Stockholm in August…

‘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 :-)

Granada in March...

Why Granada? Well, I wanted to tick off a sight that’s been sat on my ‘must visit places’ – The Alhambra. I admit that was my sole reason for choosing Granada, but this quirky city surprised me. It’s a unique mix of cultures with a hippy vibe. The food is great, the architecture stunning, and it’s got a great energy going on – I even got flashed at walking down a street – and yep, I’ve popped that in the memory box bank as a moment I’ll never forget about the city!


So, did the Alhambra live up to expectations? Yes, it did. I did a little research, and pre-booked my tickets. I wanted to see this gem as empty as I possibly could, given its popularity, so I booked early morning tickets. Unless you’re happy with getting up an ungodly hour to join the queues without being guaranteed entry, book ahead. If you do miss out, you can still experience parts like the Generalife Gardens, Palace of Carlos V, Central plaza, but the exterior is no match for what you’ll see inside the Palace and it's courtyard. Every corner will leave you in awe. There are few places left in Europe quite like The Alhambra, it really is architecturally beautiful, and it sure is worth having and ticking off your bucket-list.

After being dazzled by the Palace, I wandered through the Generalife gardens – no longer as peaceful as when I first arrived. I felt carefree as I slowly made my way through the gardens; sun on my face and a winter breeze. It has a tranquil feel with perfectly symmetrical pools, calm trickles of water , maze-like hedges and wild flowers and they give a feeling of walking through a secret garden.


My favourite area of the city to wander taking photos and people watching are the narrow streets of Albaicin. These quirky streets really make you feel like you’ve stepped into a completely different city. It’s a safe little area, perfect to get lost in. I found the afternoon light here gorgeous for taking photos. I remember stopping every now to look down an unassuming alleyway. The views were always impressive view; be it a view of the Alhambra, the distant mountains or the pretty tiled rooftops of the city.

I recommend that you enter Albaicin via Calle Caldereria Nueva – just off Calle Elvira. Head uphill and make your way through the lantern shops, Arabic tea rooms, little souk and restaurants. The whole city is heavily influenced by its Moorish roots; you’ll smell tagines, cous cous, hookahs and incense pretty much everywhere, which is what I loved. You were in Spain, but at times, it felt like you’d stepped into Morocco.


You can’t come to Granada without checking out a viewpoint of the city, I’d be disappointed if you did. Head to Mirador de san Nicolas from where you can view the Alhambra at any time of the day. Once I’d checked out this spot mid-morning, I knew I had to return here for sunset. Together with quite a few other visitors, a spirited busker – who set the tone for the evening – and a selfie-stick wielding throng of visitors, we all watched the sun slip behind the Sierra Nevada mountains. I recommend you get here early to claim a good spot on the wall – it’s the best seat!

One of the best things I enjoy about exploring a new place is randomly stumbling into a celebration or a local fiesta – I seem to do it quite a bit and unknowingly too which makes it even more special. Watching locals gather to walk through the cobbled streets of the city chanting prayers and lighting candles to celebrate the festival of Jesu Cristo really was a beautiful moment.

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I love to wander a lot when I’m away, take my time and not overly schedule things. I enjoy the feeling of excitement when I’ve stumbled upon hidden streets and little pockets of light. There’s also that feeling of not getting over hyped up and then being disappointed if a place or building doesn’t live up to expectation. 

Winter sunshine is my favourite, and the clouds parted quite a bit for me during my days in Granada and I was treated to plenty of warm golden light before it scampered behind the clouds. Making my way to the Carrera del Darro each day had to be a highlight. As I tiptoed along the cobblestones passing the two bridges and century old houses, I felt completely charmed. It’s like wandering around a piece of history. And, even though it’s a popular street, it hasn’t lost any of its romantic appeal.


Now I love people watching, and Plaza Bib Ramla is a perfect rest spot for it. It has a somewhat Parisian style feel to it, and it’s the perfect opportunity for an ice-cream – yes, even in March. I met a lovely local guy here. I have no idea what his name was. I speak hardly any Spanish, and even though he knew this, he carried on speaking animatedly with me for a good ten minutes. Funnily enough on my last day – when I thought I was being inconspicuous taking some photos – he popped up right in front of me. He gave me a huge smile and a ‘hola’ and then continued on his way. I’m glad I got this photo of him (below) as a reminder.

Before visiting Granada, I was curiously intrigued to read about the “free food” – yes, you read right. With every drink you buy, you’ll get a free tapa on the side. It might be something like a toasted sandwich to a poached quails egg – whatever it is, it’s a little surprise and rather tasty. 


As you’d expect in a city, there are many cafés and bars, but if you love coffee – cocktails – or milkshakes, and you have to choose one place, please make a visit to Bohemia Jazz Café. You may think this place looks shut from the outside. You may even walk past, but trust me head inside is like stepping back in time to another era. There are old books, gramophones, a typewriter, black and white photos everywhere and movie posters – it’s a trip down nostalgia lane. I have a feeling, if you make a visit here on your first night, it’s pretty likely that you’ll fall in love with the interior and atmosphere of the place so much that you’ll return for another visit during your stay!

Here's a secret to Granada - well, it's not so much a secret, more a tip! If you go for a walk about early morning, there will be nobody around. 8am in Spain is like 6am in the rest of Europe. It's beautifully quiet from tourists and locals, and you'll have the city streets to yourself. 

Barcelona in December

Last year, at the end of December I took myself off and spent a few days exploring Barcelona. I’ve been to Barcelona before a couple of years ago, but one of the things about this city is that it’s got a great mix of culture, friendly people, art and so much interesting architecture that one trip wouldn’t be enough. It even has easy access to a beach any time you like.

A highlight for me whenever I go away is simply wandering the streets and getting lost. For me it’s how I get to best soak up the atmosphere. I love people watching in any city and seeing as much of the city as I can. I never put any pressure on myself to cram in everything a city has to offer – if I don’t get around to seeing something, I like to think it’s a reason to go back :-)

Wandering and getting lost in the Gothic quarter of the city was a perfect day for me. The hidden streets and interesting architecture are perfect for getting your camera out. You can’t help but to think back to centuries past of the people who walked the same streets. The cobbled lanes and hidden alleyways hold many secrets. The area of El Born and Es Ravel were also quite simply enchanting.

I love experiencing the less touristy aspects of a city, especially if I get to see locals going about their daily life. But, you could not visit Barcelona and not visit some of Gaudi’s sights. Antonio Gaudi is responsible for dreaming up some of the most famous sights in Barcelona. I chose to visit the Sagrada Familia…..It’s incredible from the outside, but to really admire it property, you need to go in. The interior is really stunning with its stained glass windows and light fixtures.

What you can’t fail to notice in Barcelona is that there are so many quirky shops and cool bars – literally, so many bars that you’d need a good month, if not more to get around them all. Dotted all around the Gracia neighbourhood, Barrio Gothic, Ravel and El Born, you’ll find a bar to suit all age and taste and many in between. Gracia is probably one of the trendiest neighbourhoods, and it’s got a great street life vibe. I spend most evenings walking around the different districts, but I’d always end up in Gracia and Plaza del Sol where I’d sit and enjoy an ice cream.

A must visit to the La Boqueira market

A must visit to the La Boqueira market

Las Ramblas Barcelona, has got to be one of the world’s most famous streets!  In London they say “when a man’s tired of London, he’s tired of living” and I reckon the same could be said about this elaborate and lively boulevard which runs through the heart of Barcelona. It’s usually the first port-of-call for Barcelona tourists and when you see the sheer amount of activity crammed in, you can see why.  Many of Barcelona’s famous landmarks are situated just off Las Rambla, so it’s a great landmark to head to if you find yourself getting lost, and it really is a perfect place to sit and absorb the atmosphere.

One of my favourite places to wander around during both the day and evening was La Boqueira market. The noise, smells, life and colours made this such an interesting market. It’s one of Europe’s largest and most famous food markets, and you can literally spend hours just walking around feasting the senses and watching both locals and tourists as they buy fresh fish and sampling the myriad of dried fruit and tasty morsels that the stall holders hand out. The floors are slippery with melted ice and fruit skins, and the stall holders loud, but this all adds to the experience. You can find all food of all variety, and you can try everything from Catalan sausages, to Jamon, fresh fruit juices, tasty plates of tapas, chocolate and fruits.

My favourite spot to stop and people watch was the famous bar of El Pinotxo. Everyday I came to watch people as they queued up to utter the words “café con leche, por favour” whilst the affable and always smiling friendly owner Juanito – one of the cities best loved figures - decked out in his pressed stripped vest, waistcoat and dapper bow tie gave the thumbs up and moments later coffee was served. Everyone seemed to know Juanito and his cheeky smile. You really do need to get here early morning if you’re thinking of taking a seat to sit and eat. Always busy with locals grabbing their takeaway café con leche and tourists wanting to sit and linger, the food served here no matter the time of day looked and smelled delicious and fresh, and the pastries and coffee were a real morning treat and highly recommended!

The always smiling Juanito at El Pinotxo bar

The always smiling Juanito at El Pinotxo bar

The beach! Despite it being December and a few days before Christmas, the weather, albeit a torrential downpour on my first day – seriously it rained hard! – was pleasantly agreeable and Barceloneta Beach is a great spot to people watch and walk along the promenade – sunset from here had an almost California vibe to it.

Day trip to Sitges…If you fancy stepping outside of the city for the day, the other great thing about Barcelona is its easy to visit to other interesting day trip options. Whilst I was in Barcelona, I found out a friends’ parents were staying in Sitges, so that sealed the deal on me making the short and easy trip on the train to spend the day with them and I loved it. It’s close enough (a 30 minute train ride), but far enough to feel like you’re visiting a different part of Spain. The first stop was the beach – which is beautiful and long - and standing on the beach in the warm winter sunshine was perfect. We sat in the sun, explored parts of the old town, had a lovely lunch, and then headed to an ice cream parlour on the promenade. All-in-all a pretty perfect day, and I would so go back!

But really, unless you’re here for an extended stay in the city (and lucky you, if you are) it’s impossible to see everything in Barcelona. I didn’t make it to Parc Guell, so my next trip to Barcelona will for sure this famous landmark, and take the trip to Monserrat too!

The beach!

The beach!