“ City: Stockholm / Country: Sweden / World Region: Europe „
While my sister and I were studying at university, my parents had the opportunity to move to Stockholm with dad's job. They were able to negotiate a package which included a wonderful apartment in the city centre and return flights for themselves and family so that we could still see each other regularly. I was lucky enough to visit Stockholm around eight times over the three years they were out there so while my knowledge of the city isn't comprehensive, I've had a lot of experience of being a tourist!
As most people will be aware, Stockholm is the capital city of Sweden. Something that isn't as well known is that the city is built on 14 islands of the Stockholm Archipelago and is sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North with over 30% of the city made up of water.
-- Getting there and getting around --
There are four airports in Stockholm, the main of which is Stockholm Arlanda, the destination of all major flights from the UK. Airlines which operate between the UK and Stockholm include British Airways, Fly BMI, Norwegian Air Finn Air and Sweden's national airline SAS, which I have always used in the past. The flight time from the UK is around 2 and a half hours which is comfortable.
When you arrive at the airport the easiest option to get into the city is by taking the Arlanda Express. The trains are very regular, every 10 to 15 minutes and are very similar to the Gatwick Express in London. It is the quickest route from the airport to the city centre (Central Station) taking only 20 minutes, but is also very expensive. The price is 260 SEK for a single ticket (roughly £25), but it is often better value to travel with another person (two for 260 SEK) or get a return ticket which can cost as little as 325 if bought in advance.
The best way to get around Stockholm is to walk! It is a small city centre and most of the city centre can be walked quite easily. However, if it's raining, if you need to be somewhere quickly or want to get outside the city centre you can always use the excellent Tunnelbanna, Stockholm's Metro network. Most of the lines run through T-Centralen right in the centre of the city.
--What to do in Stockholm --
Gamla Stan is the old town of Stockholm and normally the first point of call for visitors. It really has the old town feel with cobbled streets, alleyways and little squares which are now populated with expensive cafes. The largest and most prominent square is Stortorget which was the site of the Stockholm Bloodbath of 1520 when King Christian of Denmark entered the city and his troops killed over 80 Swedish noblemen. Gamla Stan really is Tourist Central and as you can imagine there are many cafes, restaurants (my favourite is Michelangelo!) and shops around which are nearly all aimed at this target group. In a typical souvenir shop you will find Swedish Dala horses, glass, Pippi Longstocking dolls, Viking helmets and troll soft toys and models, all for ridiculously high prices! Gamla Stan is a wonderful place to visit, especially on a lovely day when you can sit outside a café and listen to some live music on the street. It is quite typical of an old town but is so different from the rest of Stockholm that it really is somewhere you must go if you are planning to visit the city.
Gamla Stan's most famous site is The Royal Palace; the King's official residence and workplace. (He actually lives at beautiful Drottningholm Palace which is on the island of Lovon ouside the city). The palace was built between 1697 to 1754 and with over 600 rooms is actually the biggest palace in the world still used by a head of state. Although large and impressive, it isn't the most beautiful palace I've ever seen, in fact to me it always looked like any other big building and I never fancied taking a look around the inside, although my parents regularly took the guided tour with other visitors. Entrance, including the 45 minute guided tour (in either Swedish, English or German), is 100 SEK (£10ish) for adults and is open all year round with the exception of a few public holidays and with any events that King Gustav is hosting. The palace is guarded by soldiers who are always happy to have their photo taken!
Across the bridge as you enter Norrmalm, the complete opposite of quiet, scenic Gamla Stan, with streets packed full of shops, restaurants, bars, museums and hundreds of people! In fact, there were 7 H&M clothes shops within walking distance of each other last time I visited Stockholm but that's nothing compared to the number of expensive homeware shops! I won't start listing all of the restaurants and bars that I have visited, but the food and drink is generally expensive, but comparable with the rest of Scandinavia and central London. The main bar which is worth its own mention is the Absolut Ice Bar at the Nordic Sea Hotel which has become one of the most popular attractions in the city. The bar is made entirely of ice, from the bar, to the tables and chairs, from the menus to the glasses the drinks are served in. Entry is 140 SEK (£13) which includes a big shiny blue jacket with a furry hood and one vodka-based drink. Each additional drink costs a further 85 SEK. The bar is kept at -5 degrees and you can only stay in for around half an hour. In all honesty, I think the place is vastly overrated and is quite expensive to have to wait in turn for so long just to be thrown out after 30 minutes. It's really a novelty and something you would do once so it is worth it just to be able to say you've done it. A word of warning though, only 30 people are allowed in the bar at one time so there can be a long wait, especially if you turn up after 9.00 p.m. when you can't make a reservation. Also, take your I.D.! I went when I was 23 and didn't have anything with me so they wouldn't serve me a vodka even with my parents there to testify!
Norrmalm is also home to the department store NK (Nordiska Kompaniet), founded in 1915; arguably the most famous and certainly the most popular shop in Stockholm with over 12 million visitors annually. It is similar to London's Harrod's or New York's Macy's selling jewellery, designer clothing, shoes furniture and books, but for me the best part is the wonderful food hall! A book I read last week featured a murderer purchasing a watch from the store NK in Stockholm and it reminded me that my only purchase from the store was actually a watch that my parents bought me for Christmas back in 2006! Not the nicest thought but still, I was quite excited!
Stockholm is one of the cleanest European cities and was awarded the 2010 European Green Capital Award by the EU Commission. Djurgården is one of the greenest areas of Stockholm and the island is the home of the impressive embassy buildings, museums, historic houses, Skansen Zoo and the theme park, Gronalund. It's a wonderful place to go for a walk on a nice day and pop into a café for lunch or grab an ice cream. The beautiful lake in the centre of Djurgården is a popular place for joggers. The ferry boat trip around Djurgården is another fantastic way to see the island and the audio guide will point out the embassy buildings and the house belonging to Agnetha from ABBA!
One of the highlights of Stockholm for me is the Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet) which is located on Djurgården. The huge warship Vasa sank in 1628 on its maiden voyage and salvaged in 1961. Since then it has been restored to its former glory using 95% of the boat's original materials including its carved sculptures and has been housed in the custom made Vasa Museum for the past two decades. The museum contains various exhibitions relating to the ship including and 17th century Swedish history. There is also an excellent film which takes the viewer from the construction of the ship to the sinking and ultimately its conservation. The video lasts 25 minutes and is repeated every hour and is subtitled in various European languages. It is open from 10.00 a.m. until 5.00 p.m. daily with the exception of Wednesday when it stays open until 8.00 p.m. and the entry price is 110 SEK for adults which is close to £10 and free for children. It's interesting from the outside as it just looks like a big wooden shed with the top of a boat poking out! Nevertheless, it's a must-visit for all ages and of all the museums in Stockholm it's the one worth paying for!
Almost next door is the Nordic Museum (Nordiskamuseet), one of the most beautiful buildings in Stockholm. It displays items of Swedish cultural history through the years including clothes and household objects which have been significant in Sweden over the past 500 years. It really is a stunning building but unfortunately the museum itself is less impressive and I wouldn't recommend a visit unless you happen to be in the area (which is likely with so many things to do on Djurgården!) For me, the best of the lot is Skansen, an open air museum and zoo. Entry is 100 SEK (£10) for adults and 40 SEK (£4) for children which is quite pricey but worth it because you can make a whole day out of it as it is open daily from 10.00 a.m. until 8.00 p.m. The site is home to a replica 19th century Swedish town of over 150 buildings among which there is a traditional glassmakers where you can watch glass blowing. The zoo features many wild and native Nordic animals including bisons, seals, moose, wolves, reindeer, foxes, owls and my favourites, the brown bear which is often hibernating at Skansen. The zookeepers give talks and feed the animals at various times through the day which is included in the entrance fee. We actually spent Christmas Day at Skansen in 2007 as most places are still open (their Christmas is celebrated on our Christmas Eve). The lovely thing about visiting in December is that the Christmas markets are there giving a wonderful festive feel. Not the most traditional Danielle family Christmas and something we are not likely to do again, but it was a great experience and a lot of fun to be out looking at animals in the snow on Christmas Day!
Close to Skansen is the amusement park, Gronalund. It has rides including dodgems, a big tall contraption which pulls the carriage up high and then drops you, swings that fly out right into the sky and various other fun things that I can't begin to describe properly! The park also has cafes and restaurants as well as lots of fair type stalls where you can win cuddly toys and giant bars of Maribou chocolate! My friends and I spent about an hour and most of our holiday money trying to win one of these bars in a basketball throwing competition which we were useless at. In the end the nice man just gave us one which made our day! I've even attached the photo as proof which I had to scan because it was taken back before I had a digital camera! Gronalund is not quite Alton Towers but it's a great day out and something to tie in to a day at Djurgården.
A museum that I always wanted to visit but never got round to is Junibacken, dedicated to Swedish children's stories, especially the works of Astrid Lindgren, the creator of Pippi Longstocking. It contains the largest children's bookstore in Sweden, Storybook Square, where each house is dedicated to a different children's author and a children's railway which takes the visitors through the world of Astrid Lingren's books. The price for entry ranges from 125 to 145 SEK depending on the time of year, which roughly converts to £11-13.
-- The Stockholm Card --
You may have noticed that some of Stockholm's tourist attractions are particularly expensive. However, if you are spending even just one day in Stockholm it is worth investing in the 'Stockholm Card'. It is quite an expensive one off payment but could save a fortune if you are planning on visiting some of the main attractions in the city. The prices are listed below.
One day pass: 425 SEK (£40) for adults, 195 SEK (£18) for children (up to 17, only valid with adult)
Two day pass: 550 SEK (£51) for adults, 225 SEK (£21) for children (up to 17, only valid with adult)
Five day pass: 895 SEK (£83) for adults, 285 SEK (£26) for children (up to 17, only valid with adult)
The Stockholm Card provides free entry to lots of attractions including most of the ones I've listed above; The Vasa Museum, Nordic Museum, Royal Palace, Drottningholm Palace, Skansen and Gronalund as well as others including many other museums, gardens, castles and historic buildings which normally cost about £10 each. It also provides free transport on the Metro, buses, city bicycles, trains and trams throughout the city as well as the hop on-hop off sightseeing boat during the summer months which is an excellent way to see the city!
-- Other information about Stockholm --
It would be wrong to review Stockholm without talking about its climate. It has the most beautiful sunny days which are perfectly spent walking round Djurgarden or visiting some of the cities tourist attractions. However, the snowy winters are just magical. The beautiful old churches lit up at night and making the first footprints in the snow on the city's empty streets are some of the things that stand out in my mind about Stockholm and what makes it one of my favourite places in the world.
One thing I always pick up when I'm over in Stockholm is my favourite chocolate, Maribou. It can be bought in bars or in a Rolo type packet with small chocolates in it. I've noticed that Ikea now sell it at inflated prices but still, it's nice to know it's there! Food in Stockholm is as varied as it is in England with all types of restaurants in the city including Italians, Chinese restaurants and some wonderful steak restaurants! Ikea had me thinking that Swedes only ate meatballs in gravy and Daim bars but I can assure you that it is as diverse as most other major cities.
-- Overall --
There are some beautiful cities in Europe and for me Stockholm is right up there. I love that I never feel that I need to pack lots of sights in and see certain things; it feels like I'm at home! I always feel safe and am happy to walk round the city alone whether shopping, sightseeing or just on a wander. There are so many attractions and things to keep tourists happy but it's also a lovely city to spend time in and immerse yourself in Swedish life. It's such a beautiful city with all the water and greenery and it's all very peaceful without the hustle and bustle that is common in many capital cities. It would be impossible for me to tell you everything about Stockholm but I hope I've managed to provide a balance of my experience with information about the city. I would recommend a visit to anyone and can award it no less than 5 stars!
Stockholm may seem like a strange choice for a summer holiday destination but it is somewhere that I have wanted to visit for a long time.
After reading and loving the novels of Stieg Larsson I became interested in Swedish culture and the more I read about the country the more I was sure I wanted to visit. When I first broached the subject of visiting Stockholm for our summer holidays it was met with some resistance as I think my partner had been envisaging a beach somewhere but slowely I managed to turn him into my way of thinking.
When we arrived in Sweden I was immediately struck by just how green and lush everything looked on the journey into the city from the airport. Even though I had read that Sweden has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world the people all looked healthy and happy. As it was summer this might have had something to do with it as the sun was shining everyone was making the most of the warm weather.
I was looking forward to getting out and exploring the city so as soon as we dropped off our bags we went to have a look around.
The first thing I noticed was just how clean everything was and the lack of graffiti everywhere. The architecture was stunning and could easily rival any other major European city and although there were tourists everywhere it never felt crowded or too 'touristy'.
We decided to visit Gamla Stan the old medieval quarter of the city first and I was immediately charmed by the cobbled streets and old medieval squares. It was lovely to just wander around getting a feel for the place and having ice cream from one of the many shops selling it.
Gamls Stan is located next to the harbour where the boats leave to the many islands so we decided to hop on a boat and go and explore the main island of Djurgarden and spent the rest of the afternoon getting a feel for the city.
The next day bright and early with our Stockholm cards in hand we did all the major tourist sites such as the palace and the Vasa museum. Again these were busy but we never had to queue for long unlike sites in other European cities and because Stockholm is so compact it never took us long to get to the next attraction on our list.
All the facilities were top notch and everyone spoke perfect English so if we even got lost or encountered any problems we could always find someone to help.
Stockholm has such a cool atmosphere to it and everyone seemed to be fashionable from young to old and all the bars and restaurants we visited had an amazing vibe to them. This was probably my favourite part of Stockholm just soaking up the atmosphere of the city whilst sitting having a beer.
The people were amazing and incredibly polite. We never encountered any surly shop assistants or bar staff and everyone always had a smile which is getting rarer these days when travelling on a city break.
At night my favourite area was the Gamla stan as all the restaurants and bars had outsde seating and there was an amazing vibe of people spilling onto the streets enjoying their weekend.
I never once felt threatened or nervous about walking the streets at night and whereever we went was always well lit and it felt safe and secure.
One of my favourite things that we did in Stockholm that I can't imagine being able to do in any other major city is go swimming. In the centre there are some small beaches and when we visited it felt as though the whole of Stockholm was there. With no room at the small beach we had to walk quite a distance until we came upon some room on the rocks and spent an enjoyable afternoon sunbathing and swimming. Yep that's right we went swimming in the centre of the city. The water was lovely and clean and perfectly safe for swimming in as the hundreds of people who were there would testify to. I thought this was fantastic and I only wish the water was clean enough in my city centre to be able to go swimming.
For me Stockholm made a perfect summer holiday and it is a great city break destination. It is absolutely beautiful and easily as stunning as any other European city but without the hordes of tourists and the dirt and grafitti. It is a real city where people live and not just somewhere for tourists to visit but the people were wonderful and welcomed the tourists and didn't resent them like the locals in some other popular cities do.
I would highly recommend visiting Stockholm if you haven't aleady as there is so much to see and do and I am sure you will have a wonderful time there.
Stockholm is a city I have previously visited several times on business and of which I've even enjoyed a little of the night-life. Stockholm is a very enjoyable place although, in general I find it's architecture somewhat "solid". It is also a very big city, spread, as it is, over hundreds of islands, many with only ferry connections between them.
It's our second port of call on our cruise and, once again, we have decided to avoid the organised excursions and simply wander around the city and explore for ourselves. Sure, we would probably miss some of the sights we should see but at least we can decide how to spend our time and how long to stay when we find something of interest.
Our coach from our cruise ship dropped us off just outside the Opera House and on the other side of the bridge from the Old Town, Gamla Stan, which I really wanted to explore, so we headed there first. The architecture here is much more interesting: narrow streets and alleyways; small shops and restaurants; hidden squares, statues and fountains.
It was here that we had an excellent lunch in the open in a small square in the sun and sheltered from a chill breeze. Bearing in mind that we are here in Stockholm on more or less the same latitude as the Shetlands, I suppose we shouldn't complain. At the Restaurang Kaffegillet on Trangsund, for the princely sum of just under 400 Swedish Krona (£40), we enjoyed some typical Swedish dishes, washed down with beers. Whilst here on Gamla Stan you can also see the Royal Palace although I don't believe it's open to the public.
We headed back towards the heart of Stockholm, back across the bridge and then turned left to take in the World-famous Stadshuset, the Town Hall, which hosts the Nobel Prize dinners. This huge and impressive brick building is instantly recognisable. We wandered around it and would have visited the bell-tower, from which, I understand, the views are spectacular. However, visits are on a conducted basis only and every hour; we had just missed one party and didn't want to waste more time with only a day in Stockholm.
So, we wandered back and up one of the main shopping streets, Drottninggatan, instead. A ways up here we stopped for a drink at the very Swedishly named Frank's Coffee Company (!) after which we continued on until a left turn at Bryggargatan took us to Vasaplan and the Nordic Sea Hotel and its Absolut Icebar.
My wife was determined that we visit at least one of these during our trip; there are many of them all around the World, the Stockholm one being the original, as befits the Swedish Vodka it celebrates. To be quite honest I could have given it a miss. Entry is 180 Swedish Krona (£18) per person and for that you get a single shot of vodka, in "glass" made of ice and the freedom to stay as long as you want.
With a steady temperature of -5C you wouldn't want to stay too long even with the protection of the fur-lined and hooded parka which you have to wear, not to keep you warm but to stop your body warmth melting their ice! The refrigerated bar has several ice sculptures and we took pictures to remind us of our visit. Twenty minutes was more than enough though!
By now it was time to return to get our coach back to the ship. Had we had more time we would have loved to have visited the Vasa Museum, where a salvaged 17th century warship is preserved, much as is the Mary Rose here in the UK in Portsmouth. So much to see; so little time.
Leaving Stockholm on our ship proved to be almost as interesting as the visit itself. The channel between the islands out to the Baltic is around 100kms and so it takes hours to finally reach open water. Along the way you see much of what Sweden is like outside of the main cities. Many ships were leaving at the same time, mostly cruise lines, all probably heading for the same destinations. At one point I saw a line of five ships separated by less than a couple of miles; a veritable traffic jam!
I stayed in the city of Stockholm for one night in a hostel in the old town. The architecture was beautiful; everywhere you went there were beautifully coloured buildings in different styles. I was surprised at how walkable everything was- I was about fifteen minutes from the main street and the metro station where the heart of the city is.
There is a real buzz in the new part of town, whilst the old part radiated history and culture. Along the rivers there is amazing scenery and freshness, and there is also a large park towards the south of Stockholm. This city full of the old and new, as well as urban and rural, really does have everything for everyone!
The city of Stockholm has a wide range of public transport, from buses to trains... and even taxis. I often saw buses go by the main roads, and the train station is right at the heart of the city, so you can come into Stockholm pretty easily!
~~~HISTORY, CULTURE AND ARTS~~~
Stockholm is perhaps full of the history and culture- the buildings radiate it! The old town has much more to offer in this area- with many small art galleries with paintings and sculptures on display. Also the palace has lots of history and the old town square.
There is a concert hall, cinemas and many theatres all around Stockholm which you can visit, and when I went, one of the theatres was doing a production of Hairspray!
There is also a theme park Gronaland which isn't too far away- it was closed when we were there, but will open April-May time. It isn't very big but does appear to have some intense rides.
The main shopping street is full of shops from designer brands to lower high street stores. The Ahlens City shopping mall is massive and contains a supermarket as well, so you can buy almost anything here. There is a whole string of clothing stores including H&M, and loads of restaurants, so there is lots to do for you shopaholics!
This time round, I didn't get to do a lot of shopping, firstly we didn't have the time, and also we were short on money... and the exchange rate was not amazing for UK pounds!
The shops and restaurants we visited, the people were really nice and did ask where we came from and did have a chat with us. Even the cinema we went into to borrow the toilet, the clerk came over to speak to us and even recommended us places to stay in Norway (he was Norweigen) lol.
I really enjoyed Sweden, there was so much to do, and even just walking around and admiring the scenery and the buildings was amazing. I really like the culture and the people there- and I would love to return. It is a beautiful city full of buzz, history and style. I would highly recommend it to anyone.
(Adapted from my travel blog post: http://thereisanotherworld.wordpress.com/2006/07/09/stockholm/)
Stockholm is made up of many islands. As a result, it's visually very stimulating and naturally picturesque. For me, the old town (Gamla Stan) is a highlight. Here you'll find a whole network of wonderful little - often cobblestone - streets. The architecture is remarkably quaint and almost medieval, while the area in general is an absolute joy to walk around.
Not far away is Stortoget Square, and the Royal Palace, where the changing of guards is an excuse to put on a big extravagant show every day at 1pm - with new ones riding in on horseback. Inside the Palace is what one might expect - grand and spectacular, with endless connecting rooms of priceless tapestries, portraits and furniture.
Out the other side is the first sign of the island strewn nature of the city, and it's easy to take ferry's out to many of the smaller islands. Even if you don't get off anywhere, it's a joy to cruise.
Like many of it's European counterparts, Stockholm also has a big cafe culture, and so it's easy to just to relax in the warm atmosphere of the afternoon (presuming it's summer time).
Overall, Stockholm is a northern jewel, far enough from Central Europe to have it's own idiosyncratic differences yet close enough to be familiar. The island strewn setting is picturesque, while the architecture is both antiquated and gleaming. The quaint old quarter is wonderful to walk through while the modern centre has the perfect mix of relaxing cafe culture and busy shopping streets. Add to this the grandeur of Drottningholm Palace on the outskirts and you've got a delightfully fresh and alluring nordic alternative to mainstream Europe.
I visited Stockholm in June 2006. I was in the city to run in the Stockholm International marathon (which is the prettiest marathon to run in my opinion - more of that later).
Stockholm is the capital of sweden with a population of 800,000. It is a city built on lots of islands which gives each part a distinctive boundary and indentity. With waterways being a central feature, it is a stunningly beautiful city in which you are never more than five minutes from either parkland or a waterway.
At the time we travelled, Scandinavia was an expensive holiday option with Sweden having one of the highest living costs of any country, coupled with the highest living conditions. Also at the time we flew no budget arilines flew directly to Stockholm. We flew SAS (Scandanavian Air Services) whom we had flown with before to Copenhagen. This airline is very efficient and the planes clean. The flight landed at Arlanda airport which is about 20 miles outside of Stockholm. The airport, like all of Scandinavias major hub airports is amazingly modern and well organised. Trains leave the purpose build airport station every 30 minutes and take around 45 minutes to arrive at Stockholm central station.
Our hotel, The Adion Hotel, literally 100 meters away from the central station was ok. We chose it purely for price and location rather than style and elegance so in this respect it met our needs. We had a room on the inside of the building away from the busy Vasagatan road so the room was quiet and the beds comfortable.
From our hotel everywhere of interest in the city would be walkable, with the exception of the old Olmpyic Stadium for the start of the marathon. However Stockholm does have really good bus, train and tram systems so getting about is no problem at all.
Being summer (late May) the days were really long and sky an amazing blue colour. This gave all the buildings a stunning glow and the reflection of the water on Gamla Stan was stunning. Having seen photos of winter in Sotckholm this too looks a really nice time to visit with ice and snow giving the buildings a beautiful setting (however photographs don't emit warmth or cold so personally I am glad to have been in Stockholm in summer!).
As a capital city it never really has the rush or vibe of energy you would expect. This is not only after the capital of Sweden but also vies with Copenhagen to be the capital of Scandinavia. Only in the very heart of Klarabergsgatan do you fell the rush of people going to work. The Swedes seem to have their lives beautifully balanced with work as the means to an end rather than a means to existance.
With water all around one in three Stockholmers owns a boat and on summer weekends the waterways are full with sailboats heading away from the city, usually to a hut in the forest upcountry (apparently!). Stockholm, for this reason, really appealled to me and of all the European cities I have visited (costs excluded) Stockholm for me is the most livable. Given half a chnace I would happily re-settle here.
Sadly though I had four days so here is what I did. For reference prices are shown as Swedish Krona (skr). At the time of my visit the British pound was worth 13skr.
The obvious place to start exploring is the Old Town, Gamla Stan. This is the oldest part of Stockholm and is stunningly beautiful. Under the blue Scandinavian sky with water on all sides the colours and tones of the buildings are so photogenic. There are a number of really amazing buildings on Gamla Stan but the real beauty of the place is just to wonder around its narrow streets and alleyways. It is amazingly compact at only 300 meters squared but packs such a punch.
So for Gamla Stan's key sights then. The first place you should explore is Storkyran (the Cathedral which is free). It is here that the Kings and Queens of Sweden used to be crowned. Look out for (I say look out for but you really cannot miss it) the massively opulent pulpit. From here continue the royal theme and visit the Kungliga Slottet (Newq Castle) (5skr). If you can, try and arrive just after 12pm to catch the changing of the guard which takes place. It is, unlike others around Europe, actually interesting to watch. Inside the castle you get a free English speaking tour of the Royal appartments and the Royal Treasury which shows the wealth and opulence that Sweden has historically held.
After this take a look at how the other half live, you just need to wander through the streets of Gamla Stan to appreciate the atmosphere and beauty of the place. It is packed on the Southern end with bars and cafes to re-fuel.
Linked to Gamla Stan is another small island, Riddarholmen. This island, maybe 100 meters square, is like Gamla Stan - packed with sights. From the main square, Birger Jars Torg you are surrounded by the pretty photogenic buildings. The Riddarholmskyrkan (20skr) with its massive iron steeple dates back to the 13th century and is the final resting place of many Kings and Queens of Sweden.
Across the square to the north is Stenbocksa Palaset and to the west Wrangelska Palaset. Walk through Wrangelska Palaset for one of the best views of Sotckholm. The view from the Western shore of Riddarholmen over the water to to iconic city hall (Stadhuset) is stunning. With a blue sky and warming sun there aren't many better places in Europe to sit and take a view in my opinion.
After the view I wanted to get up close to the Sadhuset so headed back across the bridge to the mainland. The Stadhuset is probably the building that you will have seen in brouchures for Stockholm (if not this building it will have been of the view of Gamla Stan). From the top of the tower (15skr) you get possibly one of the best views over Gamla Stan. The tower is topped with a massive golden spire and the three gold crowns symbolic of Swedish power. This is the city's iconic power base.
After a hard morning exploring the Old Town, where better to cool off than another of Stockholms iconic sights. Just by the central station part of the Nordic hotel has to be the most atmospheric bar in Stockholm. The Icebar (125skr entrance) is a fairly unique drinking experience. Your entrance fee gets you the rent of a silver duffel coat, fur lined boots, gloves and entrance through to a bar made entirely of ice. The glasses, tables, even the bar itself are all made of ice and the cocktails taste amazing. I had and can recommend the Stockholmer, a mix of peach vodka, blue carraca and galliano. This tastes so very nice and in the cold temperatures is so easy to bolt!
Another day then and another island. Our plans for the day were to visit the Vasa museum and also the Skansen open air site. Both of these are some walk from the central station so you may wish to look at using the tramservice. I love walking though and the walk takes you right through the busy heart of Stockholm and along Standvagen. Trams run the length of Standvagen up to the front door of Skansen. Both the Vasa and Skansen are on Djurgaden island.
We took a boat trip around this island from one of the many boat tour companies on the quayside, which was great. It really shows just how green and close to nature Stockholm, a capital city is.
Another place I need to mention (but unfortunately I forget its name) is the floating bar that is by the bridge on the mainland side before crossing over to Djurgaden. This open air floating bar is such a lovely setting right on the water with views back to Gamla Stan and of the picturesque bridges.
Next up then the Vasa museum (Vasamusset) (70swk). The Vasa for those of you not clued up on your Swedish nautical history was to be the flagship boat of a proud Swedish fleet in the 17th century. To the Swedes with Viking heritage the seas and their maritime heritage is something they take immense pride in.
The Vasa then was, in its time, a massive ship with many tonnes of heavy cannon and gun. On the 10th August 1628 the Vasa was lauched and within just 10 minutes it sunk. The vessel with its guns was top heavy and met the bottom of the saltsjon within minutes of its launch with the loss of most of its crew. The ship has been painstkingly raised and pieced together and is truely magnifisnat to see. Having seen the Mary Rose (a clipper) before the fire the Vasa has to be easily 5 times this size. It is an amazing if utterly flawed vessel. The museum with the boat as its centre has a great museum built around it which includes the skeletons of some of the downed crew. The museum with labels in English is really interesting and takes around two hours to do it justice.
From this great museum to an even better one. Skansen (70skr) is a massive open air museum which sets out to show every aspect of Sweden in one place. It has 150 houses and property types showing the many styles of architecture of this diverse country from the Artic circle to the warmer south. Set in beautiful parkland, this museum is a days worth of exploring and I would advise you to buy the guidebook on entering the site. Included in the admission fee is entrance to a mini zoo and aquarium.
The zoo is great as it lets you get so close to the animals and the enclosures are really well done with the animals happiness put first. The lemurs cage allows you to walk right through and get climbed on by the lemurs. Away from the mini-zoo the park also has bigger more native creatures. Wolves, bears and reindeer are all on show (caged) in again really nice settings. Skansen is one of the World finest museums and if you are in Stockholm this is a must see site.
The above gives you a rough guide to Stockholm. This gives merely the highlights of my trip but there are so many other places that I visited and really enjoyed. Stockholm is a great city to explore on foot and just wander. It is has incredible natural beauty and the buildings and architecture alomst play second fiddle to nature. This seems odd for a city but you really need to see it to understand this.
As for the marathon, well it is my favourite marathon to date (8 different cities done). It is a two lap run, 13 miles each lap starting and finishing in the Olympic stadium. This is, for the fit and healthy, a great way to see this beautiful city passing through Gamla Stan and out over to the west of the city. The views back across the city from the big bridge are inspiring and as a runner it gives you a massive lift. For any marathon runners I would 100% advise you to run in Stockholm. The organisation is fantastic and the crowds are really good through the centre of town. Finishing in the Olympic stadium is pretty neat too.
The only downside to Stockholm that I can see is the cost. Sweden and Scandinavia in general are a really expensive place to travel with a beer in a modest bar costing anything from £5 upwards. Cost aside though, Stockholm is pretty much perfect. If I could live anywhere in Europe it would be Stockholm.
I have visited Stockholm on a few occasions now. My husband lived there for a number of years and he loves the city. When we first met, he consistently told me about the city and it didn't take long before he took me there.
I have to stress, however, that my views on this beautiful city are spring & summer time ones as any visits to Sweden during Autumn/Winter are spent further north with family.
* What takes us to Stockholm?*
As mentioned my husbands love of the city, after my first visit, my love of the city, friends who live there and weddings.
It is never a bind to be going back to Stockholm. It is a beautiful and charming hotel full of history and culture with beautiful buildings and a mass of water. From the moment we land I get the buzz and excitement of returning to this city.
Sadly, our visits have never been for more than a few days at a time and so often I would love to have longer here. Maybe the fact that I have my own personal Swedish speaking guide who knows the area, customs and the workings of this city. Maybe this has helped with my fondness towards this city.
*Stockholm - an insight*
Stockholm is built across 14 islands and is often called the Venice of the North. With more foreign visitors than any other city in Scandinavia it is also considered to be the Capital of Scandinavia. Stockholm is situated at the point where the vast Lake Malaren flows into the Baltic Sea .
As water covers one third of the city area, the maritime life is an important aspect of the city. There are plenty of bridges, marinas and locks. The water is so clean that you can drink it and catch salmon in the middle of the city. The climate is very much conditioned by the sea winds, so even the warmest summer day will be contingent upon the sea breeze finding its way into the city streets.
It has one of Europe's best preserved medieval centres and this is Gamla Stan or Old town as we would say. Stockholm is s mall city where almost everything is in close distance to each other.
*Where to stay?*
There are many choices of accommodation in Sweden from hotels to hostels and are wide spread across the vast area of the city. There is something available for every budget though do not be surprised to find that this city can be more expensive than other European cities, however, please do not let this put you off visiting this beautiful city.
If your budget is high or you just fancy a luxury weekend away, a very nice hotel to stay in is the Radisson SAS Royal Viking. This is located on the water and is central to all of the shops areas and amenities of the city.
Even if your budget can't quite splash out this far, I would recommend finding accommodation near the city centre although if you do decide to stay further out, the transport system, especially the tube in Stockholm is fantastic. Expect it to be much quieter and cleaner than the London tube.
* Gamla Stan*
There are a lot of unique things to see when visiting the old town in Stockholm. The old town is the original Stockholm. If you can spare a few hours take the time to walk about the old town. The dominant building in the old city is the king's castle. The old town is the place to be if you want to experience the town's pulse. The area has Stockholm's biggest ranges of restaurants, tourist shops, studios and museums. There are many wonderful paths to walk in the old town. Relax in the afternoon in a pavement café in the town square. A recommended one would be Sundberg's konditori, maybe because it shares my surname or the fact that they make fantastic Mazarin cakes. In the evening, there are many romantic and cosy restaurants to choose from and there is a great variety of food styles to choose from.
*What to see in Stockholm*
There is plenty to see during a visit to Stockholm whether it be a visit to parks and gardens, museums or art galleries. The attractions that you must try to see are the royal castle, the old town , the cathedral and a pure necessity is a boat trip out on the water.
There is certainly a lot to see and do whilst in Stockholm and it is also a very child friendly city. One of the places that your little ones would be very interested in is a fun park names Grona Lund that sits on the water relatively close by to another family attraction, Skansen. Skansesn is a museum of modern and old Sweden along with a farm area and mini zoo. It is well worth a visit.
Overall, Stockholm is a wonderful and vibrant city that should be visited at least once in your life time. Before you visit, take time to research what is available and what you would like to see whilst there. Plan your journey and make the most of your trip.
My last tip is if you are visiting during the warmer months, get yourselves up to Mosebacke. In my opinion, this has to be the best bar in Stockholm. It is open air, has live bands, food stalls and has the best views over the city especially at night when the city is lit up and the lights are glistening across the water. Beautiful.
I recently went to Stockholm to visit a friend of mine I met over here in sunny England, for some strange reason I decided to do this in the middle of their very cold and snowy winter. I decided to get their with ryanair (low cost airline) which was good value for a flight at around £50 rather than the alternative £120+ that BA were offering out, although when I got there I did have to take a bus for an hour to get to Stockholm, but still cheaper than the BA flight. When I got off the plane there was about a 2-inch layer of snow and it was ?16, which for my jeans and jumper that I was wearing I was very cold! So my first impression of Sweden wasn?t too brilliant! When I finally got to Stockholm it was reasonably dark so I couldn?t see much of what it was like, the next day I had a chance to look round and learn about the place; here is what I thought; The transport system- The transport system in Stockholm basically puts ours to shame with its efficiency and network, although it is a lot smaller than the underground and bus system in London. I found the best thing to do was get a travel card that lasted the duration of my trip, its cheaper that way and you just have to show it to a bus driver or swipe it through the gate to get on a train, my Swedish not being to tip top I found it best I didn?t have to communicate with the locals to much! But it does enable you to get anywhere in the city in a reasonable time, also all the busses and trains are pretty co-ordinated so you can get off train strait to the bus then to you destination etc. Prices of things- You here a lot about how expensive things in Sweden are but in all I found that things cancel themselves out, for instance yes, food/drink is expensive but compared to England the housing is really cheap and so are most of the clothes (apart from some brands which are more) The weather- Cold! The winter is generally pretty cold
in the winter ranging from 0 to ?20, but in the summer it is a bit hotter than England. Shopping- If you like shopping the centre of Stockholm is the place to be though! There is a huge range of clothing shops i.e. about 5 h&m?s on the main street, there are also a lot of back ally as it were shops that have some really nice things which I think the average tourist would never see. Well that?s about it from me, I highly recommend going there to see what its like and experience something new if your new to it.
We visited Stockholm in the summer of 2003 - you'll remember it as a very hot one and we visited Stockholm in the hottest week. It was our first family trip abroad and we went with the benefit of a brother and sister-in-law who have lived there for a few years. Stockholm and Sweden in general are everything you expect them to be. Think of a few Sweidsh products - Volvo, Ikea, Ericsson etc. - and all have an excellent reputation. The capital city is the same. It has an excellent Metro system - fast, frequent, clean and easy to navigate. Make sure you buy one of their cards for multiple journeys as this works out cheaper than paying for individual journeys. Don't worry about language difficulties since the locals have taken the trouble to learn English in recognition of our unwillingness to learn their language. Our 8 year old realised that "Tack" (Swedish for thanks) and a smile usually sufficed. Sweden has a reputation for being heavily taxed but shop prices are generally reasonable. However they believe drinking in public to be bad and charge an arm and a leg for alcoholic drinks when you eat out (but retail alcohol in the supermarkets at a good price). You'll want a good guidebook and the "Rough Guide to Sweden" was more than adequate for us (although we shouldn't undersetimate the value of my brother's local knowledge). We'd recommend a visit to Skansen - a museum of Swedish traditions. Make sure you take a boat trip or two around the city, either as a means of getting from A to B or as an end in its own right. The Viking ship does good tours at a reasonable price and we'd recommend the on-board catering. Spend some time in Gamla Stan (Old Town) which is also where you'll find the tourist shops. During our stay we even went to visit a beach (imported gritty sand but superb clear lake water) on the outskirts of the city. This was typical of the Swedish planning - they really
know how to make the socialist ideal work - and wherever you turn they have laid on facilities for the common good. We found a string of three beaches within 1km each with designated bathing areas and lifeguards and pontoons and diving boards which kept our children and those twice their age entertained for hours (literally) Flying Ryanair from Stansted made this a ridiculously cheap holiday - retrn flights for a family with 3 children only cost twice as much as the Stansted car park!
Stockholm – Venice of the North. Hang on I thought that was Bruges, no Amsterdam? How many are there? Whatever it is, it’s great. I’ve recently returned from Stockholm after a very enjoyable three-night break. All right, so it’s freezing outside. Wear a scarf, hat, gloves and a warm coat and you’re over that problem. Alternatively keep popping into the numerous coffee-houses that abound throughout the whole city and warm up with a latte. Very Swedish I’m sure! The city comprises of a number of islands dotted throughout a large lagoon and the mainland itself. Gamla Stan is the old town and is a mish match of small alleyways and open squares holding the usual tourist gift shops next to the not so usual high quality art gallery. Add to this the many coffee shops, bars, restaurants and the Grand Palace and it all adds up to a very pleasant place to spend a day. The Gamla Stan is reached by a few bridges that snake out from the mainland. On the mainland itself you can find large department stores housing all the top brands (Polo, Gant, French Connection) and all at prices cheaper than the UK. I didn’t believe it at first either, but I checked and it’s true. “NK” was the best we found. It’s located opposite Sweden House which houses the tourist information office, so it’s easy enough to find. The city has a large shopping area, which is nonetheless easy to navigate and get around. It includes a big underground area directly underneath the city’s main square (Which is ugly and looks like a throwback to the 70’s. Perhaps ABBA donated the money for it). If you wander a bit further afield (half an hours walk) you will arrive at the Vasa Museum. A quite brilliant museum which houses a 17th century war ship that capsized and sank 1,300 meters into its maiden voyage. It sank into the silt and there it lay, protected from erosion for 333 years until it was ra
ised and moved to the dockside, where the museum was built around it. It is cheap to get in, around £3, and it’s well worth the walk. Very informative and with a lovely café. Although a sign informed me that I wasn’t allowed to have a picnic in the café. I was very disappointed as you can imagine. I’d brought the blanket and everything! There is a massive choice of places to eat in the city. Everything from Macdonald’s (all six hundred of them, or so it seemed) to very upmarket restaurants. It is here that the myth of a high cost of living comes true. In one restaurant, amusingly entitled "Rolfs Kok", we paid over £60 for two main courses and two glasses of wine. The wine cost over £10 per glass. It was extremely nice food and lovely wine, but come on! Needless to say they didn’t receive a tip. Sad really. I would have tipped them, because like everywhere else I went in the city, the staff were very friendly, spoke perfect English and were extremely helpful. Our hotel was located about ten minutes walk from the city centre. For this reason we walked everywhere and didn’t use public transport. However, Stockholm seems to have a very complete transport system. It has a tube system, buses, trams, boats and taxis. The only time we did use the train was when we caught the dedicated train from the airport to the centre. 20 minutes each way, directly from under the airport, £20 return. What a great service. A longer trip than Heathrow to Paddington yet cheaper, and people think Stockholm is expensive!! (Quick fact for you all. The Heathrow Express is more expensive per mile than Concorde. Rip off Britain?) As well as giving the visitor plenty to do while there, it is incredibly clean. I didn't see one, single piece of litter. That includes the back streets and not just the main areas. In addition, I didn't once feel at all treatened wherever I was at whatever time. A big plus for any cit
y. All in all, a great place to go for a city break. Take your warm clothes and a taste for Dime Bars and you’ll have a whale of a time.
GOVERNMENT WARNING: Excessive smugness is bad for your health, and this is going to be an excessively smug review. Significant Other and I recently spent a brilliant 3 days exploring Stockholm and its amazing museums, restaurants, history and scenery, and I am just dying to tell Dooyoo how amazing it all was. If at any time you feel you are going to be sick as a result of my satisfaction-overload, please feel free to close the op and come back later (it's okay, as I'll already have got paid for the read by then ;) ) So, where to begin? Here goes.. ***The city itself *** Stockholm is a busy port, perched on the Eastern coast of Sweden. It started as settlements on a string of 3 islands in a sheltered part of the archipelago, brilliant for defence and access to the sea - clever Viking types. By now, the city has spread north and south of this little string of islands, covering another new island in the south, and a chunk of mainland in the north. All of these pieces of land are joined with bridges, and to walk between them is usually a matter of a 5-minute bridge-crossing, with picturesque views into the bargain. No wonder they call it "the Venice of the North". The atmosphere in Stockholm is incredibly peaceful, possibly due to the fact that much of its "city centre" is on, or surrounded by, water. This makes walking around much less stressful than in London or comparable capital cities - you feel more free to enjoy things at your own pace somehow. Most of Stockholm's history is to be found on the three original islands, at the middle of the city. These are, from East to West, Gamla Stan, Skeppsholmen and Djurgarden. Gamla Stan is the heart of Stockholm's old town, and contains the main "tourist drag", a very picturesque main street packed with gift shops, woolly jumper shops, arty-crafty shops and, naturally, coffee-and-cake shops (mmm, those get my vote every tim
e). Although this all sounds pretty usual, it is actually very un-touristy in terms of atmosphere and attitude. If you wanted to get away from it, all you had to do was turn down a side-street or walk to the end of the street and onward. Another thing I noticed was that there were plenty of Swedes (the people not the vegetable) using the shops as well, and prices (mostly) weren't as ridiculous as you might expect. ***The Royal Armoury*** The Royal Palace is on the island of Gamla Stan, at the end of the tourist drag and past the warm, yellow-stone cathedral. The Palace itself is an imposing, wide, long, low building, built in a square round a vast cobbled courtyard. Its colour distinguishes it from the pastel pinks, yellows and greens of the surrounding buildings and the rest of the city, but I can't say it was actually attractive to look at. There are three museums within the Palace, and you can choose where you want to go. The Royal Apartments are full of gorgeous carved and decorative furniture, mirrors, paintings, etc., from the middle ages through to baroque and C19. This wasn't quite mine or S.O's cup of tea, so we considered the "Three Crowns" museum next. This was another part of the Palace, devoted to the history of the royal families of Sweden, and of the city in general. Again, all very interesting, but not quite what we were in the mood for. So, the ROyal Armoury won hands-down, and wasn't that lucky? There's nothing like a bit of ghoulish museum-voyeurism, and here it was brilliantly done. THe armoury is housed at the South side of the palace, down some dungeony steps and into a shadowy vault below the main building. Perfect! I will only describe one of the rooms, but it was truly the best. It contained clothing and armour of three or four kings of Sweden, all of whom had died in various gory ways. Their clothes were arranged on dummies in glass cases, with descriptio
ns of background and history clearly displayed in Swedish and English. Not only could you read about their horrific battle wounds and daring exploits, but then you could squint up close and scrutinize the bullet hole in the right leg the royal breeches, or the arrow-puncture in the back of a tunic, matching the exhibits to the story. They even had the lead shot used to assassinate one of the kings under cover of a masked ball in 1630-something, not to mention the bloodstained canvas sheet on which dead King Gustavus Adolphus had been embalmed. The whole display was so brilliantly laid out and set in such shadowy, atmospheric surroundings that it took very little imagination to suck you into the story of each character as you went. Significant Other and I emerged into the sunlight, blinking, disorientated and happy, after 2 hours - it had felt more like 25 minutes. ***Moderna Museet*** Next on our list was the island of Skeppsholmen. This is the smallest of the three islands-in-a-string, with not much on it other than a couple of museums. Our target was the Moderna Museet, devoted to modern art from around the world. It was dead easy to find (okay it was a small island but anyway), and the path up to the main entrance is lined with painted, animated sculptures and fountains - it reminded me and S.O. of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Once inside, we stowed our rucksacks and extra coats in Germanically-sensible Ikea-style pine lockers, paid the ridiculously-low entrance fee (50kr) and drifted in. The layout was clear and user friendly, not only in terms of organisation but also in size - you start in a vast Special Exhibition room, then work through progressively smaller rooms - psychologically perfect, as it makes the whole museum do-able in 2 hours or so without overloading your eyes (or your feet). The exhibits ranged from Dali to Duchamp, with various Swedish artists scattered in between. The exhibition space is stress-free
, stylish and spacious, (trust the Swedes to get the decor right), with plenty of places to rest or look out of windows if you want to meditate on what you've seen, argue about what it meant, or just stretch out and switch off for a moment. ***Vasa Museet*** I have saved the King of Museums until last. The Vasa Museet is on Djurgarden, the third and largest island-in-a-string, the last part of historic Stockholm. To reach it, S.O. and I took a ferry from near the Royal Palace on Gamla Stan for about 20 kr each way, and the crossing of the sheltered waters between the islands gave us an excellent feel for the great, natural harbour in which Stockholm peacefully sits. About 10 minutes' walk from the ferry quay, the Vasa Museum looms against the skyline like the shadow of a ship. Or is it actually a ship? It certainly had three masts, complete with rigging, and for a moment we wondered what we were looking at. Up close, we realised that the masts are part of the building's external architecture, part of the shell which houses the Vasa warship we had come to see. The giant Vasa warship was built in the 1620's, as part of Sweden's involvement in the 30 Year's War which swept Scandinavia and Northern Europe. King Gustavus Adolphus (yes, he of the gory embalming canvas) was in a bit of a rush to push on with the war effort, and this sense of hurry filtered down through his administration and affected various aspects of his campaign. One of these effects was a bit of corner-cutting in the shipbuilding department. And thank goodness for that, is all I can say... At the time the Vasa was built, no-one in Sweden had the first clue about building a warship with more than one gun-deck. So why on earth did Gustavus Adolphus decide he wanted two gun-decks on the Vasa ship? And why didn't he hire a foreign specialist to design it? He thought he was saving time, but the upshot was that the ship ended u
p with the wrong proportion of ballast - it had far too little bodyweight to counterbalance the weight of the guns housed on its top two decks. So, when a bit of wind blew on the day when it was launched, the Vasa ship promply keeled over and sank, leaving the top section of its mast visible above the shallow waves of Stockholm's busy harbour. How embarrassing is that? Well, 300 years later, some clever scientific bods fished it out from the mud (perfectly preserved), cleaned it, sealed it, floated it into a dry dock, and, in the 1970's, built a vast, hangar-like museum around it. Proudly and expertly displayed, it makes the Mary Rose look like a rotten bit of driftwood. The building itself is designed so that, although one side of the hangar is split into 5 or 6 floors, the other half of it is open-plan, containing the whole darn ship perched on about 20 giant, sturdy trestles. As you climb from basement level to dizzy Floor 5, you move up the height of the ship, parallel to it, first standing level with the trestles, then the bulging hull, then peering in at gun-decks 1 and 2, and finally ending up above the deck, craning over railings see it sweep away from you. The ship is always in the room, wherever you are. At any time you can turn and comprehend its vastness and history through your eyes. Wow. There are no more words for it - you will just have to go and see for yourself because there I just can't fit this museum's amazingness factor into a dooyoo review. This time S.O. and I managed to spend 3.5 hours inside - a joint museum-going record, I think. We emerged, dazed, to lie in the nearby park and process what we had seen, but that was 2 weeks ago and I am still trying to get my head round it now. ***In conclusion...*** During the 4 days we spent in the city, about 101 other amazing, brilliant and interesting things happened to us, but maybe I'll just have to write a string of
reviews when I get the time. One part of the trip which stands out for S.O. and me was just how friendly, tidy, hospitable and helpful the Swedish people seemed to be. Knowing not a word of Swedish between us, we were always able to ask for directions or information, and everyone nodded, smiled and did their best to help out. The city itself was amazingly clean, uncongested and un-touristy, and had a beautifully laid-back atmosphere - possibly something to do with all the water, views and open spaces which abound. Oh, and it wasn't nearly as expensive as everyone had told us it would be. There were at least 5 other major sights in and around the city which we would love to have seen, but we chose to linger over the three main museums we did get to, and didn't regret it either. Yes, there were five more sights we wanted to visit. Five more sights. Five. Hmm, five - isn't that enough for another long weekend...?
STOCKHOLM! What a brilliant city! My gorgeous girlfriend Bob and I were in Stockholm last weekend, in case you hadn’t heard, and we both agree that it is fantastic, brilliant, excellent, superb. We flew on Ryanair, an Irish lowcost airline (these things are all one word now), which was plain sailing, although the pilot did make an alarming banking dive down towards Nykoping, the town whose airfield was masquerading (dressed up by Ryanair) as a subsidiary Stockholm airport named Skavsta. The field had only one strip, which was just long enough to take our landing, and we had to do a sharp u-turn at the end of it to get back towards the ‘terminal’ where the plane was then parked beside the cars of eager relatives awaiting the arrival of their loved ones. We immediately encountered the famous Swedish friendliness (well, if it wasn’t before, it is now) at the passport control desk, where the kind and gentle official gazed nonplussedly (another new word, neologisms everywhere!) at my south African passport, looked around for inspiration, and then handed me a card and pen and said: I suppose you’d better fill one of these in. We then climbed onto the only coach at the ‘airport’ which was, luckily, bound for Stockholm! (Flygbussarna, 150 kronor each for a return ticket (about £10): the advantage of this service is that it leaves the main Stockholm bus terminal in time to catch your flight, so as long as you catch your coach, there’s nothing to worry about.) The bus driver was also very friendly, asking for a show of hands as to whether or not he should take a detour past the train station, and then pointing out when we had arrived in Stockholm itself. The drive from the airfield was lovely, giving us a glimpse of the Swedish countryside which was exceedingly autumnal and neat, all the fields having been, I deeply suspect, combed. Once at the Cityterminalen, we had a bit of a wait to get out into the Stockholm air bec
ause our bus driver had ‘nowhere to put my bus’. Bob and I appreciated our gentle introduction to the city: first we saw Sweden from above - a flat, fragmented, pleasantly drowned land – then we ambled through its countryside (the only bit of mess being an overturned bath tub in a field), then we walked across it’s bridges to find our hotel. The whole place was both exceptionally clean and exceptionally safe, so much so that we began a competition to spot either litter or police cars or anything along those lines. We eventually saw two police cars, but I don’t remember seeing any rubbish. Stockholm is a city of islands, the middle ones being where most of the history happened. The bus terminal was in the north of the city, and out hotel was in the south, so we headed out resolutely and, despite a few detours (ahem), we managed to find our ‘hotel’ – the Pensionat Oden (Hornsgatan 66b, 118 49 Stockholm) – without incident. In fact, it was a surpassingly dramatic walk, in a Viking kinda way. There are no ostensible signs of the Vikings in Stockholm, but every now and then some Viking juice drips from the fruit, as it were. Our first night in Stockholm was the clearest, and as the sun set, we were effectively in the very centre of Stockholm. The eastern sky was already a dark Prussian blue, and the western was a much lighter blue, yellow around the edges: alone, this effect was a marvel, but the result of this backlighting was that all the towers and spires around us become sharply silhouetted, revealing their hidden Viking shapes and dramatic effect. I wanted, at this point, to take out my camera and get pictures, but we were tired, and hadn’t yet reached our three-day home, so I convinced myself that I could get them the next evening. Ho ho – not so, schmuck! They are lost, I’m afraid, to this mortal coil; they were amazing, though. In retrospect, I am glad I did not attempt to
stop us and take pictures, as Bob later told me that had I done so, she would have strangled me. Our pensionat was full of surprises, all of them a little alarming, but with high comedy value. The ‘concierge’ who booked us in was very helpful, giving us good advice about where to walk and eat and what cards not to buy (e.g. the 450kr Stockholm card (No!) and the 72 hour, 150 kr travel card that gets you on busses, trains and ferries (Yes!)) etc. His name, unbelievably but gloriously, was Dmitri Iodine. The Swedish pensionat is a self-service establishment which does not run to the absurd luxury of towels or fully functioning bathroom door locks. We were amazed, despite the rather obvious omissions, by the many cleverly designed everyday objects that are a part of Swedish life. Handles on doors that you push down to open, for instance, and pull up to lock, much like the infamous Cobra tap (which are also everywhere). We were constantly amazed by the practical genius of the Ikea nation. Our solution to the towel problem was to dry ourselves first with bits of paper towel (yes, yuck) and then to climb, still rather damp, into our woolly winter pyjamas which I had insisted we bring, and which turned out to be rather useful, just not in the way I had expected. Climbing wet into your elasticised pyjamas is not a past-time I recommend, but I suppose it’s all part of the fun of young, budgetary travelling. Our pensionat was on/in the southern island of Sodermalm, which was fortuitous as that is were Stockholm keeps its best restaurants! Our first night’s dinner was quite basic, but absolutely delicious: fresh grilled salmon on a bed of shredded vegetables, and thick cut, salty chips! (90kr before a 10% discount linked to the Pensionat Oden (the restaurant was around the corner.)) That was about it for the first night – we fell into bed at 10:30pm and slept till morning. Breakfast was heinous, a soggy submarine sandw
ich and too strong coffee – we appreciated the Swedish national coloured mugs though (blue and yellow). Continuing to swallow breakfast, we headed out in search of the cliff-side gallery that Dmitri Iodine had told us about. Most of my photos are taken from this gallery, which is undoubtedly the best place for viewing the city and was literally around the corner from where we were staying! From the gallery, you look north at the modern city across the harbour, and west (left) towards the sea and east (right) towards the sea and over the three historic Swedish islands of Riddersholmen (knights island)/Gamla Stan (the old town), Skeppsholmen (the middle one) and Djurgarden where the old shipyards were. This was all very cleverly arranged as it meant you could do your tourist thing on each island, walk around the thing, go to the museums, palaces and churches, and then move on to the next, and have a very clear sense of touristic progress and achievement. The centre of Stockholm is really the Schluss, which is basically a big traffic/train intersection and cruise liner docking place, but has a beauty that traffic junctions somehow sometimes manage to have. To get to the Schluss from the gallery, we had to wend our way through a historic suburb of Sodermalm which has been restored to its original state with cobbled streets, catwalks for access to buildings during winter, and wonderful ochre and sienna coloured buildings with unrecessed windows. Very picturesque, and again a place I stupidly didn’t photograph, not really finding a way to capture its character. From this vantage point, you can see a mixed collection of boats all parked within the waterways and harbour, from merchant type vessels, to floating hotels painted bright red, to a recreated Viking ship restaurant and massive cruise liners. The boats park as blithely as the cars, and I really liked that. RIDDERSHOLMEN / GAMLA STAN Friday was spent on the first
two islands and a half. Riddersholmen (the half) was once farming land that was then handed over to the successful generals of various kings, and so has a number of fancy houses and palaces on it. The main cathedral (which I keep thinking of as Cherrykirsch but was, of course called something else) was closed to the public. It was magnificent, seemingly pieced together in a number of styles, with a gilded rotunda at one end (slightly offset) and a wrought iron, lacey see-through spire at the top of its tower. A lot of sites are closed after September, but we still got into the major and most interesting things, but it is probably worth visiting Stockholm in summer.. King Gustavus Adolphus is housed in a green marble crypt inside that church and there is a very attractive plaza north of it, surrounded by palaces and centred by Birger Jarl, the founder of Stockholm, on a Nelson’s column type structure, but shorter. From there we crossed a bridge and walked onto Gamla Stan and into the old town, and spent a pleasant hour or two window shopping and browsing, pressing our noses to coffee shop windows, and just generally milling about the tourist trap shops. It was not too busy as the weather was a bit lousy, and we enjoyed getting a feel for the place. We finally emerged from the street of delights, and took a sharp left turn up the hill. We stood outside yet another church that was not open to the public and marvelled at its exterior. This one was built by rich German merchants of Stockholm. We moved on to an historic square which we passed through on our search for the next major cathedral, attached to the palace complex and built in the renaissance style. We stumbled on the tail end of a memorial service for the people who were killed in the SAS plane crash in Italy. We were initially a little puzzled by the great proliferation of pilots and airhostesses in the cathedral precinct, and then realised, upon stepping all brightly coloured and gawping into
the cathedral, that they were milling out of a mourning ritual. A tad embarrassing. We had a quick squizz at the interior, which was magnificent: great golden billowing throne type royal benches, and a ghastly black and silver altar. There was a brilliant statue of St George slaying that naughty dragon (a particularly spiky variety thereof), and wonderful red-brick columns that seemed to emerge from the ground like upside down trees and spread the tendrils of their red-brick roots along the lines of the groined-vaulted-whatevered ceiling. A good effect that struck a particular chord with Bob (hence the description). We left the church as we found it, and proceeded into the palace, which is a very square-cut affair that would be more impressive with columns and brigades of mounted knights and things to fill all the space between the buildings. There were genuine Swedish soldiers all over the place, and we watched the changing of the guard which was more pragmatic than what happens at Buckingham Palace, but less dramatic and colourful. We decided to skip the Swedish crown jewels and the royal apartments, and went straight to the armoury (50kr student entrance fee). This was a good decision. The exhibition begins below ground with the carriages, sleighs and other transportation accoutrement of the kings and queens of Sweden. It was all very interesting, a lady’s tournament sleigh being of particular interest to Bob, and the various saddles preoccupying me. We were followed through this exhibition and up into the next by a museum official and began to wonder if we had done something wrong, but he eventually got bored with us and moved on to dog someone else. The next room was the best in the whole place: a room with four display cabinets that tell the story of the death of three Swedish kings, and present the actual artefacts involved, complete with blood, bullet holes and bottles of arsenic. The first two cabinets were devoted to Gust
avus Adolphus who lies in the green marble coffin. The first case held the clothes he wore under his armour during a battle in which he was whacked on the neck with a sword, his sword hilt was cloven in twain (as it were) etc. you could see (or thought you could) the marks of the sword cuts and so on. This king rather liked having all these things of his displayed and they have been on display since the 13th century. The next and biggest cabinet narrates his death in some big battle (sorry, the details have left me now), and included the actual horse he rode (it’s skin sewn together over a frame), the bullet hole in the horse’s neck, the bloody shirts beneath his armour where he was shot first in the elbow, then the back and then at point blank range all over. His death clothes and banner are there, and (goriest of all) the handkerchief that his wife (the queen, morbid soul that she clearly was) wrapped and kept his heart in. You can see the shape of his heart in the blood stains! BRILLIANT! The next two cabinets belonged to later kings, both assassinated, the one in dress uniform, the other in fancy dress at a royal ball. The clothes, the weapons, the bullets taken from kidneys… it was all there, preserved and displayed, and we LOVED it. We left the armoury in a gorey delight, and stood and regarded the closed Viking ship restaurant before moving on to the next island in search of food. From there we explored Skeppsholmen. SKEPPSHOLMEN This was the smallest of the historic islands, and is basically a museum and gallery island. It was very pretty, but didn’t afford the view of the city from the high northern tip that our guide promised us, the view being blocked by some not invisible trees. So we made our way to the Moderne Art Museet (another very reasonable 50kr (just over £3)). The gallery really begins outside with two sculpture gardens, both animated: a representation of the four elements being t
he better of the two. The gallery was really well designed, and took one through smaller and smaller sections so that as you became tired the amount you had to look at decreased, which made it all so less headache inducing than some of these enormous, neverending have-to-be-seen-in-two-hours galleries that I have fallen prey to. The collection was fair to middling, but there were some really interesting pieces, and the whole experience was great. We both agreed that ‘soul of the moth’ was the best piece. This was a sculpture: a white linen cloth draped over a table/column with a broken light bulb on it, and a scorch mark on the cloth where the soul of the moth had assumedly been illuminated, combusted and, we believe, transfigured. Being thoroughly worn out, we went in search of supper. We had, I am ashamed to say, pizza (although, we did decide that since pizza has become such a Trans Western World food, that eating Swedish pizza was a valid, not entirely culturally vapid tourist meal) and a tourist rip-off aquavit that cost us almost as much as our pizzas (60kr each -grrrrr!). The aquavit was nice though, a bit like a light, not too sweet sambucca. Then home, then bed. DJURGARDEN Saturday was spent on Djurgarden, mostly in the Vasa Museet. We probably should have also spent some time in the Nordische Museet, but after the Vasa our brains were too boggled to take in anything else. We took a ferry from Riddersholmen to Djurgarden (20kr each way – no return ticket available), and passed, we later realised, pretty much the exact spot where the Vasa, a warship built in 1628, must have sunk. The Vasa Museet (50kr) is built around the ship itself, which was salvaged from the harbour floor in 1961 (having been discovered in 1957). The ship was basically badly built, and so when it was launched it emerged from behind the shipyard island (200 metres away), caught its first wind, almost tipped over, righted itself, c
aught some more wind, keeled over and rapidly took in water through the open gunports on two levels. It sank like the proverbial stone, although ironically, it is because it lacked enough ballast for its height (i.e. stones in its belly) that it was unstable and sank. The museum, built in 1983, is a very cleverly designed museum, leading you through the story of the museum, the ship being salvaged, the ship being built, the ship sinking, life on the ship (STENCH! DISEASE! TEDIUM! said the plague at the entrance to this display, where they had recreated a section of the upper gundeck to scale, for you to walk through), the ship’s sails, sailing the ship (for 200 metres), the ship’s decorations etc. The really clever bit is that whatever you are learning about, you can turn around and look at the ship – it’s always there, as the central display. The other clever thing is that as you learn and are led through the exhibition and the narrative, you climb the building and so go from being under the prow and belly of the ship when you enter (VERY dramatic) to being perched above it, at one point leaning out over the whole thing standing in a recreated crow’s nest! The Vasa (named after a king) weighs 750tonnes and, because of the brackish water in the harbour, is almost perfectly preserved, 80% of what you see being original and what has been replaced clearly indicated in a lighter wood. The only trying thing about the museum was that it is all very dark and humid so as to preserve the ship, but it makes reading the exhibits and gazing at detailed displays hard on the eyes and head. Despite this, the Vasa Museet must be one of the most incredible museums in the world, and it would be well worth going all the way to Stockholm just to see it, I think. It had a powerful grip on my and Bob’s imaginations, and was an excellent learning experience to boot. The most tragic, and strangely familiar thing we learned was that the Admiral
in charge of the ship building project (the king being off in Poland fighting the war and needing his new ships) chose to ignore the Ship Master’s demonstration of the ship’s complete lack of stability, and insisted the ship sail anyway. The Ship Master had thirty men run the length of the ship a couple of times, and the whole thing immediately rocked and swayed to an alarming degree (this is all documented in the archives of the subsequent investigation). I felt, the whole time, as if I were looking at The Unicorn: you know, the ship that Captain Haddock’s ancestor was captain of, and which he and Tintin trace, discover and salvage in search for Red Rackham’s treasure. It had the same look and feel. We spent some time lying on the grass, in the sun, enjoying the light and the cool air, then onto the ferry again, back to Sodermalm and out in search of our last supper. We ended up at a fake English pub with a red telephone box over the door, which we had selected on the basis of it being full of Swedes and the food being inexpensive. The food also turned out to be marvellous! We had Gravlax toast to start (a Scandinavian specialty: smoked salmon (on toast, obviously) with a powerful dill sauce/marinade), then I had what turned out to be stir-fried chilli-fried sweet and sour veal (oxfilé) with rice, which was really spicy and tasty as I like it, and Bob had what turned out to be seared smoked salmon (lax) fillets on a gentle citrus sauce. It was really, really yummy. We said goodbye to Stockholm on Sunday, enjoying the same leisure in our retreat as we had in our arrival. We arrived home safe and sound after eight hours of travelling, tired but happy. The people of Stockholm, I may have mentioned, were really friendly. We were slightly ashamed to fly away from Sweden not really having learned any Swedish, but we did try, it’s just that the Swedes all speak such good English, and as soon as they realis
ed you couldn’t speak Swedish they would immediately switch over into English. One of the nicest interactions we had with the locals was on the Sunday morning, as were taking our last view of the city from the gallery, and an old man out for his Sunday constitutional realised we were tourists and stopped to ask us if we like the city. We told him we thought it was beautiful, and that the people were very friendly. He pointed out how clean the place was, and we thanked him for that. He asked where we were from and we told him. Then he smiled and we smiled; he wished us well and happy travels and carried on with his walk. It felt, in a trashy-cheesy-melodramatic kinda way, as if the spirit of Stockholm were wishing us on our way. I really liked that. The truth of course, is more likely to be that he was the President of Sweden or something. Perhaps he was the ghost of Gustavus Adolphus.
I lived in Stockholm for over a year. During that I time I grew to love the city, the people, the language, the culture and the history. The Swedes are a friendly bunch, and just dying to practice their excellent English on you! I had to force people to speak Swedish to me so that I could learn. The architecture and history in Stockholm are fascinating, and I found it easy to spend the majority of my free time wandering about. Skansen, of course, is something you must experience - it will give you a great insight into Scandinavia. Cafes, museums and shops...there's lots to see and waste your money on! Many people don't think of Stockholm as a good holiday destination, however it has a vast quantity to offer and usually has better summers than Britain....(not too difficult). If you are worried about the expense - stop now. The only things that are noticably more expensive then it has to be alcohol in pubs or clubs. It is taxed heavily. Do as the swedes do, pop out to your local Systembolget (state off-license) and have a night in before you go out!!
Don't be put off by Sweden's reputation for high prices - provided that you can live without alcohol for a while. Drink is expensive, but other costs in Stockholm are much on a par with London, Paris or Amsterdam these days. We first visited Sweden 10 years ago, and it was horribly expensive - even Macdonalds was pricey. Not any longer, especially if you eat at lunchtime rather than in the evening. Loads of places in Stockholm doing lunch for around 5 or 6 pounds. Hotels good value too, if you pick a business chain doing summer offers - plenty of these, because they can't fill the rooms at their normal rates in July and August. Some incredibly cheap flights too at the moment.
Stockholm is the capital of Sweden, and consequently the site of its Government and Parliament as well as the residence of the Swedish head of state, King Carl XVI Gustaf. Stockholm has been Sweden's political and economic center since the 13th century. Today it is the largest municipality of Sweden, with a population of 776,000, while the populations of the Stockholm urban area and Metropolitan Stockholm are roughly 1.2 and 1.9 million, respectively. With its location on the east coast of Sweden at the mouth of Lake Mälaren, by the Stockholm archipelago, it is widely renowned for its beauty.