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SWEDISH TRADITIONS

Six ideas for a frugal New Year in Sweden

With the cost of living crisis biting, and Christmas expenses leaving bank accounts drained, it looks like it’ll be a frugal New Year’s in Sweden. But that doesn’t mean cutting back on the 'mysig' times. There’s no wrong way to celebrate the end of an awful year, even if everything is more expensive. Here’s our guide to having fun without spending any kronor.

Six ideas for a frugal New Year in Sweden
People take a New Year's Day swim in Ystad, southern Sweden, back in 2020. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

1. See the fireworks

After several years of cancelled events, most cities will be putting on fireworks displays for this year, albeit pared back affairs. Malmö will have fireworks going off from Nyhamnen. Göteborgs-Posten will be putting on their traditional display which you can see from both banks of the river and high points around Gothenburg, while Bohus fästning will put on a show at the fortress, best seen from Kungälv. In Stockholm, the sky will light up with fireworks best seen from Fjällgatan, Skinnarviksberget, or Monteliusvägen in Södermalm. All for free! 

Fireworks in Nyhamnen in Malmö on New Year’s Eve 2021. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

2. Play a game

Dust off the board games and gather your friends around the kitchen table for some good old-fashioned wholesome fun. You can test your knowledge of the last 300 years of Swedish history with a game of Svea Rike or try your hand at hnefatafl “Viking chess” by candlelight. Fill your glasses with tap water and elderflower cordial from summer and toast like its Systembolaget’s fanciest champagne. 

3. Gather around the fire

Nothing says ‘out with the old’ like burning stuff. Although fuel prices have gone up astronomically, wood is still easy to come by in hardware stores or your local forest floor (you’re allowed to take fallen branches and pinecones, but not harvest wood from living trees). Many national parks have designated fire pits with their own stock of firewood that visitors can use for free.

4. Go for a swim

Nothing says ‘in with the new’ like a cold dip in Sweden’s frozen waters. There are over 97,500 lakes in Sweden and the country is blessed with unrestricted access to the long coastline all year round. In Stockholm, Tantolunden has several jetties from which you can step gingerly into Mälaren. In Gothenburg, you can dive into the Kattegat strait from Saltholmen. There are plenty of spots to bathe in Malmö, we like Ribban (Ribersborg beach). Bring a hat and a warm drink and get high from the rush of endorphins. 

5. Watch ‘Dinner for One’

Swedish TV first broadcast “Dinner for One” (Grevinnan och betjänten in Swedish, literally “The Countess and the Butler”) in 1969 and it has been shown nearly every year on New Year’s Eve since 1976. No Netflix subscription needed, you can watch for free on SVT. 

6. Sleep

Bears hibernate, so why shouldn’t we? Heating is too expensive, and you can’t afford to turn the lights on anyway, so wrap yourself up in a blanket and sleep through the end of another terrible year with dreams of a better one starting in the morning.

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SWEDISH TRADITIONS

What’s open and what’s closed in Sweden during Midsummer?

June 21st is Midsummer's Eve, which despite not technically being a public holiday is a day off for most workers in Sweden. How are shops, Systembolaget and public transport affected during the weekend?

What's open and what's closed in Sweden during Midsummer?

There is no blanket legal requirement on most shops to close for Midsummer in Sweden and when it comes to supermarkets and grocery shops, the chances are that they will be open, particularly if you live in a city, although probably with reduced opening hours.

Smaller shops will often choose to take the Midsummer weekend off, unless they’re in particularly popular areas where there are likely to be a lot of people celebrating.

The exception is the state-owned alcohol chain Systembolaget, which always closes on public holidays or so-called “red days”.

Midsummer’s Eve is not technically a public holiday, but it is usually treated as such, meaning Systembolaget will also be closed on June 21st (Midsummer’s Eve) and June 22nd (Midsummer’s Day). Systembolaget is always closed on Sundays, so Thursday 20th is your last day to buy booze for the weekend.

Libraries will also be closed, so it’s worth making other plans if you were planning on catching up with some coursework or taking your kids to the nearest one to keep them occupied.

As far as tourist attractions go, it varies. Many large attractions like Stockholm’s Vasa Museum and Abba Museum will be open, but you should expect that smaller local museums will be closed – check in advance before you plan to visit.

As a general rule, shops, restaurants and tourist attractions are more likely to be open in areas that attract a lot of visitors.

Stockholm’s open-air museum Skansen will also be open for the full Midsummer weekend, with activities from 10am until midnight on Friday, 11am until 11pm on Saturday and 11am until 3pm on Sunday. 

In southern Sweden, open-air museum Kulturen in Lund will also be open on Friday from 10am-5pm. Visitors can help decorate the maypole before dancing and singing around it, and the cafe will be serving Midsummer-themed food.

If you don’t have any plans yet, you can search for midsommarfirande plus your city to find a public event. These are often well-attended and family-friendly during the day, while some serve alcohol in the evening.

As with other public holidays, public transport in Swedish towns and cities may operate on a reduced schedule throughout the weekend – often on the same schedule as regular Sundays.

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