Last weekend I ventured off to Stockholm, Sweden. I had never been before and have a couple of friends who are from and live there and thought I’d try to visit them. Stockholm, like Copenhagen, Denmark, is stunning. It is also a lot more north than I was expecting. It is popular in the summer for the mild temperatures and the long daylight hours. By November the sun sets at 3:30PM! Thankfully even on this whirlwind tour of a trip, I was able to see the beautiful Baltic/ Nordic/ Scandinavian city in the daylight.
There is plenty to do in Stockholm, even in the cold dark winters. I found the architecture, landscape and people of the city to be beautiful. It is also a city made up of many islands, an urban fjord so to speak. From the minimal locals I interacted with (I spent most of my time with my friend), most speak very good English and willingly answer your questions.
SAS and Norwegian Air both have nonstop service from Stockholm to select U.S. Cities, but there are also plenty of intra-Europe flights from major gateways.
Sweden uses the Swedish Krona, which is about 9-10 Krona to 1 USD. Getting around is super easy. From Arlanda International Airport, you can take the Arlanda Express and get into the city in 20 minutes, or take the more affordable buses/ local trains. Within the city, you can walk everywhere (very walkable), bike everywhere, or buy a metro pass and take the extensive and timely bus and metro system. On my short trip, I spent the money on the Arlanda Express to maximize time and then walked around the rest of my time to really take in the city.
There are plenty of accommodation options in Stockholm, and low/shoulder season prices are very reasonable. I ended up booking a bed in a 6 person mixed cabin (NOTE: cabins are rooms in the ship and dormitories in the navy barrack, you want a cabin!) for USD$35/night at the STF Stockholm City AF Chapman & Skeppsholmen hostel, which is split between a former Navy barrack and an actual former Navy Ship the AF Chapman docked in the heart of Stockholm looking towards the Old Town. Totally worth the price and the bed/cabins were just fine and warm.
- Arrived in Stockholm Arlanda International Airport from Munich at around 11:30AM, hopped on the Arlanda Express and was in the city by 12:15PM.
- From Stockholm Central Station, it was about a 15-20 minute walk to Gamla Stan, the old town island of Stockholm. I walked towards here and wandered through the historic cobble stoned streets with some original and some reconstructed houses.
- I walked by the House of Nobility, The German Church, Storkrykan, and The Royal Palace (that is now purely a museum and no longer the official Royal Family Residence). The palace sits and faces the water and from the banks there is a great panorama shot of the National Museum and the AF Chapman ship.
- From Gamla Stan, I walked another 15 minutes around the water and past the National Museum towards the hostel.
- I checked in but the cabin was not yet ready and so I left my bag in the bag storage of the hostel before heading off to explore a bit more in the limited daylight hours I had before my room was ready at 3PM, just before sunset!
- Another 20 minute walk took me to Djurgarden island. The walk from the hostel took me along Strandvagen, one of Stockholm’s most prestigious streets built for the Stockholm Word’s Fair 1897. The buildings and cafes along this street with its historic tramway (still in operation) are beautiful and completely adds to the charm of the city.
- Djurgarden is museum central, home to many indoor museums but also a massive outdoor museum, Skansen, and an amusement park. I only had time to visit one and chose Vasa Museum, entry fee is 130 Krona for adults. Vasa is home to a well-preserved 17th-century Swedish ship that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628 and was brought back to the surface in the mid 1900s as it lay forgotten in the bays of Stockholm. The museum is architecturally beautiful, and perfectly houses the massive ship. Not only is it worth it just to see the wonderfully restored ship but the museum provides a great walkthrough of not only the sea-faring history of Sweden, and why the sea and waterways are so crucial to Sweden, but within that narrative one gets more context and understanding of the general history of Sweden and its people. A great way to get context and insight to start a trip in Sweden.
- The sun was already beginning to set as I began my walk back to the hostel. My cabin was ready and by the time I arrived my cabin-mates had already checked in and settled in. After settling in and taking a shower it was time to head out for the long winter night in Stockholm.
- I met my friend at my hostel right as the last rays of daylight were setting and we were presented with a beautiful multi-color sky as the sun set behind Gamla Stan, postcard shot of Stockholm really.
- I was starving so we thought about heading to one of Stockholm’s most famous food halls, Ostermalm’s Market Hall, two things, 1) it was closed for All Saint’s Day 2) The historic building is under restoration and now all thats operational is a smaller modern section.
- Saddened and disappointment we looked for our next food option. My friend insisted I needed to Fika (Swedish Coffee Break), before I could leave Stockholm. So we walked about 20 minutes to Mr. Cake. It was dark at 4PM and the lines were out the door at this cafe. Inside it was equally packed with couples, families, friends all chatting away over sweet and savory pastries and coffees or smoothies. We ordered a bunch of food, Red Velvet Croissant (filled with cream cheese frosting), Cardamom Rolls (popular and famous Swedish pastry), and Cinnamon Rolls, paired with cappuccino. All delicious and refreshing. It was still only around 5:00PM by the time we finished our Fika, and I was beginning to get really confused about the hours in this darkness.
- From Mr. Cake we walked through downtown Stockholm and some main shopping districts and popped into some Swedish design houses, because no trip to any Scandinavian city is complete without some glimpse into the perfect minimalist Nordic designs.
- We decided to grab some pre-dinner drinks at one of Stockholm’s only rooftop bars at Tak. Thankfully on this cold winter night it was not packed at all and offered some hot winter cocktails to warm the soul.
- Finally it was time for dinner, I insisted I needed my fix of Swedish meatballs so we ended up at Tradition, in Gamla Stan. On the way there we passed one of the narrowest and shortest streets in the world, Marten Trotzigs Grand. We ordered some Swedish beers, Cured Herring, Smoked Salmon toast, Swedish Meatball with Lingonberry Sauce and Pickled Cucumber and mashed potatoes, and Fried herring with brown butter. The meal ended with Vanilla Ice Cream and warm Cloudberry sauce.
- Happy and full and having caught up with a wonderful friend, it was 10:30PM already and time for bed. We parted ways and I returned to my hostel for a short night sleep before waking up at 4AM to catch a 4:35AM Arlanda Express
- Departed Stockholm on a 6:50AM flight to Amsterdam.
I loved Stockholm. Full of history, charm, character, beautiful architecture and people, and delicious food. I really enjoyed Fika culture and wish I had that all day everyday here in the United States. Though, I think next time I shall visit in the summer when daylight hours are longer, or in the peak winter when maybe I can see some Northern Lights in the heart of Stockholm, which apparently did happen a few days before my visit.