What better way to mark the beginning of advent, than a weekend jaunt to Stockholm to check out the Swedish Christmas market tradition. Originating in Germany, you’ll find these quaint street markets selling festive ornaments, food and hot mulled wine throughout many European cities during the four weeks of advent. But while Germany may be the king of Christmas markets, the Swedish Julmarknad is an equally charming affair.
Christmas market in Skansen
We started our Christmas market hunt by taking a ferry to the island of Djurgården, where the open air museum Skansen holds Christmas themed events and markets every weekend throughout advent. You still have to pay the usual admission to the museum, which is a little more than the standard fee for this time of year (150 SEK for adults in 2016), but of course this means you can enjoy the whole museum as well as the extra Yule tide offering.
The market is set in the middle of the grounds, with small red huts and a barn-like building selling decorations, handcrafted goods and traditional foods. A small wooden church situated close by holds concerts, but since we didn’t time our arrival and the church became full very quickly we unfortunately had to miss out.
We were also a little disappointed by the apparent lack of stalls selling glögg (the Swedish version of mulled wine). By German standards it felt like there were none, but really it just didn’t seem to be a prominent feature. Though after queuing at one stall in the cold for what felt like an eternity, we were rewarded with a spot by an open fire and pepperkaker, the thin gingerbread biscuits traditionally served with glögg.
Once we’d warmed up a little, we heard the sound of a band playing Swedish Christmas songs. I’d heard of the Swedish dansband (dance band) and the set up seemed identical, only with children and their families dancing around a Christmas tree, jumping and clumsily clapping their hands under their legs in a semi-synchronised fashion. If the glögg hadn’t warmed our cockles, that certainly did!
After getting into the Christmas spirit, we couldn’t pass up seeing the Scandinavian animals, also a part of the year round Skansen attraction. Moose, reindeer, horses, foxes, ox, wolves and more are up for spotting, which from first hand experience I can tell you is just as fun for adults as it is kids. Of course the bears were already hibernating for winter, but as much as I love bears, it wasn’t enough to dampen my newly found Crimbo spirit.
The museum is dotted with old buildings, presenting the way of life in Sweden before the industrial era. Visiting the workshop where glass Christmas ornaments were being crafted, eating delicious freshly baked bread from the old bakery and hearing female carol singers in traditional winter dress were just a few of the other highlights.
More information on Skansen Christmas market weekends can be found here.
Julmarknad in Gamla Stan
Taking the ferry back to Slutten as the sun went down, we were welcomed with a beautiful view of the old town skyline, complete with giant Christmas tree (another sight to hit you in the Christmas feels). After disembarking and wandering up through the maze of narrow old streets, we finally found Stortorgets Julmarknad, the old town Christmas market.
The market is nestled in the square by the Nobel Museum and surrounded by tall, colourful buildings typical of the area. It is only open until 6pm, but considering the sun was already going down at 3pm it felt more like an evening stroll, with the market lit up in a hazy winter glow.
Similar to Skansen, the small red wooden huts sell everything from handicrafts and clothing, to sweets and other delicious smelling goods. We of course grabbed another glögg with pepperkaker to warm up again after the brisk ferry ride, all the while taking in the cosy Christmassy atmosphere, completing a wonderful day in the city.
Tack Stockholm for a great start to the Yule tide season – and God Jul!
For more information on Stortorgets Julmarknad check out the website here