Top Events

Midsummer, June

Jokkmokk Winter Market, February

Gamla Stan Christmas Market, November–December

Vasaloppet, February

Stockholm International Film Festival, November

January

This is the peak of winter, with freezing temperatures and snow in most regions. Winter-sports activities draw the crowds.

Kiruna Snow Festival

Based on a snow-sculpting competition, this annual Snöfestivalen draws artists from all over to carve elaborate shapes out of the snow. It also features reindeer-sled racing, with Sami traditions emphasised.

Göteborg Film Festival

Sweden’s ‘second city’ hosts this annual festival, which draws some 200,000 visitors each year, with short films, documentaries and features, plus seminars and parties.

February

It’s still peak winter weather, with snow sports the main draw.

Jokkmokk Winter Market

A large gathering of Sami people from across Scandinavia, this festival includes a market, meetings, craft shows, performances and more.

Vasaloppet

This huge ski race between Sälen and Mora, started in 1922, commemorates Gustav Vasa’s history-making flight on skis in 1521; it has grown into a week-long ski fest.

March

The winter season begins to wind down in the southern half of the country, though winter sports are still going strong in Norrland.

Liljevalchs Spring Salon

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 gallery (www.liljevalchs.se) was under restoration at the time of research, so check online to find the current location of the salon.

April

The weather’s still cold, but the days are longer and brighter.

Walpurgis Night

This public holiday, a pagan holdover to celebrate the arrival of spring, involves lighting bonfires, singing songs and forming parades; parties are biggest in the student towns, such as Uppsala.

May

Spring tourism starts to pick up as the days get longer and warmer; summer-only hostels and campgrounds start to open for the season.

May Day

Traditionally a workers’ marching day in industrial towns and cities, it’s observed with labour-movement events, brass bands and marches.

June

Midway through June is the official beginning of summer. The weather is perfect, hotel rates are low and travelling is effortless.

Sweden Rock Festival

This large three-day rock festival is held in Sölvesborg (www.swedenrock.com) and features huge metal and hard-rock acts like Ministry, Aerosmith and Ozzy Osbourne.

Swedish National Day

Known merely as Swedish Flag Day until 1983, the public holiday (6 June) commemorates the crowning in 1523 of King Gustav Vasa and Sweden’s independence from the Danish-led Kalmar Union.

Smaka På Stockholm

Taste samples from some of Stockholm’s top kitchens in manageable quantities, and watch cooking duels at this week-long food fest in Kungsträdgården.

Midsummer

Arguably the most important Swedish holiday, Midsummer's Eve traditionally falls on the Friday between 19 and 25 June; revellers head to the countryside to raise the maypole, sing, dance, drink and eat pickled herring. Midsummer Day is primarily spent recovering from the long night.

Öjeby Church Market

This market near Piteå (www.pitea.se) attracts some 20,000 visitors each year.

July

July is peak summer-tourism season: the weather is fine, attractions are open and everyone is cheerful. Many Swedes (especially in larger cities) go on holiday, though, and lots of shops and restaurants are closed for vacation.

Piteå Dansar

One of Sweden’s biggest street festivals, the PDOL (www.pdol.se) draws some 120,000 visitors for music, dance, crafts, food and a carnival.

Musik vid Siljan

A midsummer music festival, it takes place in the towns around Lake Siljan, and includes chamber, jazz and folk music; tourist offices for Mora, Leksand and Rättvik will have up-to-date schedules.

Storsjöyran

Östersjön hosts this annual three-day music festival, which features international artists and crowds of up to 55,000 people.

Classic Car Week

Rättvik hosts this gathering of motorheads and the objects of their devotion; there are monster-truck battles, drive-in movies, laid-back cruising and lots of chrome.

Stockholm Pride

This massive, exuberant annual parade and festival is dedicated to creating an atmosphere of freedom and support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

August

The weather is as nice as in July, but many Swedes (especially Stockholmers) have gone out of town on their own holidays, and some restaurants are still closed for vacation.

Visby Medieval Week

Find yourself an actual knight in shining armour at this immensely popular event (www.medeltidsveckan.se), which puts Gotland’s medieval city to great use with a market, games, costumes and a banquet. Be sure to reserve accommodation and transport to the island in advance.

Kräftskivor (Crayfish Parties)

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).

September

Days begin to grow shorter and cooler, and many seasonal tourist facilities (campgrounds, some hostels, outdoor cafes) close for the season, but the weather can still be gorgeous.

Tjejmilen

Sweden’s biggest sporting event for women (www.tjejmilen.se) features 30,000 runners of all ages in a race that begins at Gärdet in Stockholm.

Göteborg International Book Fair

Scandinavia’s biggest book fair, this event (www.goteborg-bookfair.com) brings together authors, readers, publishers, agents, teachers, librarians and the media.

Öland’s Harvest Festival

This celebration of the local harvest (www.skordefest.nu) takes place each autumn in Borgholm, Öland.

Lidingöloppet

Enshrined in the Guinness World Records as the world’s largest terrain race, this annual event takes place on Lidingö, just northeast of Stockholm.

October

Though the travel infrastructure can feel largely abandoned, autumn is a lovely time of year in Sweden, and you’ll essentially have the place to yourself.

Stockholm Jazz Festival

Held in clubs all over town, this internationally known jazz fest brings big names like Van Morrison and Mary J Blige; evening jam sessions at famed Stockholm jazz club Fasching are a highlight.

Stockholm Open

A huge event among the international tennis crowd, this tournament draws its share of top-100 players.

Hem & Villa

This is the country’s largest interior decor and design fair, with furniture trends, textiles, lighting schemes, and arts and crafts. The event (www.hemochvilla.se), held in Stockholm and Gothenburg, includes displays, lectures and shopping.

Uppsala Short Film Festival

For the past 33 years, this film festival (www.shortfilmfestival.com) has screened more than 300 short films a year at four cinemas in central Uppsala.

Umeå International Jazz Festival

International jazz musicians have filled Umeå’s stages for this event (www.umeajazzfestival.se) for 50 years running.

November

Grey winter is here, but the holiday season has yet to begin. A good time for movies, markets and museums!

Stockholm International Film Festival

Screenings of new international and independent films, director talks and discussion panels draw cinephiles to this important festival; tickets go quickly, so book early if you’re interested.

Gamla Stan Christmas Market

Usually opening in mid-November, this adorable Stockholm market (www.stortorgetsjulmarknad.com) in Gamla Stan’s main square (Stortorget) can almost singlehandedly lift the spirits on a cold winter night. Shop for handicrafts and delicacies, or just wander with a mug of cocoa and a saffron bun.

St Martin’s Day

In Sweden, the 10th of November is St Martin’s Eve, and, regardless of how the tradition originally began, these days the holiday is all about the goose. That means that, ideally, you'll see the traditional dinner of roasted goose on your plate.

December

The month in which Sweden cheerfully rages against the dying of the light, aided by hot spiced wine, delicious seasonal treats and loads of candles everywhere.

Luciadagen (St Lucia Day)

On 13 December, wearing a crown of lit candles, ‘Lucia’ leads a white-clad choir in traditional singing in a celebration that seems to merge the folk tradition of the longest night and the story of St Lucia of Syracuse. Look for free performances in churches.

Julafton (Christmas Eve)

The night of the smörgåsbord and the arrival of jultomten (the Christmas gnome), carrying a sack of gifts, this is the biggest celebration at Christmas time.