Sometimes, at this time of year, you just really crave getting away for a break before the mayhem of Christmas descends.
Well, this time last year I decided to do something about it and headed to Stockholm for a festive pre-Christmas break. Yes, it took me a while to blog it, but I’ve finally got there!
I fancied getting away somewhere cold, cultured and celebratory of Christmas – cute markets, decorations and lights required!
For a fairly cheap ticket, I headed to London Stansted to fly with Ryanair to Stockholm with some of my girl friends – at just over 2 hours flight time, it was the perfect December destination.
We flew into Arlanda Airport, which is around an hour away from Stockholm city (25 miles) on the bus.
We used the Flygbussarna shuttle coach, which departs every 10 minutes or so from the airport. (Just note they can get busy so get to the bus stop – and the bus station on return – in good time, as you may have to wait for the next bus if full, as we did on return!) A great little tip is to pre-book your open return ticket if you do this, it works out a lot cheaper to do it this way.
From the end of November through to Christmas Eve you’ll find various Christmas markets around this vibrant city and you can really get cosy nestled between the old town buildings or wander around the destination light displays and features sprinkled along the river, parks and unique districts.
Stockholm is quite an expensive city, so we enjoyed nibbling and snacking everywhere we went instead of dining on large meals – this is the best plan so as not to miss out on all the little treats and goodies Stockholm has to offer. The Swedish population tend to eat larger lunches, then enjoy smaller offerings later in the day, so this is a great way to plan dining whilst here.
Whilst we were staying in Stockholm, there was a trail of huge metal deer/stag sculptures and light displays – they are not to be missed, just stunning. We admired them during the day and then again at night, as they offered a different view in the light and dark, such fun!
The main Christmas market is held in the old town (Gamla Stan) and is well worth heading there for a glass of Glühwein (or Glögi) and a nibble on some traditional Pepparkakor – Scandinavian spiced Christmas biscuits.
Eating and drinking here made it all feel very festive.
With the freezing cold temperatures and the promise of snow, mixed with the super cosy and warm bakeries, restaurants and shops it soon became a fun way to get outside and explore – knowing that we could warm up anywhere we fancied stopping at any time of the day – I love the super long opening hours of the cosy food places.
There’s lots to share about this city, I adored it. There’s so much going on, mixed in with some of the more touristy hotspots, there’s plenty on offer for everyone.
Watch my video from our weekend by clicking here.
You could spend an entire long weekend simply walking, meandering through the many districts or enjoying the winter ice skating amongst other activities on offer over the winter months.
Everything is walkable. We walked for miles – even in the ice and snow – but if needed, their underground train system is super organised and fairly inexpensive if you want to buy a ticket for the weekend. We used it to hop around the city and get out of the icy snow showers when they hit.
In fact, Stockholm’s underground train system is a large-scale “Art in the Subway” gallery, showing off tailored art and sculptures dripping from the ceilings and walls across 110km /100 subway stations. We didn’t get a chance to explore this, but I really want to next time I visit.
A single ticket is valid for 75 minutes and costs around 43 SEK / approx. £3.80, but It’s also possible to buy 24 hours, 72 hours and 30-day tickets. It’s well worth doing this if you’re here for a while as single tickets can soon add up! There are supposedly booths you can buy these, but the shops on the subways all sell these, it’s very easy to purchase.
Boat is also a well-loved option in Stockholm, allowing you take in much more than you would normally see. This city is made up of 14 islands and more than 50 bridges connecting them, but during the winter months the boats don’t run too frequently, so do your research if you want to see Stockholm from the water.
We missed the last boat trip of the day on the one occasion we could have taken it, so had to miss out, a real shame. But I could imagine this being a much better option for the summer months!
There’s far too much to tell you, so I’ve got organised and listed all my highly rated places to eat/drink/see/so whilst in Stockholm if you decide to go this winter.
Eating In Stockholm:
Fika aka “coffee and cake” is a must must must! As we Brits love a cuppa, the Swedish cafes love to feed you up with good strong coffee and tasty bites.
Fabrique stone oven bakeries are dotted around the city and not to be missed for their traditional Swedish buns and pastries – I had a delicious, freshly baked saffransbullar (saffron & raisin bun) and drooled over their sourdough loaves and famous blueberry buns as the smell wafted over to our table as they were being taken out of the oven.
We enjoyed a late-night coffee and cinnamon bun at Cafe Muren and it was the perfect place to literally curl up on huge sofas and in cosy cushioned nooks to watch the world go by in the old cobbled lanes of Gamla Stan.
Head to Stockholm Brunch Club for the tastiest, most “hipster” breakfast location you’ve ever been to! The food was fantastic, freshly prepared and really friendly service. The only draw back? The queues can be long for this place (they don’t take reservations) – literally around the corner and down the street – but they give you blankets and free coffee from an alfresco trolley as you wait – a great find!
Johan & Nyström coffee can be found in good coffee shops, but it’s also well worth visiting their cafe in Södermalm for a homemade savoury open-sandwich a great mug of coffee or tea from their huge selection of sustainable coffee beans and tea. The coffee shop here has a hidden table upstairs within the book shelves – a cosy little nest overlooking the bustling cafe below, a great hidden gem!
If you are a meat eater, Phil’s Burger is a winner – with 7 restaurants across the city, this offers a tasty bun and a beer. I went for the truffle burger with caramelised onion and truffle mayonnaise and a side of sweet potato fries (119 SEK / approx £11) and a craft beer – with prices no more than here in the UK, it’s a winning idea for a fairly inexpensive meal. Vegetarian options looked pretty good too – my friend had a giant mushroom burger which actually got me feeling a bit jealous!
You can’t go to Sweden without trying a good quality box of meatballs. This was quite a hike through the snow whilst in Södermalm on our last day, but I highly suggest you get your bottom over to Meatballs for the People – words can’t even describe! They serve various types of meatballs, but I opted for a traditional recipe (179 SEK / approx £16) served with garlic mash, pickled cucumber and red cabbage, fresh lingonberries and gravy – I will never serve meatballs in the same way EVER AGAIN – you must try this concoction, it works.
I’ve recreated it several times since this trip and it’s my new favourite meal…. almost likely of all time!
Drinking In Stockholm:
If you’re looking for a classy cocktail bar, look no further than Pharmarium. We had been craving an espresso martini, so we treated ourselves to one… “The Black Pearl” enticed us with the promise of grey goose vodka, chilled espresso, Galliano L’Authentico, whipped cream and rose salt…. each and every one of us can honestly say it was the WORST cocktail we had ever had the displeasure of drinking. With such a heavy rim of “Rose” salt, it was like drinking a glass of sea water, but most likely a worse option.
We loved the feel of this darkened, candlelit maze of bar stools and clandestine cocktail tables, but we chose the wrong cocktail for sure. Our faces must have said it all, as a group of lads watched us and laughed as we shuddered with every mouthful, screaming with laughter as we did so. Our waitress even came over at one point and asked if our drinks were ok, to which we didn’t overcome our Britishness, simply smiling, replying “mmm lovely, thank you” and continuing with the charade. Hilarious.
You must note (as we didn’t know this until it was almost too late!) if you are wanting to buy alcohol in Stockholm that the laws don’t allow you to buy in a shop or supermarket as you might in the UK. Within any Swedish town or city, the Systembolaget is the only shop that sells wine, strong beer and spirits.
The Systembolaget is run by the state, is only open during office hours (generally Mon–Wed & Fri 10am–6pm, Thurs till 7pm, Sat 10am–2pm) so if you plan to buy a bottle of wine, factor this into your plans and get there earlier than 5 minutes before closing for the weekend – *cough, cough*.
Head to Svenskt Tenn for a pot of tea and a great shopping experience – we wandered around this stylish home design store, but this stunning tea salon was too busy to wait for a cuppa, I was gutted, but will return!
Things To Do In Stockholm:
Head to the peaceful island of Djurgården to visit the Vasa Museum to take you into a world that can only be likened to the iconic pirate ship scene at the end of the 1980’s film “The Goonies” – just fascinating! We spent hours here watching the film made about how this ornate ship was rescued and restored after living at the bottom of the sea bed for 333 years – mummified sailors an’ all! The Abba Museum is close by too, so if you fancy some cheese, head here afterwards!
Fotografiska is a stylish photography museum with constantly changing exhibitions and installations. We enjoyed a “date night” time slot, as it’s open until late at night, taking in the floors of stunning music industry photographs and moving art installations sweeping across the walls and floors, it was so much fun.
The cafe on the top floor boasts a beautiful view of the city lights, well worth it for a glimpse of this alone.
The Royal Palace and Stockholm Cathedral are in Gamla Stan (the old town) and well worth exploring on foot for the beauty around them – these buildings are so grand and offer a great view just from the outside, let alone the inside! Meandering around the narrow cobbled lanes takes you back to the Stockholm as it would have been in the 1300’s – This is a great part of town for the perfect Instagram photo.
If you are looking to shop here, you won’t be disappointed – there are high street stores and unique/independent boutiques and stores everywhere you look.
The shop windows are something to stop and admire, a work of art in itself in many cases. Lots of shop windows boasted beautiful lights and elegant Scandinavian decorations to entice you. We stumbled upon a shop called Lagerhaus which sold beautiful homewares and crafty pieces at great prices – a few Christmas gifts were bought here.
The Brandstationen In Södermalm is an old converted fire station, now housing lots of antiques and curiosities.
Staying In Stockholm:
With a wide range of options, there’s something for every taste and budget. Because there was a small group of us, we booked a Airbnb apartment and weren’t disappointed.
Not only was our host just the most helpful, friendly and naturally welcoming host we could have asked for, it was a stunning apartment that we really wished we had spent more time inside!
We enjoyed the comfort and homely Scandinavian style of our Airbnb choice and would highly recommend it for the location and ease of finding it in New city.
Sofie and her partner Jesper live here and simply move out when they rent it out. They were a text away if we needed anything and even left milk in the fridge for our morning coffee – perfect I’m every way.
If you are looking for a personal recommendation, I wouldn’t stay ANYWHERE else – read more about the property here.
You can also read my post on “What Is Fika?” – here!
If you do book yourself a stay with Airbnb within any listing, please feel free to use this code: (www.airbnb.co.uk/c/joc995) to nab yourself a £25 discount off your first booking – bonus!
For a festive chilly break, wrap up warm, pack those snow boots and head over to explore Stockholm ♡
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