New Year's Eve in Stockholm
Scandinavian New Year is a cozy affair, all family dinners, steaming mugs of hot chocolate, and fireworks and fizz at midnight. And Stockholm is one of the very best places to experience it. Thinking of taking the plunge? To help you make up your mind, we’ve put together our top suggestions for things to do on New Year’s Eve in Stockholm, from munching freshly baked cinnamon buns in the old town to sweating out the festive toxins in a traditional Swedish sauna. Read on for our expert guide...
In the Morning...
Warm Buns in Gamla Stan
There’s no better way to commence any morning in Stockholm than by greedily scoffing as many still-warm cinnamon and cardamom buns as you can, ideally washed down with a cobweb-blasting strong Swedish coffee or two. Hit up the old town’s perfectly preserved medieval main square (Stortorget) for some of the best buns – and IG photo ops – around. We’re talking rainbows of regal townhouses painted in fruity shades of lime green, lemon yellow and plum purple, with fairytale gabled rooftops that jockey for position with grand palaces, baroque cathedrals and several ornate statues and fountains. Almost, in other words, enough to distract you from your breakfast buns. Want second helpings? Find a traditional café for Swedish pancakes and waffles topped with fresh fruit, yogurt and tart lingonberry jam, or smothered in buttermilk syrup so good you'll swear it's heaven-sent.
A Taste of Swedish Culture
Stockholm’s veritable smörgåsbord of museums transports you to the very heart of Swedish culture. Take the Viking Museum, for example, with its immersive, time-traveling journey into the nation's origin story. Fast forward a few hundred years at ABBA the Museum, where the opportunity to belt out Dancing Queen in the karaoke booth or bust your best moves with Benny, Björn, Frida and Agnetha is just too good to miss. Learn about the country’s relationship with vodka at the Museum of Spirits, check out a beautifully preserved 17th-century Swedish warship in the Vasa Museum, and view masterpieces by Swedish artists and other European legends including Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens and more at the exceptional Nationalmuseum.
You can experience some of Sweden’s finest contemporary art absolutely gratis, simply by riding the subway! Dubbed ‘the world’s longest art gallery’, the network features show-stopping artworks in of 90+ of its stations. Don’t miss the delicate fluorescent ‘heartbeat’ lights at Odenplan and the extraordinary scorched earth hellscape at Rådhuset. But open-air living history museum Skansen may well be the best Swedish cultural experience of the lot, featuring, as it does, a replica 19th-century town that’s complete with craftspeople plying traditional trades like tanning, cobbling and glass-blowing. Keep it highbrow at Fotografiska, where contemporary photo exhibitions may well provide inspiration for your own holiday snaps and the eye-catching restaurant, with its splendid views across the water to the old town, is as good a place to pause for lunch as any.
In the Afternoon...
Bag a Bargain
It may be New Year’s Eve, but you’ll still be able to pick up festive trinkets at Stockholm’s atmospheric Christmas markets, which don’t wind down until early January. Alternatively hit up the big-brand stores on Drottninggatan and in the grandly named Westfield Mall of Scandinavia for Boxing Day sale bargains. Over in trendy Södermalm, the area south of Folkungagatan is so achingly cool it’s even earned its own nickname: SoFo. This is where dedicated browsers of hip independent boutiques are rewarded with prizes including one-off vintage fashions, artisan jewelry, rare vinyl records, second-hand books and more.
Do as the Swedes Do
Can you really say you’ve been to Stockholm without experiencing a traditional Swedish sauna at least once? No, dear reader, you cannot. The lakeside sauna at Hellasgården is as Swedish as meatballs and flat-pack furniture, all natural oak paneling and forest views. There’s even a lake where, in the depths of winter, a hole is cut in the ice to permit hardier souls a rejuvenating dip. Or hit up the Norrmalm neighborhood’s popular Centralbadet complex, a kitschy art nouveau confection that contains several tiled saunas and a large swimming pool.
Not Swedish enough for ya? Fika is the simple Scandinavian art of enjoying coffee and a sweet treat with friends. So: do as the locals do and cap off that epic afternoon of shopping and sweating with a well-earned sit-down and – yep, you guessed it – another face-sized cinnamon bun.
In the Evening...
Dinner with a Difference
Stockholm has no shortage of superlative dining options, from down and dirty Swedish meatball joints (Bakfickan; Meatballs for the People) to upscale Michelin-star restaurants (Operakalleren; Gastrologik). Sweden’s traditional New Year’s Eve dinner tends to go heavy on the shellfish, so you’ll find langoustines and lobster on the menu in most restaurants worth their salt on the 31st. Try Knut for modern northern Swedish dishes like reindeer filet and Arctic char tartare, or bag some of the best views in town at Himlen, up top of the Skrapan skyscraper. Alternatively, while unlikely to offer the finest gourmet experience you’ve ever had, a dinner cruise around Stockholm’s picturesque waterways can be a fun way to see in the New Year – food, fizz, fireworks and all!
New Year wouldn’t be New Year without a spectacular firework display, and Stockholm is no slouch when it comes to the midnight pyrotechnics. The aforementioned Skansen is one of the best spots. Indeed, this is the place from where the countdown is broadcast to the nation every year, so you’ll be in good company. Expect a busy entertainment program featuring some of Sweden’s biggest stars before, at midnight, witnessing a peculiar Swedish tradition: almost every year since 1896, a well-known public figure or celebrity has stood on this very spot and recited Alfred Lord Tennyson’s 1850 poem Ring Out Wild Bells (in a Swedish translation). The old town’s inner harbor is another great firework-watching location, and is particularly stunning and atmospheric by the Royal Castle or City Hall. Or join the crowds along busy Västerbron bridge for the win.