Sweden’s capital and even the capital of Scandinavia is by far my favourite city of the Nordics. Described by locals as beauty on water, it’s hard to disagree. It is a lovely scenic city mixed with the old preserved style, right next to modern Nordic style. Hello Ikea. Lucky enough to spend some time here, here’s my guide on how to spend a day and night in this island filled city.
Stockholm is small enough to explore by foot and large enough to be interesting enough. A go to point for most is the old town, Gamla Stan. With its picturesque, wonderfully muted coloured buildings, narrow cobbled streets, its a beautiful way to while away a couple of hours. Keep an eye out for the narrowest street in Stockholm, Marten Trotzigs Grand, where it’s best to see it during the evening when the coach full tourists are gone. And so you can take some totally cool shots of yourself being Spider-man.
Östermalm represents the modern, upscale neighbourhood with its almost imperial style buildings perfectly lining each street. Pleasant to walk around with its tree lined streets and designer boutique shops dotted around and you can end the walk just before downtown by taking refuge in Humlegarden park. Nothing quite beats just sitting on a shaded bench watching the world goes by while time stops for you. If there’s a hipster vibe dwelling inside you, Sodermalm is a must visit. Trendy and laid back despite having the highest concentration of people living there. Easy to see why, with it many eateries, bakeries and coffee shops. Outside of that there is also a beach at Långholmen but recommend taking a walk up to Fjällgatan where you get a great view of the city to take some wide angle shots. You can even hear the screams of the distant amusement park Grona Lund.
Personally I expected a little bit more food wise in the city, maybe because I actually prefer a bit of spice and flavour to my food, than just you know salt pepper, oh and garlic. However one thing that most of the restaurants have going for them is decor. From sleek modern style to extreme minimalistic ambiences, they all somehow give a vibe of peace. Places range from the upmarket to street food style places. Being a fan of the latter, recommend Indian Street Food Co, WokHouse and Cafe Beirut. Campfire Grill serves you a decadent buffet of meat, but you can also go totally hipster an order yourself a sardine can. They do open it for you. Sushi Sho is the place to get your sushi fix and the Nordics know how to get sushi right.
Don’t use taxi’s, extremely expensive. Walk, use the metro or even the scooters dotted around everywhere. The Arlanda Express is the most convenient way to get to and from the airport in 20 minutes.
Coffee but not as you know it
Maybe I’ve been spoilt by Eastern Europe’s coffee shops but I was a little let down by the coffee shops here. Not because there aren’t any, but because they lacked any kind of personality. The first hint I got was when I asked some local colleagues what the coffee scene was like here. I received a look of total confusion. I reiterated that I meant a caffeine coffee shop not one of the Amsterdam variety. Whilst they finished laughing, I was still looking for an answer to which I got a simple, “Yeah, they’re all good at serving coffee….”. Brilliant. This response could not be further exemplified if you compared to places I checked out; Cafe Foam and Drop Coffee. Cafe Foam invited me with its great ethos written on the window; Love and Understanding, Soft & Hard & Soft again. (Stop sniggering you dirty lot). Some might dislike its almost garish pink decor, I did not, and thought it was pretty funky. The coffee itself was tasty but just okay. Drop Coffee on the other hand, the coffee was delicious. Rightly so as they do their own roasting and winning awards along the way. The cafe itself though, will not win any awards. It was so minimalistic inside, it was devoid of any character. Part of enjoying coffee is not only the quality but drinking it in the atmosphere of passion. Now if you combine these two places together, you may have something special on your hands. Nonetheless definitely both worth visiting. Espresso House though won a little piece of my heart. Even being the largest chain of coffee houses in the Nordics, the cafes are cool and rustic, but the service was just delightful and adorable. Plus they served a cola drink that was just so yummy.
Don’t worry about getting cash out, Stockholm is pretty much a cashless environment and card is accepted everywhere
After the Sun goes down
In the evening head up to a place called The Nest within the Downtown Camper hotel. It’s magnificent view and awesome hangout to have a few drinks in. There is no menu, you go to the bar and ask the extremely young bartenders to make you something. I like this, I like this a lot. These guys have freedom to be creative and do it right. Kudos to them. Tak is another place high up in a building if you fancy something livelier. Melt is a place with a cabaret vibe totally against any Nordic style, while Pharmarium in the old town is an old school classic place to hang out in.
Outside of the city, and if you have time, highly recommend taking a trip to Sigtuna. It is such a charming old small city to explore. It was Sweden’s first city way back in 970 CE, and it oozes a historic vibe from its city hall, which by the way looks like where cult like rituals took place, to the old quaint pedestrian street lined with the cutest of cutest stores, right to the harbour where boats are stowed and some old guys relaxing whilst dangling a fishing line. Total relaxation vibe. And this is exactly how I summarise Stockholm to be, a cute, beautiful, chilled out city to escape away for a weekend. Peace and Love.