Stockholm Travel Guide

Stockholm Travel Guide

Jessica Benavides Canepa

Though breathtakingly beautiful, Stockholm’s selfie-friendly landscape offers much more than meets the eye. A compact city of 14 islands connected by 57 bridges, this Scandia classic pulses with a charming contrasting energy that simultaneously pays homage to its storied history and celebrates its über-contemporary present; the boho-chic Södermalm district, aesthetically fetching fashions and minimalist modern art museums exist in perfect harmony with centuries-old landmarks like the Gamla Stan (Old Town) and the Royal summer residence, Drottningholm Palace.

Wondering what to do in Stockholm? Cutting-edge to a fault, in this city innovation is always on the menu. Shop then drop in for inventive cuisine in swanky Östermalm, walk along the banks of Lake Mälaren, break for coffee in Rorstrandsgatan where people watching is the equivalent of flipping through a glossy magazine, or switch gears and go natural, the picture-perfect archipelago and pristine forests await.

The best hotels in Stockholm

Originally built on pristine, tree-covered land to house King Karl XII’s royal marines, the 300-year-old Hotel Skeppsholmen went through many incarnations before becoming the modern eco charmer it is today. The renovated suites are spacious with a clean, refined aesthetic and excellent views across the harbour to the old town. The public areas are equally minimalist with tall windows and well-crafted furnishings against a backdrop of muted colours. The vibe is one of optimum comfort and tranquillity; a utopian urban oasis just moments from the city centre.

Once upon a time a school for girls, the boutique hotel Miss Clara by Nobis has retained its coquettish, Art Nouveau disposition. Rooms are tastefully stark, with patterned wood floors, rust-coloured walls, arched windows and just the right amount of modern design flair to keep things interesting. The lobby and dining areas are dominated by dark woods, framed sepia prints and bold, moody light fixtures that retain an opulent feel without a hint of pretention.

For the serious foodie with a discerning taste for all things lavish, the aptly named Grand Hôtel Stockholm was created with you in mind. The first Stockholm hotel to cater to Europe’s well-heeled bon vivants, the exquisite suites are adorned with an old world, continental style of plush, classic furnishings and the indulgent creature comforts expected of a 5-star property, including 24-hour room service, silk robes and His & His deluxe toiletries. Of the four dining spaces, the Michelin-starred Mathias Dahlgren restaurant, arguably the most prestigious table in town, is disarmingly casual in feel but decidedly upscale in style.

Miss Clara by Nobis

Miss Clara by Nobis

Where to eat in Stockholm

The essence of Swedish cuisine is as pure as Stockholm’s, minimalist sense of style. It centres on regionally grown seasonal products: dairy, fish and meats specific to the part of the country from which they hail. Time-honoured tradition plays a big part in how dishes are prepared, though the capital offers a bit more adventure by incorporating other global influences, most notably from Asia and the culinary grande dame herself, France.

Tiny and unassuming, Pubologi elevates typical pub-style dining with carefully crafted menus available in three basic variants in style-forward surroundings. Diminutive in size but not in look and flavour, Frantzén serves an artful 13-course Scandinavian menu in a setting so intimate that patrons can practically whisper their preferences directly into the chef’s ear. For the ultimate bio feast in a quietly elegant setting, splurge on Gastrologik, a restaurant that only serves high-end dishes sourced from fresh, local ingredients, including homemade breads and butter. The unpretentious duo of chefs is on hand to discuss options and at the end presents guests with an attractive keepsake booklet detailing product origins.

To wet your whistle, return to simpler days at the 1960’s throwback Erlands, featuring killer cocktails served in retro glasses (the bow-tied barmen are a delight) in a jazz-infused, teak-furnished mini den. For those who like a more classic setting, the newly minted Tweed combines heady spirits and cigars with tartan walls, leather couches and wood finishes in a snazzy gentleman’s club setting. And for your trip back to the future, stop by the Guldbaren for creative cocktails in dazzling, golden surroundings fit for a king.

For over 125 years, Östermalms Saluhall, a vintage food court located in the most exclusive part of town, has been providing high-quality seafood, game meat, produce, and hard-to-find gourmet items in intricately carved antique stalls. Visitors can elect to purchase items to take home or eat in situ thanks to a choice of eateries en suiteTeatern upgrades this tradition for the 21st century with a modern food court featuring take-away nibbles from Sweden’s most influential young chefs. Wine lovers have not been forgotten; The Burgundy offers a mini food court sampling of the wine, cocktails, craft beers and foodie flavours served at partnering gastro restaurants.

Coffee is a major part of Sweden’s social scene. To illustrate, a fika is a common practice where Swedish people get together for coffee and cakes, for just about any occasion including dates, family get-togethers and friendly chats. Johan & Nyström was founded in 2004 by a group of coffee connoisseurs passionate about sustainability. The result of their efforts produced several locations including a roasting factory, an industrial-chic concept store/bar and a homey coffee roaster showroom where visitors are invited to take a load off and sample their wares. If a kitsch vibe is more your speed, drag your lazy lounging heart to Gilda’s Rum, a cosy espresso bar serving fine roasts and baked goodies in a whimsical setting resembling your eccentric great aunt’s parlour room; red and gold striped walls, wallpapered bookcases, oversized sofas and hazy framed photos of forgotten faces. Another spot worth a mention is the award-winning Drop Coffee featuring uniquely flavoured organic slow-roasted green coffee beans from around the world.

Guldbaren

Guldbaren

Things to do in Stockholm

Stockholm’s unique island landscape is only enhanced by the wide range of landmark attractions on offer. For picture-perfect historical sights, visit the usual suspects including the scenic old town, the awe-inspiring Vasa Museum and a collection of archipelago wonders nearby.

But if it’s unique roads you seek, travel to Skansen, Stockholm’s first open-air museum housing a collection of, well, houses and a plethora of flora and fauna, reconstructing Sweden’s pre-industrial, bucolic way of life. The offbeat Spirit Museum bases its unique exhibits on Sweden’s bizarre love/hate relationship with alcohol (distribution is solely controlled by the government). Visitors are lead through different rooms to sample different taste sensations, view memorabilia and even simulate a hangover. Even if you aren’t a fan of the 70’s pop icons, The ABBA Museum is a fun, interactive fantasy; visitors can opt to “audition” with the ultimate goal of performing with the band on a simulated stage.

Shopping in Stockholm

Stockholm style has always possessed an effortless quality; classic lines with a tailored fit and a sprinkle of colour. But with the trendsetting Södermalm district forever blazing trails, fashions are becoming more daring whilst retaining a certain love for quality textiles and fine stitching.

For a convenient collection of both classic and current brands including Etro, Paul Smith and Oscar Jacobson, shop one of three fetching Jupiter boutiques in the city. The secret behind a well-dressed man is his ability to accessorize, or so it seems at Nitty Gritty, and JUS, two edgy shops featuring accessories, and a line of trendy separates, which make these crucial components seem effortless and essential. If you’re looking for a little pizazz, the avant-garde Acne Studios features clothing in an upscale style category with a price point to match.

When limited on time but not willing to skimp on style, shop at one-stop stores featuring clothes, accessories as well as home décor. Notables to include are the trend-happy concept shop Grandpa and the retro-cool Herr Judit/Brandstationen, housed in two separate stores across the street from each other on Hornsgatan. And to pull it all together, book an appointment at Roy & Son, a tasteful, authentic 50’s style barbershop with a social twist; patrons can enjoy drinks or even book a table to eat before or after a slick, straight razor shave.

Grand Hôtel Stockholm

Grand Hôtel Stockholm

Paint the town

In recent years, Stockholm has become intent on shedding its reserved Nordic image as evidenced by the new generation of inventive after-work drinks venues and boho-chic bars in the trendier parts of town. Still, due in part to the high cost of alcohol, at the weekend, Stockholmare (locals) generally begin their social drinking at home before deciding on a club for the night. Fortunately for those who prefer conversation and a lively scene over strutting their stuff on the dance floor while ear-deafening music is blasting, there are lounge-friendly alternatives.

The Orangeriet Bar has everything a posh dandy might enjoy; comfy, velvet-draped, candle-lit seating, inviting English garden exteriors and creative cocktails with a punch. Hotellet offers a sophisticated one-stop solution in a tony, modern setting. Patrons can dine, lounge, party or groove to live jazz in an assortment of social spaces including one of the city’s longest bars. Hip cats will prefer the annex bar of Kåken, where craft beer, wine or master mixology can be sampled in a laid-back, classy setting reminiscent of a 1940’s American-style saloon. And for an unexpected pleasure, venture to the 26th floor of the unassuming Skrapan building, one of the tallest in town, and visit Himlen for classic cocktails and the most magnificent views over the city.

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