Winter in Sweden is cold and dark, but don’t let that stop you from booking a flight for a visit this time of year. In fact, the intrepid traveler can find a myriad of delights in Sweden during the winter months. The frigid air and sunless hours only serve to magnify the beauty of the place. Twinkling lights, cozy fires and an abundance of wonderful traditions make Sweden a worthwhile destination for adventurers seeking something more than the usual cold-weather getaway. (After all, how many hours can someone spend on a beach before they get bored?) Yes, there’s skiing and ice skating, but there’s so much more to this compelling Scandinavian destination. Check out our top five reasons you should pack a bag and head to Sweden, one of Europe’s best-kept secrets:
The Northern Lights
Although you can see the Aurora Borealis in a lot of places, none of them is Kiruna, home of Abisko National Park. Ask most scientists and they will agree that Abisko is the place on the planet to see the Northern Lights. Here you have an 88% chance of seeing the display over the span of three days, and it doesn’t hurt that you can also visit the Aurora Sky Station and have a gourmet, four-course meal while you wait. Don’t let this once-in-a-lifetime experience pass you by!
A little more than 10 miles from Kiruna is the town of Jukkasjärvi and the Icehotel. The hotel sprawls across more than 64,000 square feet and is made entirely from snow and ice anew each year (even furniture and dishes!), with artists from around the world applying to design and help build the latest version. Construction begins in November and new suites of rooms are opened each week from December through January. The season ends in April when the weather turns warmer and things begin to melt. So book your tickets soon or you’ll have to wait until the frost returns to check out this amazing attraction.
Much like Germany, Sweden has an abundance of Christmas markets. If you head to the west coast, Gothenburg’s famous Liseberg Amusement Park hosts Sweden’s largest market of all. With millions of lights guiding your way, you can peruse gift stalls, listen and sing along to folk carols, sample traditional foods, visit with Santa (just a few miles south of the North Pole), watch an ice ballet and revel at medieval reenactments. Other cities, such as Stockholm and Malmö host several markets of their own, as do a lot of Sweden’s old castles, which are fascinating regardless of the time of year you visit.
The holidays are especially fun in Sweden with its tradition of Santa Lucia bringing light to the darkness, as well as its famous smorgasbord of Christmas treats, the julbord. Translated literally as “Christmas-table,” the julbord is quintessentially Swedish, a lavish display incorporating Sweden’s simple pleasures: good wine, good food and good friends. Mulled wine, pickled fish with crispbread, cold cuts, meatballs, sausages and ham, a hashbrown casserole of cream and anchovies and, of course, coffee and dessert, await guests who celebrate the season together in happy camaraderie. Everyone should enjoy a true, Swedish julbord at least once and even the most finicky eater will find a delicacy that perfectly suits their tastes.
It would be a disservice not to mention the obvious: Sweden is a wonderful place for outdoor winter sports of all varieties. Any sports enthusiast (and non-sporty folks, too) will be hard-pressed not to find something fun to do in this winter wonderland of a country. You can visit ski resorts in Åre and Vemdalen. Go snowmobiling and dog sledding in Lapland. Track reindeer and moose in Kiruna (after you see the Northern Lights and Icehotel). Go snowshoeing through a national park. Cut a hole in the ice and fish for arctic char, salmon and trout. The only limitation is your imagination and perhaps your attire. Just make sure you bring multiple outer layers, a pair of waterproof boots and lots of warm socks, which will surely come in handy. Swedes have a saying: “Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder” — There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes! Thus, a little preparation can go a long way as you plan for a Swedish excursion; just as you’d consult an h1b attorney for immigration issues or go to the doctor for medical concerns, you should similarly do your research so you can enjoy a trip of a lifetime!