October 21, 2016

Overview: Christmas in Stockholm 2016

It might seem a bit early, but I am already receiving many questions regarding the holiday season... so this should be timely information for many. One thing I have noticed over the years in this business is that many visitors don't take into consideration that different countries celebrate the holiday in different ways due to either traditional, religious or cultural differences. These are generally not huge differences, but large enough that it can mess up your planning if you arrive unaware. Hopefully this information will help you!
While Sweden has the same problem as the rest of the world when it comes to creeping consumerism (holiday decorations already in October?)... traditionally the Christmas season here is during the four weeks, also known as Advent, leading up to the holiday itself. This is the time when you can visit Christmas markets, see holiday concerts and eat the traditional Christmas smorgasbord (julbord) at restaurants. This basically all stops after December 23rd. There are no holiday markets open on the 24th and 25th and only a couple of restaurants that still serve julbord.
So, what happens on December 24th and 25th? The 24th is the day Swedes celebrate Christmas and this is the point which can mess up visitors as the 25th is main day in many countries. Families and friends gather at homes in the early evening for dinner. Santa Claus, or jultomten, stops by with presents for the children (usually a friend or neighbour in costume). Generally speaking, stores will close in the early afternoon and almost all museums (with the exception of Skansen) are closed. The vast majority of restaurants are closed as well.
The 25th is seen more as a day of rest, recovering from the festivities, perhaps lunch with family. This means that all stores are closed. When it comes to restaurants and museums, most are also closed... though you have a couple of more options than on the 24th. December 26th? This is actually also a bank holiday in Sweden (Annandag jul- or "second day of Christmas"). More restaurants and museums are open as well stores as this is the beginning of the holiday sales, called mellandagsrea.
Check back in a few weeks for full detailed lists of the opening hours for museums and stores over the holidays. In the meantime you can check my lists from last year for museums & sightseeing tours and department stores & shopping centers to get a good idea. I will also write a post in the middle of November about the different Christmas markets in Stockholm.

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