The fall semester in Stockholm is a time of stark contrast, encompassing the city at its liveliest as well as its most mysigt (cozy). Though it’s only four months, it showcases three seasons. When you first arrive in August, there are 15 hours of sunlight every day and sidewalks are covered in packed dining tables. Before long, those same streets become paved with fallen leaves. Ultimately and inevitably, the end of the semester in December is accompanied by snow falls that insulate and illuminate the city. It’s needed to brighten the dark days – at that point, there’s only six hours of sunlight every day.
It’s a stretch that encompasses some of the most charming and lively aspects of life in Stockholm. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite activities for the fall semester in Stockholm.
Take a lap around a lake and stop for a scenic snack
My absolute favorite activity is also by far the most niche on this list: taking a stroll around Kottlasjön, a lake near my apartment on Lidingö. No matter the weather, it’s swimming (sometimes literally) with locals. The path follows the lake’s perimeter, passing by quaint waterside houses, outdoor gym equipment sprinkled throughout, and groups having lunches and bonfires at provided sites, all surrounded by towering trees and moss-covered rocks.
About midway through the loop the air starts to smell particularly sweet and there’s a low roar of chatter coming from up just in front of you; suddenly around the bend appears Vattenverket Kottlasjön, a bakery straight out a fairytale and located in the middle of the woods.
In the warmer months, locals dock their boats on the lake and hop out to grab a pastry or lunch before riding away. As soon as it freezes, the lake’s surface becomes sprinkled with people, walking their dogs across it or skating up to grab a hot chocolate. Its charm aside, it also has one of my favorite sandwiches ever (give the levain toast with cheese, turkey and dijon a try) and pastries that deserve to be on any “best of” list.
Soak in the ever-changing nature
I know, I know, this is good at all times of the year. But! I think there’s something particularly special about exploring the same place in such different forms – it’s such a beautiful way to see the change in seasons right before your eyes. Whether you head just outside of the city toward Hellasgården for its expansive trails, walk down the street from DIS to Humlegården, climb up to Skinnarviksberget for a bird’s eye view of the city, or just take in the tree outside your bedroom window, there’s so much nature to be seen.
Stockholm not only has ample green space in the city, but that green space is highly incorporated. Just walking to the T-bana or closest ICA, you might pass through parks or tree canopies with no expectation of doing so.
Catch a seasonal museum exhibit
There are about 50 museums in Stockholm, and they change with the times. Head to fall markets at Skansen in October or celebrate Día de Muertos in November at the Museum of Ethnography. Come late November, there’s a gingerbread house exhibit at ArkDes where the public gets to vote for their favorite locally made structure, Drottingholm palace is clad in traditional festive décor, and Nobel Week at the beginning of December celebrates Nobel laureates with free lectures and light displays throughout the city.
The list goes on, but all of this is to say, Stockholm’s museums are fluid and their seasonal specific displays are not to be missed.
Listen to live, local music
Behind the U.S. and the UK, Sweden is the largest producer of pop music in the world. It’s no wonder that one of the best things to do in the capital city is take in live, local music. The fall semester is ripe with opportunities to do so — and as someone whose favorite music genre is specifically live jazz, I’m particularly thrilled about them.
In August, Stockholm’s Culture Festival takes place throughout the city. The festival is free to attend and full of all types of activities. There are pop-up exhibits curated by local museums, crafts for all ages, remote control boat races, and, of course, live music with scenic backdrops.
October brings the Stockholm Jazz Festival, when over 60 venues around the city welcome jazz musicians from around the country and globe. Some of these are free or have varied levels of paid entry. Even if you’re not actively seeking it out you’re able to enjoy it; on multiple occasions throughout the week, I’ve stumbled across whole jazz quartets playing on the sidewalk in Södermalm.
Peruse (and maybe even indulge in) some local goods
As the seasons evolve, so does Stockholm’s outdoor market selection. They’re a great way to find locally made products and engage with local communities. There are farmer’s markets filled with fresh produce and products from close-by farms. Very common, especially in the warmer months, are lappis (flea markets), with clothing and trinkets galore. Come December, there are countless Julmarknads (Christmas markets) throughout the city, ranging from a couple stalls to whole plazas full of gløgg and pepparkakor.
While you can easily stumble upon these, I’d recommend following some of these organizations on Instagram, where they often post information about pop-up events. A couple of my favorite are Bondens Marknad and Hornstulls Marknad. There’s also no replacement for the old reliable way of information-gathering: reading posters. Can’t read the Swedish? You can take photos directly on the Google Translate app – a lifesaver while trying to figure things out in a new city.
One advisory about these being truly local events: you often won’t be able to use your credit card to make payments, but rather only pay by Swish (a system similar to Venmo that you can only enroll in with a Swedish bank account). So, if you are planning to head to a market not directed at tourists (ie. Skansen or Gamla Stan at Christmas), it’s a good idea to bring cash along if you want to purchase anything.
A through line among all of these things is simply getting out and being in the city; none of these require excessive planning on forethought if you don’t want them to – it’s about exploring your neighborhood, the areas around DIS, and that one T-bana stop that you pass every day but have never actually gotten out at. In my mind, the most special part of the fall semester in Stockholm is the breadth of it – seemingly overnight the whole vibe of the city can change; one day it’s bustling sun-soaked paths, then you’re walking under canopies of orange trees, and suddenly there’s a candelabra in every window (seriously, just take a look at the Student Hub).
Claire is the Content Creation Assistant at DIS Stockholm and an alumna of the Strategic Communications course at DIS Copenhagen. A lover of essay collections and the perfectly curated playlist, you can find her constantly applying Burt’s Bees chapstick, playing a card game, or trying out a new recipe (sometimes all at once).