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When to travel to Sweden: weather and seasons
Sweden's climate is temperate in the south with cold, cloudy winters and cool, partly cloudy summer weather; and of course, subarctic in north. Actually, Sweden's climate is milder than you might expect (considering its northerly geographic location at the same latitude as parts of Greenland and Siberia), because like most of Scandinavia it's warmed by the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift.
Sweden’s climate varies considerably from north to south, with large differences between summer and winter temperatures. The north-to-south extension of the country and the higher elevation of the northern part results in great regional variations in winter climate. There is an important weather divergence between northern and southern Sweden: the north has a winter of more than seven months and a summer of less than three, while Skane in the south has a winter of about two months and a summer of more than four.
Stockholm is warmer and milder, while in the mountains of northern Sweden a sub-Arctic climate predominates. The warm summer months are always popular and without doubt when Stockholm is at its best, with plenty of sunny weather. The seasonal climate changes in Stockholm are extremely distinctive and varied, with the winter solstice festivities taking place towards the end of December each year.
North of the Arctic Circle (66° N), the sun never sets for part of each summer, which is called the Midnight Sun, one of Scandinavia's natural phenomena. This amounts to 24 hours of sun and 24 hours of Arctic twilight in midsummer and midwinter respectively.
The increasing shortness of summer northward is partly compensated for by comparatively high summer temperatures, the greater length of day, and the infrequency of summer cloud; the considerable cloud cover in winter reduces heat loss by radiation.
Summer temperatures vary far less although summer is much shorter in the north; in fact, temperatures are surprisingly similar in midsummer over much of the country. The long summer days help to raise temperatures in the north so that on fine days temperatures may be as high as in the south.
The Swedish summer climate is generally warm and sunny, and at times even hot, with summer temperatures similar to those of southern England but with more hours of sunshine. Between June and August you can expect temperatures to regularly top 20°C (68°F) and it can get as hot as 30°C (86°F), with occasional rainy weather. Summer temperatures in the southern cities of Sweden average out around 18°C and winter temperatures around -2°C.
Late summer and autumn are the rainiest seasons, but precipitation falls throughout the year.The maximum rainfall occurs in late summer, and the minimum in early spring.
A result of the changeable nature of Swedish summers is that visitors should not expect to find fine weather every day. It's unfortunately true that a wet cool spell in summer in northern Sweden can be miserable. "There is no bad weather, just bad clothes," say the Swedes. Well, that may be so, but in Sweden you certainly have to come prepared. Light- to medium-weight clothing for summer, heavyweights for winter and rain gear all year round.
The mountain regions remain cool in summer. In the mountains of the far north, summer temperatures seldom exceed 50°F, and much colder conditions and snow are possible at anytime of the year.
Winter temperatures in Sweden can be cold everywhere; the exception to this is the south-west from Gothenburg to Malmo where winter temperatures are modified by an open ocean which rarely freezes. Even in Stockholm, maximum temperatures in the day are likely to remain below freezing throughout January and February. Winters become progressively longer and colder towards the north of the country and the average number of days with a mean temperature below freezing increases from 71 at Malmo to 120 at Stockholm and 184 at Haparanda near the Arctic Circle. The average January temperature in Haparanda at the head of the Gulf of Bothnia is 10 °F (-12 °C)
The northern interior receives heavy snowfall for up to eight months of the year and has severe temperatures that drop as low as -30 to -40°C (-22 to -40°F). In the north, autumn and winter arrive early and spring does not come until late May.
In southern Sweden winters vary more from year to year than in the north; snowfall is irregular, and average January temperatures range between -5 and 0°C (23 and 32°F).
Winter snows in both the central and northern regions can be heavy (especially in Lapland), and from Stockholm northwards the waters of the Gulf of Bothnia do freeze. However, despite the chilly weather and climate, winter is still a popular time to visit Stockholm, when ice skating is possible on nearby Lake Getaren, and downhill skiing available within easy reach of the city, at resorts such as Botkyrka, Hellasgarden, Lida Friluftsgard and Rudan, which even features its very own snowmaking equipment.
Climate in Sweden
Sweden's climate is so variable that average values for the whole country can be misleading. The official Swedish website uses three different places to represent these variations, so we thought we'd do the same, with a few extra readings:
Our other Sweden pages:
Useful facts, dates and links to help you plan your tour of Sweden