Go winter-wonderlanding under the aurora borealis in Sweden

With ABBA releasing (however half-heartedly) their first new album in four decades, Sweden is having a moment in the sun.

Ironic since, this time of year, it doesn’t really have a sun.

But who needs that ol’ smirking celestial orb when you have the aurora borealis? (Yes nerds, the northern lights require solar winds — we get it, just go with it.)

Don’t let drooping mercury and a thinning 2021 cat calendar deter you from visiting Scandinavia in the winter.

With its husky-driven sleigh rides and just flat-out gonzo hotels, fun- and Absolut Elyx-oozing Sweden makes the Arctic Circle seem more like an Arctic hula hoop.


A Dunn deal

Dogs pull a sled in Sweden.
You’ll get all mushy on us when you meet your loyal team of huskies.
Sweden Travel

You could call it the Lap of luxury — but don’t. Sweden’s Laplands are very merry serious about their fam-friendly yet romance-making allure, and luxe trip operator Scott Dunn doesn’t play. Instead, they arrange dog-driven sleigh rides through pine forests, hot and cold bathhouse dunks and northern lights-peeping itineraries starting at $4,800 per person, including private transfers. Their customizable “Limitless” package is what’s up.


Interior of the Icehotel in Sweden.
Frozen assets: The famed and pubbed Icehotel is never the same objet d’art year over year — aurora pour-ye-all-of-us!
Asaf Kliger⁠

When it comes to weirdo hotels in Sweden, pick your kink: How would you like your room … on the rocks? Everyone’s heard of Sweden’s 1989-born Icehotel, first of its name, old news, but did you know each year artists gather in Jukkasjäarvi to redesign/rebuild it after it melts every spring (global warming might be pushing that date up)? Straight chill, from $195 to $508 for an ice room.

Interior shot of the Wood Hotel.
Splinter sell: A night at the funky Wood Hotel starts at $125.
Wood Hotel

Or, there’s the Viking-worthy Wood Hotel by Elite in Skellefteå, one of the world’s tallest buildings made of timber, though they might be a little sensitive about that particular choice of word (from $125).

The UFO digs at Treehotel.
Saucerin’, saucerin’, I’m saucerin’ on you-oo — at Treehotel.
Hufton+Crow/View Pictures/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

And somewhat kindred, there’s the Treehotel in Harads, just outside the Arctic circle. With its quirky-themed suites — from a bird’s nest to a UFO — it has all the charm of the arboreal abode of your childhood, minus the prepubescent boy misogyny of “No Girlz Allowed” signage (from $675).

Lucia self in the music, the moment, you own it

The four-century-old celebration of Saint Lucia in Scandinavia is a lot different than how things roll on the martyr’s eponymous Caribbean island — here in Sweden, it’s cold, it’s church-y and it’s likely to involve candle headpieces. Be that as it may, the three-day religio-musical celebration — Dec. 11 to 13 — is joyous and best enjoyed in Skansen, Stockholm’s resident outdoor museum and zoo, which is funiculared and already strange in a good many ways. It’s better not ask too many “Why is this a thing?”-type questions and just go with the flow and/or floe.

The Donner party

Reindeer butting heads in Sweden.
Slay ride: Reindeer is best served de-antlered.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you’re dead-set on a jaunt to Sweden, you have to at least entertain the idea of reindeerphagia. Home to just under 300,000 of the Christmas caribou, Sweden — and especially among its native Sámi people — does not frown upon a little McRudolph consumption here and there, especially at the multi-day Jokkmokk Winter Market in February.

Capital fun-ishment

Exterior of Hammarbybacken mountain.
One man’s trash is another man’s schuss at Hammarbybacken.

Urban skiing is most definitely a thing in Sweden’s national seat, which is both unsurprisingly very snowy as it is surprisingly very island-rife. And if you think South Central LA is hardcore, try South Central Stockholm: Hammarbybacken is the city’s man-made ski hill built on a former trash dump. Ignore its sordid, hopefully sorted past and instead celebrate its three-decade-long transition into a five-slope, two-lift resort.

Up to scratch

An image of Avicii.
Vinyl fantasy: The Avicii Experience is … just that.

First and foremost, RIP Sweden’s late, great stentorian son Tim Bergling, aka Avicii, who raised the art of DJing to such a level that Google even crafted a video Doodle in his honor this past September.

If you can’t take a pill in Ibiza to likewise memorialize him, plan-B it by visiting Stockholm’s interactive Avicii Experience “tribute museum” inside the soon-to-open, seven-floor and gamer-targeted Space digital culture hub.