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Winter holidays in Stockholm

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A winter holiday in Stockholm is magical. Ice breakers slip through the freezing sea while Christmas trees blaze with shimmering lights. Seasonal markets are full of sugar plum fairies and glasses of warming mulled wine are the order of the day. Book a winter hotel in Stockholm for a holiday to treasure.

Winter boat trips

Wrap up well for a winter boat trip. The ice slowly breaks as the boats slip past Stockholm’s islands. With snow covering the buildings and frost sparkling on the bare tree branches, Stockholm takes on a very different look. Go out to Vaxholm island and book the lunch buffet on board a steamboat. Alternatively, make a day of it on Fjäderholmarna and join the locals for a Christmas smorgasbord (a julbord) at Fjäderholmarnas Krog.

Festive entertainment

Christmas music begins with Advent carols joyously ringing out under the pale blue and gold domes of baroque gems like Katarina Kyrka or in the sombre redbrick Gothic Storkyrkan cathedral. More secular but just as sacred to the Swedes is the 13th December. The candlelit procession of Lucia, Queen of the Light, and her attendants snakes through the streets and up to Skansen. In the lavish red and gold setting of the Royal Opera House, The Nutcracker dances into the hearts of generations of ballet lovers. Crowds throng the streets on New Year’s Eve; the churches ring their bells and fireworks soar over the water.

Christmas shopping

From early December Christmas markets fill Stockholm’s streets and squares. Traditional wooden toys, festive food and handmade decorations tempt seasonal shoppers in Stortorget square on Gamla Stan, at Skansen and the royal palaces of Rosendals and Drottningholms Slott. Stores vie with each other with their window displays of animated fairy-tale characters, and the greatest crowds gather daily in front of upmarket department store NK

A Christmas smorgasbord

Spoil yourself at a three-course Christmas julbord of herrings and eel, Jansson’s Temptation (a potato gratin with sprats), Christmas ham and dishes using every part of the pig, followed by sweet desserts with sharp berry sauces. Glasses of fruit schnapps help it all down. Dine at the 18th-century tavern Clas På Hörnet in Vasastaden or reward yourself at Djurgårdsbrunn after a walk beside the frozen canal on Djurgården. 

Skansen’s winter

A winter break in Stockholm must include a visit to the open-air museum Skansen. Fires blaze in the old farmhouses as costumed characters alternately bewitch and frighten small children with long-forgotten fairy tales. The weekend Christmas market offers hand-knitted gloves, sweets, toys and decorations. Crowds flock here on New Year’s Eve to hear the words of Tennyson’s poem “Ring Out, Wild Bells” herald the midnight hour. 

The great outdoors for the hardy

On fine clear days the shouts of the skaters mingle with the hiss of skates on the little outdoor rink at Kungsträdgården. A particularly cold winter tempts hardened skaters out on to the frozen waterways around Stockholm for impromptu races and long-distance skating. The truly indomitable make the 20-minute journey to Hellasgården park to skate on the frozen lakes, tune up their muscles cross-country skiing or make a hole in the ice for a spot of masochistic swimming.