Stockholm, a city I’ve rarely heard a bad word about. I mean, clearly do not go during the winter months, unless you are looking for perpetual darkness. And a head freeze. But from May – September (if not a little later) Stockholm is a must visit destination. I did think while there that it was rare for me to choose a destination which was not only colder, but also more expensive than the UK. But Stockholm is an exception.
Effortlessly sophisticated, peaceful and easy going, it is the ultimate weekend break destination. The locals, apart from being startling good looking and (mainly) blonde, are also exceptionally friendly and upbeat. You’re greeted by an enthusiastic ‘hi hi’ wherever you go, the sing-songy language is wonderful to listen to and, should Swedish not be your first language, English is widely spoken.
I’m not sure quite where my fascination of Scandinavia and their language comes from. Perhaps from getting along with my Scandi school mates. But maybe more so from my obsession with Scandi Noir (the Bridge – set in Malmo and Copenhagen – is still one of the best TV series I’ve watched). And apart from that, there is the Scandi infiltration into multiple aspects of London life; in the form of food, design and even the ‘hygge’ lifestyle influence (though I must point out, hygge is Danish, not Swedish).
So here are my tips of what do to if you have a weekend in Stockholm, and hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did:
WHERE TO STAY
Through my work we were lucky to stay at the brand new Hotel At Six, the sister property of the much-loved hotel Thief in Oslo. At Six is not for everyone, it’s huge (300 rooms), modern and quite dark (the corridors felt a little industrial). My father – my date for the weekend – wasn’t a huge fan, but I was, and therein lies the explanation: this is a property better for the young. I liked the style. The beds were like sleeping in cotton wool (my father will concur), impossible to get out of. Bathrooms were slick and power showers excellent. The breakfast buffet was expansive and varied, and I loved it all from the chipolatas to the pastries and homemade jams to the chia and coconut pudding. Location wise it’s hard to beat, with walking distance to the Old Town, Sodermalm and Ostermalm, and you’re right next to new hotspot Tak (more on that later). One thing I would say is that unless you book a room on a high floor the views are poor (a building site) and the direct area it’s in (the ‘city’) is not the most beautiful. But what must be emphasised is that the cost of the hotel is also very reasonable (especially for Stockholm), with rooms starting at around £180 a night.
Other good options is the Lydmar (right on the water in Ostermalm, next to the iconic but quite stuffy Grand Hotel), Hotel Story and Miss Clara for trendy, boutique options and Ett Hem for your most exclusive Relais & Chateaux option with a very personal, homely feel.
WHERE TO EAT
Food in Stockholm is excellent and there are countless good restaurants in the city. I gorged myself on whipped butter, rye bread and cinnamon buns, and had as much fish as possible. You can’t go wrong with having fish here, it’s all so fresh. Our favourite restaurant was Oaxen Slip, the more laid back sister restaurant to two Michelin star Oaxen Krug on the island of Djurgarden. Located on the water, the food is full of flavour and unpretentious, the staff beyond charming.
On our second night we ate at Portal, in the upmarket residential area of Vasastan (the Notting Hill of Stockholm). This had a completely different feel, very light and open, typically Scandi in style, a little stiffer. The food was beautifully presented and the scallops were some of the best I’ve had.
Other dinner places I was recommended are Woodstockholm, Café Nizza and Albin & Adam. Nytorget 6 is a very popular lunch place in Sodermalm, known for their tacos which were delicious and I really liked the vibe here. Cafe Pascal is a local favourite in the Vasastan area, and I also really wanted to go to Snickarbacken 7 Cafe but didn’t make it. Plenty of excuses to return.
WHERE TO DRINK
Stockholm does not really do roof terraces. Probably because most of the year the weather does not really allow for much outside drinking. However, the arrival of Tak changes this. This uber cool roof top terrace bar, with great views of the city and an upbeat vibe, offers drinks alfresco to thirsty locals. There will be queues to get up here on the weekends and the drinks are not cheap – naturally – but it’s great fun.
Other fun bars are the courtyard bar at Hotel Story, the bar at Riche (known for its attractive divorcees!) and Penny and Bill. Wine bars are also becoming more popular, and we much enjoyed the newly opened Tyge & Sessil.
The Swedes are seemingly also good at coffee. Their coffee is definitely on the strong side, and give you a good pick me up for sightseeing and/or more eating and drinking. We loved our coffee at the Urban Deli Nytorget (this is a chain, but it’s like a luxury version of Whole Foods, well worth going to), and coffee at Coffice, Drop and Johan and Nystrom come highly recommended. In fact Arlanda Airport has a Johan and Nystrom café, where I spent quite some time waiting for my father’s flight to arrive, and both the coffee as well as the hot chocolate were delicious.
WHAT TO DO
Stockholm is one of those cities where there is no need to have an itinerary as such. You can walk from place to place, and follow the water through Ostermalm.
Take the lift up to the viewing platform at Gondolen (which is a slightly odd 70ies construction) for the best views of the city, from there you’re practically in the fun area of Sodermalm. One of the highlights was visiting the world-famous Fotografiska (photographer museum), where we enjoyed a number of their exhibitions (in particularly Cooper & Gorfer’s ‘I know not these my hands’). There’s also a great restaurant here with lovely views of the water. A walk through Gamla Stan (the Old Town) is recommended, though I found it overly touristic and better to avoid the main ‘high street’ which has lost its authentic feel.
Another must is spending the morning in the beautiful Rosendal park on Djurgarden, which is wonderful. The café at Rosendals Tradgard is charming, a little like London’s Petersham Nurseries in feel, but perhaps with even better cakes. You can have lunch here on a bench in the apple orchard or in one of the gardens, ideal for a summer’s day.
But perhaps one of our favourite bits was just wandering through the hipster area of Sodermalm, sitting in one of the green squares and people-watching, pottering around one of the many vintage shops, and stopping for a coffee at one of the many cafes.
If you have time grab one of the ferries to one of the 30,000 (!) islands of Stockholm’s stunning archipelago. I will definitely be returning to do this.
With much gratitude to Hedda & Umberto for all your wonderful tips. Tack!