Stockholm has always been on top of my list of the European cities I wanted to visit before 30 (don’t we all have this 30 before 30 list?) and finally last August, the dream came true and on an early Saturday morning I was on my way to Sweden for the Bank holiday weekend. Woohoo! There has always been something about Stockholm that attracted me and I can’t really explain what it is: maybe it’s my endless love for Abba or my admiration for Greta Garbo or simply my growing interest in Scandinavian contemporary and minimalist design. Whatever it is, Stockholm has not let me down and I have enjoyed every single minute of my trip.
Where to begin? Stockholm is green, incredibly and overwhelmingly green. And it’s quiet. There is this amazing quietness that surrounds the city and that reflects the mood of its people: no rush on the streets, no extravagant behaviour in public, no embarrassing drinking culture. But don’t take this quietness for boredom, because Stockholm is nothing like that. Underneath there is a vibrant heart that beats all the way across its fourteen islands: it can be the sound of a group of violinists on a sunny day in Kungsträdgården, the subtle noise of the water crashing against the banks of the stands or the buzz in one of the thousands coffee shops with people enjoying a fika (Swedish concept of ‘having coffee’ along with pastries or sandwiches).
Stockholm can easily be visited on foot and no wonder that it has been renamed as the Scandinavian Venice (or Venice of the North). Every street is a discovery, especially in the old town – Gamla Stan, home to numerous local shops, cafes and cozy restaurants. My boyfriend was completely hooked by this cute little shop where everything that has to do with railways was sold – you know, every child’s dream to have the most detailed miniature railway station? You got the idea! I, of course, was looking for small design shops or any local fashion brand boutique.
On one day the weather changed dramatically and the sky was gloomy with a characteristic annoying drizzle, that makes you want to stay cozy at home sipping a hot chocolate. Surely not the best weather conditions to be out and to do a sightseeing tour, however Stockholm is surrounded by this evocative aura that even such a bad weather makes the city mesmerizing. We happened to walk along the Strandvägen on that day and memories brought me back to these old movies with Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman, whose nostalgic look is a clear reflection of the melancholic atmosphere perceived around that area.
Due to this weather, we really didn’t get the chance to visit neither Drottningholm (where the royal palace is situated) nor Skansen, therefore they have been immediately added to the ‘must-see’ list for next time.
Top 10 things to do in Stockholm:
1. Dine like a local and go to the chicest restaurant in town – Wood Stockholm
2. Go to the Abba museum and dance and sing to the rhythm of their unforgettable hits
3. Enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view from Stadshuset (the city hall)
4. Lose yourself in the old streets of Gamla Stan
5.Walk around the elegant and exclusive neighbourhood of Östermalm
6. Take a boat trip
7. Visit the area of Södermalm and dine at the oldest restaurant in town – Pelican
8. Have a proper fika like the Swedish do
9. Enjoy the contemporary outdoor ‘design’ at Sergels torg
10. Walk around Djurgården and be ready to queue for the Vasamuseet
My tips to enjoy Stockholm at 360 degrees:
- Walk and don’t be afraid of walking long distances! Public transportation is really expensive, maybe even more than in London, and by walking, first of all you’ll experience the city as a local and you’ll save a good amount of money (that you can always spend in buying a nice design piece for the house).
- Have time to visit at least one of the remarkable museums that the city has to offer: the Vasamuseet, Fotografiska, the Nobel museum and the Abba one should be on top of your list.
- Some restaurants are unusually closed on Sunday! Double check beforehand where do you plan to eat over the weekend and you won’t have any bad surprises 😉
- If you are a fish lover, you can’t leave Stockholm without having tried their herrings and their salmon – they are to die for! (I think I must have eaten all the smoked salmon at the hotel’s breakfast buffet, oops!)
- Stockholm is indeed expensive! Honestly speaking, prices tend to be more or less like the ones in London, but I noticed that there is not much choice in terms of small and convenient delis where you can grab a meal deal for lunch. My suggestion is to have a huge breakfast not so early in the morning and then have an early dinner. Your credit cards will thank you for that.
… and of course now I am totally into Swedish cuisine, especially their open sandwiches and their amazing and heavenly mouthwatering desserts. I will post my experiments sooner or later.
Recommended culinary Books
If you want to see more about Sweden, also from a culinary point of view , visit my friend’s blog http://www.electricbluefood.com – live from Falun! Extraordinary pictures and delicious recipes.