After weeks of travelling in warmer climes, I haven’t been feeling all that Christmassy – despite all the Bublé I’ve been listening to and the Christmas decorations I’ve seen in every hotel and shopping centre. So hey ho, hey ho, it’s off to Sweden we go! A temperature drop of 35 degrees, darkness that sets in at 3pm, and stuffing my face with herring and meatballs is just what the Christmas fairy ordered…
1. Spend the day at Skansen open-air museum
Now, let’s face it, I think you should go to Skansen at any time of year. It’s worth visiting even if there isn’t anything else going on, just to walk around the old buildings and the zoo. At Christmas, though, it’s extra special: all the houses and farmsteads come to life with traditions from years gone by, the strains of Christmas songs fill the air, and the Christmas market comes to the main square with all sorts of goodies to eat and drink. Join in with the folk dancing, ride in a horse-drawn carriage, eat some reindeer meat with cloudberry jam, and don’t forget to buy a bulle from the bakery.
2. Eat a julbord, the traditional Christmas buffet
Almost every restaurant and hotel in Sweden will have a julbord, the Christmas version of the famous smörgåsbord, during the month of December. It’s a more extensive and ambitious version of what we then eat at home on Christmas Eve: herring, cold cuts, Christmas ham with apple sauce, meatballs, sausages, cheese, rice pudding, and lots of lovely little desserts and chocolates to finish off. Try Grand Hôtel, Operakällaren or, our choice for the last few years, Carlshälls Gård (website only in Swedish). For all the gory details, see last year’s post on this seven-course feast.
3. Go ice skating at Kungsträdgården
The ice rink at Kungsträdgården has been in its current location since 1962, and the tradition of skating in the area goes back to at least 1854. You can rent skates or bring your own and skate for free. For an extra dose of Christmas spirit, you can go to another Christmas market right beside the ice rink once you’ve had enough of toe loops, Lutzes and axels (or shuffling along while holding on to your skating partner for dear life, as the case may be).
4. Join the crowds at the NK department store
Nordiska Kompaniet first opened in 1915 and is Stockholm’s big luxury department store. Having bought all your own Christmas presents already, you can look on with a self-righteous smirk as shoppers rush around in a last-minute panic, and why not have a fika in one of the many cafés. Be sure to check out the Christmas window displays, this year depicting the world of the tomtenissar and their hard work getting all our presents ready for Christmas.
5. Eat lots of saffron buns
Christmas is a time for baking and above all for ginger biscuits, pepparkakor, and saffron buns, saffransbullar or lussekatter, in various shapes and sizes; I particularly recommend the ones with mandelmassa, almond paste, for extra deliciousness. My friend had an amazing one at Brunkebergs Bageri on Regeringsgatan while Vår Bagarbod on Ringvägen uses “real Persian saffron”. In fact, I’ve been reliably told that the best tasting ones come from 7Eleven – but I’m sceptical as to the quality of the ingredients in such cheap buns…
Should your taste buds not be sophisticated enough to cope with saffron in a sweet bun, then you can opt for the classic cinnamon bun instead.
And with that, I am fully Christmasified.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!