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The basics
Sweden: Once you arrive

How to pass time during Sweden’s polar nights

Read our guide to things to do indoors in Sweden during the long, winter polar nights.

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What can you do when the polar nights strike in Sweden? Despite the allure of studying in Sweden, its long, dark winters are inescapable. Never fear: we’ve compiled a list of things to keep you busy on those polar nights. 


Sweden’s rich, unique culture has sparked the interest of students from around the world. Between the snow-capped mountains and idyllic rows of pine trees, the only thing not to love about Sweden is the cold.


Swedish winter nights are notorious for being long, dark and freezing, with places as far north as Kiruna experiencing 24 hour darkness come January. But don’t let the weather deter you: despite the gloom, empty streets and intensely padded parkas, life in Sweden still goes on when it gets cold.


Indoor Sport

Swedes don’t need to hang up their skates when it gets dark. Playing sport is a big part of Swedish culture and there are a number of indoor sporting centres that often stay open late. Ice hockey is the Swedish national sport and joining a team either through university or a club is a great way to make new friends. Most universities have a number of sporting clubs, societies and indoor gyms that organize a range of activities you can get involved in. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, why not try Swedish Bandy? Played on ice, it’s a cross between football and hockey that is incredibly fast-paced and minimally padded.


You may be interested in: Sports Science


Get Cooking

Faced with Sweden’s complicated dinner party etiquette, the idea of playing host might seem terrifying. But what better way to get to know a new culture than by embracing it? The complete list of Swedish dinner party customs and conventions is quite thorough, so make sure you do your research. Whatever you do, don’t put partners next to each other, and remember that as the host, no-one else will sit down until you do. Your guests will expect bread and water before the main course, and won’t take a sip of wine until you make a toast. If you want to tell a story but haven’t yet finished your meal, position your cutlery on your plate as if they are hands on a clock pointing to 3:40. When you’re done, move them up to 4:25.


You may be interested in: Hospitality


Eat Underground

Sweden is renowned for its unique cuisine, favouring fresh, simple tastes and regional ingredients. The practice of eating out has become increasingly common in places such as Umeå, with the amount of restaurants, pubs and cafés rising significantly within the past decade. Many places offer ‘After Work’ specials during the week, giving you the chance to sample Swedish tastes no matter how hard it’s snowing. If you’re anywhere near Sala, why not eat underground at the Sala Salivergruva Mines? There’s also a hostel down there, so you can spend the night if you don’t feel like braving the cold to get home right away. Try traditional Swedish meatballs, pickled herring or a famous Swedish open sandwich.


You may be interested in: Catering


Go to the Spa

Warm up in one of Sweden’s famous indoor spas, a relaxing activity rapidly growing in popularity. Swedish spa traditions are over 300 years old, and built upon the cultural value of ‘living the simple life’ and getting in touch with the natural world. With a spate of locations across cities and more rural areas, Swedish spas offer anything from a famous Swedish massage to a few days getaway. Spa treatments are based on the ‘four essentials’ of movement, rest, nutrition and touch, and intend to create a sense of ‘oneness’ with nature.


You may be interested in: Personal Care and Fitness


Late-night Museums

Sweden’s bustling cultural scene doesn’t shut down during winter months. In Stockholm alone you’ll find over 70 museums and plenty of art galleries, some of which stay open into the evening. Exhibitions can cover anything from the Swedish relationship to spirits and alcohol to the Nobel Prize and its founder, with art galleries and exhibition spaces featuring a spectrum of contemporary and classic works. 


You may be interested in: History


Northern Lights

Only visible at a few places around the globe, the northern lights are a natural phenomenon that can only be seen in Sweden during the winter. Gällivare and Kiruna are arguably the best places to see the lights from, both well inside the article circle and probably a bit of a trek from your university campus. Sure, you’ll have to rug up and get organized, but seeing those famed green-blue arcs of light for yourself is an experience you’ll never forget. Displays can last for a few minutes to a few hours, so make sure you bring a warm drink while you wait.


You may be interested in: Physical Geography, Environmental Sciences


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