Scandinavia in January: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Winter sunset Stockholm skyline

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If you enjoy winter sports but are on a tight budget, come to the Scandinavian countries in January. The holidays are over and things start to calm down again. For travelers, this means lower prices, less tourism, and fewer crowds. 

Travel prices are among the lowest of the entire year right now. In addition, January is perfect to visit the winter sports destinations that Scandinavia is so famous for if you are an outdoorsy person.

Remember the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway? Norway is a mecca for winter sports enthusiasts and offers something for every taste. This is the perfect time of the year for winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, or sledding in Scandinavia. Have fun in the snow!

Additionally, the most amazing natural phenomena, the Polar Night, can be witnessed in the northern parts of Scandinavia in January, especially in Norway and Sweden.

Read on for more information about the weather, what to pack, and what events you can't miss in Scandinavia in January.

Scandinavia Weather in January

January sure can be a cold month! But as in many places around the world, it very much depends on what exactly your destination is and temperatures can vary a lot across different places in the Scandinavian countries. For example, in southern parts of Scandinavia (e.g. Denmark), temperatures in January average 29 to 39 F (-1 C to 4 C).

There won't be much snow in Denmark, the weather is too mild and humid, and the sea surrounds the country, discouraging snow conditions from forming over Denmark. Going further north across Norway and Sweden, it is normal to experience 22 to 34 F (-5 C to 1 C). This is where you will find lots of snow.

Nights in Sweden's far north can easily drop to 14 to 18 F (-10 C to -7 C). 

During this winter month, Scandinavia gets 6 to 7 hours of daylight, but if you go far enough to the north, e.g. in Sweden, this number can decrease rapidly. In certain areas of the Arctic Circle, there is no sun at all for a period of time, this phenomenon is called a Polar Night (the opposite of the Midnight Sun). During many winter nights, you can view the amazing Northern Lights.

What to Pack

Are you headed to the Arctic Circle? Bring sturdy boots for walking on the snow and ice, a down-filled waterproof outfit, hat, gloves, and scarf (or scarves). Long underwear is perfect to wear under clothing every day. If you'll be visiting the cities, bring a down jacket, and maybe a wool overcoat. For winter sports activities, bring your insulated skiing gear. It's better to have a heavy suitcase than to be freezing in the cold for a week. But no matter what your destination is, an insulated coat, gloves, hats, and scarves are the bare minimum for travelers in January. Bundle up.

January Events in Scandinavia

  • New Year's Day (January 1): January 1 is New Year's Day. Expect many restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions to be closed.
  • Epiphany (January 6): Commonly called Three Kings Day, Epiphany celebrates the three wise men's visit to baby Jesus. It's celebrated in Finland, Sweden, and Iceland.
  • Hilarymas (St Knut's Day) (January 13): It's on this day that Christmas festivities officially come to a close. The occasion is typically marked with food and dancing.
  • Thorrablot Midwinter Feast (the Friday after January 19): This Icelandic holiday was a sacrificial midwinter feast to Pagan gods in past years, but now locals use the day to get together and enjoy Icelandic culinary delicacies, like rotten shark’s meat (hákarl) or boiled sheep’s head (svið).
  • Winter Jazz Festival (February): Denmark's "Vinterjazz" is a music festival that spans three weeks across February, and includes more than 600 different performances by artists from around the world.
  • MP Motorcycle Event (early February): Held each year in Helsinki, Finland, this massive motorcycle trade show showcases motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, riding gear, spare parts and more. It even includes an indoor test ride track.

January Travel Tips

  • Scandinavia is generally very safe and poses few risks to travelers, health-related or otherwise, to travelers. In winter, exercise caution, as slippery pavement and traffic accidents from elk crossing the roads common.
  • The Midnight Sun is always best north of the Arctic Circle, while the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) is best seen on the Arctic Circle in very clear and dark winter nights. They have been seen in southern Scandinavia sometimes, but it is very important that you are in a dark and clear night, away from the city.

Planning your trip? If you want to know more about the best time to visit Scandinavia, here's a guide to each month.