Stockholm in winter (Part 1)

It may not be the first season that comes to mind when you consider travelling north but I’ve returned from the Swedish capital thinking there may be no such thing as a bad time of year to visit this enchanting city.

Stockholm in the snow seemed to have slipped straight out of a fairy tale. It was beautiful, elegant and above all practically empty: no traffic jams, no queues, no crowds in the shops even though the January sales were in full swing.

The best way to get around is on foot. The city centre is fairly compact, many streets are reserved for pedestrians and Swedish motorists always seem to stop at zebra crossings. You just need to keep looking down, to avoid falling on the ice, and up, where huge icicles threaten constantly to become dislodged and stab the unwary walker.

Glacons

Water, in a less menacing guise, is everywhere. This "Venice of the North" (Stockholm shares the title with Amsterdam and Saint Petersburg) is built on 14 islands and you’re never far from a stunning waterside vista, or a bridge where you can watch fascinated as flotillas of ice floes come rushing past.

But you can get cold standing still for too long, so this might be a good time to explore one of the city’s 70 museums (here’s a sample) or go underground to admire the works of art on display at many metro stations.

When you want to give both body and brain a rest, you could take a break at one of the bars and cafés where rows of cushions snuggle invitingly up against those cold windows…

Coussins

or pop into a bakery for something sweet…

Vitrine-pain1

Stockholm is also a city where it’s relatively easy to eat vegan. And although Scandinavia has long had a reputation for being an expensive place for holidays, we found prices quite affordable. Hotels (with generous breakfasts) are certainly cheaper than in London and eating out is comparable.

Even the winter nights weren’t as long as I’d feared: daylight arrived at the same time as it does in France right now, and night fell at around 4pm, much like midwinter London.

In a few days I’ll tell you about some of the great restaurants where we ate during our stay.

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