As a self-confessed travel enthusiast, I love to research my new destination to the point where I know which cocktail to order at a specific speakeasy and that special cold cut I need to try at a given food market (I promise that does not suck all the fun out of it). And yet, at the end of my trip to Barcelona, when my brother graciously made me an offer to crash his holiday in Stockholm, I unapologetically obliged. And that was the beginning of my exceptional 36 hours in the Swedish capital.
Day 1: 11AM
From the word go, the city boasts of elegance, modern design and the blonde hair and blue- eyed gorgeousness (a stereotype I know, but so true). A 20-minute bullet ride on the Arlanda Express took me straight from the international airport to the city centre. After dropping my bag off at the concierge of the Nobis Hotel in the posh neighbourhood of Östermalm, I quenched my thirst with a chilled local brew at a joint called B.A.R close by and was ready to deal with the hunger to see and do things.
Following recommendations from friends and my brother, I walked the promenade towards the museum island of Djurgärden and what a first impression it was. Open clear skies, fresh cold air, harbours and bridges on the Baltic Sea, locals basking in the occasional post-summer sunshine… Now having been in Europe for the past week I shouldn’t have been so stunned, but I was. There is a sense of magic and purity on this Nordic archipelago.
Before crossing the bridge to the island, I stopped by for a local bite – a simple but delicious fare of meatballs, lingonberry sauce (Swedes are big on berries in their savoury dishes, desserts and smoothies) and a side of mash potatoes.
Among others, Djurgärden is home to the Nordic Museum, Rosendals Trädgård – a gorgeous rose garden known for their in-house café, Skansen, an open air museum, and the most visited Vasa Museum housing a 17th century ship wreck, beautifully restored to its original glory.
If any one of these do not strike your fancy, ride the subway to the trendy Soder-malm, the Brooklyn of Stockholm. Don’t miss out on the artwork on the platforms of the metro stations. Sodermalm, another island, full of hipster boutiques and Instagram-worthy cafes and bars also houses the Fotografiska museum, an out-standing collection and a visual treat.
Fika o’ clock
Soon it’s Fika time and unarguably my favourite. Fika, literally means to go get coffee, and is synonymous with the Swedish culture. When the clock strikes 3 the body automatically craves a sweet treat, which in Stockholm usually means a cinnamon or cardamom bun with a cup of coffee. There are unmissable Fika cafes all over the city but some of the local favourites include Vete-Katten, Brod & Salt and Wiener Cafféet.
Energised after Fika, I walked around the colourful Östermalmstorg food market, and browsed through the luxury shopping malls NK and Gallerian. Right across from NK is the uber cool MOOD Stockholm – a chic space with boutiques, food and design in every corner.
Happy Hour (Popularly known as After Work in Stockholm)
The Boqueria inside MOOD Stockholm, a vibrant Spanish tapas bar, entertains the crowd of the business district at “After Work” hour serving delectable cocktails and food. Here one can get a glimpse of the locals (usually labelled as introverts) in their fun element.
Wine and dine Dinner reservations are recommended at most places in the city. Woodstockholm, a hip establishment pushing boundaries and adding to the Nordic deliciousness in Sodermalm, is by far one of the best meals of my life. While we tried a lot of meat and fish (horse tartare, oysters, beetroot soup with poached egg, baked fish with mushrooms) and of course berries, there is enough vegetarian goodness on their menu. Other mouth watering dining options include Speceriet, a sister chain of the Michelin-starred Gastrologik, or Urban Deli, a new age diner/lounge opened behind a high-end grocery store.
Day 2, 10AM
The next morning after hitting cafe Koloni for a to-go breakfast smoothie (another answer for your morning fix is Joe and the Juice, found every few blocks) I rented a bicycle. Stockholm is small, bike friendly and reveals a different facet while cycling.
If one prefers to be on foot, take a walking tour of the cobblestone Old Town of Gamla Stan, that divulges in the gruesome but interesting past of the Stockholm Blood Bath and other key points of the town’s history.
Old Town at Noon
It is charming to spend an afternoon at Gamla Stan, with its 50 shades of yellow houses, narrow lanes, quirky stores and tiny restaurants. Tradition, serving typically Swedish food or Hairy Pig Deli for barbecue lovers, are great lunch spots in this neighbourhood. Of course I ended my afternoon here by doing Fika at a cosy cafe relishing the decadent Chokladbollar (Swedish Chocolate Balls).
Early drinks at 5PM
And just like that the end was near. After a couple of concoctions at the warm cocktail bar Pharmarium in the Old Town, and a race to make it in time to the station (always happens with my brother and me) I found myself back on the ex-press train dreaming of my next 36 hours (hopefully longer) in this enchanting city that took me by surprise.