My inner child and belief in magic has never really disappeared so Christmas has always been my very favourite time of year. But, since having Evie, it has become even more magical. I adore watching her wake up with excitement every morning during December to see what the elves have left in her advent calendar tree; she shouts out in delight whenever she see twinkly lights; and the thought of Santa brings a huge smile to her face.
Which is why I love visiting a different European Christmas market every year – for the adventure together as well as sharing the magic of Christmas with her.
For this year’s destination we decided on Stockholm, somewhere which I had already heard was extremely family friendly, looked incredibly festive, and a country that neither Evie nor I have ever visited. It’s no surprise that visiting a city in Sweden is going to be a fairly expensive trip so getting a Stockholm Pass, which provides entry to most of the city’s main attractions, is a fantastic way to save some money while seeing all the sights.
These are my top tips for what to do in Stockholm with kids at Christmas time and during winter. Wrap up warm and get out to explore this ridiculously pretty city!
spend the day at Skansen
This open air museum is amazing to visit at any time of year but, at Christmas time especially, the festive markets pop up at the weekends selling all sorts of decorative items as well as lots of traditional food stalls serving up waffles, meatballs, pancakes, toffee apples and hot glogg (mulled wine). A live band sing Swedish Christmas songs and everyone dances around the Christmas tree in the center of the market. Literally everybody joined in with the dancing – children, families, adults who didn’t even have kids with them. There is so much festive joy here that we completely forgot about the cold and just enjoyed ourselves dancing around.
When the cold gets too much there is an indoor aquarium and zoo where little ones can be fascinated by colourful fish and giant crocodiles and walk through an open enclosure where monkeys jump over your head.
wander around Gamla Stan
The city’s Old Town, Gamla Stan, is the picturesque postcard scene of Stockholm. Narrow cobbled lanes wind their way around this little island, lined with colourful buildings, street lamps lighting the way back to the church and the main square where the pretty Christmas markets surround a large Christmas tree.
Visiting Santa is something I try to do with Evie every year when we visit the Christmas markets as I think it makes it a bit more special visiting Santa in a different country rather than seeing him in your standard shopping center at home. Sweden’s version of Santa is a little different. He’s called Tomten and he’s more elfin like, dressed from head to toe in white and silver, rather than the overweight bright red guy we’re used to in the UK. I definitely preferred the magical Nordic version and Evie was mesmerised and so excited as soon as she spotted him.
Tomten can be found in the NK department store where children can write their Christmas wish list – or “The Magic Wish List of the Universe” – and then post it off in the big letterbox after telling Tomten what they wish for. It’s completely free and even at the weekend we didn’t wait long for Evie to go up and say hello. Or “hej hej” as they say in Sweden.
stare in awe at the NK window displays
Aside from visiting Tomten here, NK is completely decked out in Christmas decorations so the department store alone is something to see. Inside, there is a huge magnificent Christmas tree suspended from the ceiling that sparkles as it slowly spins. Outside, the window displays are a sight of their own with Christmas scenes created using moving toys and gifts that make all passersby stop and watch.
ride a pony at The Royal Stables
Christmas markets pop up at the weekends at The Royal Stables and on Advent weekend, which is when we visited, children can have pony rides around the stables. Evie absolutely loved this, so much so that she had more than one ride on the cutest miniature pony wearing a wonky Santa hat on top of his head. She couldn’t stop smiling!
let out your inner child at Junibacken
This magical immersive play center is brilliant at any time of year but especially so when it’s -3 degrees outside and you want a day out of the cold. Based on Astrid Lindgren’s children’s stories, we took a ride on the story train which takes you on a journey around the fairytale world of Lindgren’s books (which was a little dark and scary at times as she often wrote about fairly serious issues – but my fearless two year old didn’t seem to be bothered in the slightest).
We played in Pippi Longstocking’s house, flew to the moon in a spaceship, had fun with different installations in the playrooms, and read some children’s books in the huge book store. Evie was finding hidden rooms and secret tunnels, that I never would have found myself, after hours of being here!
read books at Bokluskaren
A sweet little book store in Södermalm which has a tiny café and some comfy sofas to get cosy in. We popped in here to escape the cold and sat and read some children’s books together.
go Ice Skating
Evie’s a little too young (and I’m a little too wobbly on my feet) to attempt ice skating but she loved watching the older kids whizz around the ice rink at Kungstradgarden.
go on the trail for Christmas lights
Twinkly Christmas lights can be found all over the city lining the shopping streets but Evie mostly loved the giant reindeer which tower over everything and brighten up the dark night’s sky.
Have a cosy fika
I couldn’t write an entire post about visiting somewhere new without including cake! Fika is a hugely popular part of Swedish culture which just means having a cosy coffee and cake. So of course we did the traditional thing, as you should do when travelling, and had fika every day!
My favourite places were Vette-Katten where there is a huge variety of impressive cakes, pastries, buns and chocolates; Chokladkoppen is right in the main square in Gamla Stan and makes the thickest and most rich hot chocolates; Junibacken has a colourful circus themed café with a great selection of cakes; Espresso House is a popular chain of coffee shops all over the city which are really cosy inside.
All of these places were very child friendly and were happy to make up a cup of warm milk or a mini hot chocolate for Evie. One thing I also liked about most of the coffee shops here is that, if you don’t want a proper coffee such as a cappuccino or latte, there are often self-service counters where you can help yourself to free standard coffee, tea and water.
ride the tram or the hop on hop off bus
Stockholm is a fairly small compact city so we did lots of walking but it was also really easy to get around using the Stockholm Pass. It entitles you to transport on buses, trams and metro, as well as the hop on hop off city sightseeing bus which is always a fun ride for kids and stops at all the main tourist attractions in the city.
play in the snow
This one is obviously completely free but if you happen to be lucky enough to be there when it snows, it makes the pretty city even more magical. Visit the many parks and little green squares (or white squares when they’re covered in snow) that are dotted around the city and have some fun together.