When I booked my ticket to visit Stockholm in March, I received more than a couple strange looks. “Why?!” seemed to be the overwhelming question leaping out of people’s mouths, and that continued even once I was there. To be honest, the first reason was simple: it was cheap. A $400 roundtrip flight to a country and city near the top of my bucket list just couldn’t be passed up! There is also something quintessentially Scandinavian about visiting in winter; it’s a part of the culture. After not seeing snow in over a year, I was ready for a bit of cold.
The range of activities available during the warmer months in Sweden may be bigger than in winter, but that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of things to do. Here are a few activities that I really enjoyed, despite the freezing temperatures!
If you search “Things to Do in Stockholm”, the Skansen Open-Air Museum is near the top of every list. While I would have loved to check out this attraction, there were plenty of other indoor options. The Vasa Museum was one of our first stops of the trip, and definitely one of my favorites! Vasa is a warship that sank in Stockholm in the 1600s. Due to the brackish conditions of the Baltic Sea, it is almost perfectly preserved. We caught the last English tour of the day, had a magnificent tourguide, and had a lot of fun delving into a piece of history we knew nothing about. It was fascinating to see such a rare piece of history, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting.
We also spent time at the Royal Palace of Stockholm. What a gorgeous building! We opted to pay for an extra tour of the Royal Apartments, which I probably could have skipped, but overall it was a beautiful sight. From the Royal Wedding Dresses exhibit, to seeing the crown jewels, it was full of beauty. The entrance fee includes the Royal Palace itself, the Royal Apartments, the Treasury (where the crown jewels are located), and the Tre Kronor Museum. I didn’t even mind standing in the cold for a while to catch the changing of the guard!
Stockholm is often called the Venice of the North, and for good reason. Water is everywhere. We happened to do a canal tour on the coldest day of our visit, but that didn’t make it any less great! The Stockholm Winter Tour was the only tour we could find operating at this time of the year. While there was an open top deck, most of the visitors stayed in the enclosed section. I opted to sit inside with one of the free-to-borrow blankets for most of the hour and fifteen minute journey, and pop out the door whenever I passed a photogenic scene (which was pretty often!). This strategy worked pretty well… except for when we hit choppy waters and I got hit with a frigid wave of ice🙃 . They offered a traditional pea soup on board, along with mulled wine and some other warm drinks. Overall, it was a great way to see some of the more outlying islands in Stockholm and get a view from the water.
Södermalm, or SoFo, is a more hipster neighborhood, filled with lots of vintage shops and tiny bars. It’s an excellent place to put your phone and maps away, and just wander. Around each corner is a new odd store, selling things from fake fingers, any type of Pippi Longstocking merchandise you could ask for, and even music boxes that play Miley Cyrus. While aimlessly walking in the cold may not seem like the best activity, it seemed that just as soon as I would be getting too chilly, we’d stumble across a cozy shop or cafe that was perfect to hop inside. This area is a bit grungier than the normal touristy sections of Stockholm – the buildings are not as polished or colorful, but the area is filled with just as much, if not more, character. Take a break from the normal sightseeing to relax in this trendy Swedish neighborhood.
Ahhh, bar hopping. Many a travelers’ favorite pastime. Drinking with the locals, or other visitors, is one of my favorite ways to experience a city. Most of our nights began at Generator Hostel, where we had a private room. The staff was from all over Europe and very hospitable, and the other guests were just as great. There were themed nights, affordable drinks, and even some fun games. I should note that we were recommended to go to a few bars that didn’t go as well as planned. Soap Bar is one place we stopped where it seemed we faced discrimination; I’m not sure why, but they were very rude as soon as we spoke English, so just a word of warning to other visitors. Just a few blocks away from our hostel, we found The Flying Dog, a cute little bar with a great selection of drinks. It was never super busy, but there were always a few people in addition to the bartenders to chat with (if you notice the bartender with playing card tattoos and jewelry, go ahead and ask to see a trick!). We also made our way to ICEBAR, in typical tourist fashion. Of course it is expensive and full of visitors, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun! It’s beautiful inside, the staff is friendly, and the drinks are pretty tasty. Södermalm also had some great bars, with Kelly’s being my favorite!
So don’t let the cold temperatures scare you! Stockholm is a wonderful city with plenty to do, even in the snowy months. Bundle up and get exploring!