Winter in Stockholm: hand-picked tips from those in the know

The Local asked three Stockholmers for their favourite ways to spend winter in Stockholm. From local best-kept secrets to the more obvious Christmas must-dos, we share their tips with you so you can get the most out of the city’s magical winter months. 

Winter in Stockholm: hand-picked tips from those in the know
Spain-native, now Stockholm-local, Marta Vargas; charming Gamla Stan during winter. Photo, right: Ola Ericson, Stocksholmsfoto/Visit Stockholm

Whether you’re visiting family or friends for the festive season, living out your Nordic winter wonderland dreams, or already living in Sweden, Stockholm makes an appealing choice as a destination with plenty to enjoy, even during the coldest months. 

Together with Arlanda express, come with us as we experience the darker months done right in this Scandinavian capital, as told by locals. 

Marta Vargas, art director

Marta moved to Stockholm from Barcelona almost 10 years ago. She lives in the quaint neighbourhood of Aspudden together with fiancé Graeme, daughter Moa and dog Summer.

“I absolutely love winter in Sweden so I have many good memories during this season,” she says. “They all involve lots of snow and walking through the city: going to Djurgården after a snowstorm and enjoying the vastness and silence; climbing up to Monteliusvägen to discover a breathtaking white view of the city; or having hot chocolate after a Lucia concert in the old town. Stockholm is truly magical in the winter.”

Though it’s not really an insider secret, Stockholm’s old town (Gamla Stan) is a special must-see. This is particularly true during winter, when a sugar-dusting of snow covers the ochre-hued, lantern-lit laneways. 

With Arlanda express it takes you only 18 minutes from the airport to Stockholm Central Station, and from there you can head straight to Gamla Stan to get into the Scandi winter spirit. From the station it’s just a 10–15 minute walk, and you’ll take in stunning city views along the way.

Keen to get off the tourist trail? Marta suggests visiting her neighbourhood of Aspudden, just south of the city, and taking a walk to Vinterviken. 

“From the cliffs you can see an amazing view of the lake Mälaren, and you can finish the visit with fika by the fire at Vinterviken Trädgårdskafé and ice skating on the lake Trekanten.”

Don’t miss these three Stockholm winter activities says Marta:

“Take the ferry and go for a walk around Djurgården, and have fika at Rosendals Trädgård. A place to not miss in any season, but especially in the winter, it doesn’t get cosier than that! 

“Have breakfast at Stora Bageriet, visit the National Museum and finish off with a walk around Skeppsholmen.

“Walk around the old town and the Christmas Market in Stortorget, and have hot chocolate at some small café.”

Local Swede Sebastian Martinez from dreamy spa hotel Ellery Beach House; UK-born Stephen Leighton with his partner Joanna Alm at their coffee-lovers must-visit Drop Coffee. Photo, right: Christian Gustavsson

Stephen Leighton, part owner, Drop Coffee

Originally from Staffordshire in the UK, Stephen has been part-owner of coffee shop and roastery Drop Coffee in Stockholm’s Södermalm for the past six years, together with his partner, Joanna. 

“There are so many hidden gems around Stockholm and some great gems not so hidden!” 

With that in mind, Stephen shares his three favourite foodie places in Stockholm:

“When I first moved here, our roastery was in Västberga. One lunchtime wandering around the industrial estate I found this place called Brisket and Friends – it looked like a truck stop. I was amazed at the array of BBQ meats and amazing sides in a simple and unpretentious surroundings. Great value, great food and great people.

“I love craft beers, and I love Omnipollos Hat near Slussen, I thought it couldn’t get any better. But this year saw the opening of Omnipollos Kyrka in Sundbyberg and my life got instantly better. Good beer, good food and a great location with some of the most knowledgeable staff on beer. 

“Ninja Bar has the same owners as Stockholm Brewing Co. A must visit, with a fantastic selection of natural wines and great small dishes in an intimate but lovely space in the heart of Södermalm.”

You can get to all of Stephen’s tasty picks via Stockholm’s easy-to-navigate transport system from T-Centralen. And getting to T-Centralen from the airport when you start your trip is comfortable and fast on Arlanda express (and if you travel with kids, they ride for free). It’s the obvious choice for locals in the know. 

“I use Arlanda express fairly regularly,” says Stephen. “It’s super easy and quick to get into T Central – and much nicer than sitting in the back of a cab for an hour or getting stuck in the E4 motorway hell during rush hour.”

Stephen admits his first taste of a Nordic winter wasn’t as comfortable though. “My first memory of minus 20 was arriving at Arlanda in a light coat and my girlfriend laughing herself to the ground at how badly prepared I was for a Nordic winter… I now have a very good summer and winter wardrobe.”

Sebastian Martinez, hotel manager, Ellery Beach House

After 12 years working in hotels in London and Copenhagen, Sebastian returned home to Stockholm during the pandemic to work at Ellery Beach House, a hotel and spa overlooking the Stockholm archipelago.

“Everything gets a little cosier in winter,” he says. “You hang out in cafes and bars with candles and a warm drink.”

He suggests you head into enchanting Gamla Stan and find a seat at Pharmarium for “amazing cocktails”.

Here are Sebastian’s Stockholm winter highlights:

“A walk in the old town is super cosy during winter. You feel like you are travelling back in time. The small shops, cafés and Christmas market on Stortorget is an experience you will remember. When it is time for food, I recommend Bistro Marie. They serve classic French, Italian, American and Swedish dishes with a twist.

“During the colder months I also like to visit our amazing museums. Vasamuséet is one of my favourites – so much history right in front of you in a majestic way. I get amazed every time I go. Naturhistoriska Riksmuséet with Cosmo Nova is another favourite. 

“I must mention my workplace, Ellery Beach House. After checking in, you change into a bathrobe and slippers and head off to the Beach Club, or hang out in our fire room. We have four heated pools, or why not try a refreshing dip in the sea? There are two saunas to warm you up afterwards.”

Our best Stockholm winter tip? Prepare yourself for a cosy and comfortable journey and book a ticket on Arlanda express.

Much better than waiting in a the blustery airport taxi queue – discover the 18-minute train journey that takes you right to the heart of Stockholm!

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Christmas in Sweden: The 10 best julbord in the Stockholm area

Whether you're a Swedish Christmas newbie or a seasoned julbord connoisseur, here's The Local's selection of 10 of the best festive meals in the Stockholm area this winter. Feel free to share other tips in the comments!

Christmas in Sweden: The 10 best julbord in the Stockholm area
File photo of a julbord at Stallmästaregården in Stockholm. Photo: Leif R Jansson/Scanpix

The Swedish julbord is an extensive spread that has evolved from a variety of traditions and today consists of an elaborate buffet of typical Christmas food. It is popular not only to sit down for a julbord on Christmas Eve with family, but also to go out for a special julbord meal at a restaurant in the run-up to Christmas – with family, friends or colleagues. See here for the low-down on the Swedish julbord.

National Archives, Stockholm

This julbord, which was held in the more roomy Norra Latin building on Norrmalm last year, has returned to the former National Archives on Stockholm’s Riddarholmen islet for 2022. Created by Swedish chef Niklas Ekstedt, the julbord offers both traditional meaty dishes and a decent selection of vegetarian options.

When: November 11th-December 25th

Price: From 795-1,295 kronor depending on day of the week

Skansen, Stockholm

Outdoor museum Skansen is not only home to one of the best Christmas markets in the Swedish capital, it also offers julbord at four of its restaurants. Depending on which restaurant you go to, you can choose between classic, vegan or multi-cultural julbord, á la carte or buffet. You can also choose your preferred setting: Do you want to eat in a stylish, modern dining room, or a cottage with a history dating back to the 19th century?

When: Dates vary depending on restaurant, but the julbord is generally available from around mid or late November

Price: Again, the price varies depending on restaurant, but expect around 600 kronor

Domtrappkällaren, Uppsala

Venture north of Stockholm to the university town of Uppsala (around half an hour with SJ’s trains or an hour with SL’s trains – if you have a Stockholm SL travel pass, don’t forget you need to buy a separate add-on ticket for Uppsala) to have dinner at one of the town’s oldest restaurants. Domtrappkällaren is located in the cellars of a building originally from the 13th century, which has been renovated several times.

When: November 30th-December 23rd

Price: Between 395 and 645 kronor, depending on time and day of the week

Hermans, Stockholm

Hermans is one of few restaurants that offers an entirely vegan julbord – a green oasis for those who want to avoid the usually very meat-heavy Christmas buffet. Located on the hills of Stockholm’s hipster Södermalm island, it offers an incredible view over the Swedish capital.

When: Friday-Sunday the first three weekends in December

Price: 450 kronor for the Friday lunch julbord, 595 kronor for the other days

Julbord archipelago cruise, Stockholm

Can’t decide where to go for your julbord? Have one on the go, or rather, on a boat. The Strömma cruise company offers Christmas buffet cruises which will let you admire the views of the Stockholm archipelago while sipping a hot cup of glögg or munching on herring or Swedish meatballs. There are both lunch and dinner options, but be aware that if you go for the dinner option it will be dark outside – but, since this is Sweden in winter, there are sure to be plenty of decorative Christmas lights to enjoy as you travel past the many islands of Stockholm.

When: November 24th-December 24th

Price: 695 kronor for the lunch cruise, 845 kronor for the dinner cruise

Rissne gård, Sundbyberg

Rissne gård in Sundbyberg, north-west of Stockholm, was built in 1648 and renovated in the 19th century. Don’t forget to look up at the ceiling to admire the paintings, and pay special attention to the hand-forged door hinges, depicting troll heads and wild animals from the mid-17th century. And then, of course, there’s also the julbord which will serve up all the traditional food you might expect at a Swedish Christmas meal: herring, home-smoked salmon and sausages, and of course homemade meatballs. There are also vegetarian options.

Get here by taking the metro, blue line, to Rissne, then walk.

When: November 25th-December 24th

Price: Between 595 and 850 kronor, 995 kronor on Christmas Eve

Gripsholms Värdshus, Mariefred

It’s worth going for a walk through lovely small town Mariefred before sitting down for a traditional Christmas meal at Gripsholms Värdshus. You may even want to pay a visit to Gripsholm Castle, built on the orders of King Gustav Vasa in the 16th century and home to one of the most startling pieces of taxidermy in Sweden: a lion that looks like… there are no words to describe it, click here to see for yourself.

Getting here takes about an hour by train from Stockholm Central. Take the train to Läggesta Station, then change to a bus to Mariefred.

When: November 25th-December 24th

Price: Between 695 and 895 kronor, 1,145 kronor on Christmas Eve

Van der Nootska Palatset, Stockholm

The traditional Swedish julbord is a smörgåsbord-style buffet, but at Van der Nootska Palatset the food will be offered to you at the table in four servings. The palace was named after Dutchman Thomas van der Noot, who built it after arriving in Sweden in the 1650s, and it’s the perfect venue to get into the Christmas spirit. Through the years it has also been home to some of Stockholm’s wealthiest families, and then during the area’s decadence of the 19th century, it hosted various businesses including a tobacco factory, a beer house and a brothel.

And yes, there be ghosts.

When: From November 23rd-December 22nd

Price: 825-995 kronor, depending on time and day of the week

Långholmens Wärdshus, Stockholm

The julbord at Långholmens Wärdshus starts, as many julbord do, with a cup of glögg, before you are invited to sit down and enjoy a traditional meal including a pickled herring they call the “Sean Connery herring”. You may want to go on a guided tour of the former Långholmen Prison before your meal. Stockholm’s Långholmen island was home to a prison from the 18th century until 1975.

When: November 18th-December 22nd

Price: Between 595 and 995 kronor depending on time and day of the week

Stallmästaregården, Solna

Stallmästaregården’s iconic julbord is served up at Haga Tingshus, a former courthouse in the Haga Park north of Stockholm. Crown Princess Victoria and her family live in the park, but we can’t promise you’ll meet them. But never mind the royals, what food is on offer? All the Swedish Christmas classics, including salmon from the restaurant’s own smokehouse and homemade meat terrines. There are also vegetarian options.

When: November 25th-December 24th

Price: Between 795 and 995 kronor, 1195 kronor on Christmas Eve