If, like us, you like to travel and visit places when it's a little quieter, Sweden in the spring is very nice. You may need to work a little harder to plan your visit as schedules in the off-season are sometimes surprising, but the good thing is that it forces you to slow down. Here is a suggestion if you find yourself in Stockholm in the coming weeks.
When spring isn't really spring
Our first trip to Sweden was planned in a hurry, exactly 20 minutes between the time I heard about an amazing ticket sale and the time we had booked the flight. The delay was mostly due to us checking what the weather would be like in March. We concluded that it would be about 10°C warmer then in Montreal and most importantly: above freezing. That's all I needed to know, I had waitted 15 years to visit, it would be perfect.
The tickets were bought, we were ready to go and spring was already in full swing in southern Sweden according to the Weather Channel. We started planning a few things as we were only there a few days and, to our disbelief, all the attractions, museums and ferries were sticking to the winter schedule. The original plan was to go island hopping in the archipelago, mixing culture, history and nature. How exciting it was to find ourselves on the water in March we thought. We are sailors after all and back home the lakes were still frozen solid and we had just received 40 cm of fresh snow. To our dismay, the ferries would not be running for another 2-3 weeks.
This was the moment we realized that although the grass was green, the daffodils and hyacinths were blooming everywhere, it didn't really matter. It wasn't spring for the tourist industry. The museums were running on shortened hours, the tour boats were not sailing and some places were even closed a few days a week. Cars were still driving around with studded winter tires while every single person in the street was walking in sneakers and even showing off a bit of skin over the ankle. We were confused.
Stockholm from the water
We were not going to let something as mundane as a bit of "winter" get in the way of spending time on the water so we got creative, did a bit of research and found a cruise that ran all year! Not quite island hopping to castles and parks, but our only option to get on the water. Stockholm itself is built on 14 different islands while the archipelago has more than 24 000 islands and islets. Water is everywhere and it should be enjoyed.
A lot of interesting attractions are located on the shores of Lake Mälaren and in the inner archipelago. Most of them are accessible by boat during the summer which allows you to make day trips out of those visits Spring and winter doesn't allow for that, but if you are in Stockholm before mid-April this winter cruise is a really nice way to discover the city and its surroundings.
You can buy your ticket and board the boat across from the Svenska Handelsbank building on Strömgatan (just by the Strömbon bridge). From there, the ferry will take you out to Fjäderholmarna, which is considered to be the first island in the archipelago when leaving Stockholm, and back via Skeppsholmen for a nice 75-minute cruise.
We ended up boarding M/S Angantyr for the first cruise of the day and were happy to find the upper deck seats covered in reindeer hides. Please note that these hides shed a lot... If you're headed somewhere nice after, be warned that you will leave the ship with furry pants. I personally couldn't care less about hairy pants and got to enjoy the warm spring sun and the cozy furs outside. The guide was really good and we learned quite a bit about the history of the city. We also got to identify a few places we could visit the next day.
As soon as we left the protected harbor, we lost quite a few of our fellow passengers to the lower decks where coffee was served and the heater was on. By the time we turned West past Fjäderholmarna island and headed straight into the wind, there were less than 10 passengers left outside. At that specific moment, I did wish my baggage allowance was somewhat better than a hand luggage and that I would have packed a proper coat. Make sure to bring extra layers if you can fit them in your luggage. For our subsequent trip to Sweden brought with me a down vest that can be packed into a tiny bag. It makes being by the water in March so much more enjoyable! The one thing we love about Sweden is how close the water always seems to be, so making the most of it so very important to us.
Try a commuter ferry
While we were there we did notice a commuter boat, the Djurgården ferry, that departed from City Hall and shuttled people across to Södermalm and possibly to the island of Djurgården (routes may have changed since). We didn't have time to give it a try as we mostly walked everywhere, but if you have already purchased a multi-day transit pass it's worth checking out for a passage or two. There are other ones that operate in winter, but verify the schedule carefully (www.sl.se) as they don't necessarily run everyday and mostly seem to stick to the inner harbor.