Sigtuna is a town less than an hour from Stockholm, and is considered to be Sweden’s first major settlement, having been founded by the king in the late 10th century. Since then, it has boomed into a major cultural, religious, and mercantile focal point for Sweden.
We began the day with a fabulous city walking tour with a local guide, Dorit. She walked our group through the town’s history, including the beautiful 13th century church still in use today. Dorit also showed us various rune stones peppered throughout the town, as well as the ruins of the 12th century St. Olof’s Church. The brisk air made the experience even more exhilarating!
The walking tour ended in the town square home to Sigtuna’s Christmas market, where holiday cheer was in full bloom. Its cobbled streets and colorful wooden buildings conjure up the true image of a Scandinavian Christmas. The square was alive with vibrant vendor stalls, thematically appropriate music ringing through the streets, and a sweet smell of roasting almonds everywhere you turned. Sigtuna is the perfect place to experience the holiday season and buy a few gifts to bring home to friends and family.
Gamla Stan, or the Old Town, is an iconic borough of Stockholm. Dating back centuries, Gamla Stan has been the center of the Swedish capital and is a must-see for travelers any time of year. The Gamla Stan Christmas Market is located at Stortorget, a square in front of the Nobel Museum. This Christmas Market was full of vendors and merchants selling a wide range of wares, from candles to flavored honey jars, and wool garments.
The benefit of this particular Christmas Market is its location. With Gamla Stan, you get a two for one: an iconic Christmas market with all the holiday offerings you would expect, as well as permanent stores providing even more options and experiences. Centrally located just South of downtown Stockholm, Gamla Stan is surrounded by streets filled with year-round shops and boutiques. After wandering through the various pop-up stores in Stortorget, I eventually started to wander down the cobbled streets that branch from the square. Each turn led me to a plethora of stores and shops. I explored second-hand shops, high-end art galleries, souvenir stores, stationery boutiques, and even a fantasy-only bookstore. To top it all off, wandering through the streets lined with old brick buildings of yellow, gold, white, and brown, many of which were decorated for the holidays, made for a truly European experience. It was the cherry – erm, lingonberry – on top!
In Stockholm, one can visit also visit the Skansen Christmas Market. Skansen, located on the island of Djurgården, is an open-air museum, however the entire island is worth exploring with its array of historic buildings, museums, art galleries, restaurants, and even an amusement park. The island even has a small residential area with quaint homes and cottages.
The annual Christmas Market is located within the open-air museum, which means there is a fee to visit. However, with that admission, you also get access to the museum proper and are able to learn a bit about Swedish history as you shop. A large portion of the facilities are located outside and the buildings and houses represent Swedish architecture through the centuries. From sod roof homes to log cabins straight out of a fairy tale – as well as the occasional 18th century manor home – Skansen is an incredible place to visit anytime of year. Several of the properties are even decorated for the holidays appropriately to the era which they are representing!
Also located on the island are the famous Vasa Museum, home to the world-famous Vasa Ship, as well as the Nordiska Museum, Thiel Art Gallery, and the must-visit Abba Museum. There is also a new Viking-themed museum located just up the street from the ABBA Museum. Djurgården Island is a must-see for anyone visiting Stockholm, and at Christmas time, it is the perfect holiday experience.
Our annual Christmas-themed Signature Journeys are the the perfect way to experience Scandinavia at this magical time of year, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to go along on our Swedish Christmas Experience journey. I am excited to see where we are headed to next year, and our website will be updated with more information as it becomes available. In the meantime, we would be happy to craft a custom Scandinavian Christmas experience just for you! It’s the perfect holiday gift for anyone on your list.
For now God Jul – and may the tomtes bring you everything on your wish list!
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