Attending a Lucia concert at Stockholm Cathedral
December in Stockholm usually conjures up images of Christmas markets, Glögg, dark nights and winter snowfall. But have you heard of the Lucia celebrations? Well we hadn’t either but wanted to experience one of Sweden’s foremost cultural traditions while we were there by attending a Lucia concert. Lucia herself is an ancient mythical figure with an abiding role as a bearer of light in the dark Swedish winters.
If we hadn’t checked with Visit Stockholm in advance of our trip we wouldn’t have even known it was happening. The celebration takes place on 13th December and we pushed back our trip by one day so we could witness the Lucia celebrations in Stockholm Cathedral first hand.
The last time we were in Stockholm was back in 2013 when 50 of us won a private jet there.
The top feature photo is courtesy of Henrik Trygg from mediabank visit stockholm.
Stockholm Cathedral, founded back in the 13th century, otherwise known as Storkyrkan is the oldest church on the Old Town island of Gamla Stan. An alternative Lucia concert is in St Jacob’s Church just a short walk away on Norrmalm.
We were treated to the St Jacob’s Vocal Ensemble, conducted by Mikael Wedar. In turn this year in St Jacob’s the audience witnessed the Stockholm Cathedral Youth Choir.
When can I book the Lucia concert?
Tickets generally get announced for the Lucia event(s) in the first week of September. We bought ours on their release date to avoid missing out. Google ‘Music in Storkyrkan‘ to find tickets for both St Jacob’s and Storkyrkan.
How much are Lucia tickets?
In December 2019 the ticket prices were:
80, 120, 150, 225, 270 SEK
(£6.50 up to £22 = so very reasonably priced).
Where should I sit inside Stockholm Cathedral?
We chose four ‘category 2’ seats in row 61, just to the left of the aisle at 225 SEK each (plus an additional overall 15 SEK booking fee). From here you’ll have a great view of the choir when they walk up and down the centre of the cathedral. Also make sure you don’t end up sat behind a pillar (shown with the hexagonal ‘Aa’ and ‘Ds below!) Check out the Storkyrkan Cathedral seating plan full-size image.
Turning up early when “doors open”
Our performance commenced at 18:00 with doors opening at 17:30. Turn up early and enjoy the space of the cathedral and “people watch” as everybody enters the cathedral behind you. In advance of all that you can explore the Gamla Stan Old Town Christmas Market which is very close by. Maybe with a pre-performance Glögg (mulled wine).
While we were waiting I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take some outside photos of the cathedral and the ornate wall-hung lanterns.
Can you take photographs during the concert?
Photography is not allowed during the candle-lit performance … but you CAN take pictures before the event starts while being seated. During the last song the conductor gives a sign for you to take pictures of the choir up on the stage. In our case he took out his mobile phone and took his own photo. You can also take photos when the choir walk down the main aisle towards the end of the concert.
What if I can’t sing in Swedish? 🙂
Never fear! The Lucia concert is sung entirely in ‘a capella’ by the assembled choir and is almost entirely in Swedish. The audience remains seated throughout and doesn’t sing at any point. Phew! Notable songs included ‘Stilla natt’ (Silent Night), ‘Gloria in Excelsis’, and of course ‘ Santa Lucia’.
We lost track of the number of individual songs and sat, dumbstruck to the overwhelming spectacle of what we were witnessing. The only lights inside the cathedral were those discretely up-lighting the walls and the flickering candles of the choir girls and boys.
It was simply beautiful. Absolutely beautiful! No percussion, no instruments. No electronics. Just choir voices and candlelight.
How long does the Lucia event last?
We were mesmorised by proceedings for just over an hour with the concert coming to a close at just after 19:00. At this time the choir had walked towards the back of the cathedral for their final song.
In conclusion – Lucia is pretty special
If you’re intending to visit the Christmas Markets in Stockholm, time it right and definitely attend one of Stockholm’s magical Lucia concerts. The performance was the surprise highlight of our 3-day winter break and ever so traditional. It felt like we were celebrating predominantly with Swedish natives and not a load of other tourists. So you won’t be disappointed, but shhhh – don’t tell too many other people about it 🙂
We stayed at the Collector’s Victory Hotel in Stockholm which was just a few minutes walk away from the Cathedral and we thoroughly recommend it.