, you will cry. I’m not even kidding. Cold hurts. Hurts, BAD.
Now, before you read on, I want to stress that cold weather impacts people in different ways. I know my husband very rarely feels cold, whereas I am always cold in winter (even in Australia). Knowing this, I knew I had to be 100% prepared for winter in Stockholm.
Before leaving home, I did a bit of shopping. Some of my recommendations include:
- A warm coat: a down coat will keep you warm (and they’re lightweight!) If you can’t find a down jacket, try to find a coat made from a blend of wool and/or cashmere. This is a great budget friendly down jacket option if you don’t have one already!
- A thick warm scarf (again, wool and/or cashmere blend is best)
- A beanie to keep your head warm (this “beanietail” is great for those who like to tie their hair back while wearing a beanie)
- Thick woolen socks (steer clear of cotton – this will retain sweat which in turn will make you cold!)
- Thermals (especially if you’re planning outdoor activities like the Northern Lights)
- Warm jumpers or fleece jackets for layering
- Warm boots: make sure they’re waterproof or water resistant at a minimum. While you could wear sneakers, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re used to cold, snowy weather. Your feet are likely to get wet from the snow on the ground 😉
- Disposable hand warmers: I highly recommend these if you’re planning on spending extended time outdoors (like watching the Northern Lights!) or if you get cold easily. You can buy these in stores specializing in outdoor gear or online)
Want to read in detail what you should bring when traveling to cold climates during winter? Make sure you check out my detailed guide I wrote about surviving winter in the Northern Hemisphere!
Note for my friends who live in the southern hemisphere and maybe don’t have access to warm clothes: make sure you check out Uniqlo (they usually always have a selection of warm jumpers and/or down jackets), shops that sell outdoor camping gear or second-hand thrift stores. You may have to hunt around a bit, but regardless of where you live, you should be able to find at least the basics.
Gamla Stan – Stockholm’s Old Town
You might also like: Surviving Winter: A Guide for First Timers
2. MUSEUMS ARE NOT ONLY FOR NERDS
The one thing I absolutely loved about visiting Scandivania was the range of museums available. In Stockholm especially, there’s basically a museum for everything. Cue nerdy excitement.
There’s a Nobel Peace Prize museum with memorabilia from notable prize winners, a museum about the history of alcohol and my personal favorite… A POSTAL MUSEUM. I collected stamps when I was younger, so this museum gave me definite nostalgia of the good ‘ol days when sending letters was the norm.
I guarantee you, regardless of what you’re interested in, there’s a museum for you. So pick a topic you’re interested in, and voila, you have a great activity to spend your cold wintery day in Stockholm!
Tip for budget travelers: most museums have one night a week where they offer free entry to the museum or to specific exhibits. If you’re in Stockholm for a week or more, this is a great way to visit the museums on a budget.
3. WHEN IT GETS TOO COLD, THAW OFF IN A CUTE CAFE
As a lover of all things breakfast & brunch related, Stockholm was heaven for me. If you’re in visiting Stockholm in winter, I highly high HIGHLY suggest you check out SoFo (south of Folkungagatan). The area is filled with cute hip boutiques (hellooo winter shopping) and lots of adorable Instagram-worthy cafes.
4. EAT AT A CHRISTMAS MARKET
Sure, they’re held outside in the cold, but…
Mulled wine. Sausages. Gingerbread.
In all seriousness, there is nothing better than eating your bodyweight in German Sausages and sauerkraut and drowning it all down with some mulled wine. I have a serious love affair with Christmas Markets (shhh don’t tell my significant other). It may be cold outside, so definitely dress in layers, but staying warm isn’t too hard when you’re eating lots of yummy food.
5. FILL YOUR BELLY WITH SWEDISH MEATBALLS OR REINDEER
Granted, this doesn’t quite work if you’re a vegetarian. If this is the case, it’s probably best for you to ADVERT YOUR EYES and move on to the next section.
For those of us who eat meat, this is the perfect way to fill up on a cold day. I can’t imagine scoffing a bowl of Swedish meatballs in the summer. Winter in Stockholm on the other hand, is a different story!
My favorite place in Stockholm? Make sure you check out Meatballs For The People. This restaurant regularly fills with people even before lunch so make sure you head there a bit before noon hits!
GET IN MY BELLY
6. SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
Traveling this far up north in the middle of winter is the perfect time to chase the Northern Lights.
Whilst a viewing isn’t always guaranteed (I guess Mother Nature doesn’t have the same reliability as an Amazon Prime order), your chances are increased when visiting in winter. The bonus of visiting during winter is that you’ll also get to enjoy other winter activities like husky sledding and snowmobiling.
If you’d like to see the Northern Lights, make sure you do your research beforehand! The Northern Lights are best seen from locations far from major cities where there is less light pollution. We visited Nellim in Finland for 5 days where we saw the lights every night we were there and had a range of winter activities to choose from during the daytime.
Despite the cold weather, Stockholm really is a beautiful city to explore… Snow or no snow, there are endless experiences and parts of this city to explore!
I fell in love with the snow-covered roofs, the hip boutiques, and cafes, and even learned to love the ice-covered, slippery-heart-pound-inducing pavements.
Psst – are you planning your Stockholm trip? Here are some helpful links for you…
Have I missed anything? Have you visited Stockholm or Scandinavia during the winter? What are some of your tips? Leave me a comment below and let me know!