Lucky me was asked to travel to Sweden for 4 days on business, so of course I extended my stay for the weekend. And, as a fan-girl of Nordic-Noir dramas with the likes of The Bridge, The Killing, Jordskott and 2 episodes into the new Norwegian drama Occupied currently showing on Sky Arts, the city of Stockholm didn’t let me down.
Exploring by foot:
In my opinion, there’s no better way to explore a city and get a feel for a place than on foot. Having had a couple of drinks and a very Swedish dinner in the financial district on the Friday evening, we decided to explore the old districts of Stockholm the following day.
Having put on some comfy and warm snow boots (although much to our disappointment there was a lack of snow this weekend), we started our walk from Central Station, heading towards Gamla Stan, over the Vasabron with a quick detour to the small Islet of Riddarholmen, host to some 17th century palaces and a statue of Stockholm’s founder, Birger Jarl.
Gamla Stan on paper looks small, but riddled with intertwining cobbled pedestrian streets and back to back old, wonky colourful houses and churches, it is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centres in Europe and very much the place to get lost and enjoy your surroundings.
We must have walked around Gamla a number of times, often coming back here throughout the weekend, each time finding something new to look at and somewhere to eat (see below).
After a bite of lunch, we stumbled (it really did appear of out nowhere) upon the Royal Palace, Kungliga Slottet. Much like Windsor Castle, tourists can visit many of the 600 state rooms and museums or buy china with Sweden’s very own “Wills & Kate” photo on.
The East side of Gamla Stan looks out over Skeppsholmen. Heading over the Strombon and Skeppsholmsbrons, we walked around the shore, home to the fully rigged Af Chapman ship owned by the Swedish Navy but now used as a hostel. From here we headed on and upwards to the Kastellet where we admired the 360 degree views of the city.
Sugar & ice and all things spice
Very much in need of a sugar hit from all the walking, we went in search of some Swedish pastries and we hit gold.
Hidden in the back streets of the main city, Sturekatten is a cafe come converted two-story c1700 house with many of the original charms and decor still in tact. Clearly well known by the locals, the queue extended well down the narrow stairs. But the wait and the cinnamon buns was worth it!
Re-energised we were ready for some action. Ice skating is like a second skin in the Nordics and the free to use ice rink in Kungsträdgården (one of the city parks) is a gem. Boot hire is easy, not unlike getting on the ice for the first time in 10 years!
But with the sun already setting, younger families had already started to head home allowing for more space and a more relaxed skate. And with the lights of the city sparkling, it really was a great way to experience the local culture.
On the hunt for some food, and hoping to eat at Meatballs: For the People (it was full) in the hipster part of town, we stumbled across the Victorian Elevator Shaft and 5* Restaurant Gondolen. Forgetting the restaurant, head here, ideally in the day, for the views across the harbour and city. This is probably the highest point in Stockholm. Random as it is!
With only half a day left to explore on Sunday, we walked (yes, more walking!) to the only part of the city we hadn’t yet seen – Djurgården – what’s best described as the museum district and all-round tourist attraction centre. With over 20 museums including the ABBA:The Museum and Vasa 17th century ship, half a day certainly isn’t enough.
Exploring the city on foot was easy, not only to navigate but everything was so well connected. I’m still upset I didn’t bump into Saga Norén though.
What we ate, where we ate:
I’m sorry vegetarians and vegans, but this really isn’t the place for you! Stockholm, or Sweden in general, is all about the meeeeaaaaaatttttt!!!!! I’m drooling thinking about it; shanks of Reindeer, Elk and Deer meatballs, Elk burgers and Venison steaks. And that’s not forgetting those fabulous pastries and IPA beers.
Eating and drinking is not cheap; 2 beers cost us almost £20 on Friday night. We quickly learnt that it’s cheaper to drink with dinner if you do want a tipple, but be prepared to pay.
Magnus Ladulas – set in the hidden vaults on Gamla Stan, this restaurant is steeped in history since the 1500s. Lit by candlelight, we enjoyed a fantastic Reindeer pate starter followed by meatballs and venison steaks. And it didn’t break the bank.
Lunch / cafes:
Grill Ruby – another restaurant in Gamla. We had intended to eat at The Hairy Pig Deli but unfortunately it was shut (BOO! it looked so good!). Ruby’s was still great though and served a very good burger.
Vete-Ketten – A traditional style tea-room in the financial district and a short walk from the station, this cafe serves the best Swedish desserts including Semla and Cinnamon buns. Lessons on how to eat the Semla may be required!
Stureketten – as mentioned above, another gem of a cafe set in a 1700 traditional house with original decor. Cakes definitely not stale!