With its islands, bright blue waters, parks, and centuries-old architecture, Sweden’s capital is definitely easy on the eye. Having spent a summer discovering its hidden corners and compiling a growing list of personal favorites, I’m happy to say I’ve finally managed to get to know the capital of my home country. Without further ado, here’s my list of things to do when you’re in the Stockholm.
1. Visiting the archipelago
When I tire of swimming in the Mälaren lake at Fredhällsbadet, I get on the boat to Grinda island and jump into the sea. Best way to finish this day trip? With a cider at Grinda Wärdshus. Surrounded by the forest, the absence of cars, dirt roads, a little farm shop, and a 100-year-old inn, I feel like I’m in another world (although I’m only just a 2-hour boat ride away from the city center).
For something really close to downtown I recommend Fjäderholmarna. It’s 20 minutes by boat from Stockholm and has some quaint shops selling locally-made handicrafts, and a handful of restaurants and cafés. There are plenty of other islands to choose from, so pick your favorite and get a dose of the island life.
2. Picking a neighborhood after your current mood
There’s a neighborhood in Stockholm for almost every state of mind, and depending on my mood I either spend a relaxing Sunday eating suadero tacos and quesadillas de rajas at La Neta on Söder, lying in the grass watching tourists on Skeppsholmen, or strolling around Djurgården seeing the old houses and lemurs and listening to live music at Skansen. The world’s first open-air museum, Skansen was founded way back in 1891.
For a luxe day, nothing beats the area of Östermalm and its boutique shops and well-stocked market hall, and for hipsters there’s nothing better than the trendy neighborhood of Söder where you see an unusually high ratio of people wearing hats, Sandquist backpacks, jeans jackets, and vintage Levi’s.
3. Celebrating one of Sweden’s quirky summer festivities
Summer in Sweden is amazing … and slightly strange; at the end of June Swedes leave town to hit the countryside and Stockholm’s archipelago, dance around a pole, jump like frogs, and sing to what must sound like children’s songs for those not acquainted to Swedish quirkiness.
As if that wasn’t enough, in August we put on some really strange hats in bright red, yellow, and blue, tie a bib around our neck, and devour crayfish. Join in on the madness, grab a glass of schnapps, and sing along.
4. Getting into Swedish design
No one does it better than us; black on black and straight lines are always in fashion for the Swedes. For the best shot to get into Scandinavian fashion simplicity, head to Acne Studios on Norrmalmstorg, or Whyred’s flagship store on Mäster Samuelsgatan. Also browse through the section for Nordic designers at Nordiska Kompaniet (NK).
For the more up-and-coming Swedish brands, Greta Gram is a name to look out for; for incredibly well-tailored pieces with a splash of color, Altewai Saome is the brand. In terms of interior design, Svenskt Tenn on Strandvägen is a personal favorite. It’s hard to leave this spot without wanting to re-decorate your whole living space.
5. Eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant
A city is as good as the food it serves (that’s a proverb I just invented), and Stockholm has its fair share of Michelin-starred restaurants. Just as Swedish designers have a minimalistic approach to fashion, at Stockholm’s finest restaurants the food is unmistakably Nordic in its understated beauty. Oaxen Krog is one of those restaurants where there’s a thought behind every little detail. Honored with one Michelin-star, located on Djurgården in a refurbished shed at a boatyard, and serving locally-sourced Nordic produce, this spot is amazing.
6. Enjoying an afternoon fika
Fika (sitting down for a coffee, cake, and a chat if you’re more than one) must be one of the best things about being a Swede. We’re so good at it, we can easily cram in two fikas a day. There’s no way I’m able to pay a visit to a Swede without being offered coffee or tea and cake (if you offer me cinnamon buns, I can promise you, you’re in my good books forever).
My favorite spot in town is Johan Nyström, and during the summer I love sitting outside at one of the the tables along Swedenborgsgatan on Söder, enjoying the sun with an affogato — with the best vanilla ice cream I’ve ever had — or a cappuccino. It’s with an Italian touch, but nonetheless it’s a fika.
7. Visiting a museum
Located just by the water, where the ferries to Finland depart, Fotografiska hits the right spot for a brunch with a view and some darn good photography exhibitions — not to mention they have a brilliant museum shop where you can pick up a nice poster or a coffee table book. Walking through the doors of the museum, I enter a creative mindset and let the photography — whether it be Nick Brandt’s black and white imagery from Eastern Africa, or Bettina Rheims’ colorful and striking photos of celebrities — take me on a journey around the world. In fact, the capital is filled with interesting museums, and if you’re an ABBA fan there’s a whole museum dedicated to your favorite Swedish quartet.
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