The Stockholm Syndrome
It was my first time in Stockholm and it became an unforgettable and exhilarating experience for me.
What can I say? Stockholm is a beautiful city, which deserves your visit. I was planning this visit for more than 5 years and for some reason, I always wanted to go at the end of June. This year, in a spontaneous decision, I bought the tickets and off we went! We have arrived in Arlanda airport, which is located 35 km outside of the city. For those not as fortunate as us, (we had my uncle which picked us up) there are several options: airport express, train or taxi. As he explained on our way to the city, the options’ prices vary between 280 and 475 SEK.
Below, I have created a video, watch it first and than we can continue our journey though Stockholm.
Now let me tell you my story, my experience in Stockholm. I have wandered the streets and narrow alleys of Gamla Stan (Old Town Stockholm), I took a boat trip in the archipelago and I went inside the Drottningholm Palace, known as the Queen’s Palace and also I’ve visited the Vaxholm Fortress Museum. Stockholm has a lot of highlights and hidden treasures and I will share the ones I found and liked the most, therefore, you can consider this as your personal guide and you decide what you want to do – and how.
First thing first, you need to bear in mind that Stockholm is a city based on a several number of islands often referred to as the archipelago. We stayed on the one called Stadhagen, the same one where the City Hall building is.
Royal National Park
The first day we went to Royal National Park, also called locally Djurgarden where you can encounter deers, rabbits, even foxes or moose, and spot rare birds, butterflies and insects, which you will have a difficulty imagining right close to the city. We went to Waldemarsudde, a little castle of Prins Eugens, which was built on a hill, with an amazing view over the water and continued to walk along the water for some time and then we entered deep in the park. There are many good hiking trails through untouched nature with spectacular views and historic settings but after hours and hours…and hours walking around, we went out of the park and and we took a small detour to go to Kaknastornet, the national TV tower.
Many people tend to go for the Sky Globe for an epic view of the city, which I am not saying it’s a bad thing, but visiting the TV tower will offer you a better view of the city and as well the archipelago. I must admit by this time I was so tired, we took a bus, which fortunately had the station right in front of the building. I was very impressed with the public transportation, every bus, tram or metro comes right on time and of course in every station you will find the schedule based on days and hours.
Next stop, Gamla Stan! Gamla Stan, the Old Town, is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centers in Europe, and one of the foremost attractions in Stockholm. In the middle of Gamla Stan is Stortorget, the oldest square in Stockholm which is the central point from which Köpmangatan runs, the oldest street in Stockholm. Mårten Trotzigs gränd (Mårten Trotzigs alley) the narrowest alley in Gamla Stan, only 90 centimeters wide at its narrowest point is hard to find. Close by, you can find the Stockholms Stadsbibliotek, which is one of top 10 most beautiful libraries in the world and for sure worth a visit.
I learnt to fika like a local
One of the first things I noticed about the lifestyle of the Swedish people is their love for coffee breaks. This coffee break is called Fika and it means sharing coffee and sweets with your friends in a comfortable setting. The best place you can fika is Vete-katten. It’s a historic family café since 1928 and is one of the well-preserved, tradition-packed coffee shops where you can sample traditional Swedish pastries of superior quality. For food, we went to this really cosy place called Cultur bar & restaurant, where we had tapas with a Scandinavian twist and of course as any gourmand we had to go for desserts.
One more place that you can visit and it’s a real true hidden gem, is Snickarbacken 7, which is basically a brunch local place which has a café, art gallery and concept store all in one space. The last, but not the least favorite food corner I found in Stockholm is Chokladkoppen, a cozy little café at idyllic Stortorget Square, not far from the Royal Palace in the medieval Old Town. Exquisite sandwiches and pastries, and in summer a popular alfresco section. Going there, you also get to take some amazing Instagram pictures.
Sweden’s Parliament (Riksdag) is a must, unfortunately, it was closed during our visit, but the building is located between the Old Town and the central shopping street (Drottninggatan) where we passed by and it’s actually a very good spot for pictures. You can check the schedule for the free tour inside the Parliament buildings (riksdagen.se).
Next stop, Drottningholm Palace, which is a UNESCO's World Heritage. The building and the garden are impressive and while I was thinking “this palace remembers me a lot of the French palaces I have visited” I noticed a historical sign which actually mentioned that the garden has the formal French influence and the source of inspiration was the Vaux-le-Vicomte palace, near Paris. One more interesting thing about going there is that you have the chance to visit he oldest theater building in the world with its original painted stage material and stage machinery intact. From the palace, we went on board of a century-old steamer and sail to City Hall building.
The City Hall
This is from my opinion one of the most important buildings in Stockholm and a must while visiting the city. Firstly, we went up in the tower, 300 + stairs, but the view it’s impressive. The tour lasts around 30 minutes and there is a limited number of people that are allow to be in the tower in the same time, so plan your trip accordingly. The second thing we did is a tour inside the building which lasts around 45 minutes and you get to find out interesting facts about each room, you even get to see how the city council is gathering around to discuss local politic matters. Every year the Nobel banquet is held here and it’s streamed live on the Swedish National television.
Last stop of the day was the Vasa Museum. Myself, I am not a big fan of museums, I love seeing building from outside, but going inside to look at some paintings it’s not really my thing. But Vasa Museum it’s something else! Of course, if you think about its 25 minutes of life, you get to wonder, why would you go to visit this old boat? In fact, the impressive thing, at least for me, it’s just how well preserved the seventeenth-century ship is. I would suggest signing up for a tour at the ticket counter; it is free and it takes around 25 minutes (same amount of time it took the boat to sink )
“There is nothing like a beautiful sunset to end a healthy day” Rachel Boston said, therefore, every night after 10 pm I went to places like Monteliusvägen and Skinnarviksberget. The first one is a 500-meter long walking path with a magnificent view of Lake Mälaren, City Hall, and Riddarholmen. On the other hand, Skinnarviksberget, the highest natural point in central Stockholm is a favorite place among the locals for picnics and parties under the open sky. The views are stunning – across Kungsholmen, Gamla Stan (Old Town), the Stockholm Town Hall, and other points of interest.
One thing I really wanted to see while planning my trip to Stockholm was the Vaxholm Fortress, which was built with the purpose to defend the city. While going there, if you have a car, please get to visit the defense point Rindo Island Pass, where you get to see all the big cruise ships that will leave from Stockholm City Center at 5.30 pm into the Baltic Sea. It’s really impressive and it’s not a known spot for tourists.
I could not write about Stockholm and not mention the metro stations. Many of Stockholm's metro stations might look like caves, but have often been associated to an art museum, with many of them featuring either themed designs. The most important and beautiful stations, I could name are: T-Centralen, Solna Centrum, Kungsträdgården, Stadion, Skarpnäck, Tekniska Högskolan, Rådhuset and Huvudsta.
Finally, I would like to mention my favorite spots in the city for Instagram pictures. I will start of course the metro stations mentioned above, the city hall tower, Monteliusvägen walking path, the bridge to Skeppsholmen, Skinnarviksberget, the highest natural point of the city, the wave swinger at Gröna Lund, the narrowest alley Mårten Trotzigs in Gamla Stan, Vaxholm Fortress and finally the city library.