Admired for its candyfloss-pink and clotted-cream coloured palaces and attractive residents, Sweden’s capital is all too easy to fall in love with. Often dubbed Scandinavia’s capital, this island city has plenty to offer for aesthetes, coffee connoisseurs and nature lovers alike.
Here are six ways to make the most of this historic yet dynamic city.
Söderalm is the Soho of Stockholm and one of the city’s most vibrant neighbourhoods. Historically a working-class neighbourhood, gentrification has turned Söderalm into a hipster’s haven. Whether you think this a good thing or not, it does mean that it offers great coffee and concept stores aplenty. A street called Södermanngatan is the perfect place to start. Why not buy a book from The English Bookshop on its corner and then wander across the road to il caffè to read it with a syrupy black coffee and the scent of fresh flowers from the adjoining florist?
Talking of coffee … a trip to Sweden wouldn’t be complete without taking part in the nation’s favourite ritual. A Swede’s favourite thing to hear is “Skal vi fika?” (Shall we fika?). And how could you not? After all, you are at the birthplace of the cinnamon bun in all its doughy, cardamom spiced perfection.
In a country known for modesty and restraint – think of Sweden’s exemplary work-life balance and its muted, pared-back fashion – this social ritual is a sugary exception. It is not about getting a caffeine fix but about slowing down to enjoy the moment. Fika is more than coffee and cake: it is a celebration of the quotidian.
Stockholm is renowned for its long, cold winters but not so much for its effervescent summers. However, it should be! When summer finally arrives, Stockholm’s residents know how to make the most of it and Stockholm is a fantastic summer city.
Due to its archipelago-nature, activities you would normally consider to be for the countryside are possible in this city. Stockholm is dotted with outdoor baths like this one called Fredhällsbadet. They are perfect places to sunbathe to the sound of lapping water, or leap into the clear waters from the rocks.
Pelikan restaurant serves up traditional Swedish dishes like reindeer meat, fish cooked in every possible way, and meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam, in an old-timey and slightly rambunctious setting.
I discovered this restaurant in a book – Karl Ove Knausgård’s A Man in Love. Part of his epic six-part autobiography My Struggle, the book takes places in Stockholm as Karl Ove falls in love with his second wife, starts to find literary success, and has his first child.
Knausgård lets us peek into his everyday life in Stockholm as he goes for runs around the edge of Söderalm island, sits in a park with one eye on a book and another on the buggy, attends the dinner parties of artists and writers … and goes to Pelikan!
Countless scenes in the book are set in this restaurant where Karl Ove and his best friend Geir are regulars. They come to this place to eat meatballs, talk about life and discuss ideas well into the night. With its lively, bohemian atmosphere you can understand why this was their favourite haunt.
On top of the hill that is the island of Söderalm, with a view over the city, Ivas Los Park is a stunning place to soak up the long-awaited summer sun. In the archipelago’s summer, it never completely gets dark; this is the perfect setting to sip a cider and talk into the pale blue night.
With its russet colour-palette and its lantern lit, cobbled streets, Gamla Stan has a different quality altogether from the more modern neighbourhoods of the city like Söderalm and Vasastan.
This is the historic heart of the city, containing its ancient city walls that used to mark the edge of the city. It’s the perfect place for a tipsy ramble. Peek into shop windows, discover hidden squares and get lost in its higgledy piggledy streets.
– Rebecca Appleton