Sunday, 21 June 2015

Explore: Stockholm | The Small Desk

Rosendals Trädgård

Rosendals Trädgård

Stockholm Archipelago 

I've been to Stockholm twice: once over New Year in 2011, and once in May of this year. I have seen it hidden in snow and the lake suffocated with ice, and I have seen it in the blazing sun with people fishing from the bridges and kayaking on the lake. Before I ever went to Stockholm I had an image in my head of the city as one of the most beautiful, rich and stylish cities in the world. It is all those things, but you have to know where to look. I have written this guide in order to help you find those places. 

Stockholm is often lumped in the same category as Copenhagen, and I think many people believe these cities to be very similar, yet they are very different. Stockholm is made up of 14 islands. The main areas you are likely to visit are: Södermalm (shopping), Gamla Stan (old town), Djurgarden (park island), Vasastan (smart restaurants) and Norrmalm (city centre). Stockholm also has a museum island called Skeppsholmen that you might like to visit.

1. EAT
We often find the best restaurants whilst getting lost looking for a specific one we found on Tripadvisor! We gave up looking for the veggie restaurant and thought this place looked nice. Turns out in this case you could judge a book by its front cover, if you get my gist!

Word to the wise – this place expects you to have a reservation, and most people tend to reserve for 7pm. We went in at ten to seven and there were many many empty tables, but we had to wait until seven to see if there were any free tables. I scoffed at this, but to my surprise at 7pm on the dot everyone came in to claim their tables. Luckily there was one 'table for two' free. I had a goats cheese and beetroot pizza/crisp bread and the boyf had moose! It is essentially posh pub food with a Swedish twist.

For more suggestions on where to eat in Stockholm check out my Eats post.

Södermalm is where you can find Drop Coffee (third best coffee in the world apparently), Sandqvist (famous Swedish bag company), along with vintage stores and boutiques.

You can get to the area from the centre of town by walking across a couple of bridges, which means you get great views of Stockholm and in particular the old town. If you visit this area, take your purse and your camera, you will definitely need both!

HTL hotel is the place to stay: not only is it affordable and only a stone's throw from the central train station, but it is absolutely beautifully designed and maintained. The check-in and check-out are self-service through an iPad embedded into a desk. The rooms are a very good size for the price, and the hotel is very clean.

The best thing about this hotel is the breakfast. There are a plethora of options to choose from including berry smoothies and orange juice served in cute little milk bottles. My favourite option was the granola that came in a little jar you could pair with raspberry or natural yoghurt.

Word of warning though – don't use the shower gel if you have sensitive skin. 

If you've had enough of the museums and shops and fancy a walk then head to Djurgarden. This is essentially Stockholm's Central park, but by the sea. The blue gates with gold stags welcome you in and look stunning in the sunlight or draped in snow.

If you're feeling peckish make sure to head to Rosendals Trädgård, where there is a cafe selling sandwiches, cakes, soup and lots of lovely lunch delights. It also has a health food shop and a garden centre. I had to refrain from buying lots of plants to take back.

Unlike the Gothenburg archipelago, Stockholm's archipelago consists of mainly private islands. If you're feeling brave, the best way to see these islands is by kayaking. For those of you like me however, who do too much risk management at work, there is always the cruise option. It takes about two and a half hours and departs twice a day. This is one place you have to go in summer as I don't think the cruise even goes in the winter or can due to ice!

There are 30,000 islands in Stockholm's archipelago, so you're probably not going to have time to visit them all! But there are hostels, hotels and holiday lets on these islands, so if you have lots of time you could see more of the region.

Finally, the main 'weird' attraction in Stockholm is Skansen. It was founded in 1891 by Artur Hazelius who noticed the decline of Swedish folk culture during industrialisation. In order to save this folk culture for future generations he decided to build Skansen and the Nordic museum. Skansen is an open-air museum with a zoo. Hazelius bought 150 houses from around Sweden and had them shipped (piece by piece) to Skansen.

I am obsessed with open-air museums that recreate traditional culture, so much so that we made a specific stop off to Linkoping open-air museum on our trip around Sweden! Let me know if you want to read about that in another post! However if you're not used to open-air museums then you might find the experience a little odd. Everyone who works there is dressed in traditional attire and performs traditional crafts or skills. The weirdest thing they have there is the historical Yule Goat mask. Trust me, look it up, it's freaky!

The only place I would say to avoid in Stockholm is the area around Sergels Torg 3 where the visitor centre is. It's a bit too commercial for me and there seem to be a few unsavoury characters hanging around. You can't really avoid walking past it, but I wouldn't advise it as a place to hang out.

I hope you liked this 'Explore' post! Have you been to Stockholm or ever considered going?

You might also like:
Explore: Copenhagen
Stockholm Eats Vegetarian

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