Five non-touristy things to do in Stockholm this winter

Spend your winter getaway like a local with this hand-picked selection of non-touristy things to do in Stockholm.

Five non-touristy things to do in Stockholm this winter
Take a winter swim at Hellasgården. Photo: Helena Wahlman/

Snow-sprinkled streets, the smell of freshly-baked saffron buns and a large glass of glögg (mulled wine) — Stockholm is as magical in winter as it is lush and green in summer.

If you’re tired of Gamla Stan and you’ve done the Vasa Museum to death, get off the beaten track and experience the city like a Stockholmer instead. Here are five things to do once you’ve made the 18-minute journey on the Arlanda Express from the airport to the city centre. 

Fika and farm shop


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Rosendals Trädgårdskafé – a rustic greenhouse-cum-garden-café on the island of Djurgården – is a favorite haunt for many Stockholmers in the summertime. But the fun doesn’t stop when the mercury drops. From the end of November, it’s transformed into a winter wonderland and adorned with wreaths and twinkling fairy lights. Stop by for a traditional Swedish bulle (that’s a bun, to you and me), a glass of warm äppelmust (fresh pressed apple juice) and a serious dose of winter cosiness. There’s also a farm shop next door to the café, so you can take a (most likely cinnamon-based) taste of Sweden home with you.

Go for a dip (yes, really)

Photo: Helena Wahlman/TT

Many people don’t realise that the city of Stockholm is situated on fourteen islands — and that it’s part of a wider archipelago made up of some 30,000 islands. Over summer, the entire city empties out as Swedes flock to their summerhouses on remote islands (but don’t worry, even on the farthest island the 4G never wavers — Swedes have got their priorities straight).

Click here to buy your Arlanda Express tickets in advance

Ferries from central Stockholm to the archipelago run year-round so you can explore the islands off-season too. Some might even argue it’s a better time to visit as you can indulge in a favourite Swedish pastime: jumping into icy water before sprinting to the sauna. There are several spots for winter swimming like Abborrvass Bad on the island of Svartsö or the floating saunas at Sandhamns Seglarhotell — both just a couple of hours from the city by ferry. If you’re strapped for time, you can go for a winter dip closer to the city at Hellasgården, a huge recreation area where there’s as much to do in winter as there is in summer. 

Good news if you only have hand luggage: this is Sweden so there’s no need to pack your swimsuit — your birthday suit will do just fine.

Snow place like the slopes


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One of Stockholm’s most attractive features is that it’s a city that isn’t really like a city at all. It’s packed full of nature reserves, wild swimming spots (many which double as ice rinks in winter) and you can even hit the slopes without travelling too far out of the city centre. 

There are real and artificial slopes like Hammarbybacken, a 100-meter man-made hill just a 10-minute drive from the city centre or Ekholmsnäsbacken, a family-friendly ski area where beginners can take some lessons at a reasonable rate. 

Have an ice day!

Photo: Tobias Röstlund/TT

Stockholmers love to strap on their skates and glide around the many frozen lakes in and around the city. If you’re not an experienced skater, hire the help of a professional wild Nordic skating guide. ICEguide offers guided skating tours – and hires out all of the required accoutrements, like ice skates and helmets – on natural ice between December and March. Feeling the winter sun on your face and the brisk wind in your hair as you skate across an icy lake is a bona fide bucket-list experience.

Start your Stockholm visit with Arlanda Express tickets

Sausage and spice at Skansen

If you’re visiting Stockholm in December, don’t miss the Christmas market at Skansen. The open-air museum – which is open all year round – is a highlight of the city in itself, showcasing homes and farmsteads from times gone by. Each year since 1903 the market square has filled up with stalls selling tasty treats like traditional sausages, sugared almonds and marzipan. Visitors can also take part in Swedish traditions like dancing around the Christmas tree and handcrafting their own decorations. 

Skansen in winter. Photo: Tuukka Ervasti/

There’s still plenty to see and do at Skansen outside of Christmas time. Outdoor activities are planned throughout the year and it’s also home to a number of rare Nordic animals including brown bears, European bisons, Gute sheep and some sizeable moose AKA the undisputed kings of the Swedish forest. 

With so much to do in Stockholm this winter, make getting there as fast and easy as possible by booking your airport transfer with the Arlanda Express, the fastest route between Arlanda Airport and downtown (a mere 18 minutes). Click here to book your tickets before you land.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Arlanda Express.


The architect trying to finish the Sagrada Familia after 138 years

Jordi Faulí is the seventh chief architect of Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia since Antoni Gaudi began work on the basilica in 1883, and he had been expected to oversee its long-awaited completion.

The architect trying to finish the Sagrada Familia after 138 years
Jordi Faulí is the seventh architect director of the Sagrada Familia following Antoni Gaudi and, for many, the one destined to finish it. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

But the pandemic has delayed efforts to finish this towering architectural masterpiece, which has been under construction for nearly 140 years, and it is no longer clear whether Faulí will still be in charge when it is finally done.

“I would like to be here for many more years, of course, but that’s in God’s hands,” says Faulí, 62, a wry smile on his lips.

He was just 31 when he joined the architectural team as a local in 1990 — the same age as Gaudi when the innovative Catalan architect began building his greatest work in the late 19th century, a project that would take up four decades of his life.

“When I arrived, only three of these columns were built and they were only 10 metres (33 feet) high,” he explains from a mezzanine in the main nave.

“I was lucky enough to design and see the construction of the entire interior, then the sacristy and now the main towers.”

When finished, the ornate cathedral which was designed by Gaudi will have 18 towers, the tallest of which will reach 172 metres into the air.

READ ALSO: Pandemic to delay completion fate for Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia

The second-highest tower, which is 138 metres tall and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, will be officially inaugurated on Wednesday with the illumination of the gigantic 5.5-tonne star crowning its highest point.

It is the tallest of the nine completed towers and the first to be inaugurated since 1976.

The long-awaited completion of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia will no longer happen in 2026 because the coronavirus epidemic has curtailed its construction and frustrated funding, basilica officials admitted. Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP
Construction halted by Civil War

In 2019, the Sagrada Familia welcomed 4.7 million visitors, making it Barcelona’s most visited monument.

But it was forced to close in March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, with its doors staying shut for almost a year.

This year, there have been barely 764,000 visitors, municipal figures show.

And as entry tickets are the main source of funding for the ongoing building works, the goal of finishing the basilica by 2026 to mark the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death — he was run over by a tram — has been abandoned.

“We can’t give any estimate as to when it will be finished because we don’t know how visitor numbers will recover in the coming years,” Faulí says.

It is far from the first time Gaudi’s masterpiece has faced such challenges.

During the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, construction work stopped and many of Gaudi’s design plans and models were destroyed.

For critics, this major loss means they do not view what was built later as Gaudi’s work, despite the research carried out by his successors.

READ ALSO: Central spire will make the Sagrada Familia tallest church in the world

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has only granted World Heritage status to the Sagrada Familia’s crypt and one of its facades, both of which were built during Gaudi’s lifetime.

But Faulí insists the project remains faithful to what Gaudi had planned as it is based on the meticulous study of photographs, drawings and testimony from the late Modernist architect.

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has only granted World Heritage status to the Sagrada Familia’s crypt and one of its facades, both of which were built during Gaudi’s lifetime. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

Some local opposition

Nominated chief architect of the project in 2012, Faulí took over at the head of a team of 27 architects and more than 100 builders.

Today, there are five architects and some 16 builders working to finish the Sagrada Familia.

“It is a lot of responsibility because it’s an iconic project, which many people have an opinion about,” says Faulí.

Building such a vast monument which draws huge numbers of visitors is not welcomed by everyone, with some arguing that the hoards of visiting tourists are destroying the area.

Many also oppose plans to build an enormous staircase leading up to the main entrance, the construction of which will involve the demolition of several buildings, forcing hundreds to relocate.

“My life is here and they want to throw me out,” says one sign on a balcony near the Sagrada Familia.

Faulí said he understands their concerns and wants to find “fair solutions” through dialogue.

And if he could ask Gaudi one question? Faulí pauses to reflect for a few moments.

“I would ask him about his underlying intentions and what feelings he wanted to communicate through his architecture,” he says.