Stockholm’s high season is almost tragically brief, with its perfect weather and long, sunny days that demand nothing from you other than sitting on a beach or a park bench with an ice-cream cone. Don’t be surprised if it’s a little quiet outside the major tourist attractions, and you might find that higher-end restaurants are closed for weeks in July and August — many locals will be enjoying their own holidays in the country or on the islands.
But as lovely as the city is in summer, don’t underestimate the pleasures of visiting in the deep midwinter, when candles, mulled wine and holiday markets ease the locals through cold, sunless days, or in spring and fall, when the weather is still fairly mild but nothing is crowded and it’s easy to get a dinner reservation.
High Season: June to August
Best time for being outdoors
Peak season sees long, long days and sunshine. The city comes to life shortly after Midsummer, with active park life and urban beach swimming, cultural festivals, island excursions, cheaper hotels and a celebratory feel.
Summer starts to wind down in August and Stockholmers who haven’t already gone on vacation do so now, so a lot of restaurants and shops may be closed. The weather is excellent. A great time for biking the islands or cruising the archipelagos. Plus: crayfish parties!
Shoulder Season: September to October, April to May
Best time for hiking, cycling, and dining without fighting crowds.
Fall is lovely throughout Sweden, and in Stockholm it means a better chance of finding that hotel room or getting a table at that restaurant you've heard about. Outdoor activities are especially inviting now – some of the most popular outdoor races are scheduled for this time of year.
The springtime shoulder season sees brighter weather but temperatures remain pretty low. It's the perfect time to visit quiet museums and enjoy family-focused events at major tourist attractions during the local spring holidays
Low Season: November to March
Best time for holiday shopping, ice skating and mulled wine.
Odds are good for snow between November and March, turning the Swedish capital into a winter wonderland. Ice skating and bandy games replace the summer festivals in public squares like the central Kungsträdgården. The weather may be cold and the sunshine is a hazy memory, but the city is surprisingly beautiful in darkness.
Festive Christmas markets bring a lovely atmosphere even if copious amounts of knitwear are required. Locals start to come out of hibernation in February and the social scene livens up a little to alleviate the cabin fever of winter.
Stockholmers are fully hunkered down for the dreary winter, but on the plus side, everyone gets to break out their stylish scarves and cold-weather gear for errands and commutes.
Key Events: Kungsträdgården Ice Skating
Having been cooped up for a couple of months, Stockholm is starting to get restless and wants to show off what it’s been up to all winter.
Key Events: Stockholm Design Week, Stockholm Fashion Week
The weather is still quite chilly, but it's a good time to beat the tourist rush and visit museums in relative solitude. The Djurgården gallery’s annual springtime launch of the new year in art brings to the fore up-and-coming artists as well as new work from established names.
The city is waking up but it’s still mostly indoor-activities weather. Many of the city’s prominent museums and galleries launch pop-up events during this weeklong celebration of Nordic visual arts and venues.
Key Events: Spring Holidays, Stockholm Art Week
The days are getting longer and the locals are starting to think about the possibility of summer. The Archipelago Convention celebrates all things boat- and island-related, with market stalls and displays at Wasahamnen, the harbor on Djurgården.
Key Events: Skärgårdsmässan
The city finally begins to remember what summer feels like; it can still be cold and rainy, but the end of a long winter is in sight, and outdoor celebrations signal the approach of summer. Arguably the most important Swedish holiday, Midsummer's Eve traditionally falls on the Friday between 19 and 25 June; revelers head to the countryside to raise the maypole, sing and dance, drink and eat pickled herring. Midsummer Day is primarily spent recovering from the long night.
High season fully kicks into gear with one of the most exuberant and popular Pride festivals in Europe. The warmer weather results in an explosion of outdoor events that bring a wonderful atmosphere to the city.
Key Events: Stockholm Pride
Swedes celebrate the end of summer by wearing bibs and party hats while eating lots of crayfish and drinking snaps (usually aquavit). In the north, parallel parties take place but with surströmming (strong-smelling fermented Baltic herring).
Key Events: Crayfish parties
Stockholm puts on its running shoes this month to hit the trails in slowly cooling weather. Tjejmilen is Sweden's biggest sporting event for women and Lidingö is the place to be for another popular race. The atmosphere is incredible even if you'd prefer to watch from the sidelines.
Key Events: Tjejmilen, Lidingöloppet (world's largest terrain race)
As fall turns into winter, crowds vanish and the few visitors get to enjoy the last scraps of warm sunlight. Music festivals involve pop-up gigs all over the city and a major tennis event draws an international crowd.
What could be more Swedish than ice-skating on a pond in the middle of a city park? It's quiet, but a great time to visit if you want most of the place to yourself. The film festival draws an eclectic crowd and early bookings are advised to avoid disappointment. Christmas markets begin to open up and create a festive atmosphere.
Key Events: Stockholm International Film Festival, Gamla Stan's Christmas Market
Though the weather is sure to be frightful, Stockholm is surprisingly pretty in the dark of winter, as candles grace every available surface and shops and homes are lit up. The story of St Lucia is celebrated on the longest night of the year (13 December) and choirs perform all over the city. The arrival of Jultomten, the Christmas gnome, is the biggest celebration of the Christmas period.