As winter's icy grip finally reaches us in 2015, there is an unmistakable festive feeling in the air. But, if you are looking to celebrate Christmas differently this time around, there are plenty of cities throughout Europe that are magical at this time of year, and which will provide that drop of yuletide spirit that you are looking for.
Stockholm, Sweden's capital, is one such destination. The short days, cool temperatures and possible snow flurries will make you feel warm inside and create a winter wonderland that you will look forward to exploring. So, here's our helpful guide for everything you need to know about a Stockholm city break.
Stockholm's main airport, Arlanda, is situated around 25 miles from the city centre and can be reached via direct flights from London Heathrow with British Airways and Norwegian Air. On arrival, the easiest way to reach the metropolitan area is by hopping on the Arlanda Express Train, which leaves every 15 minutes. This is slightly more expensive than taking a bus operated by Swebus or Flygbussarna, but the journey will take half the time.
Alternatively, low-cost airline Ryanair flies directly into Stockholm Skavsta airport from London Stansted. This airport is further out from the centre of the city (66 miles) but fares may be a lot cheaper. Similarly, there are train and bus options when transferring from Stockholm Skavsta to your hotel.
The average flight time from London to Stockholm is two and a half hours.
Where to stay
Drottning Victorias Orlogshem
An inexpensive night's sleep is not easy to find in Stockholm, but this waterfront B&B offers everything you will need for a very good price. It is a converted sailor's house and so you can expect lots of nautical touches throughout. It's also popular with local sea-goers and members of the Swedish military. Centrally located and offering free Wi-Fi and a traditional Swedish cold breakfast, the price of around £90 a night is not the only appealing factor.
Quality Hotel Globe
Offering 3-star accommodation, the Quality Hotel Globe is a great mid-range option. It has recently been refurbished to offer twice as many rooms as before, but the great service and spacious dwellings are still there for all to enjoy. The hotel is particularly great if you are planning to see a musical or sporting event at the nearby Globe and Tele2 arenas, as these are both right on your doorstep. Facilities include free Wi-Fi, a breakfast buffet, gym and a French brasserie that has been given a traditional Swedish twist.
If you want to go all out during your Stockholm city break, then it's worth splashing the cash to stay at the hip and trendy Hotel Rival. Located in an area of the city that is often referred to as SoFo, with a knowing nod to London's SoHo, you will find yourself amongst many stylish bars, restaurants and clubs. The hotel is not just frequented by movie and music stars, it's even owned by one. The ABBA legend Benny Andersson has created this 5-star hotel, complete with onsite cinema and bakery, and in which every room is adorned with movie murals and a cute teddy bear for company.
As is the case in many European cities, many different forms of transport are linked within Stockholm city centre. Storstockholms Lokaltrafik or SL gives you access to metro trains, overground trains, buses and ferries that will be able to connect you with all of the main attractions. Tickets are available for different periods of time, including 24, 48 and 72 hours, as well as 7 and 30 days. It is definitely worth exploring the metro system, known as the T-Bana, as each of the 100 stations has its own piece of permanent artwork within the station somewhere. Finally, it's worth noting that a Stockholm Card can be bought, giving you free access to public transport and free admission to 80 different attractions around the city. Prices start at just under £40 for a card lasting 24 hours.
Where to eat
Meatballs for the People
If your only taste of Sweden's most famous dish has been in a certain furniture shop then it is time you tried the real deal. This quaint little deli has meatballs, or köttbulle as they are referred to in Sweden, made from a variety of different meats and fish. High on the list of which to sample have to be those made from moose meat. You can either sit down for lunch or take a pack away to enjoy at home.
If you find yourself wondering what all that glorious Swedish seafood would taste like in sushi form, you needn't imagine it anymore. Simply head to Rakultur where this heady mix of Japanese flavours and Swedish ingredients create a restaurant experience that all fish lovers will be raving about. The chef/owner has won accolades for bringing together these two distant cuisines in the past and this is his relaxed, yet delicious, more recent offering.
If you had travelled to Stockholm a couple of years ago then you would have had to venture quite far outside of the city to enjoy this fine dining restaurant. However, the owners have now moved Oaxen Krog into the city centre in order to bring their fantastic food to the masses. The food is sourced from the surrounding areas and then cooked using modern methods, but with traditional techniques always at the heart of everything. Although expensive (£146 a head), the ten-course tasting menu features baked turbot, reindeer with red cabbage and an Arctic jam dessert, providing the perfect way to celebrate a special occasion and the local cuisine.
Top 3 things to do
Discover the Districts
One of the best things to do during your Stockholm city break is to explore the different areas of the city to see how different they are. From the modern and trendy area on the island of Sodermalm to the medieval centre on Gamla Stan, there is so much to see. The city is spread across 14 different islands in total, with many of them providing fantastic views along the waterfront areas. You can even catch a ferry to the nearby Stockholm archipelago if you want to explore further, which is particularly nice in the summer. If your explorations leave you in need of a break, simply rest those tired legs in one of the many cafés and indulge in some traditional Swedish Fika (café culture).
Visit the Vasaparken
If you do visit Stockholm during the beautiful winter months then there is always the option to ice skate in the Vasaparken. This extensive park is full of different activities, but between November and March an artificial ice rink is created to help get people in the Christmas spirit.
Scurry Off To Skansen
If your children with you, or you are keen to learn about Sweden's history and culture in more detail, a day at Skansen should definitely be on your to-do list. Situated on the gorgeous island of Djurgarden, this living museum features traditional shops, homes and workplaces, in which locals dressed in period clothing, will help to bring your surroundings to life. There's also a zoo on site which is home to many Scandinavian breeds of farm animal, as well as more exotic animals like bears, bats, monkeys and crocodiles. At this time of year, things at Skansen also get very festive. As well as a Christmas market, there's also the St. Lucia celebrations on December 13th which focus on the patron saint of light.
Stockholm is a great city to visit throughout the year. If you would like to plan a trip for this winter or summer 2016, please call our friendly team on 0808 250 7178 or submit an online enquiry.