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When Christmas time rolls around, Swedish stores begin filling up with a number of different festive treats that Swedes love to indulge in. Gingerbread biscuits, Julmust (a fizzy soft drink which outsells coca-cola during December) and lussebullar (saffron buns) are all very popular but the item that really grabs the attention of Swedes is glögg. Similar to mulled wine or German Glühwein, glögg is very popular, owing to the fact it is warm and incredibly tasty. Just smelling it makes you feel like it’s Christmas morning.
As the run-up to Christmas begins and temperatures plunge below freezing, the people of Stockholm cry out for a winter warmer, something to punctuate the dark days and warm the soul—which is exactly what glögg does. Sweden’s version is made with sugar, spices, and often bitter orange, and while it is usually made with red wine, it can be made with fruit juice for non-alcoholic versions. Occasionally people will add spirits to it to make it a stiffer drink, especially if they plan on drinking it outside at an event rather than inside at a bar or at home. Whisky and brandy are particularly popular additions.
In Stockholm, glögg is available at a variety of different places, but is often best enjoyed in a particular setting or event. Enjoying glögg can be as much about where you are having it as how great the drink is. So here are six of the best places to sample glögg in Stockholm, from cozy cafés to shops to special events.
Just as sampling glögg is a great way to get the Christmas time feel in Sweden’s capital, going to a Bandy match is a brilliant way to experience a special Swedish sporting event. As the weather in winter is not conducive to football, sports-mad Swedes look to this interesting alternative during winter to get their fix of excitement and partisan support.
Bandy is a wonderful hybrid sport that mixes together football, ice hockey, and field hockey. It is played on ice and at many grounds in Sweden, it is played outside, even as the temperatures drop to -10. Of course you need something to keep you warm which means Bandy grounds sell glögg, often both in alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties. It is a wonderful experience watching the players speed across the ice while relaxing in the stands with a cup of warm glögg in your hands. In Stockholm both Hammarby IF and IK Tellus play matches at Zinkensdamm IP.
If, however, you are looking for something slightly cozier and much warmer, then there are a variety of great bars in the city to enjoy some glögg. For a drink that is very much part of Sweden’s cultural heritage, it makes sense to sample it in a historical place. Gamla Stan is magical at Christmas time—the old town is beautiful when it’s covered in a light dusting of snow and the old buildings and winding streets make you feel like you have journeyed back in time.
In order to maintain this feeling, Café Kaffekoppen, is a brilliant place to check out. It is right in the center of Gamla Stan, in Stortorget, the main square. It is charming from the outside but especially inviting on the inside. The downstairs seating area is located in a cellar dating back to the 17th century. It is often illuminated by candlelight, adding to the historical and cozy feel, and is a beautiful place to try glögg.
Buying alcohol in Sweden can be a rather complicated process. Unlike in many other European countries, you can’t just pop into your local supermarket and pick up a bottle of wine. Sweden has a monopoly where the government-owned Systembolaget is the only shop that can sell alcohol over 3.5%. This might seem like a pain but what it actually means is that Systembolaget has an absolutely huge collection of different drinks and great variety within their stock.
This is reflected in their glögg offering. They have both alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties, including classic and organic glögg and perhaps most excitingly, they have interesting versions that aim to put a twist on the classic recipe. At Systembolaget, you can pick up glöggsflavoredd with apple, chili, chocolate, and even one flavored with mango and cumin. What’s more, if your local Systembolaget doesn’t have something you want to try, you can ask them to order it in from another store. It’s a great place to try if you want something different that you can enjoy at home or in your airbnb or hotel.
Stockholm has some of Europe’s best Christmas markets with options dotted all over the city for visitors and residents alike who want to soak up the Nordic Christmas atmosphere. There is a market in Gamla Stan open from December 2-23, which is Stockholm’s most famous Christmas market, and alongside glögg you can try elk and reindeer meat, as well as picking up handmade Swedish craft items at the market stalls. A quick boat ride away is the market on the charming island of Skeppsholmen, which features live demonstrations by blacksmiths and other craftsmen.
A little further afield are two more markets well worth checking out and grabbing some glögg at. The first is in Sigtuna, Sweden’s oldest town, which runs from November 26 to December 17 and includes live music and a Lucia celebration which is another Swedish Christmas time tradition. On the island of Vaxholm, there is a market from December 9-10, which includes visits from Santa and is beautifully located in the shadow of the amazing Vaxholm fortress.
One of the absolute highlights of this time of year is the food. As Christmas appears on the horizon, you begin dreaming of all the wonderful items on the table as Christmas dinner is served. Festive food, coupled with a large glass of glögg, can help to bring cheer at a time of year when the weather and darkness can make things tough. In Sweden, a julbord is served, which is a buffet piled high with different exciting treats. There is something for everyone on a julbord, which usually has fish, meat, terrines, roasted vegetables, and beetroot salad.
Stockholm has all manner of excellent restaurants that serve up great julbords, but one of the best is Mr French, partly for the quality of the food but also for the excellent location. It is in Gamla Stan on a wide, almost Parisian, avenue called Skeppsbron. It is right by the sea and has beautiful views over onto the island of Djurgarden and of Grona Lund, Stockholm’s largest theme park. Their julbord includes meatballs, herring, terrine, shrimp, and of course, glögg. It is the perfect place to pair excellent food with a warming glass or two.
Finally, if you are looking for an experience that goes beyond just drinking glögg, then visiting Stockholm Branneri is the perfect place to go. Stockholm Branneri is a gin distillery that makes some of Stockholm’s most fantastic and innovative gin based drinks. Recently they launched a Gin and Tonic glögg that was incredibly popular. The scramble to taste this new twist on a old classic made it quite hard to get hold of.
Stockholm Branneri offers visits and tours where you can see how they make their gin as well, as the glögg, and get a feel for one of Stockholm’s most innovative drink houses. It takes you beyond just tasting glögg to discovering how it is made and how new, imaginative versions are dreamt up . The distillery is located in Sodermalm on Folkungagatan, one of Stockholm’s coolest streets.