Comprised of fourteen islands in the Scandinavian archipelago, it’s easy to see why Stockholm is sometimes called the ‘Venice of the North.’ Nathan, Christina and I embarked on a Scandinavian adventure this summer to meet some family, and finally get to see some of the storied beauty we had always imagined. Stockholm is a truly gorgeous city that has maintained its historic elegance, while embracing modern innovation. While it is undergoing some major renovations to save its sinking bridges, getting around was hardly hindered and the subway system (and plenty of wandering) was our go-to for getting around the islands.
Our Airbnb – We stayed in Saltsjö-boo in a little house, just outside of the city center. While public transit was available, we opted for a 20-minute Uber ride for convenience each day. (Fun fact: one day we were driven by a former football defender for the Sweden women’s national team who now owns her own black car service! She was a great tour guide.) The trade-off to having a base in the city was getting to stay at this charming, private respite in a posh, residential area of Stockholm. We took advantage of the little kitchen as well as what we dubbed ‘wine terraces’ which surround the property, strategically located to follow the sun throughout the day. Our stay was made even more welcoming by the family’s cat who would dip in and out at his leisure. The apple trees surrounding the house were bursting with fruit while we were there, so we made a lovely apple crumble one evening, and enjoyed again for breakfast. Within walking distance from us was a restaurant called The Old Smokehouse, which served incredible American-style BBQ.
Kardemummabüllar – These are a Scandinavian specialty and I can honestly say I have never enjoyed something quite like them! Similar to a cinnamon roll, but so much more aromatic and complex, these yeast pastries are flavored with cardamom and glazed in butter and sugar. I have to figure out how to make these at home!
Skansen – There’s plenty to do and see on Djurgården, meaning “animal park”, which is an island that was once home to wild game, like elk and reindeer, and was the former Royal Game Park. It’s a great place to spend a day of touring since so many great attractions are located here, including the ABBA Museum, Vasa Museum, and perhaps its largest attraction is Skansen. Skansen is the oldest open-air museum in the world and features original, historical buildings from each of Sweden’s 21 counties. This place is huge, and in addition to the historic buildings you can actually walk into, like school houses, hardware stores, churches, farmsteads, it also features a zoo that focuses on Nordic animals like wolverines, bears, wolves, reindeer and more! This is the best place to learn about many generations of Swedish living.
Vasa Museum – You simply cannot miss this incredible museum dedicated to the history and ongoing preservation of the ill-fated Vasa warship which sank in the harbor on its maiden voyage in 1628. You can either jump in on one of the guided tours, or walk around and read at your own pace the narrative surrounding its creation, to the eventual excavation. While the ship was largely and perfectly preserved in the harbor in which is sank for hundreds of years, you can peek into the lab located on the bottom floor of the museum where the work of researching and preserving Vasa for future generations is ongoing. My favorite part was the lifelike facial reconstruction of some of the victims of the sinking, and learning about what life was like for people in the early 17th century. Also of note was the garden just outside which grew some of the food and medicinal herbs of the day. We spent a couple of hours here and would have gladly stayed all day for all there was to see!
Fika – Fika is the number one thing I brought home from Sweden. This tradition is ingrained in the culture and a practice that anyone can get behind: to stop everything you’re doing to enjoy a little coffee and a treat in the afternoon, and we saw it happening everywhere. So each day, we, too, would stop for coffee and a little something sweet, and it was the perfect way to recharge between brunch and dinner when touring all day long.
Östermalms Saluhall – This world-famous food hall is currently undergoing a massive renovation with plans to reopen in summer of 2019. Adjacent to the historic brick building is their temporary location filled with vendors of Swedish cuisine. Here you can shop at specialty counters like butchers or fish mongers to take away, or enjoy some of the offerings like smoked fish and smørrebrod on site at the full-service restaurants and bars. Nathan and Christina could not pass through without a shot of the requisite herb-infused snaps.
Gamla Stan – This island is known as Stockholm’s “old town” and is largely suited for pedestrian traffic. Come here to see Stortorget, the famously colorful square of old buildings where the Nobel Museum is located; Storkyrkan, the Stockholm Cathedral with a fabulous statue of St. George slaying the Dragon (made of oak, antlers, and horsehair); and Sweden’s Royal Palace, home to the Swedish Crown Jewels. While the Swedish Royal Family no longer resides here, it is largely open to the public for touring.
Södermalm – This is a super stylish neighborhood teeming with fashionable shops, people, and restaurants. Come here just to walk around and browse vintage and specialty stores, like Grandpa, or grab some afternoon fika. Be sure to check out Urban Deli which is grocery-store perfection full of fresh artisanal foods. It was such a delight to shop for our groceries here and bring back to the house.
I’ll be posting soon about the rest of our Scandinavian adventure, including visiting Copenhagen and touring around the west coast of Sweden!