It took me far too long to properly visit Sweden (European country #18!), my neighbor to the east. Technically, I’ve been to Sweden twice – once back in 2012 and then again in February – but I felt like those quick trips over the border didn’t really count. Skiing a few miles over the border in Sweden isn’t all that different than skiing in Norway…
from “Brown Cheese, Please” by Jenny K. Blake
After failing to visit 2 other friends when they were living in Sweden, I was determined to make it to Stockholm to visit my old roommate, Jen, who is doing a post-doc there. Spring weather in Scandinavia is always iffy, but I was lucky to find myself there on a wonderfully sunny weekend in early April.
I’ve heard great things about Stockholm, and it didn’t disappoint. It was such a contrast from Trondheim – although I think it was more because of the size and less because it was Sweden (I’m anxious to get back to Oslo to compare). There was a proper transit system, so many food options, tons of (diverse) people out on the streets, and so much water.
One weekend was not enough to fully explore the city, but if you find yourself there for a few days, you should…
Walk around Gamle Stan
Gamle Stan is where it all started – it’s the old part of Stockholm with narrow streets and buildings older than anything you’d find in the US. It is easy to wander and get lost (but not too lost because it is an island!). The neighborhood is home to many tourist shops but also has restaurants and bars which are actually patronized by locals.
Click for bigger pictures
Go for fika
Swedes are serious about their afternoon coffee break, known as fika. Jen has fully embraced the tradition, and I’m not one to turn down an afternoon pastry. And no need to feel (quite as) guilty for indulging multiple times in one weekend as European treats are just as tasty but have much less sugar than their American counterparts. The kanelboller (cinnamon buns) and semla (a lenten specialty with marzipan in a bolle, topped with whipped crème) were both delish! Vetekatten was a winner, but seriously – you don’t have to walk far to find a café which tempts you with treats in the window.
Visit the Vasa
Holy ship! Everyone I talked to said – visit the Vasa! And now, if you told me you were going to Stockholm, I’d say visit the Vasa! The Vasa is a huge warship, built in the early 1600’s, that was a bit too top heavy and sank in the Stockholm harbor on her maiden voyage . Over 300 years later the ship was located and raised, close to intact, and now is one of the most visited attractions in Stockholm. I don’t know what is more impressive, the intricate details on the ship, or that close to 98% of the ship is original (thanks to the polluted harbor, which helped preserve the wood).
Check out Ostermalms Saluhall (the food market)
Confession: Shopping in a food market in another country is a little intimidating to me. I don’t know the language, I don’t know the protocol, I don’t know metric units, and most of the time I’m not soon headed back to a kitchen. I guess it is the introvert in me coming out. (Maybe I’ll challenge myself to conquer this fear on my upcoming trip to Hungary and shop for a picnic lunch??) Regardless, it was fun to wander through the market and it is a great place for people watching. In addition to Ostermalm Saluhall, there is also Hotorgshallen, which is a little less posh and touristy. And supposedly has a to-die for fish soup.
Take a tour
You know my love of walking tours. In one day I did 2 with Free Tour Stockholm. The City Tour was great, prompting me to suggest doing the Gamle Stan tour later that day. That one, unfortunately, was not so great (annoying tour guide). But, I still suggest giving it a try. If you are unlucky with tour guides you can always bust out early like we did.
Great City Tour, stopping in front of the bank which coined (ha) the term Stockholm Syndrome
And as always, wander
Like me, Jen is content to wander around the city. And that we did. From Sodermlam to Ostermalm, and everywhere in between. Stockholm is very walkable, and with a great transit system, you can always hop on the t-bana to quickly get back home.
photo by Jen
Stockholm bills itself as the capital of Scandinavia, and while many Norwegians (and Danes) might disagree, I think it is a great big city weekend destination! Much thanks to Jen and her boyfriend for hosting me!