Winter is dark and cold in Scandinavia, but there are plenty of activities and experiences to brighten up your days! While many people flock to Sweden during the summer to take advantage of those endless summer days, pristine nature and of course the delicious treats served on and around Midsummer festivities, it is actually also a brilliant winter destination!

If you manage to squeeze a trip to Scandinavia into your (surely busy) winter schedule, make sure you’ve tried these 10 winter experiences in Sweden – otherwise, can you really say you’ve been?

1) Stay in a Countryside Cabin

The best way to immerse yourself into Swedish winter and culture is by renting a little cottage or cabin and live life like a Swede for some time. In fact, there are many cabins around the country, which are actually free to stay in (which makes Sweden a great budget destination for outdoor lovers); however staying in one of these, usually meant for hikers, might require quite a bit of planning during the winter time – you’ll want to stay warm after all! An easier way to experience the Swedish way of living is to rent a cabin via platforms such as Airbnb or Canopy & Stars where you can find unique getaways in the middle of nowhere in the Swedish countryside.

Nothing better than your own four walls, with a sauna or a whirlpool to sit and stargaze or watch the northern lights dancing in the sky!

 

2) Eat the Julbord 

Winters are dark & cold up north, but these 10 experiences - from dog sledding to northern lights spotting - will make Sweden in winter an unforgettable holiday!

Christmas is a very special time all over Scandinavia, and no Swedish Christmas is complete without a Julbord buffet (literally translates to Christmas table – but don’t eat the table please). Although different people add different dishes to the buffet, there are a few standard treats that must not miss from a Julbord. Picture pickled herring and cured salmon, Christmas ham and red beet salad, different kinds of cheeses, meatballs (duh!), ribs and sausages – Swedish Christmas is fairly meat heavy, so unfortunately vegans like myself will have to come up with alternatives to make this a feast.

Add to that a serving of still warm cinnamon rolls and a cup of delicious glögg (Swedish mulled wine) and your Christmas dinner is complete!

You can find out more about Swedish Christmas traditions here.

 

3) Christmas Lights & Christmas Markets

Winters are dark & cold up north, but these 10 experiences - from dog sledding to northern lights spotting - will make Sweden in winter an unforgettable holiday!

When it’s dark outside, people come up with all sorts of ideas to brighten up these long nights. No one does Christmas lights just like the Swedish and good places to see them are the magical Christmas markets you can find all over the country. Some of the prettiest markets are without a doubt to be found in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo, but also smaller countryside towns will put up those little wooden huts and sell crafts and food from around the country. While you’re there, watch out for carol singing and other Christmassy activities too!

 

4) A cultural Sami experience & reindeer sleighs

Winters are dark & cold up north, but these 10 experiences - from dog sledding to northern lights spotting - will make Sweden in winter an unforgettable holiday!

If you find yourself up north in Swedish Lapland, you can’t live without having learnt about and met the Sami people. They are the indigenous people of Lapland (or Sapmi, as they call it), a region that spans Arctic Sweden, Norway, Finland and into Russia. They are most famous for herding reindeer, and indeed most cultural activities will include a ride on a reindeer sleigh! For the full experience book a multiple-day trip and spend your nights in the traditional lavvu tents.

Like with all cultural tourism that includes interaction with indigenous people, it is important to choose a responsible and sustainable tour operator to ensure that your money flows back into supporting the communities. Make sure you talk to people and ask not only about their traditions, but also about the challenges they face in Sweden today.

 

5) Dog sledding or snow mobiling

Winters are dark & cold up north, but these 10 experiences - from dog sledding to northern lights spotting - will make Sweden in winter an unforgettable holiday!

Another no-brainer experience in the Swedish countryside is to go dog-sledding – or, if you want more adrenaline, race through the snow on a snow mobile! Dog-sledding is an incredible experience, as you whisk through the white landscape and get to pet the dogs whenever you stop! We’ve not actually tried this in Sweden before, but you can read about our experience of dog-sledding in Norway!

 

6) Ice Skating in Stockholm

Winters are dark & cold up north, but these 10 experiences - from dog sledding to northern lights spotting - will make Sweden in winter an unforgettable holiday!

Stockholm in the snow is like a real winter wonderland! Probably one of the best ways to experience the area in its full glory – although one you want to wrap up for – is with an ice skating tour along the waterways of Stockholm. You will be ice skating on natural ice and the tour is open for ice skaters on all levels – even complete beginners. Where you go exactly always depends on the ice conditions, but you could find yourself on one of the many lakes surrounding Stockholm, or even skating on the Baltic Sea in Stockholm’s archipelago. The tour lasts all day and includes an outdoor lunch with hot drinks and an open fire.

 

7) Learn How to Knit

Winters are dark & cold up north, but these 10 experiences - from dog sledding to northern lights spotting - will make Sweden in winter an unforgettable holiday!

Nothing is quite as relaxing and rewarding as knitting your own mittens, socks or even jumper! Knitting is incredibly popular in Scandinavia, and once you’ve checked into your cosy cabin, lit the fireplace and sat down with steaming cup of glögg, you’ll know why. Everybody loves a creative activity that does not require you to leave the house, or indeed the comfort of your couch! Knitting is easy to learn, whether you follow online tutorials, buy some old-fashioned books or join a knitting group. Try your luck and see if you can manage to knit a Christmas jumper in time – or maybe just a pair of socks.

 

8) Traditional Sauna Experience

Winters are dark & cold up north, but these 10 experiences - from dog sledding to northern lights spotting - will make Sweden in winter an unforgettable holiday!

OK, maybe there is something more relaxing than knitting – sweating in a hot sauna. And the best (and most authentic) way to cool down and get your blood flowing is of course to brave the elements and take a dip in an ice-cold lake or roll in the snow. Do you dare?

 

9) Sleep in an Ice Hotel

Winters are dark & cold up north, but these 10 experiences - from dog sledding to northern lights spotting - will make Sweden in winter an unforgettable holiday!

Photo Asaf Kliger. © ICEHOTEL www.icehotel.com

Sweden’s neighbor Finland might be famous for its Igloo hotel, but Sweden has something just as (if not more) unique: an ice hotel! ICEHOTEL is located far up north in Arctic Sweden, just 11 miles from the nearest airport in Kiruna, and is the world’s first ice hotel. It is re-built every year and artists are invited to design the interior. Everything – the walls, the beds and loungers are constructed from ice and snow from a nearby river. The hotel’s cold rooms are open roughly from December to April and stay continuous at -5 to -8 degrees Celsius. Don’t worry though, there are also warm rooms available, if you’re not brave enough or want to mix up your nights.

 

10) Northern Lights & Stargazing

Winters are dark & cold up north, but these 10 experiences - from dog sledding to northern lights spotting - will make Sweden in winter an unforgettable holiday!

I’ve mentioned this briefly above, but I need to say it again: the ultimate highlight of any winter trip to Sweden is for sure the display of Northern Lights – no matter whether you see it through the glass roof of your luxury igloo or from a reindeer sled!

 

Have you ever traveled to Sweden in winter – what are the experiences you will never forget?