Fettisdagen in Stockholm and Semla – Tradition and Fascination

By: Aastha Rohilla

During Winter, throngs of tourists or new students to Stockholm will have been wandering about unknowingly, and stumble across bakeries selling this strange but cute-looking bun called the semla.


So let’s talk about what in the world is fettisdagen and Semla (if you haven’t heard of it), the fascination that Swedes have with it, and why it’s the absolute trending food of the season.

What is a Semla? 

I must confess that I don’t really have a sweet tooth, but after reading a news article about Bake My Day setting a world record by making a giant semla and displaying it at Sergels Torg – it made me sit up and stop in my tracks.

Thus, it began my curiosity for the semla. I learnt that these are traditional sweet cardamom-scented buns (filled with almond paste and whipped cream) and are usually eaten as last celebratory feast of Christmas before the fasting of Lent begins. 

Everyone had their special semla story, and I wanted my very own, so I started my journey of finding the right places to eat semla. Now reading about the bun, I understood that it’s a wheat bun with the filling of whipped cream and almond paste. Two things made me skeptical about trying it out, the first this being a dessert and the second it had whipped cream.

My first Semla experience

A day before fettisdag, I actually had my first Semla at Gateau.

The conversation with the woman behind the counter was so interesting. I told her this is my first time trying the semla, and she relayed back to me how there are so many varieties that had come up over the years. From the classic semla to vanilla and chocolate, there’s even vegan options to choose from. Now was the time to dig into the sweet piece of delight, and it was everything I read about it. The soft wheat bun flavored with cardamom and filled with almond paste and whipped cream – I was surprised that it didn’t taste overly-sweet.

A cafe called Vete-Katten

I had my second semla at Vete-Katten, a well-known and historic bakery in Stockholm.

The moment I sat down, I was charmed by the display of impressive-looking pastries and interior design. I knew that I had come to the right place for fika!

I bit into my semla and again, it tasted soft, delicious and went perfectly with a hot cup of coffee. I was totally smitten.

Tradition and Fascination

Now I am no Semmelmannen (a serious semla Stockholm blogger), but it was a great experience trying the semla. It dawned upon me that this tradition of eating semlor on a specific day in February – no matter which part of the world we come from – can help draw people closer and understand the culture on another level. Food has always been a good topic to break the ice, and to discuss and debate, everyone has their favorites but it’s clear to me that fika and semla are here to stay, for a very long time.