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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How to save money at Sweden’s airports

Sweden is not a cheap country by any means, and the extra charges at airports can make travelling feel even more costly. Luckily, there are ways to make trips to Swedish airports more affordable.

How to save money at Sweden's airports

Sweden has become increasingly expensive over the past few years, in line with the cost of living crisis, inflation and rising food prices affecting much of Europe.

These significant price increases make the high costs at Swedish airports even more noticeable, leaving many travellers, already burdened by inflation, feeling the pinch.

Luckily, there are ways to make your stay at Swedish airports more affordable.

Bring your own food – or buy it before getting to the airport

When travelling through a Swedish airport, according to the official information on the Sweden’s Transport Agency’s website, you are allowed to bring solid food through security and onto the plane.

However, if the food is considered a liquid, restrictions will apply. Liquids include foods such as jellies, creams, drinks, soups, and dishes with both solid and liquid components (like meat and potatoes with sauce or pickled cucumbers). This rule applies even if the food is frozen.

Use this information to prepare your own meals (sandwiches are a good option for longer flights, while snacks may do the trick for shorter ones) or buy food before you get to the airport.

Both will lead to saving a lot of money compared to airport food prices.

Cutting (transport) costs on your way to the airport

Sweden’s major airports have express services that make getting there quick and efficient, but these can be a tad expensive.

Fortunately, there are cheaper alternatives.

For example, in Stockholm, you can take the non-express commuter train instead of the Arlanda Express or combine a train plus bus option.

Both options cost less, though they do take longer (the express train trip lasts around 20 minutes, while the cheaper alternatives will take around 40 minutes).

For a detailed guide to your transport options if you want to skip the Arlanda Express (or if it isn’t running), check out The Local’s guide on the topic here.

Do your research before getting there

All of Sweden’s busiest airports are operated by the state-owned company Swedavia, which makes it easier to check out your dining options in advance.

Knowing where to find the cheaper and more expensive eateries can help you plan better.

You can find an overview of available restaurant, bar, and cafe options on a per airport and per terminal basis, as well as their opening hours, on the company’s website.

For Arlanda Airport, check here. For Landvetter, here.

Keep in mind that the most affordable options might be before security.

Are lounges worth it?

While suggesting you spend money on a lounge might seem counterintuitive, it can sometimes be a cost-effective option. You’ll just need to do some simple maths to determine whether it’s worth it.

A meal and a drink at a Swedish airport could easily cost a few hundred kronor.

Lounges, which typically include buffet food and drink options, might offer better value for money, if you’re planning to buy food in a restaurant at the airport rather than bringing your own with you. They also often have shower facilities, office spaces including printers, and children’s areas, which may make the cost worth it depending on your journey and whether you’re travelling with family or not.

For the SAS international lounge at Arlanda, the cost is usually around 350 kronor when purchased in advance online and slightly higher if bought at the lounge reception on the day of your visit​.

Note that if you are a frequent flyer or have certain credit cards, you might have access to lounges for free or at a discounted rate, using points to pay for some or all of the fee.

Don’t buy the first thing that seems cheap at the airport – a better deal might be waiting outside

Many items found in airport stores and duty-free shops are available outside the airport, and often at better prices.

While duty-free items are tax-free, you might still find better deals by shopping around elsewhere (in fact, this is often the case for both food and drinks).

Resist the temptation to buy stuff that seems cheap at the airport unless you’re absolutely sure you’re getting a fair price. You can always do a quick Google search before you buy to see if you can get it cheaper somewhere else.

You will likely save more by purchasing it outside the airport.