I’d never done Scandinavia before but, of all the countries in Europe, I’ve always thought Scandinavians are most like the British (lovely, friendly, welcoming etc). So, after a bit of research, Sweden was chosen and flights were booked for a long weekend in Stockholm.
Planning seemed pretty simple. We booked a flat on Airbnb on one of the little islands, Lilla Essingen, which was only 20 minutes on the bus from the city centre. The flat was lovely and simple, everything we needed, with a little balcony where we could have breakfast, and a gorgeous view out over the river. One thing worth noting on planning a trip to Stockholm is that there are a few airports you can fly into and the one we flew into, Skavsta, had far cheaper flight prices but was an hour and a half coach ride into Stockholm (though not expensive).
Once we were in, we headed to the bus station to buy a three day bus pass (you can’t buy them on the bus) and that was us set up ready to explore!
There is loads to do in Stockholm, for every type of visitor. We started off by visiting the Vasa, a huge war ship which left Stockholm in 1628 and, due to bad logistical building, sunk before it had left the harbour. Due to the alkaline nature of the water (this isn’t a science lesson, I promise!), the boat didn’t disintegrate and was pulled up in the 1960s and restored. The museum houses the boat itself, which is very impressive, and loads of history on it, and as boring as that sounds, it is well executed and really interesting!
We also visited the Fotografiska Gallery – where we were lucky enough to see a photography exhibition by Martin Parr all about the British north-south divide! It was fantastic and had some great video footage too. The gallery is great too for a ‘fika’ (Swedish afternoon tea), with a restaurant/café up at the top, overlooking the city, and a covered, outside café with blankets, sofas and heaters, overlooking the river.
Stockholm is an odd but beautiful city, spread over many little islands. The main shopping area houses the main travel terminals, there is the beautiful old town of Gamla Stan, there’s Lilla Essingen, where we stayed, which was mostly residential and there is Sodermalm, where Fotografiska sits. Sodermalm also hosts an area of trendy independent stores and bars, named Sofo (can you guess where it got its name?!). When the weather is good, you can just walk the city, from island to island. You can have a beer whilst watching buskers in the main square in the old town, pop into a bar for happy hour in Sofo or walk along the chilled, quiet riverside to the city centre.
If you fancy something different, you can take a boat tour – there are plenty going from the city centre port, going as far out as you’d like to go! We decided to visit Drottningholm Palace, the residence of the current royal family. The boat tour took about an hour and once there you can have a tour of the house and walk the extensive gardens. The house is beautiful, but I’m not sold on this European concept of parks and gardens without grass (!)
Lastly, to finish our trip, we took a walking food tour. Our tour guide was lovely and our group consisted of us, a Scottish family and an American guy. We started in Östermalms Market Hall, a stunning market of fresh Swedish goods where we tried cheeses and gaming meat, before heading off around the city, stopping for meatballs, jams, chocolates and ice-cream, with the guide talking us through Stockholm’s history and traditions along the way. We ended in the old town with a traditional ‘fika’! The city is so picturesque, you could spend hours discovering its nooks and taking photos!
Aside from all of our day-time exploring, we found some great spots to eat and drink (usually when we were wi-fi hunting!). We found a gorgeous bar at the top of the Radisson Blu hotel with stunning views over the city. We found some lovely little bars down Odengatan, a walk from the main town centre, and some cosy bars and eateries in Sofo (I found this Daim Bar Martini below and it was beaut!). We also ate in a lovely pizzeria called Da Peppe Due which is well worth checking out!
It’s worth noting two negatives about Stockholm – it is on the pricey side, especially food and drink, and you can’t buy alcohol in supermarkets and shops if they are over 4% strength – you need to go to a special alcohol shop in the city centre between working hours to purchase it if you want to drink at home. It’s an odd rule but one the Swedish people are used to – and we certainly wouldn’t realise unless told!
Overall, Stockholm is a beautiful city. Everyone seems to speak English (cheeky plus point!), the weather resembles northern England (!), the people are delightful, the city diverse, fun and relaxed. I cannot wait to visit this part of the world again but, in the meantime, here is the best photo I have ever taken – of the unbelievable sunset in Stockholm.