What to eat
Niklas Ekstedt raises the heat at his eponymous resturant / Image:David Loftus
“Winter (or December) is the season for hunting deer and elk. In the north of Sweden it’s all anyone wants to do around this time,” explains local super chef Niklas Ekstedt. “The most traditional way we eat this is either as a steak or in a stew. At my restaurant Ekstedt, we cook this directly on the embers in order to infuse it with flavour.”
What to drink
Warming mugs of glögg – the Scandinavian version of mulled wine / Image: Adobe Stock
“Similar to other northern European countries, we do our own version of mulled drinks for the winter. Our mulled apple cider is made with fresh apple cider – we heat this and infuse it with gin, birch and other wintry spices,” says Ekstedt. “Alternatively glögg is our version of mulled wine with port, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom. We tend to drink this before dinner at our Christmas table.”
What to wear
Hestra's tanned leather gloves are a Scandi winter staple
Winter in Stockholm can be brisk, with average highs of 1°C and lows of around -3°C. To combat the chill you’re going to need some mitts for your mitts – and some of Sweden’s finest are produced by the family company Hestra. Head to its concept store at Norrlandsgatan 12 and channel your inner woodsman by slipping into a pair of tanned yellow elk or deerskin gloves from their timeless ‘sport classic’ ranges.
What to see
Ark Des's architectural gingerbread contest is a delicious Christmas tradition
Ark Des is Sweden’s national centre for architecture and design – which is all well and good, but the real draw this time of year is the annual gingerbread house competition, which is taking a break for 2023 as the museum is closed for restoration but will be returning in 2024. The comfortingly fragrant event is open to children, architects and amateurs alike, and this year’s theme is ‘distance’ – just don’t eat a crumb until the winning bake-builders are announced.
Is there a Christmas market?
The Old Town market is as atmospheric as Christmas gets in Stockholm / Image: Adobe Stock
Scandi Christmas fetes don’t come much more vibey than the annual market in Gamla Stan – Stockholm’s medieval old town. Its dinky red shacks, decked out with twinkly lights and an inevitable blanketing of seasonal snow, sell crafty souvenirs, Swedish Christmas sweets, plates of reindeer and elk meat and, of course, gallons of woozily warming glögg. Skål to that.
Swimmers prepare for an icy dip in Hellasgarden
Insider's tip: “Hellasgarden is a great place for the family,” says Ekstedt. “It has a great restaurant, an open sauna, ice skating, ample grounds for bike riding and even a hole in the ice where you can go for a dip – the perfect winter outdoor activity. It’s only 40 minutes from the centre of Stockholm and you can take the bus.”
A view of the city from Hammarbybacken ski park / Image: Alamy
What do the locals like to do? “Definitely skiing,” says Ekstedt. “There’s a ski field right next to the city called Hammarbybacken – I used to live just five minutes away and head over there all the time. My son now competes for the Swedish national ski team and I guess this might have something to do with it!”
Niklas Ekstedt's book 'Ekstedt: The Nordic Art of Analogue Cooking' is published by Bloomsbury Absolute
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