Planning to visit Sweden in winter? Sweden winter holidays can be quite magical and special. There are plenty of things to do in Sweden during the winter season. In this post, you can find the best places to visit in Sweden in winter!
Sweden is one of my all-time favorite countries. It has everything, from stunning natural landscapes to hip, vibrant cities. While many people are put off traveling to Sweden during the winter months because of the harsh weather, it is actually a really great season to visit.
You’ll find less crowds, accommodations can be cheaper and, if you enjoy winter sports, this is, of course, the best time to be in Sweden. Obviously, some destinations are better than others when it comes to traveling during this period so, to help you plan that perfect Swedish winter trip, here’s a guide to the best places in the country to visit during winter.
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Winter in Sweden: Top Places to go in Sweden during winter
If you do not mind the cold, Stockholm is just as delightful in the wintertime as it is during any other time of year. Stockholm’s Gamla Stan – Old Town – is renowned for being one of the most stunning examples of medieval architecture in the world and there is nothing better than experiencing it within a special winter atmosphere.
If you are traveling in December, you should definitely head to the Christmas markets which take place during this time.
For something a little bit more special, there is a Christmas Old Town Walking Tour by Lantern Light available, where you can learn about Swedish Christmas traditions, visit the market, and admire the beautiful buildings, all under the light of a lantern. Definitely an unforgettable experience!
The great thing about visiting Stockholm in winter is that everything stays open during the season, so you do not need to worry about attractions being closed during the wintertime. As the capital, there are tons of museums to visit, plenty of excellent restaurants and bars, and lots of activities to take part in.
One of the coolest things I did in Stockholm when I visited in winter was a Viking sauna. Heading out to a lake, north of the city, you will first dig a hole in the ice of the frozen lake before getting warmed up in a traditional wooden sauna.
Then, when you are all sweaty, you will run out of the sauna towards the lake and climb in so that you can cool off. It is a really fun activity, providing an insight into this side of Swedish culture.
Other fun things to do during winter in Stockholm include: taking a boat tour which allows you to visit all of the major sights of the city, while enjoying beautiful panoramic views you cannot get on the metro; visiting the open-air museum Skansen, one of the oldest of its kind in the world; and skiing at the Hammarbybacken ski resort and/or a Snowshoe Full-day hike. Note: You can also try Nordic skiing while you’re in Stockholm.
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Visiting a seaside town in the midst of winter might not seem like a good idea, but when I took a tour of Denmark and Sweden a couple of years ago in winter, Ystad was one of my favorite stops.
Made world famous for being the setting of Henning Mankell’s Wallander novels, Ystad attracts hundreds of visitors during summer, but if, like me, you enjoy visiting the coast during winter, you should definitely add this town to your Sweden itinerary.
If you are a fan of the Wallander books and/or TV series, you will definitely feel how the grey weather adds that little bit of moodiness to the town, in keeping with the feeling of the character.
Even if you’ve never read any of the Wallander books or seen the TV series, you will still be charmed by the quaintness of Ystad. With its traditional cottages, cobbledstone streets, and beautiful location by the sea, it really is no wonder the town is so popular with both domestic and international tourists.
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As well as being lovely to walk around, if you do get a bit chilly, there are a couple of attractions you can visit. The main one is the Ystad Studios Visitor Centre which has many displays of sets, props and other memorabilia of locally made films and TV shows.
While it predominantly focuses on Wallander, there are exhibits from other productions too, such as the critically acclaimed The Bridge. You should also visit the 13th century abbey, Ystad’s most recognizable landmark.
Just outside Ystad is Ales Stenar, one of the most mysterious places in Sweden, which is made even more so during the colder and gloomier winter months.
Considered by many to be the Swedish version of Stonehenge, Ales Stenar dates back to between 500 and 1,000 AD and consists of 59 boulders set out in the shape of a ship.
As well as being a magnificent sight to see, you will also have great views of the hilly landscape and the Baltic Sea. From Ystad, it is an easy journey by bus or car, so it would be a real shame to miss it if you are already in the area.
One of the most popular winter destinations in the world, everyone should visit Lapland at least once in their life. The main reason why people head here is the chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights, as the phenomenon is more commonly known.
While spotting them is pretty much a game of luck, you can increase your chances by going as far north as possible, crossing the Arctic Circle.
A strongly recommended place to visit, which is known for being a great place to spot the Aurora Borealis, is Abisko. This small village north of the Arctic Circle also contains a national park extending from the south-west of the village’s lake.
The whole village is surrounded by mountains and one of them, Mount Nuolja, is home to the Aurora Sky Station, an observation center specifically for sighting the Northern Lights.
In addition to chasing the Aurora Borealis, there are lots of other fantastic activities to take part in when in Abisko. Winter is the perfect time to go snowmobiling and dog sledding, plus you can also take a day trip to Ravttas, a village 45 minutes east of Abisko, where you can glimpse the life and culture of the Sami, the indigenous people who live in Lapland.
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If you are particularly interested in Sami culture, a trip to Jokkmokk should also be added to your itinerary. During the first weekend of February every year, the Jokkmokk Winter Market takes place.
Sámi people (or better know in English as Laplanders) from all over northern Sweden come to the town to sell their handmade products, as well as watch the reindeer racing which take place on Lake Talvatissjon.
Before the market, there are several days of live performances of plays and folk music, photography and art exhibitions, parades, and food tasting sessions.
If you head to the city of Kiruna, about an hour south-east of Abisko, you can enjoy all of the same activities as you can in Abisko as well as visit the nearby Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi. Tip: There is an excellent northern lights photography tour starting in Kiruna.
While there are now quite a few Ice Hotels around the world, the Swedish one was the first one ever. Opening for the season on 13th December, 2019 rings in the Ice Hotel’s 30th birthday. Definitely something to celebrate!
You do not even need to spend the night to be able to visit this stunning architectural feat; day visitors are also welcome.
If you decide to take a day tour, you will be able to visit the sculpted Art Suites, Ice Rooms, and Ice Chapel while learning more about how this amazing structure is designed and constructed every year. It also includes a chance to have a drink in the Ice Bar.
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While Stockholm gets most of the attention, Sweden’s second city, Gothenburg, is just as worthy of a visit. It has more of a chilled-out vibe than Stockholm, so do not come here thinking it will just be a smaller version of the capital; Gothenburg really is its own city. Tip: You should consider taking this 3-hour small group tour around Gothenburg.
Like most major Swedish cities, Gothenburg hosts a number of Christmas markets during the first half of the winter season. In fact, Gothenburg’s markets are considered to be among the best in the Nordics.
There are a few dotted around the city, but the most popular has to be the one which takes place at Liseberg, the largest amusement park in Scandinavia. Focused around a medieval theme, there are the traditional wooden chalets selling local handicrafts and specialities, plus there is also an indoor area and children’s area.
Various performances take place, such as a version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on ice, plus all the rides and attractions of the amusement park are open. Other Christmas markets which are worth checking out include the Haga District and Kronhuset.
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If you happen to be in Gothenburg when the weather is bright and sunny, it is a fantastic opportunity to head to the Gothenburg archipelago. I visited the islands of Branno and Galtero on my last visit to the city and I’m so happy that I did.
Branno is an inhabited island with cute cottages that look like they have come straight out of a travel brochure and it is a lovely place to walk around. However, the highlight of the trip here is Galtero, a nature reserve connected to Branno by a small wooden bridge.
Here you can see wild sheep and lots of different bird species, plus the rocky and hilly landscape is just marvellous to behold. As I visited in early December, I had the island all to myself. So, if you are looking for some peace and quiet, it is a wonderful place to go and just chill out.
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If you are a fan of skiing, Are is definitely the best ski resort in the whole of Sweden. Are is short for the Are Mountains and a ski resort has been in the region for over 100 years.
There are four main areas within the ski resort itself, the largest one being Central Are, which has slopes suitable for all experience levels of skier, from beginner to expert.
Duved also has slopes for all abilities, whereas the areas of Arebjornen and Tegefjall are more for families with young skiers. If you prefer Nordic skiing, there are also plenty of opportunities for this activity.
If you are planning a ski holiday in Are, there are a couple of things that you need to remember. Firstly, the season usually runs from December to early March, so it is slightly shorter than other ski resorts in Europe.
You should also bear in mind that, despite being some distance south of the Arctic Circle, the days will still be extremely short; you will only have around four hours of daylight per day, so make sure to make the most of them. Saying that, night skiing is also an option, as is night tobogganing. Once the sun does go down, the area has a pretty cool apres ski scene.
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You would be completely forgiven for not having heard of Dalarna; it certainly does not get the same attention as other Swedish destinations. However, there are a number of reasons why making the journey to this region in central Sweden is totally worth it.
It has been said that visiting Dalarna is like experiencing Sweden in miniature: You have mountains, lakes, typical wooden Scandinavian architecture, and craft tradition, all in one area!
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Here you can participate in all the usual winter activities, such as dog sledding, ice skating, Nordic skiing, alpine skiing, and snowmobiling. So, if you are a fan of getting active during the winter months, but do not want to travel so far north, Dalarna is the perfect compromise.
Dalarna has a strong artistic culture and is especially known for its variety of music festivals throughout the year.
For those interested in classical music, one of the country’s most popular festivals takes place here in February, the International Chamber Music Festival Vinterfest. Taking place in the heart of Dalarna’s countryside, the festival attracts a number of international and domestic artists every year.
My absolute favorite place in Sweden, Malmo, has had some bad press in the past. The main thing people have a problem with is that Malmo is not as beautiful as the two bigger cities of Gothenburg and Stockholm.
While there is an element of truth to this – historically, Malmo was an industrial city – if you are looking for a more alternative city to visit, Malmo is the place to go.
It does have a cute, albeit small, old town, but it is the cool outer districts, such as Mollevangen, which are really cool to hang out in due to their cultural diversity. Mollevangen is also home to Folkets Park, whose large wading pool turns into an ice rink during winter.
To experience a Swedish institution, Malmo is a great place to catch an ice hockey game; home to the Malmo Redhawks, the stadium is only 11 years old and, due to the city’s generally cheaper prices in comparison with other Swedish cities, tickets are pretty affordable.
Another great thing about Malmo is its close proximity to Copenhagen; you can get to the Danish capital in approximately 30 minutes by train.
There is a huge advantage to staying in Malmo over Copenhagen, as Malmo accommodation is much cheaper and tends not to get so overbooked, especially during the winter season when people flock to the Christmas markets in Copenhagen. It is a wonderful way of accommodating two cities in one trip.
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I hope that you’ve discovered that Sweden really is one of the most delightful countries you can visit, even in the depths of winter.
As long as you pack the right clothing and are prepared for heaps of snow, especially if you travel to the far north, you will find that Sweden will completely enchant you.
Instead of hibernating at home this winter, come visit Sweden and enjoy all that this winter wonderland has to offer!
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