After three months of trekking back and forth between Arlanda Airport and Stockholm every Friday and Sunday, constantly unpacking and re-packing my carry on bag, and playing a game of mental catch-up with every new city I visit, I’m finally done with all of my traveling until the end of the semester. In these last four weeks, it was really important to me that I stay in Stockholm and give myself time to re-establish my routine here and reground myself in the city that I chose to spend my one semester abroad. All of us have our own reasons for choosing Stockholm and for the most part, it certainly wasn’t just to leave the country every five days in search of new experiences elsewhere. Despite the thrill of chasing exciting weekends across Europe, there’s something to be said for being able to cultivate a sense of stability and comfort in a city like Stockholm, on the other side of the world from where we live.
For this last study break, my roommates and I decided to stay in Stockholm because we needed this week to re-experience the city and, honestly, recharge after an exhausting three months. Before this week, it was hard listening to the travel plans everyone else had for the upcoming break week and reminding myself that this was enough. To be in Stockholm and recharge is enough. It truly ended up being one of the best weeks I’ve had since this semester started.
Well, with one exception. It’s true what everyone says about November and December in Stockholm– the weather is absolutely miserable. Despite the fact that it doesn’t rain every single day (although, it is a pretty large percentage of days), the sun just…never comes out. As someone who is rarely affected by a late sunrise and early sunset, coming from the northeast region of the United States, that is nothing compared to the gray bubble we’ve experienced here in the past week. After talking to some native Swedes, even they agree that this is extreme and the only way to describe it is like a bubble that never bursts. We’ve been living under heavy, dark clouds for so many days in a row and going outside during those few hours of day”light” isn’t enough. The only form of relief is finding outdoor activities and luckily, Christmas hits early in Stockholm. With the festivities and Christmas events happening throughout the city, it’s relatively easy to grab a friend or two and forget about the extreme depletion that comes with not seeing the sun in weeks. Here are some of our recommendations:
The first day of the break, my friends and I went to the The King’s Garden (Kungsträdgården) and went ice skating. There’s an easily accessible rink and since it was a weekday at around 2pm, relatively empty. We walked by again a few nights later and it was packed with young children and families, so if you want to avoid the crowds, I would definitely go during the week. Don’t wait until peak hours!
Rosendals Trädgård is still one of my favorite places in Stockholm, and to kick off the holiday season, they host a Christmas night event for one weekend in November. Complete with bonfires and a candlelit walkway from the tram stop a 10 minute walk away from the gardens, their amazing cafe has extended hours so you can have a late-night fika with friends. I mean, it felt like late-night fika because the sun set hours ago, but believe it or not, when I took this picture it was only 5pm. We didn’t stay long enough for this, but there were also live jazz performances later in the night as well as a pizza restaurant with an outdoor oven, which warmed the outdoor seating area.
Another day, just to get out of the apartment and try to catch some daylight before the sun set at 3:15pm, my friend and I discovered a new cafe that we love. Yes, more fika, because after this semester, I apparently just can’t get enough of it. It’s the perfect excuse to leave the warmth of being indoors and such a huge cultural aspect of living here that is impossible to escape. If you’re going to be in Stockholm without class for an entire week, fika is inevitable.
Finally, we spent a fair amount of time in Gamla Stan this week. Yes, it is extremely touristy and I doubt many local Swedes actually spend that much time walking through Stockholm’s Old Town, but it’s still incredible to walk around and peek inside the gift shops that line the main road. It’s a really small island and only a 5 minute train ride from Hornstull, so it’s just really accessible. Even after living here for 3 months I still love seeing the old buildings and the sights that line the streets.
This past weekend, the Christmas market finally opened and I have to say, it was a little underwhelming. The crowds of people were definitely a lot, but the market itself is pretty small and did not offer much that is too different from what most of the gift shops on the island already sell for most of the year. It is still worth checking out if you have the time, but I wouldn’t necessarily set aside more than half an hour to exploring the market stalls.
There’s nothing more I could have asked for out of this week. I spent it reconnecting with people in the program and experiencing Stockholm, not just as a city I’m studying in, which is what it feels like for most of the semester with a full week of classes and academic visits, but also as a city that I fully live in and get to call home. These last three weeks are probably going to include more of the same thing, but that’s exactly what I need right now!