it isn’t a secret that Stockholm is traditionally considered a summer city. With long sun-filled days, colourful facades, and mild temperatures that are suitable for roaming the city streets well into the bright evenings. In contrast winter is cold, it’s dark. So why would anyone want to visit Stockholm in the winter?
Well, I happen to think that Stockholm is a great winter city – and I am going to tell you exactly why. The chilly temperatures provide the perfect atmosphere to get cozy. It is significantly less busy compared to summer months, which means you likely won’t be dodging other tourists. And there are plenty of indoor activities to keep you busy in the event that weather isn’t cooperating.
Bundle up & strap on your most comfortable boots. here's a complete city guide to visiting Stockholm in the winter.
Things to do in stockholm in the winter
(Or in any season, really!)
Visit Stockholm's old town: Gamla Stan
Let’s start with the most obvious spot first: Gamla Stan. Aka, the city’s old town.
Gamla Stan is a beautiful district right in the heart of Stockholm where you can get lost in the maze of streets. Venture away from the main streets and you’ll find the coziest narrow alleyways and beautiful warm-toned facades.
Tucked away in the middle of Gamla Stan you’ll find Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, which is a very narrow staircase alleyway filled with graffiti, and it is worth checking out.
Lastly, don’t forget to check out Stortorget, or “Big Square,” which is the old town’s main square. It is lined with beautiful buildings (and patios in the summer months).
And if you happen to be there around the holidays (like me), Stortorget is home to a charming Christmas market. It is definitely one of the smaller markets I’ve been to, but worth checking out and grabbing a cup of glögg (mulled wine). It is absolutely beautiful see, backed by the colourful buildings around the square.
Explore my favourite neighbourhood: Södermalm
Södermalm, also commonly (and affectionately) known as the “hipster” area of Stockholm, is just plain cool. Think of it as the Brooklyn of Stockholm, hosting all the best restaurants, bars, trendy stores, and coffee shops.
I’d recommend getting off at Medborgarplasen Station, with Götgatan as your starting point, and explore from there. Along Götgatan, you’ll find all kinds of cool shops to browse, which also serve as the perfect escape from the cold if it happens to be chilly outside.
After that, venture through the pretty streets of Katarina-Sofia, where you’ll find some of the best restaurants in the city (more on that below). Another cool stop is Soda Nation, a boutique soda shop with all kinds of unique sodas from all over the world (where I indulged in a “Jul” or “Christmas” soda).
Okay, so you’ve spent plenty of time roaming around outside and it’s starting to get a bit chilly. Why not take it indoors to one of Stockholm’s many museums.
My personal favourite museum was Fotografiska, a museum that features various photograph exhibits throughout the year. The work we saw was so unique and creative, and this was easily a highlight of my time in Stockholm. It costs 135 SEK (roughly 13 EUR or 14 USD) per person, and is worth every penny. I highly suggest visiting at nighttime (the museum is opened until 11PM on weekdays and 1AM on weekends) and take some time to visit the on-site bar for a drink. They often also host live music and other events – you can find out more details on their event calendar.
step back in time at Skansen
Skansen is the worlds largest open-air museum, home to homesteads, animals, and shops that are supposed to represent the whole of Sweden. Here, you’ll be transported back in time as you walk the grounds of this museum. My personal favourite part: Watching the wolves play! They wrestled around with each other and looked just like the most adorable little pups, and I was just left wishing I could hop in the pen and play with them (even though that is obviously a VERY bad idea).
We visited Skansen during December for their annual Christmas market, which was easily the best Christmas market in Stockholm. There was live Swedish music, glögg, and tons of stalls to browse. They even had a stall where they were brewing beer over an open fire next the the stall – and the beer was delicious (you can see a picture of them stirring the malt below).
Stadsbiblioteket, or the Stockholm city library, is a stunning library. In the centre, you’ll find a large round room with a dome-shaped roof and floor-to-ceiling books. It is seriously breathtaking, and I felt like I was living out my childhood dream pretending I am Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
Explore the famous Stockholm Tunnelbana (metro) art
The Stockholm Tunnelbana – the city’s metro system – has gained notoriety all over the world for it’s famed art installations. Since 1957, artists have been commissioned to revitalize many of Stockholm’s oldest metro stations. The results are SO COOL and have become a tourist attraction themselves.
We visited five different stations during our time in Stockholm and my only regret is we didn’t have time to see more. Here’s the five we visited:
Arguably my favourite, I loved the design of the artwork at T-Centralen (the central station). The station is full of trains and metro lines, and is quite overwhelming. But, just keep your eyes peeled for the Blue Line and make your way toward that to find this masterpiece.
Stadion is also on the Blue Line and features a huge rainbow over the metro station, and lots of bright colours. I found this was the most difficult spot to photograph because it happened to be the most busy with other tourists. But can you blame them? Look at it!
Solna Centrum was another easy Blue Line favourite for me, with bright red walls and green tree drawings scattered throughout the metro station.
Kungsträdgården was the most unique station we visited. The main colour of this station is green, but it also has really unique checkered/pixelated patterns throughout. Similar to the others, this can also be found on the Blue Line.
Rådhuset was our final Blue Line stop and it dominates with a bright orange cave-like interior.
You’ll notice all of our stops were along the Blue Line, which makes it easy to hope from one to another. If you were to venture off on other lines, it would take a bit more time. So, if you’re in a time crunch like me, you could hit up these five stations in a short amount of time.
When should you visit the Tunnelbana to get the best pictures? Honestly, when I saw everyone posting empty pictures of these spots online, I assumed they were visiting during the early hours of the morning. However, we were taking the metro at all times of the day (morning, evening, mid-afternoon) and there were always breaks in traffic and opportunities to take photos. Just have a little bit of patience, and the opportunity will arise (although I never had to be patient for more than a couple minutes to snag the shot).
Is it difficult to shoot in the dark metro stations? YES. You’ll notice many of my photos are quite grainy. I’ve done my best to edit to remove the grain, but in some cases it was super difficult.
If you’re looking for even more stations to discover, Visit Stockholm highlights fourteen of the most beautiful stations in this article.
Where to Eat in Stockholm
There is not shortage of amazing restaurants in Stockholm. When researching where to eat, and polling friends, the result was a massive list of recommendations, ranging from cheap eats, to traditional Swedish cuisine, to international eats, and everything in between. Below you’ll find where I’ve ate so far. But stay tuned, because this list is bound to keep growing.
Best Affordable Eats in Stockholm: Lådan
Lådan is a quirky little beer and small plates joint close to Stadsbiblioteket. It features really unique craft beers (I had a Cola-flavoured one) and affordable small plate food options that range from sliders to tacos to mac ‘n cheese. It’s the perfect spot to grab a quick bite for lunch.
Best Meatballs in Stockholm: Meatballs for the People
If your looking for a spot to try Sweden’s arguably most famous dish, Meatballs for the People is a great spot to do it. They offer all kinds of meatball dishes, ranging from classic with lingonberries and cucumber (which I opted for), to more trendy dishes like “The Hipster” moose meatballs (that Sebastian ordered).
Best Italian in Stockholm: Café Nizza
A cozy Italian joint in Södermalm, Café Nizza offers tasty dishes and a really nice atmosphere. I particularly loved their homemade pastas and mussel appetizer.
Best Unique Dinner in Stockholm: Schmaltz Bar & Delicatessen
If you’re looking for a unique spot to have a mid-range dinner in Stockholm, this is the place. Schmaltz Bar & Delicatessen is the tiniest (and I mean TINY with only five tables), coziest little restaurant with a menu inspired by New York Jewish delis. If you want to eat here, make a reservation because it’s popular.
Best Fika in Stockholm: Kaffe
I know what you’re thinking – a coffeeshop called “Kaffe” (which translates to “coffee” in English)… how original. BUT, hear me out. Kaffe is a coffeeshop in Södermalm that offers exceptional coffee and treats. The atmosphere is welcoming and offers the perfect atmosphere to grab a window spot, people watch, and enjoy fika. I loved this spot and I am confident that if I lived in Stockholm, I would be a regular here.
Best Cocktail Bar in Stockholm: Tjoget
Tjoget was named to the “2019 Best Bars in the World” list – and I can understand why. I indulged in their award-winning cocktail, affectionately referred to by the bartender as a “Nordic pina colada” with beetroot, ginger, and coconut flavours. It was DELICIOUS.
Best Hotel in Stockholm
Getting Around Stockholm
Typically I prefer to walk everywhere on vacation. I am a firm believer that this is how you see and experience the city in the best way. I’ve walked all over Stockholm (in fact, on my most recent trip I walked over 40,000 steps in two days). And I came across so many hidden gems.
However, if the weather isn’t cooperating during the winter months, Stockholm and extremely well connected by Tunnelbana – Stockholm’s metro system. Despite walking all over the city, we used the metro a lot while visiting in December because it gave us an opportunity to see more in a short 48 hour window (plus, escaping the cold temperatures was an added bonus!). A 24-hour metro pass sets you back 130 SEK per person (roughly 27 USD or 25 EUR). This may seen a bit pricey, but in my experience, it is worth every penny (especially because it gives you the opportunity to see the Tunnelbana art installations that I mentioned above).
If you’re coming into Stockholm via Arlanda airport, you can reach the city centre by Arlanda Express in a quick 20 minutes. The price point is a bit alarming at 579 SEK round-trip per person (that’s roughly 60 USD or 55 EUR), but it is easily the most efficient way to get to/from the city. Plus it uses green energy, which makes it eco-friendly. This is Sweden, after all – which means nothing is cheap.
It's time channel your inner Swede and embrace Stockholm in the Winter
Pack your thermals, and you’ll be all set! There really is a never-ending amount of things to do in Stockholm in the winter, and I very much recommend visiting this time of year (especially in December when the city is lit up with Christmas lights!).
If you’re travelling around Scandinavia, check out my Denmark and Sweden content. And read about all the best things about Sweden while you’re at it to help you get excited for your Scandinavian adventure.