I’m not going to pretend that I got to grips with Stockholm as that wouldn’t be fair to you. I visit a lot of cities just for the weekend and most of the time I manage to feel like a pretend local for 48 hours.
That wasn’t the case with Stockholm.
Equally though, it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t share the good bits with you in a mini Stockholm guide. And in writing that it sounds like there were bad bits and there weren’t. Everything we saw and did was lovely. I had such a great time with one of my besties.
It might be a bit of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ syndrome, but for whatever reason I didn’t feel like me and Stockholm were meant to be. If we were on a date it’d be one of those awkward ones; you both turn up all fresh-eyed and full of anticipation, you politely chat for a little bit and it’s nice, but then it dries up and well, it’s just so-so.
I left the city not entirely getting my bearings and lusting for something a bit more. I felt like I’d just scratched the surface and had only just begun to discover the real Stockholm, rather than cliché one that you often read about.
How’s this for a shocker? I think I only saw one ‘classic’ Swedish hipster. From the stuff I read I assumed all guys would have carefully crafted beards and uber trendy glasses. Not the case.
For some reason I imagined a cute, quaint place that I’d be able to navigate in a heartbeat. I think that’s my fault for romanticising the city. I guess I kinda forgot that it’s a city. Stockholm is huge! In 2015 it was dubbed as one of the fast growing cities in Europe.
It’s made up of a number of islands, though sometimes you don’t even realise that you’ve left one and walked on to another. High-street shops are often repeated and some of the streets twist and turn so much that you wonder if you’ve gone full circle. That said, once you figure your main routes out it’s totally doable.
I don’t feel like an expert on Stockholm, but the dutiful, helpful travel blogger in me feels the need to share what we got up to in case it’s helpful for your own trip out there.
Best Things to do in Stockholm
These are my seven pearls of wisdom on things to see and do in Stockholm…
♥ Boat Tour
We went on a Royal Canal Tour early one morning and I’d definitely recommend heading out on the water. Not necessarily that tour in particular, though we did enjoy it (even if we did shun the headphones in favour of gazing out).
The boat tours are very popular, so I’d recommend booking online in advance or booking once you get there. If you want to sit with your friends/family or want a window seat I’d suggest arriving thirty minutes before you boat departs and heading to the first pick-up point if you can (ours had two).
We did spy some super cute picnic boats that had a little table in the middle, so they could be fun if the weather is nice when you visit.
♥ Bike Tour
We also did a bike tour of Stockholm on our first morning to get an overview of the city. It’s definitely a fun way to get round the city. There were a few tricky bits right in the centre where bike lanes merge into traffic and then onto pedestrian bits, but other than that it was all pretty flat and easy.
I’d definitely recommend going to Monteliusvägen; a quarter mile walking path with beautiful views of Lake Malaren, the city hall and Riddarholmen. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to go. There are a few benches and a park area so take a picnic or a few drinks with you.
Sodra Teatern is also recommended in guide books as the place to get the best views of the city. We popped along for a drink on the roof terrace and found it to be a tad overrated. Monteliusvagen is definitely better.
We didn’t fika nearly as much as we would have liked, but there’s only so much a girl can eat in one weekend! Fika is basically the concept of going for a coffee and sweet treat, and listening (more than talking) to whoever you’re with. It’s a big deal in Sweden with lots of workplaces pretty much insisting on it. Supposedly it makes for better work decisions and efficiency.
Perhaps the most touristy, but equally loved by locals is Vete-Katten. You could easily walk past it as the entrance is very discreet. According to their website, ‘someone once said that even if the house was razed to the ground, the scent would still linger in its place as a sugary cloud of cardamom’.
We also tried some of the waterfront spots as we couldn’t resist the views, though Grillska Huset (a 17-th century structure run as an enterprise) and Malarpavilijongen (open-air café on a floating pontoon) came recommended too.
♥ Rosendals Tradgard
This was by far our favourite part of the weekend. Made up of a really cute café, artisanal bakery, boutique and gorgeous gardens, it really is worth spending an afternoon here. You can get a little snack or a full blown meal in one of the greenhouses. Much of the produce is biodynamic and grown on site.
We sat in the apple orchards watching the clouds float by, listening to the distant laughs of small children climbing trees. We walked through the fields as ribbons danced in the breeze and we breathed in the sweet smell of a gourmet BBQ. If you have a flower crown, this is the place to wear it.
I realise this is a restaurant, but it felt more of an experience so I’m counting it as something to do in Stockholm!
It’s a vegetarian buffet, which I know doesn’t sound enticing even for a veggie like me. I’m not a fan of buffets and don’t like mushrooms or aubergines, which seem to be a staple ingredient for many veggie options.
Hermans is great though! All of the food was SO good. They even had vegan desserts, which were delicious. The food during our visit included salads, lasagne, chilli, curry and more. It was hard to decide what to go for as there was so much on offer.
This place also offers panoramic views. It gets very busy, so book ahead to avoid disappointment. If you want to grab a bargain though, turn up after 8pm when they offer reduced prices because there isn’t as much to choose from.
♥ Urban Deli
This is a bit of an institution now, with a few branches dotted throughout Stockholm. We ventured to the ‘cool area’ to go to the Nytorget one. It seemed to be full of locals, rather than tourists and was full to the brim.
Be prepared to wait a little while for your table and to sit very closely to other diners. It has a buzzy atmosphere, a high-end but cute food shop and a popular bar. The menu isn’t so great for fellow veggies, but the meat platters looked very Instagrammable (is that a word?!).
When to Go to Stockholm
We visited the city at the start of September, which is classed as the tail end of the summer. Apparently August had been a wash out and September is usually when the grey, cold weather begins, but somehow we lucked out with gorgeous blue skies and pretty warm temperatures. We gallivanted around with no coats and enjoyed fewer crowds than you’d get in the peak seasons (well, so I’m told by the locals we met).
Just like most destinations, the shoulder season (i.e. the end of peak season or start of off-peak) is usually a good time to travel to get good prices and less queues.
How to Get There
First up, the flights from London to Stockholm are super cheap. We flew with a budget airline and paid much less than £100 for a return weekend trip, so if you love to travel it’s definitely a tempting fare.
Stockholm Arlanda is more central than Skavsta, but the flights are often cheaper to the latter. We flew to Skavsta and then caught the Flygbussarna to the city terminal. We bought the tickets at the airport and it was all very simple. We then used the subway (said to be the world’s longest art exhibit) to get to our hotel.
In the main the hotels and everything else are not so cheap. For a bit of perspective, even buying from a newsagents it cost £2.50 for a small bottle of water.
Where to Stay in Stockholm
As you know, I love stylish travel so of course, we stayed in a stylish hotel. We booked Story Hotel Riddargatan. With its darkened corridors, exposed concrete and abstract art it’s definitely a modern, contemporary place to stay. If you like conventional and traditional hotels it’s probably not for you.
I loved the quirky touches and stylish decor. I didn’t love the noise from the nearby bar so much, especially as it seemed to notch up a level at midnight, but we found that shutting the windows completely or joining the partying seemed to work.
The staff were super helpful and spoke great English. They were more than happy to make reservations for us and to recommend places to eat.
Replicate the Trip
Flights: Ryanair from London Stansted to Stockholm Skavsta
Accommodation: Story Hotel Riddargatan
Read More About Stockholm…
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