I love European capitals. They each have individual personalities, atmospheres, and an endless amount of things to see and do. An unsurprising favourite for me, though, is Stockholm. Often claimed as overpriced and overrated, those that skip it are totally missing out. Indeed, drinks of any sort – particularly the adult beverage variety – are astronomically expensive, but believe me that won’t cross your mind once you’ve experienced the Swedish Bliss. Here’s my rundown of some of my favourite things to do in Stockholm.
The Gamla Stan
The Gamla Stan is Stockholms old city centre – a tiny island, actually, though walking the narrow alleyways and lanes you won’t notice. While the boutique shops are both charming and tatty, it’s more just the experience of getting lost and admiring the colourful architecture that you should come here for, such as the “Mårten Trotzigs Gränd” – the narrowest alley in the city. Don’t miss the Riddarholmen church, as it is one of the oldest buildings in the city and just breathtaking inside and out.
Stockholm city centre is actually made up of 14 islands that sit on Lake Mälaren, so walking along the water is a pretty easy thing to do. Once you’ve gotten lost in the Gamla Stan, head towards the edge of this island and look around. Stunning no?
But head out of the Gamla Stan and around to the north then east, where you’ll head for the island called Skeppsholmen. This is such a wonderful place because not only will you find a couple of museums, but there are also gardens and a wonderful walking path that offers those classic landscape views of Stockholm you see on the postcards! If it is a sunny day, you simply must must must spend a few hours here.
You won’t find anyone in Stockholm poorly dressed, and in fact after a couple of days you will feel compelled to throw yourself at the mercy of once of the city’s amazing department stores. I’m not a huge shopper but found myself at the shops drooling over the trendy yet not-over-the-top fashions. The two main department stores are Ahlens and NK. Of course in between are a number of the traditional brands as well as a new unique shops.
H&M, the ubiquitous European clothing shop, is also here. And yes, it is Swedish. Is the H&M stuff better in Sweden? Or cheaper? No, and no.
Sweden also brought IKEA to the world, but skip trekking out to the suburbs for a visit (why? it’s already in Swedish where you live too, right?) but instead pop into the many furniture and home furnishings boutiques. The Design Torget is without a doubt my favourite – you won’t believe some of the great stuff you can find in here. Bring an empty suitcase!
Many people will tell you to head for Den gyldene freden – ‘The Golden Palace’ – as it is probably the most famous and listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the oldest restaurant in the world to have the same surroundings.” Translation: nothing much has changed. While it is lovely and the food is good, you’re going more to say you’ve been than to rave about the food.
I preferred Restaurant Prinsen if you want good tasty Sweden food at reasonable prices and a nice environment.
The best part of Swedish food, for me, is the bakery sweets: you won’t have any trouble finding one as they’re dotted all around the city centre. A great places for sandwiches and sweets is Vete-Katten, a few blocks off of the main shopping street.
Stockholm has plenty going on so there isn’t a need to head anywhere else, in my opinion. But, should you want to get away from the city for the day, here are two daytrip suggestions:
- Uppsala: about 70km north of Stockholm, Uppsala is a charming little village. The Uppsala cathedral (pictured above) is the largest cathedral in Sweden. Surrounding it are several parks and quaint streets along the river. Uppsala also has its own castle.
- Sigtuna: This is the oldest medieval town in Sweden and historical documents indicates a Viking royal estate was once here. The little wooden houses on the main street are just adorable!