The clocks have gone back, the winter tyres are going on, Christmas is some way off – how best do you get through December which can be the most challenging month in Sweden? In expat circles, December chatter about impending snowstorms, months of darkness ahead, winter vomiting bugs and other nasties can make you feel decidedly glum. So it’s time to buy lots of candles, get exploring all that Stockholm has to offer and rejig things to embrace the hours of darkness rather than feeling overwrought.
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There will inevitably be many hours of darkness to contend with. Picking children up from school in the dark is just normal, with light fading sharply after 2 p.m. So it makes sense to plan your day to maximise the light. Getting outside in the morning is a key part of this – easier at the weekend than on a working day, but a good dose of sunlight will make you feel entirely different.
Walking or running will make you feel bouncier and once the snow arrives, cross-country skiing is a superb tonic which sends all your senses into overdrive (and can leave you feeling more exhausted than you would believe possible). You will notice that Swedes continue to exercise whatever the weather and totally devotedly throughout the whole winter– they know a thing or two about living this far north, so follow their example.
Find places which give you a virtual bear hug. This may be more challenging, given Covid related restrictions, but the Waldemarsudde on Djurgården is the most stunning spot for art lovers and once you have soaked up wonderful art, you can retreat to the Prince’s Kitchen café upstairs for restorative goulash and wickedly delicious chocolate truffles or cakes.
Or if music is your thing, indulge in one of the opera house’s stunning lunchtime concerts in the sumptuous surroundings of the Golden Foyer –real escapism!
For the shoppers amongst you, now is the time to make the most of Sweden’s shopping malls where the ice will simply melt off your tyres in the heated car park, whilst you shop to your heart’s content. Try Täby Centrum for a fantastic choice of shops, or if in town, Sturegallerian off Östermalm’s Birger Jarlsgatan has a gorgeous array of boutiques to tempt. Or simply indulge in gloriously scented cinnamon buns and hot chocolate with lashings of cream in your favourite café.
This is a time of year to be kind to yourself and your body will need some care and attention too. The lack of sunlight may make your hair go on strike, so if it’s thinner than usual don’t despair – your pharmacy will have plenty of solutions. If you’re feeling incredibly tired this may be owing to a deficit of vitamin D and again, many supplements are available, so don’t suffer in silence. And if your skin feels really dry and in need of some love, there are a multitude of skin products and moisturisers to choose from.
If seemingly endless hours in the dark with small children seem daunting, don’t forget that Stockholm has an incredible array of museums perfectly tailored to pep up smaller people on a winter’s day. Where to start?
Junibacken takes you into a simply incredible magical world, where scenes from Sweden’s most famous children’s classics are brought to life in astonishing detail probably unrivalled anywhere else. It is like the very best doll’s house or pirate ship you can imagine and all for children to explore and enjoy – don’t miss the amazing train ride but do be prepared for Mr. Rat to pop up.
Or the ABBA Museum will whisk you into an electric world of singing and dancing to ABBA’s greatest hits and revelling in their fabulous costumes.
For the smaller, the Post Museum in Gamla Stan is utterly charming and your little ones can while happy hours away pretending to drive the post van, sorting the post in the beautifully detailed post room or delivering letters to the enchanting imaginary Stockholm streets.
And when it’s all over, you can venture along the street to see Sweden’s signature red and white candy canes being made at the Polkagris Kokeri. Then when you get home, start dancing to ABBA all over again, with the disco ball you’ve cleverly bought lighting up the room!
“We drove up fabulous Strandvägen, the most majestic and iconic of Stockholm’s streets… a grandiose boulevard with sensational views over the water and to the Royal hunting ground and extensive island, Djurgården, which gives Stockholmers endless acres in which to walk, run, cycle, boat; admire the excellent paintings of Prinz Eugen at the Waldemarsudde with its 270-degree views over the water; sing, dance and ogle at sensational gold boots at the ABBA Museum; skate across the water back to Strandvägen in really cold winter; wonder at the fated ambition and pomp of the Vasa, Sweden’s grandest ship which sank on its maiden voyage in 1628……or plump for the delights of Junibacken. We would enjoy each of these in turn, but this was our destination today and a sort of homage to Astrid Lindgren, Sweden’s most revered children’s’ author. A world of delight and our first introduction to the Swedish ability to build the minutiae of children’s books into life-sized edifices to extraordinary effect”.(excerpt from So Sweden – Living Differently by Alison Allfrey)