After months and months of looking forward to my holiday in Stockholm it finally came around and wow, it was amazing. I recommend everyone to visit this wonderful country if you haven’t already. I fell in love with the place from the moment the plane started its descent into Arlanda airport. The colour palette of Sweden’s landscape is quite different from those of the UK and other European countries I have visited before. The Scandinavian scenes beneath were a stunning wash of navy blues and deep, forest greens. The land was dotted with crimson, dark orange and yellow buildings and sectioned up by large, winding rivers, and lakes.
The contrast in the air and the brightness of the light also was very apparent. Somehow it feels much cleaner and clearer than the UK. There is a clarity in the atmosphere that brings all of the lines, shapes and colours to life. I felt as thought I had just increased the prescription of my contact lenses!
I have some recommendations for this beautiful city that may be of use for anyone planning a trip to Stockholm.
A few things you wish you knew before you landed:
- Money: We brought a lot of cash with us but quickly learnt that a lot of shops, attractions and restaurants work on a card only basis. This meant we ended up spending quite a lot of money on debit cards. This of course isn’t ideal and incurs a few charges! We also went home with left over cash. I would recommend taking a currency card and only a little bit of cash just for the odd time you might need it.
- Purchasing alcohol: The government own all of the alcohol above 3.5% in Sweden, you cannot buy it from a local supermarket. Instead you have to visit a store known as a Systembolaget
- Stockholm is expensive: We did know this on planning our holiday but just in case anyone misses the memo, this country is not cheap! Save up a bit before you travel so that you can enjoy yourself whilst there.
How to get around Stockholm
You can quickly and easily get to the centre of Stockholm from Arlanda airport by the Arlanda Express. This train takes just 20 minutes to get to Central Station. From here you can get the Metro (a blue Capital T on your map) and the bus. I normally choose an underground train over a bus. However the bus system here was actually really easy to understand and navigate once you have hold of a bus map. I definitely recommend to get yourself one of these. You can buy a weekly travel pass for around £30 per person. This allows you to travel on any bus/tram/metro around the central city and this is a cost effective and easy way to travel. Unfortunately this doesn’t cover the train from the airport though. This costs around £15 per person.
Another great way to travel around the city is on one of the Stockholm City Bikes. Just like Boris Bikes in London, you can hop on and off, taking the bikes from the stands dotted around the city. This costs around £15 per person for three days. There are plenty of bike lanes so you are rarely cycling on the road. It also feels quite safe, despite having to cycle on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. It was pretty cold on our trip and I got freezing on the bike so I would recommend plenty of layers and a hat if you are in Stockholm during the colder months!
Where to stay in Stockholm
As Stockholm is quite an expensive city, Air BnB is a great option for accommodation. There are lots of fairly cheap places with fantastic reviews. We stayed in a lovely little apartment in Södermalm. This area of the city is definitely one to visit. It is quite a hip and modern section of the city with lots of great cafes and restaurants. However, apart from the Fotografiska (more on this later) there isn’t anything touristy that would necessarily bring you here. Hence why I really enjoyed staying on this island. It meant we could enjoy all the cute breakfast spots and wander the residential streets which we perhaps may not have done had we stayed somewhere else.
Of course I am sure each area of Stockholm will have great reasons for staying there. I would definitely recommend Södermalm though for the above reasons if you are looking for suggestions. A lot of people live in the area so I felt that we got the experience of living in Stockholm by staying here. There are also some great shops to wander around…
Things to do in Stockholm
Stockholm is based upon a collection of different islands, each with its own offering and things to do. It is easy enough to get around from place to place yet each location is quite different from the last. Here are a few suggestions of things to do based on location:
Södermalm: This is where the Fotografiska (a photography museum) is. If stunning photos with very interesting photographers with stories to tell are your thing then this is a great visit. I absolutely loved it. The museum is very modern and also not too big – great if you don’t have too long an attention span! This is also home to some gorgeous cafes and restaurants.
Gamla Stan: This is the old town and it is very beautiful. There are lots of cobbled streets to wander dotted with shops and cafes. You will also find the main town square here with the iconic coloured buildings. There are also lots of cathedrals and churches here too if you like this kind of thing.
Normalm: This is where you will find the main shopping streets and it feels like the modern city centre. The Central Station is here along with lots of big department stores. There are some very impressive buildings with gorgeous architecture lining the streets. If you are after cute little cafes though, you are unlikely to find them here. We wondered round for ages trying to find some and failed miserably! These are all mainly located in Gamla Stan and Södermalm. However if you visit mid April, the cherry blossom will be out in the main square in Östermalm and it was so pretty!
Östermalm: This is where the rich and wealthy live in Stockholm and there are some very lavish buildings to show for it! It is stunning to see Östermalm from the Eastern side of Galma Stan with its epic and very ornate buildings.
Djugarden: Many people are very excited to visit the ABBA museum when they come to Stockholm and this is on Djugarden. We didn’t actually visit this but it is a must on most people’s lists when they visit. This island is also home to the Vasa Museum. Again we didn’t visit this as we had brief overview on our boat trip. Had we have had another day though I think we would have visited. I have heard a lot of good things! Djugarden also had large parks and green spaces with lots of space for wandering and cycling. I think this place would be beautiful during the Summer.
Excursions: The Stockholm Archipelago is a cluster of 3000 small islands and there are lots of boat trips that do excursions around here. We were very disappointed not to have time to do this so definitely plan time for this if you can! If you can’t do this, a boat trip around the islands is a must. It is a great way to get a feel for the city and Stockholm sky lines look beautiful from the water.
Further afield: If you have a little more time in Stockholm then there are a few things to recommend a little further afield. Due to circumstances we started our trip in Sigtuna, a little town a 30 minute train journey north of the centre. We stayed 4 miles away from the town in a gorgeous little country Air BnB. It was as though it had come straight from Pinterest and was very pretty. This was a lovely place to wander and to go for runs. I would recommend a hire car though if you want to visit Sigtuna.
Where to eat in Stockholm
In Södermalm there are some lovely Breakfast spots. The Greasy Spoon (ignore the name!) is a gorgeous brunch spot serving nice big breakfasts such as a full english, eggs benedict, pancakes, french toast and much more. The Greasy Spoon does get very busy so you will need to arrive around 30 mins early to reserve a table and then you can come back later.
Cafe Pom and Flora is a very Scandinavian cafe with lots of healthy, instagramable breakfast options. It would seem a lot of the locals come here regularly too. The menu here is only in Swedish so it might be useful to bring a translator, or just guess!
We soon learnt the phrase Fika in Stockholm which essentially means meeting friends for a coffee and a chat. Why don’t we have a word for this in English?! We did a lot of Fika in Stockholm and there are some very cute spots to discover in Gamla Stan for this activity.
One place was called Cafe Knox. This is an underground cavern with lots of mismatched sofas and old books scattered around. We stumbled across this completely by accident and were amazed at the size of this underground cave which was the perfect coffee spot.
We stumbled across another great place in Gamla Stan that I cannot remember its name for the life of me! Very annoying. But this place is where I tried a kanelbullar. This is a Swedish speciality and it is essentially a cinnamon bun. Please make sure you try one of these as they are beautiful!
Meatballs for the People is a must for anyone visiting Stockholm in my opinion! It is located in Södermalm and essentially serves the most delicious meatball dishes. You select which meat you would like and then there are about 5 different dishes to choose from. I highly recommend that you book a table here too!
Located on Djugarden is Oaxen which houses two restaurants, Oaxen Krog and Oaxen Slip. The former is a very fine dinning experience with a tasting menu and you will pay a lot of money for this. On the other hand, Oaxen Slip is a Nordic restaurant bistro offering breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner and although still fairly expensive is much more realistic. This is where we dined and it was beautiful. The nautical restaurant has painted boats hanging from the ceiling and its location on the edge of the water with full length windows gives great views. The food and wine was delicious and I would urge everyone to visit!
If you want to push the boat out (no pun intended) then I must tell you about our visit to Gastrologik. This however isn’t somewhere you would go on a whim. This Michelin starred restaurant is extremely pricey and you need to book a table around 2-3 months in advance. This was an incredibly generous birthday present and was one of the best experiences of my life! You are served a menu of 20 courses created each and everyday depending what produce is fresh and available. Importance lies on where the food is found, foraged and then stored just as much as how it is cooked and presented. Our menu took a lot of inspiration from Spring with beautifully delicate flavours, colours and ingredients. it was a truly sublime foodie experience.
On another note…
Our visit to Stockholm coincided with the tragic terror attack that happened on Friday 7th April. It was very very alarming to land to this news. It was truly awful and frankly quite frightening. We ended up rearranging the first night of our stay as the city was in lockdown, hence visiting Sigtuna. However, we witnessed the absolute core of human love and strength during our trip and local people were so quick to help both us and others out in anyway they could. It was inspiring to see how quickly the city came together to show their strength in the face of terrorism. It is very sad that such things keep happening in the world and my thoughts go out to everyone involved and affected.
I really hope though that this would never put anyone off visiting this beautiful country and I am sure I will be back one day.