Everyone should spend New Year’s Eve in Scandinavia at least once. The cold crisp air, and the lingering of Christmas lights twinkling in the dark make the frozen North an enchanting place to countdown to New Year’s (and since Scandinavia is known as a nature and health hub, it’s probably a good place to kick-start your new year’s resolutions!)
Sometimes visitors to Scandinavia have difficulties distinguishing between the Scandic countries, owing to their many shared cultural and linguistic similarities. On New Year’s you can spot these although each country still has their distinct traditions too.
All across Scandinavian, they love their New Year fireworks as much as most countries do (actually, now that we’re thinking about it, where does the ‘fireworks at New Year’ tradition come from?!), and in most cities across the region you will be able to venture out into the cold night and watch the sky sparkle and explode with colour at midnight. In fact, the locals love getting out into the fresh air for New Year’s and will certainly not stay copped up inside for the evening just because of the cold. Join the fun, but just make sure you dress up warmly, as your beer-jackets won’t really do the trick when the temperatures are well into the minuses! Just remember that there is a saying in the north: there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes! So rug up!
In Finland, Helsinki’s Senate Square is where all the firework action will be, and it will certainly be a sight to see, especially against the backdrop of one of the most magnificent settings in the capital. In Sweden, it’s actually Gothenburg, the second largest city, where the best firework action is considered to be. Head down to the river for a true visual feast, or to Götaplatsen which is known for it’s wild and friendly festivities. In Stockholm, one of the biggest events of the early evening is concert at Storkyrkan in Gamla Stan and at midnight the big tradition is the reading of Tennyson’s ‘Ring out Wilds Bells’ at the Skansen. In Oslo you’ll want to head to the Town Hall and in Copenhagen the Town Hall is also where all the action will be, although it has big competition with Tivoli. Be careful though because even though the setting off fireworks in banned in many public spots, at the peak of merriment the locals can often forget this and set of fireworks haphazardly around the adjoining streets.
One quite big distinction between the Scandic countries at New year is that in Norway the focus is on spending the evening with family. In Finland and Sweden however, it is mainly spent with friends (since Christmas was dominated by family and thus NYE is a chance to get away from Uncle Bob’s appalling jokes and awkward conversation!) and many will hold big parties and invite all their friends to celebrate with them. In Denmark, it’s a bit of both. Interestingly, Denmark has quite the set of rituals to follow before the clock strikes midnight. The Queen’s televised speech to the nation earlier in the evening is something that most people will watch, and many will cluster around Amalienborg to watch the Royal Guard Parade. After that the jokes begin, and there is a bit of a Halloween theme as the Danes play pranks on their neighbours and friends, coating trees in toilet paper and smashing china plates on doorsteps! Norway also has a slight Halloween twist on New Years! In Finland, one of the best traditions of the evening is fortune telling! To celebrate the general theme of new opportunities in the new year, the Finns try to predict the future by interpreting shapes formed by molten tin. Of course, the shapes and their fortunes are always positive and you are bound to have a great coming year!
Food is also a pretty important component of New Years, alongside the warming (both physically and metaphorically) beverages consumed. Each country has their own set of dishes that are traditional New Year’s fodder! In Sweden’s Jansson’s Temptation (Janssons frestelse) is a solid favourite. Also popular at the Christmas table, this is a creamy potato dish which takes most of its flavour from cheese and anchovies. It’s delicious, even if its description sounds a little dubious! It’s also super popular in Finland, although there it is called Janssoninkiusaus. Cold cuts are also popular in Finland at this time of year, and so you’ll probably find offerings of cold-smoked reindeer and roast beef all around. In Demark cod is the favourite dish of the evening, but this should also be accompanied by a marzipan ring cake (Kransekage), which is so delicious that it will have any marzipan lover begging for seconds (and thirds, and fourths). In Norway, rice pudding is a favourite treat to see in the new year, and similar to a Christmas plum pudding, they bake it with a hidden silver penny. The idea is that the person who gets the silver penny in their helping will have fantastic luck for the coming year.
After the New Year’s countdown, for those wanting to extend the festivities into the early hours, all across Scandinavia you will be able to find clubs, restaurants and bars that will keep the party going. Make sure you have a look at what’s on offer and book a place, as these parties can get pretty busy. If you’re really in the partying mood, you can even enjoy double New Year! The towns of Haparandra in Sweden and Tornio in Finland and only 5 minutes drive from each other, but they are in different timezones, so celebrate an hour apart. So, you can celebrate first time around in Finland and then an hour later celebrate all over again in Sweden!
We absolutely recommend that you spend New Year’s Eve at least once in your lifetime in Scandinavia. It’ll be something you remember forever! If you need a good outdoors activity to help you recover the next day, our tours run across our Scandinavian cities on the 1st of January! Finally, you’ll need to be able to wish everyone around you a Happy New Year when the clock strikes midnight and we’ve got you covered for that too!
How to wish people a Happy New Year in Scandinavia. These are the sayings:
Finnish: Hyvää uutta vuotta!
Swedish: Gott nytt år!
Danish: Godt nytår
Norwegian: Godt nytt år
Here we‘ll offer a few YouTube videos on some of the most popular Christmas songs in our destinations. They might be a bit different from what you're used to but we‘re sure you‘ll enjoy them all the same. We‘ll give you a little introduction to the origin of the languages, some of them might be hard to learn whereas others might be easier. It depends on where you come from and how quick you are to pick up these exotic new words. Let‘s see if you can learn the lyrics and sing along, loud and clear for all to hear!
Finnish, or Suomi, is spoken by the majority of the people of Finland and about five million people speak the language, most of them reside in Finland. FInnish is a member of the Finnic group, that is part of the Uralic family of languages. Included in the Finnic group is Estonia (see below) and other Baltic countries. The language is believed to be originally a Proto-Uralic language from the boreal forest belt around the Ural Mountains region or the end of the middle Volga. This is thought to be the case because there are many similarities in the structure and the grammar.
Have a listen to this wonderful Christmas song. It is sung by Katri Helena, one on Finland’s best-selling female soloists.
Merry Christmas: Hyvää joulua!
Swedish is a North Germanic language and it is the official language of Sweden. There are around 9.6 million people that speak the language natively and it is very similar to Norwegian, and to some extent with Danish. The North Germanic language is part of the Indo-European language group and is the most spoken language out of the North Germanic languages. The origin of Swedish can be traced to Old Norse, from the Viking Era. The Old Norse evolved into two similar dialects: Old West Norse and Old East Norse. The Old East Norse covered Sweden and Denmark.
Today, Swedish has many traces of the English language, so if you speak English you might be able to catch some of the words that are being sung in this popular Christmas song; Mer Jul. The song is written and sung by the band Adolphson & Falk.
Merry Christmas: God Jul!
Danish is, like Swedish, a North Germanic language and is a descendant of Old Norse. Dansih is the official language of Denmark and around six million people speak the language, it is also spoken widely in Greenland and the Faroe Islands due to the fact that the two countries are an autonomous constituent of Denmark. Well into the 17th century, German and Latin were the most important written languages in Denmark and that is why traditional Danish dialects have almost disappeared completely. The language has changed between generations and today it only has remnants of a former case system. Danish is often considered a difficult language to learn because of the vowels, difficult prosody and “weakly” pronounced consonants. We encourage you to try out some of their pronunciations.
This video is a private recording of the Danish folk star Lars Lilholt - a master of the Danish language :-)
Merry Christmas: Glædelig jul!
Hungarian is a Finno-Ugric language but it’s no longer certain that it is a valid group for Hungarian. Hungarian is the official language of Hungary, and it belongs to the same family as Finnish and Estonian; the Uralic language family. However, throughout the 18th and 19th century there have often been debates on whether the language might be more related to the Turkic language. Today, Hungarian is part of the 24 official languages in the European Union.
In this Christmas video, you are able to see the lyrics, which might make things easier for you, but we will not promise anything. The band, T.N.T, is a pop band that gained a large popularity in Hungary in the 90s.
Merry Christmas: Boldog Karácsonyt!
Estonian is a Southern Finnic language and it’s the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million. The language is in the branch of the Uralic language family, closely related to Finnish, and the interesting thing is that they are not related to their nearest geographical neighbors and Indo-European language speakers; Swedish, Latvian and Russian. Estonian has borrowed up to one-third of its vocabulary from Germanic languages, even though they are not considered to be related from that origin, and from the Russian language. Estonian, Hungarian and Finland are three out of four official languages of European Union that aren’t from the Indo-European origin.
In this Christmas video, you’ll hear the wonderful song Jõuluingel, which mean Christmas Angel. It is a popular Christmas song in Estonia and has been performed by many artists.
Merry Christmas: Häid jõule!
Christmas is around the corner and many are planning where to be, what to eat and what to do during this wonderful holiday. If you are traveling to Europe, you should know that every country has their own Christmas traditions, especially when it comes to food. But there is one thing that all European countries have in common; friends and family get together and eat great food and enjoy each others company. Here we will introduce some of our destinations favorite food traditions and share with you their recipes. It’s the season to eat and be jolly!
Christmas, or Jul, is the main family event of the year and in Sweden, people travel all around the country to be with their loved ones. Over the last decades, Swedish Christmas traditions have been changing and become somewhat more modern, they have taken up foreign traditions and blended them in with old traditions.
A typical Swedish Christmas table is usually a gathering of; bread, potatoes, ham, meatballs, salmon, and herring. What makes their Christmas table different from others is their amazing Gravad Lax. This delicious raw salmon is a Nordic dish and it is cured in salt, sugar, dill and different spices. It is usually served as an appetizer and is accompanied by gravlaxsås (a dill, mustard sauce) on top of a bread or with boiled potatoes. Here is a recipe for Gravad Lax and the sauce:
The Fish (for 6):
Start by scaling the salmon and remove the small bones, but leave the skin on. Make a few cuts in the skin so the marinade will penetrate from below. Mix salt, sugar, and pepper and sprinkle it beneath and on top of the salmon filet along with plenty of dill. Place a weighted cutting board on top of the salmon filet and let it marinate at room temperature for 2–4 hours. Then refrigerate for 24−48 hours, turning the salmon filet a few times. Rinse the salmon in cold water. Cut into thin slices without getting too close to the skin, so the dark salmon is included.
Gravlax sauce is served alongside the dill-cured salmon. Mix the mustard, sugar and vinegar and season with salt and fresh-ground pepper. Stir vigorously, while pouring on the oil in a steady, thin stream. When the sauce has attained a mayonnaise-like consistency, stir in the chopped dill.
Just like in Sweden, many of their Austrian traditions have been influenced by the countries the countries around them, especially those they have borders with. Vienna is well-known for their beautiful Christmas markets and you will find so many great Christmas decorations being sold, yummy food and candy stalls and so much more. But, there is one thing that you must try, and it will be sold in so many stalls all around, and that is Glühwein. Although Glühwein is originally from Germany, it has really made its name in Austria and you will not be disappointed!
To get the drink right you need the right mixture of wine, cinnamon, sugar and spices and it is sold in Christmas markets all over Europe. We will give you a great recipe for Glühwein but remember that the recipes differ depending on family traditions and countries. Try this one out and add or take out ingredients depending on your taste-buds.
Glühwein (10 servings):
Put all ingredients in a pot and bring it close to boil. For additional taste, cut 2 oranges into bite-size pieces and add to the wine. Let simmer but not boil. Remove cloves and cinnamon sticks before serving it into lightly pre-warmed glasses. Decorate glasses with an orange slice.
Enjoy and remember to drink responsibly!
Hungarians love food, they love to eat, and Christmas is just the season to do that. Their Christmas tables are decorated with green fir twigs, Christmas confectionery, oranges, and red apples. The red apples represent culture, health, and love. Although there are many dishes on the Christmas table there is one in particular that will NOT be absent on Hungarian tables; Halászlé. Halászlé, or Fisherman's soup, is a traditional Hungarian fish soup that was originally prepared by fishermen along the river of Danube and Tisza. However, every region in Hungary have their own fish soup recipe but the soup, in general, consists of a good amount of hot paprika and mixed river fish.
Halászlé (Serves 4):
Cut fish into 3 cm pieces and refrigerate. Heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-low heat, add fish heads and bones and cook, turning once, for 2 minutes. Add 3 litres cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve lined with muslin, discarding solids.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and capsicum, and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes or until softened. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for a further 5 minutes. Add paprika and stir for 1 minute or until fragrant, then return strained stock to the pan. Simmer for 40 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Add fish pieces and simmer for 10 minutes or until just cooked. Season again.
We recommend topping the soup with sour cream and parsley. Enjoy!
If you get a change to try these recipies, we would love to get your feedback on them. Were they tasty?
At first you may not think of Sweden as a vegan paradise, but it is. Around 10% of the Swedish population identify themselves as being vegan or vegetarian and the number of fantastic restaurants and supermarket products that have popped up because of this new-found identity and lifestyle are fantastic. Even if you eat at a restaurant that serves meat or fish, you’ll be surprised at the number of plant-based options that are available for you. In fact, meat in some ways seems less and less prominent on menus across the country as the locals opt for a more sustainable and cruelty free lifestyle. For those who still think of vegan food as stodgy vegetable mush, you’ll be thrilled to find out that modern vegan cuisine in Sweden is a far cry from this. It is delicious, with popping flavour combinations, incredible tastes and surprising ingredients that you may not have heard of before!
It’s not just the restaurants that cater for a plant-based palate. Most cafes and fika hot spots will have tasty vegan morsels on offer (try Husaren in Gothenburg, Bageri Leve in Malmö or Mahalo Hälsocafet in Stockholm) and all good cafes will happily switch in Oatly’s incredible and industry-changing iKaffe oat milk in your latte (we can’t go past Condeco’s Beet Me Ginger latte). If you’re in a rush and don’t feel like sitting down to eat, don’t ignore the korv (sausage) stands dotted around the city either: Pretty much every street corned korv and burger stand will also serve a delicious vegan option for a quick bite to sustain you as you explore the city! Equally, if you’re after Swedish fast food, do pop by Max’s, a burger chain that has a fantastic menu full of ‘green’ options, including their incredible vegan BBQ burger made from Pulled Oumph! (a Swedish vegan soy product that is taking the world by storm).
So, get ready to go on a taste adventure around Sweden and tuck in to the fantastically delicious and perfectly sustainable menu options at some of our favourite restaurants. Here we present to you our top five vegan (or at least vegan-heavy but vegetarian) restaurants in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö that we guarantee even non-vegans will adore!
The capital of Sweden is certainly embracing the plant-based lifestyle and in Stockholm you’ll find lots of options to captivate your tastebuds. STHLM RAW’s ‘Unbakery’ is a must-try for those of us with a sweet-tooth, and beautiful treats awaits you at this raw patisserie. Their café will also delight and offers up raw dishes which are truly awesome. If you feel like having a delicious Chinese meal, look no further than Lao Wai, a Chinese restaurant (with a emphasis on Tiawanese and Sichuan dishes) that is completely vegetarian (and heavy on the vegan options). We love their fresh ingredients and especially their variety of mushrooms. If you’re in the mood for a Middle Eastern flavour, look no further than Falafelbaren, which, according to the word on the street, serves up Stockholm’s best falafel. With everything vegetarian, and mostly vegan, you won’t be disappointed with the range of combinations you can choose here. The Plant is a fully vegan restaurant with all their produce being organic as well. Do not miss out on their incredible burgers, which ooze tastiness and satisfaction. We also love Mahalo, a haven for budget-friendly travelers in the mood for some seriously vibrant vegan dishes, smoothies or desserts. We highly recommend their Knivsöder glass noodle salad packed with peanut sauce, avocado, broccoli, mango salsa and a whole bunch of other tasty morsels!
The vegan food scene in Gothenburg is just awesome. So many and varied options, each as good as the last. A top pick is definitely Jinx Food Truck. This little van (which happens to be located in the hippest square in Gothenburg, surrounded by top-notch Scandi-design stores), only has three menu choices, one is vegan and it is mouthwatering. It's a panko coated deep fried piece of spongy tofu in a bao bun accompanied by spicy vegan mayo, with lashings of fresh coriander, cucumber and pickled carrots. En Deli in Haga has an amazing variety of mouthwatering dishes to choose from in a pseudo-buffet style. You can get their Lyx Deli plate which means you can try a little bit of everything and even come back for seconds – just make sure to ask for the vegan selection as some things contain dairy. Their stuffed vine leaves are a particular favourite. Andrum is one of the oldest vegetarian restaurants (with lots of vegan options) in Gothenburg and still does a roaring trade, especially at lunch where you will get a wonderful midday meal that will keep you full and warm. We recommend a bowl of their daal soup in particular. For dinner you can’t go past Blackbird or Folk. Blackbird is a fully vegan restaurant and everything on their menu is sure to impress. For us, we can’t go past their mushroom tortellini which is just a big bowl of happiness. Folk is a restaurant that is hard not to absolutely love. Occupying the lobby of Gothenburg’s Folkteatern, Folk is truly adventurous restaurant that we think deserves a Michelin Star. While it used to be fully vegetarian/vegan, now seafood is also on the menu. However usually over half the menu is still vegetarian and many dishes can be made vegan. Nothing is what you expect and the diversity and exotic flavour combinations will delight and astound. You can’t go past their tasting menu where you get to sample 3 of their dishes, with which you can even get a wine pairing menu.
Malmö has a vast selection of Vegan food and it’s fast becoming a hot spot for vegan travelers. So it’s probably unsurprising that we find it hard to make a top five! Sustainable eating has taken Malmö by storm and there are lots of options. In fact, the word on the street is that Malmö is fast becoming one of Europe’s vegan hot spots. If your after a quick lunch that is packed full of awesome flavour, head to Pink Head Noodle Bar. With fantastic vegan options and noodles that are made in front of you, this place is a win-win. Another must is The Vegan Bar, which probably has the best vegan burger in town, accompanied by the best chips. If you’re hungry, we highly recommend you try their ‘Wasted’ burger, which comes with mouthwatering avocado chili fries! If you’re after a pairing of plant-based food and wine, you can’t go past Mineral. This wine bar and restaurant does salad and soup for lunch and their recipes change regularly but from our experience it’s always delicious (think parsnip soup spiced up with forest chanterelle mushrooms and flakes of crisped Jerusalem artichoke…heavenly). Mineral also has live music events in the evening and for brunch so you can enjoy fantastic wine, food and music all at once. Mutantur is also right up there on our list. It is not exclusively a vegan restaurant but the head chef (who represented Sweden in the Bocuse d’Or!) clearly loves to put together dynamic dishes that cater to the vegan palate as much as he does to the traditional. Indeed, over a quarter of the menu is vegan and you’ll be delighted by every option (but make sure to leave room for their bergamot sorbet served with aquafaba meringue, rose and basil). Last but definitely not least is Sájvva, which is definitely the place to check out if you’re after vegan cocktails to accompany your spectacular meal. The food at Sájvva is jam-packed with flavour and takes inspiration from food around the world. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but at the moment probably the Autumn Garden Pho or the Korean Street Bowl, which will not fail to impress, even the pickiest customers.
Sweden is really truly a great choice for the vegan foodie traveller. You will easily be able to find something delicious on your adventures around this incredible country and your taste buds will not miss out on the joy of traveling! So, bon appétit, or as the Swedes say: Smaklig Måltid!
Christmas in Sweden is a truly magical time. Lights twinkle along the city streets, and it seems like every single household fondly embraces the tradition of lighting candles and hanging stars in their windows, to help guide travellers home after a long journey in the evening darkness. Everyone will make sure they enjoy a Lucia concert, and sprigs of pine will scent the frosty air. Saffranbullar (saffron buns) and Glögg (mulled wine) become standard in bakeries and street stalls, and every weekend from mid November until January you can find a Christmas market (julmarknad) to enjoy, and there are some markets that you can visit every day throughout the festive season. The Swedish Christmas Markets have a different vibe to, say, the famous German markets. There is less of a focus on tree decorations and typical ’Christmas fare’, and more of a focus on the wares and products of local producers. Think pots of jams and honey rather than decorated gingerbread cookies, and knitted mittens and beautiful candle holders rather than hand-blown glass ornaments. You’ll get to quickly recognise the fantastic Swedish traditions, and you should definitely buy yourself a straw Christmas goat or a beautiful fir wreath.
So which Christmas markets are best and where should you go to see the best Swedish Christmas Traditions? That’s a hard question! It’s so difficult to decide on a ‘favourite’ Christmas Market. They all offer something special and the wide range of artisans exhibiting at each means that all the markets are unique and special in their own right. Regardless of which you end up choosing to visit, what we can guarantee is that you’ll have a magical time in the cosy atmosphere that is typical of Swedish Christmas markets. But to help you make a choice, here are our top julmarknad picks in Sweden’s three largest cities. One thing to note is that you should always check which markets will be open during the days you’re visiting. Only a very few markets are open even day throughout the Christmas season, and most are only open for a weekend or over several weekends.
Our top Christmas Market picks in Sweden’s 3 largest cities!
To find out more about Christmas in Stockholm and the dates and times for all the markets, visit: https://www.visitstockholm.com/guides/christmas-in-stockholm/
Enjoying reading all about Gothenburg, the Christmas City here: https://www.goteborg.com/en/christmascity/
If you want more info on things to do and markets to visit in Malmö, visit https://www.malmocity.se/en/christmas-malmo-city/
On our blog you will find travel tips and inspiration across our destinations. You'll find anything from food and drink recommendations to must-see attractions, hidden gems and seasonal events.