‘Hei’ Sweden, and ‘Hei’ Stockholm. I fell in love with the adorable way the Swedes all go around saying ‘hei hei’ all the time - I think I annoyed my work colleagues by adopting this cute way of greeting each other on my return :-D.
So, this was my first taste of Sweden, and oh how I loved it. I guess Stockholm was always one of those places I knew I’d eventually get around to visiting, but now I’ve seen it first hand, it’s made me want to explore so much more of Scandinavia.
You hear ‘Stockholm’ and you might think ‘cold’ and ‘expensive’, and ok you’re not entirely wrong. The city can be chilly even in September and yup, it’s known to get even colder come Winter (it’s Sweden after all), and yes, it’s not the cheapest city in the world. And, while Sweden’s currency, the Krona does tend to make things expensive, many of your day-to-day purchases are not that much more expensive than other European cities. I compared my spending to that in London, and I didn’t think it was a terrible difference. As long as you know this about the city, you can budget accordingly, and hey, you don’t have to eat out every day. Where the city does get expensive though is the shopping. Because, trust me, you’re going to find it hard not to want to buy everything! I learnt on my early days of travelling on holiday that I’d buy things on holiday that when I got home I’d rarely or never wear or look at again, so it’s rare – unless I find something that’s unique and I love – that I go shopping. But, Stockholm...clothes, accessories, beautiful notebooks, pretty much everything made me want to shop! Let’s say I was tempted and very close to purchasing a raincoat! I stopped short when the sun came out and I thought about having to wear two coats back to London!
When you look at some of the shops founded by the Swedish I guess it’s no surprise that the Swedes are at the forefront of fashion and modern design. Some of the best retail brands are born out of Sweden, and it’s not just fashion the city embraces, there’s its food and even its music.
I’d heard how trendy Stockholm was and not until I arrived did I see this for myself. It’s not just trendy, it’s just ‘so cool’. Everything and everyone. From the minute, I stepped onto the cool clean Arlanda Express train, I thought ‘oh boy, this is soooo nice’. In fact, it’s one of the coolest cities I’ve been to thus far. The Arlanda Express was super quick too – just 20 minutes and I was in the city. I decided to walk to my Airbnb which was about 40 minutes away, and what I felt in those first 40 minutes was how clean the air felt. I felt this sense of freedom, of something comforting and I felt happy. I’ve been to some cities before and my first impression has been ‘hummm, this city feels a little sad’, but that’s not so with Stockholm. It’s got a friendly, happy vibe, and OMG my Airbnb was just the cutest cosiest place I’ve ever stayed in.
Before I start to tell you about my favourite places, I also need to add a little something about the people. Other than harping on about how cool and beautiful I think the city is, it’s not just the sights, streets and architecture, the people of Stockholm have got to be THE most attractive looking bunch too. You’d seriously be hard-pressed to find an area lacking in someone who didn’t catch your eye and make you do a double-take. In other words, there is plenty of eye-candy ;-)
So, what did I do in the city?
I walked a lot (that’s pretty normal for me, right?!)
I started off exploring Gramla Stan, the ‘old city’, and the most touristic. It gets busy during the day, so I liked early morning best. It’s also picturesque if Medieval cobblestones and architecture are your thing. You’ve a fair few sightseeing spots to tick off your list here too including the Royal Palace and Nobel Museum.
And, yes, I was taken in by the hipster vibes on Söldermalm Island, otherwise known as SOFO. An aimless wander here will lead you to discover plenty of fashion boutiques, vintage stores, barbershops, great restaurants. Guaranteed, you’ll find it difficult not to pop into a café that also sells clothes. You’ll find vintage clothing stores with in-house barbers, and even hotels that sell furniture. I love my tea stops and the beauty of Stockholm is that there’s a tea and coffee shop on pretty much every street. Speaking of which, there’s a word you’ll need to familiarise yourself with. ‘Fika’, is the word for the Swedish tradition of drinking coffee, tea or juice with something sweet. Swedes take their ‘Fika’ very seriously, and take it multiple times a day. Sometimes it’s taken quickly, but most times it’s taken more leisurely. I reckon, I could fit right in with this tradition.
The area around Nytorget Park has a great vibe for people-watching, and during the weekend evenings (and I’m guessing throughout the summer evenings too), it’s where all the young people hang out; drinking, socialising, watching live music.
I’d read about a few cool places eat online, and The Urban Deli was one. Clearly hipster, the restaurant has a sidewalk café and a trendy bar. Breakfast here was tasty too. Here, you’re offered up the chance to make your own sandwich ‘the way you want it’ accompanied by juice, yoghurt and granola, pastries or you can dig into the breakfast buffet). There’s a delicatessen too, so if you can’t face being surrounded by other peoples’ chit-chat, you can load up your bag with goodies and enjoy them back home…although, for the best brunch, my friend Allan (@Chaiwalla) recommended I try out his sister’s café @greasyspooncafe. And, OMG I wish I’d stopped by on my first morning, because it was super cute and super tasty! Thumbs up for the doorstop thick delicious toast with poached eggs, smoked salmon and mushrooms. It was the perfect start for a day of walking and exploring. They even serve up cheeky Bloody Mary’s and the melodies pouring out of the vintage jukebox are not bad too. Hands down, I absolutely recommend you try this place out. I didn’t think my breakfast was too pricey either. It was the same price I’d expect to pay in someone like ‘The Breakfast Club’ or ‘Bills’ in the UK.
I follow some crazy talented individuals on Instagram. I still have moments when I get giddy with excitement when I’ve followed someone for so long, I love their work and they follow me back! Anyway, whilst I was in Stockholm I was honoured that Calle (@locarl) said he would meet me and show me about. I absolutely love Calle’s work, and the two of us had a lovely time walking around the streets. I couldn’t tell you all the places we covered, but it was great to be shown around the city by a local. I even got to see some of Stockholm’s world-famous subway stations, which are incredible works of art. There are 100 subway stations and 90 of those have some sort of artwork in them, making Stockholm’s subway system one of the longest art exhibitions in the World. While some stations only have sculptures, or the odd mosaic, others are completely decked out in striking murals and paints. It’s quite incredible really, and I know of people who have visited the city just to see the subways.
Stockholm is a big city, but you’re given space to move around easily. It’s spread out over 14 islands in the archipelago, but it never really feels like you’re moving far between neighbourhoods. And, you’ve that typical Swedish culture of people being friendly and polite which adds to the allure of the city.
I surprised myself by how much I loved wandering around this city. It’s fairly big, but you’re given space to move around easily, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s spread out over 14 islands in the archipelago, but it never really feels like you’re moving far between neighbourhoods. And, you’ve that typical Swedish culture of people being friendly and polite which adds to the allure of the city. It’s a city you could easily spend more than just a week. Where New York is big and loud, Venice is romantic and mysterious, Morocco is a hurly-burly mix of chaos and senses, Stockholm is, well, it’s just cool and on trend.
My first taster of Sweden left me wanting to return to see so much more of this beautiful country and landscape. I would love to capture it in winter when the rooftops, streets and waters are all frosted over with ice and snow. Apart from feeling bitterly cold, I can only imagine it’s pretty magical :-)