If Sweden has a reputation for being cold and dark, it’s because it’s, well, cold and dark for several months of the year. Sweden’s northerly latitudes make it a land of extremes – think Alaska-like in the winter months and the Land of the Midnight Sun in the summer.
No bad weather, only bad clothing
The Swedes like to say that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. It is certainly prudent to bring a jacket even in the summer, as the weather is sometimes unpredictable. An umbrella is also a useful piece of equipment to battle any unexpected downpours.
In general, winters are cold, with temperatures often dipping below freezing. However, even though Sweden is at the same altitude as Alaska, it is much milder because of the warm Gulf Stream passing off the coast of Norway. Average January temperatures are -5°C (23°F). (For a fun weather facts, the lowest recorded temperature in Stockholm was -42°C, or -44°F, in 1994.) Summers are temperate and mild, although there are usually a few weeks of extremely warm weather in July or August. A typical summer afternoon in Stockholm will have a temperature of 22°C (71°F). The average July temperature in Kiruna, a town about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle, is 12.1°C (-53°F) and the average January temperature is -13.8°C (7°F).
Swedes really live by the seasons, with the biggest holiday celebration of the year corresponding with Midsummer on June 21 – the longest day of the year. It’s commonplace to see Swedes sunning themselves even when the air is still crisp; sun is all that matters. As soon as the weather is somewhat reasonable (around mid-April in Stockholm), all of the cafes with outdoor patios haul out the fleece blankets and terrace heaters so patrons can sit outside and stay toasty while getting their daily dose of vitamin D.
Blame it on the weather
The dark winters have an effect on people’s moods. It’s been estimated that almost 20 percent of the population suffers from mild Seasonal Affective Disorder (Swedish winter-related blues). Some establishments, such as the Iglo Cafe at Hornstull in Stockholm, even offer light therapy along with coffee and breakfast.
December 21 is the shortest day of the year, with sunrise at 8:44 AM and sunset at 2:48 PM in Stockholm. June 21 has just a few hours of dusk, with sunset at 10:09 PM and sunrise at 3:31 AM. Further north above the Arctic Circle, you experience almost 24 hours of darkness in the winter and 24 hours of sunlight in the summer. In Kiruna, the average monthly sunshine duration is 5 hours in January and 243 hours in July.