By Ivanna Read. This article, "Stockholm: Another Kind of Paradise," was first published in our Travel Issue. Editing by Jose Morales.
Stockholm, Sweden – Smultronstället is a Swedish word that, when translated, means ‘the place of wild strawberries.’ However, for the Swedes, it also has another meaning: a wonderful place, a ‘secret’ paradise. Stockholm, also known as the capital of Scandinavia and the Venice of the North, is, without a doubt, my own “smultronstället.” There is something about this city that makes everyone who visits it not only fall in love with it but to develop an eternal longing to return.
I was fortunate enough to live in Sweden for two years and experience Stockholm during all the seasons. I was lucky to become part of it while finding the secret places that make it special and unique. Stockholm represents effortless beauty. It is about the appreciation of art, creativity, and minimalism. Stockholm is a city of innovation and modernism merged with nature. It is a technological hub that is shaping the future as we know it. In this article, I am sharing my list of experiences that will allow you to navigate this gem as the locals would, and perhaps, you will make Stockholm your “smultronstället,” too.
~ Places to Visit ~
Gamla Stan (Old Town): this is one of the most famous areas in Stockholm. It is a must-visit. The old town is full of colorful buildings that look like if they were taken straight out of a postcard. Cobblestones cover most of the narrow streets, and balconies are decorated with flowers in the summer. During winter, the Christmas markets take place here. At the heart of this neighborhood, you will also find the Nobel Prize Museum. Go inside to learn the history of one of the most prestigious awards in the world in the categories of science, academics, and culture, exactly where it all began. Don’t leave the area without having a coffee at Cafe Schweizer. Founded in 1920, it is one of the oldest cafes in the city.
Museum of National History: this is a top destination to learn about the history of Scandinavia throughout the centuries. Here, you can discover the origins of the Vikings and learn about many other historical moments in Sweden’s history. It is not only educative but also entertaining and interactive, and the entrance is free of charge! Once finished, walk to Karlaplan Square, a beautiful fountain in the district of Ostermalm, the fanciest area of the city.
Fotografiska: This photo gallery is always filled with great exhibitions of local and international photographers. The view from the coffee shop on the top floor is another reason why a visit here is 100% worth it. It offers a front seat view of the whole city.
City Hall: you will find the city hall close to the central station. Its structure is very emblematic, and it also has a beautiful waterside park, which is perfect for a short walk.
The Royal Palace: the Swedish monarchy tries to be ‘modest,’ therefore, the palace is not as fancy or luxurious as you might think. However, if you have extra time, it is a tourist place you could mark off from your list of places to see while visiting. It is also very close to Gamla Stan, so you can visit the palace on the same day you walk around the Old Town.
Södermalm: a Swede once told me that in Stockholm, every island makes its own statement. Södermalm is commonly known as the hipster area. Perfect for finding rooftop bars and for a few drinks in the warmer months. Here, especially in the zone of Sofo, you can also find really cool stores by alternative designers, and others who are well known. On Sundays, during spring and summer, there is a huge second-hand market and many food trucks in the area of Hornstull, in the southern part of the island. If you are lucky, and the temperature is above 72 degrees, you can also go for a swim in this area.
Skinnarviksberget: located in Södermalm, Skinnarviksberget is the highest natural point in central Stockholm. It is a favorite place amongst the locals for picnics and parties under the open sky. Be careful during rainy or icy weather, as it will be difficult to access.
Stockholm Public Library: This library has been listed multiple times as one of the world’s most beautiful libraries. A great example of the architectural style known internationally as Swedish Grace, the place will impress you from the moment you walk in.
Door to Heaven (as called by some locals): built in 1840, it is a blue door that welcomes you to the island of Djurgården. It is a reminder of the hunting era this area was known for. It is a beautiful area to walk around, and if the weather permits, to go for a picnic.
~ Where to Eat ~
Perhaps you have heard about the concept of fika, a Swedish custom of taking several breaks during the day for coffee and a pastry. It does not matter what time of the year you visit Stockholm. There is one thing you have to know: the Swedes drink a lot of coffee! Therefore, you will find many coffee places all around the city. The Swedes also value the quality of what they eat, and if you go to a restaurant or a supermarket, you will find countless options of organic, vegan, and artisanal products. Accordingly, take advantage of the freshness of their dishes and make time to stop and enjoy a good meal.
Vete–Katten: this is my favorite fika place in Stockholm. It is very close to the central station. Try a cinnamon bun and princess tarta (two must -try in Stockholm).
Cafe Pascal: for a freshly roasted coffee, this is the place to visit! Also, try the salmon sandwich (with extra avocado) for a delicious breakfast.
Espresso House: this is a Swedish coffee chain you will find almost everywhere in Stockholm. However, even though it is a chain of shops, it is very cozy and has a strong local vibe.
Pelikan: when talking about food, this is one of the most famous restaurants, one that is very Swedish. You might have to reserve a table in advance. While here, try the traditional Swedish meal: mashed potatoes, meatballs, peas, and lingonberries. There are also many other Swedish options in their menu that you can try, and you will make the right choice regardless of what you pick as everything is delicious!
Urban Deli: this is another “very local” restaurant with good food. The view from the rooftop (closed in the winter) from the one located in Norrmalm is spectacular!
If you have a packed agenda and just want to grab something to eat quickly, you can buy something at Pressbyran, a chain of food shops where you can find sandwiches and other snacks to eat quickly. Also, try Max Burgers: a Swedish version of Mcdonalds or Burger King but fresher.
If you are staying in an Airbnb and can cook, ICA is one of the biggest supermarkets. Try them or Hempkop when going food shopping.
Do you want to buy a bottle of wine or a local beer? Besides restaurants and bars, Systembolaget (owned by the government) is the only place where you can purchase alcoholic beverages that contain more than 3.5% alcohol by volume. The stores close at 7 PM Monday – Friday, and earlier on the weekends.
~ Getting Around Stockholm ~
You can get around the city smoothly using public transportation. Metro, buses, and ferries connect this city even in the roughest of Winters. Every ticket is valid for 75 minutes, or you can choose to buy a daily pass or one for 72 hours.
Keep your eyes open for art in the metro. Stockholm subway system is said to be the world’s longest art exhibit at 110 kilometers long, representing the work of artistic pioneers from the 1950s to the art experiments of today.
~ ADDITIONAL TIPS ~
Sweden is on its way to becoming a cashless society; therefore some places do not take cash. Make sure you have a credit card with you.
If you go during the summer months, be ready to take part in cultural events and music festivals that happen all around the city. Most of the time these are free of charge. You can also visit Grona Lund, an amusement park open at this time of the year. – GM
GUILD MAGAZINE - THE TRAVEL ISSUE