Yes, the locals thought we’d lost it when we decided to visit Stockholm in January. Nineteen hours of darkness be damned, we booked a flight home through the Swedish capital and loved it. Besides trying every local beer, there’s plenty to do during Stockholm’s (admittedly freezing) winter.
I hear that Stockholm has some lovely parks. We did not visit them. We did, however, manage to take a stroll through Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. Gamla Stan is small and therefore perfect for briskly walking in between hot tea breaks. The cobblestone streets and old architecture are as charming and lovely as you could want in a European city. Stockholm’s royal palace (not to be confused with Drottningholm Palace—coming up soon) is also in Gamla Stan, and if you’re lucky you might catch the changing of the guards. In the summer, apparently, the parade includes a full band on horseback. Not so in January, but the tradition is impressive, particularly because I stood watching it in a full parka while the guards’ military uniforms looked less than toasty.
From Gamla Stan, a ferry will take you to Djurgarden and the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is a Viking-era ship that sunk unfortunately in Stockholm Harbor, 30 feet away from its point of departure. It was then excavated and preserved in the museum and is a vast, awesome vessel despite its flaw in engineering. Plus, the museum is heated.
Stockholm has lots of excellent food, and definitely some great warm dishes. We stayed in hip Södermalm where we could not get enough of the local fare. Meatballs for the People is the ideal place to try traditional Swedish meatballs (better than IKEA’s, I promise). They have a selection of seasonal, sustainable meatballs, including a veggie option. They also make a lingonberry drink that is perfect for washing down your balls. (I mean what I said.)
Nytorget 6, conveniently named for its address, is another excellent eatery and apparently where all the cool Swedes go on a Friday night. We were lucky to snag a table in their basement which used to be some sort of theater and has retained a funky, cozy ambiance. The dishes are modern takes on Swedish traditionals, like a smoked perch taco and pork potato dumplings. Nytorget 6 is considered a reasonably-priced meal as far as Stockholm rates go, but the tasty small plates definitely add up if you’re not careful.
Also in Södermalm is Fotografiska, the Swedish photography museum, aka one of the coolest museums I’ve ever seen and my current favorite on the planet. The museum houses work from international artists, and during our visit featured exhibitions by the Chinese photographer Chen Man and British photographer/x-ray artist Nick Veasey that I expect to remember for years to come.
The grand Drottningholm Palace is an easy train-and-bus ride away from Stockholm Center. I mean that sincerely—having to take a train and then a bus anywhere from New York would almost certainly deter me from going, but Stockholm’s transportation system is much quicker and more reliable than I’m used to. I love palaces and learning about other countries’ royal histories, and the palace gardens were beautiful even in their winter barrenness. 10/10 would Drottningholm again.
Despite the chilly temps, I found it wonderful to walk around some of the more notable streets and areas. Kungsträdgården has an ice rink if that’s your thing, and the ritzier Östermalm district is definitely worth walking around. Though the Strandvägen‘s boat shops and restaurants are closed for the winter, walking this street was undeniably beautiful and one of my favorite parts of the city.
Yes, I would love to come back to Stockholm in the summer (and with about 50,000 more dollars to my name). Did I love it in the winter, and do I recommend going despite the limited daylight? One hundred percent.