Of the three cities we visited on our trip, I had the least “feel” for what Stockholm would be like.
And it blew. Us. Away.
Stunning, beautifully preserved streets and buildings. Gorgeous little shops, restaurants and bakeries.
By the time we got to Stockholm we realized that 2 1/2 days in each city meant making choices on what to see and do. And we decided that soaking in the city – with lots of walking and eating along the way – would take precedence over time spent in museums, palaces and galleries. As this is not for everyone, I’ve included a list – at the bottom of the post – of all the things we WOULD have done if we’d had a few more days.
Once again we were blessed with the good fortune of a fabulous tour guide (arranged by our stellar travel agent), who spent the whole morning with us on our first day. Gabby was warm, funny and FULL of good information on what to do/eat/see. And just like in Oslo, we saw some sights that we would have definitely missed if we were on our own.
We started the morning in Gamla Stan (“Old Town”) – one of the largest and most perfectly preserved medieval city centers in Europe, dating back to the 1200’s. The winding cobblestone streets are filled with colorful old buildings, painted in varying shades of gold, and it is like walking around in the pages of a fairy tale.
There are no end of cafes, restaurants and shops, but I suggest seeing it as we did – early in the morning, when everything is still closed. The streets are mostly empty, and the town has a completely different feeling than it does later in the day. We did go back the following afternoon – to check out all the stores and bakeries we had passed – and sure enough the tiny streets were mobbed with tourists.
While you can’t make a wrong turn in Gamla Stan, I do recommend a few places to put on your to-do list:
Stortorget – the oldest square, and right in the middle of Gamla Stan. Lined with beautiful, colorful buildings, it also contains our very favorite bakery from the whole trip. Grillska Husets Brödbod had the usual selection we had become accustomed to seeing in Stockholm, but also some unique offerings that were nothing less than swoon-worthy (
one of which I will be re-creating here soon; here they are!). We got a lovely array and sat on the terrace of the adjacent cafe for a beautiful afternoon of people-watching and listening to music. Polkagris Kokeri is the most charming shop, turning out handmade traditional Swedish candies since the 1800’s.
A perfect stop for souvenirs, as they are as beautifully packaged as they are delicious. Kalejdoskop is the cutest little toy store; we picked up several things for Noah here. Tomtar and Troll sells handmade gnomes and trolls in all shapes and sizes.
Right over the bridge is the island of Sodermalm – where there is much to do, especially in “SOFO”. Tons of vintage shops, design stores, galleries, cafes and restaurants. We had a few “must see’s” from our list here, and we hit them all. Parlans makes caramels of the highest quality, beautifully packaged. And the gigantic chocolate-dipped meringues from Chokladfabriken?
I’m not the least bit ashamed to tell you that they were our dinner one night (well, maybe I’m a little ashamed….). We LOVED Alskade Traditioner – whose interiors look like a Swedish take on a 50’s American diner.
The decor is 100% vintage/retro and the friendly staff serves up delicious pastries, snacks and meals all day long.
Note: Swedes have a lovely custom called “fika” – it’s like a coffee break, but more. Fika is both verb and noun and refers to any time you take a break – with a cup of coffee (or tea) and a baked good. And it’s not an “on the run with a paper cup” break. It’s a time to slow down – either alone or with a friend, at home or at work – and truly savor the moment.
Grandpa warranted several visits. An uber-stylish store filled with clothing, shoes, accessories, vintage items, design and assorted knick knacks. I think we touched EVERYTHING. Right down the block is Coctail – an explosion of kitsch, selling vintage and newly manufactured nostalgia – mostly from the 50’s. Swedish minimalism is not to be found here. We wanted to try Meatballs for the People but they were sadly closed for holiday. Try to go if you can!
We finished up in Sodermalm on Monteliusvagen – a quarter mile walking path with the most amazing views of Stockholm. A bit tricky to find but WELL worth it.
Pictures do not do it justice.
Which brings me to the highlight of our stay in Stockholm – Rosendals Tradgard. A true “hidden gem” – and one we would have never ventured to on our own – we were led there by our tour guide, with the promise that this is where all the locals go.
A botanical garden, cafe and bakery, do not leave Stockholm without spending at least part of a morning or afternoon here. The cafe – set in a greenhouse – serves up lunches, salads and pastries using the garden’s own biodynamically grown vegetables wherever possible, and bread from the artisanal bakery (the whole cafe is certified organic).
The bakery houses a wood-fired oven and produces breads and pastries using the best ingredients and made completely by hand.
And OMG the farmshop – you can purchase the breads and cakes to go, flowers, vegetables, preserves and pickles, and a selection of books and crafts. Unfortunately the only thing you CAN’T buy is the staff tee shirt (I asked). We LOVED it (thank you Gabby!).
We managed to save room for a second round of desserts at Bla Porten – again, on Gabby’s recommendation. A lovely cafe set in a pretty patio garden.
And of course we shopped! While we’re lucky to have & Other Stories and COS here in New York, it was so much fun shopping in the country they originated from (did you know that both chains are spin-offs of H & M?). Swedish women – of all ages – are seriously THE most stylish I’ve ever seen; I was super glad to have packed my Stan Smiths and silver Birks.
Note: Chelsea would not permit me – under any circumstances – to visit the Hasbeens flagship. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. #teamclogs
Clearly there was so much we didn’t get to see. But we DID accomplish our goal of soaking in the city, people watching and eating all the things. Here is a (I’m sure VERY incomplete – please chime in!) list of places that you should look into if you’re planning a visit:
Fotografiska – I was truly sad to miss this as it is an amazing photography museum, located right in Sodermalm. It also houses an award-winning restaurant with some of the best views in the city.
Hermans – about 5 minutes from Fotografsika, this restaurant serves an all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet (much of it vegan), as well as a large selection of homemade vegan desserts – all in a beautiful garden setting.
If you visit Rosendals Tradgard (and you MUST), there are many other things to do on Djurgarden. There is Skansen – the world’s oldest open-air museum (much like the Oslo Folk Museum). It dates back to 1891, and features houses and farmsteads from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. There is also a zoo and an aquarium. Also on the island is the Vasa Museum – home to the Vasa ship, which capsized and sank in Stockholm in 1628 on its maiden voyage. After 333 years the ship was salvaged and has been painstakingly preserved over the last 50+ years. There’s Grona Lund – Stockholm’s amusement park, and (wait for it) the Abba Museum.
Meatballs! – I know, we went to Sweden and didn’t eat Swedish meatballs! Don’t judge. In addition to the aforementioned Meatballs For the People, here are few spots that kept coming up again and again in my research: Gastabud, Kalf & Hansen and Backfickan.
Finally, two more foodie stops that I would have liked to see had there been more time: Snickarbacken 7 looked super cool – a café, art gallery and concept store all in one space, offering a selection of vintage fashion, music, books, magazines and more. And we literally tore through Ostermalm Food Hall (it was just about to close). The beautiful original hall – dating from the 1880’s – is currently under renovation, but all of the stalls and restaurants have been moved to a temporary market right across the way.
Which leads me to the question of how you all like to travel – particularly when you are visiting a city (versus a more beachy trip). Typically I’ve traveled to one city at a time, spending 5-7 days, and trying to see mostly everything. This trip was so different – I was in three cities, and had to hone in on what was most important for me in each place. Would you have tried to see more museums? Crammed more into each day, leaving less time for lingering over a coffee? Would love to know!
Be sure to check out my Stockholm Pinterest board!