Stockholm in winter
Article by Joe Gschwendtner; courtesy photos
Years ago, I consulted for Swedish battery manufacturer, OPTIMA. Normally, a fair-weather traveler, a meeting at headquarters called me to Stockholm in the winter. What a treat.
Since industrial grade winters are the norm, Swedes prepare through their traditions, entertainment venues and infrastructure. Fear of cold and snow does not exist. In fact, my sense is the townsfolk thrive on it. A quote credited to Norwegian neighbors is, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
As a visitor, one must get accustomed to daylight, or rather, lack of it. Dawn comes slowly around 9ish. Then the sun slinks almost guiltily across the horizon, on a very low arc until it collapses around 3 p.m. Night owls can party hardy; there’s plenty of it. The season is anything but inhibiting, a broad spectrum of activities available day or night.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
Many Swedes favor a fika café, a Swedish concept meaning kicking back and taking coffee and cake with friends. Candlelight often adds to the coziness. In a perfect setting, one might fika for hours. The tradition is so widespread, even the local Volvo plant orchestrates similar social breaks for its rank and file.
Night or day, the city is a winter wonderland. There are many skating rinks, squares and ponds throughout town. Before or after, one can sit rink side with homemade snacks and drink among space heaters.
Stockholm is a city of islands linked by bridges and boats. Owing to the brackish water, scenic local boat rides are possible in winter and readily available. Grab a reindeer hide blanket, drink some mulled wine and enjoy the visual serenade as your pilot silently plies the waters. The city seen from an offshore perspective is grander yet, with aged copper roofs and towers blanketed by lightly falling snow.
In any season, the city is a stroller’s paradise. Parks, large and small beckon, with Humlegarden, Kunstradgarden and Djurgarden among my favorites. Over a two or three day stay, 80% of the city’s attractions can be seen sans vehicle.
Museums can tend to be ho-hum, but Stockholm serves up the extraordinary. Vasa Museum and Skansen on Djurgarden Island are personal favorites.
The Vasa was custom built around the fully intact, salvaged wreck of a 64-gun warship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. Everything about its curation is astonishing.
Skansen is the oldest open-air museum in the world, featuring culture, customs, working craftsman and a zoo. Open year-round, it themes Swedish history through the ages.
Then, on a lark, see the ABBA Museum, a tribute to Sweden’s most famous musicians. There’s something for everyone.
On its own island sits “old town” Gamla Stan, where Stockholm began. Beguiling with cobbled streets, narrow alleys and intimate restaurants, your senses will be riveted. Stortorget, its central square, has seen everything through the ages, including floggings, massacres and revolts. Heads indeed have rolled there.
In the end, Sweden’s gift to the world – a sauna experience – is easily found for those ready to thaw. There is no better ending to a nippy winter’s day in alluring Stockholm. Unless, of course, you like smorgasbord!