It was Corey’s first time back in Stockholm since I’d been in London which meant I’d definitely be packing myself into his suitcase to piggyback onto this trip. After an easy flight and arrival to the hotel, I went right to Gamla Stan (Old Town) for a lunch at Tradition, a small cozy cafe with fresh Swedish dishes. Sam’s recommendations are high on my list and Tradition didn’t disappoint. First, the brown bread and butter tasted as though it was melting in my mouth. The super healthy cracked wheat crisps weren’t bad either, but I preferred the smoked reindeer and roe starter. My salmon and dill salad was lightly dressed with a citrus vinaigrette- a picture perfect start to my afternoon.
In Gamla Stan, most of the store fronts held kitschy souvenirs or overpriced crafts. There were also numerous restaurants advertising any dishes that would make travelers feel at home: Italian pasta, American burgers, and British fish and chips. Even with these all-too-common-touristy bits, the center of Old Town felt very ‘civilized’- meaning the area wasn’t overrun with selfie sticks, or large groups being led around by someone holding up an umbrella. The quiet lanes still felt quiet and the cafe windows still made you feel like you had come upon something that others may have missed. No one was sitting on city statues in a way that blocked your view of the landmark, and there weren’t long lines into the Nobel Museum.
The Nobel Museum welcomed me with a small group tour for English speakers. A picture and ultra short biography banner of each of the 900 Laureates rotates above museum guests on dry-cleaning technology; instead of collared shirts, small banners hum over your head. The Peace Prize is awarded by a committee chosen by the Norwegian parliament in the Oslo Peace Center. The Laureates are announced in October, and are awarded in December. Of these 900 winners, 48 were women and Marie Curie earned the prize twice: once in physics in 1903, and again in chemistry in 1911. What a beast!
For such an international honor, I couldn’t help but notice the small size of the museum. It’s curated in a way where many objects associated with prize winners are laid out with just one paragraph posted about them. Nothing is presented in chronological order. The current exhibit featured photographs of scientists who had to draw their theories, experiments, and inventions on just one sheet of paper.
I walked through Gamla Stan looking for Fabrik in the late afternoon. This was a recommended spot to get a ‘fika’, a Swedish tradition of relaxing with a coffee and pastry. I’d gotten to the cafe too late, but it was also time to meet up with Corey as his work meetings were done.
I met with Corey and his colleague, Matt, and caught a ferry across the shimmering waters to Fjaderholmarnas Krog, a restaurant that Corey’s been raving about before I even moved to London. The restaurant is set on an island in the archipelago, amidst lapping waves and a sunset hitting the evergreen trees just right. I had to try the three types of herring and then a salad with mackerel. The mackerel was a bit salty but that couldn’t ruin such a lovely evening.
The next morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel before Corey went off to his morning meetings. I spent the morning with a couple of maps and wifi connection to plan out where we’d trek once he returned. Later on that day, I made our way through New Town, full of commercial shops and posh hotels. The parks were lined with fruit and veggie stands, mostly selling the same produce: mushrooms, berries, and dried fruits. We had another recommendation for a late lunch, Prinsen, and it was probably the top meal I ate all weekend. The server brought us a mini ciabatta bread tower to start so I immediately fell in love. The octopus salad, swedish meatballs and the tuna were dreamy. The meatballs are nothing like the imposters at IKEA!
The city library and the nearby park were a favorite location for various skaters, strollers and dog walkers. I wasn’t able to snap any shots in the massive reading rooms at the libraries, but it did prompt me to consider the London libraries as optional places for my agile work when I returned to London.
For dinner, we splurged on crayfish because Swedes consider these a celebratory meal in August. Corey and I donned make-shift napkin bibs and giggled as we competed to see who could eat each little crustacean most efficiently. We laughed when we got bits of shell on one another and we realized we may have sprayed the bartender who was trying to teach us how to tackle the tails. It’s definitely more fun to eat with your hands, and we clearly provided dinner and a show for the other guests sitting at the counter.
The evening was much cooler than we anticipated as we walked along the main avenue. Corey pointed out bars he’d been to with his colleagues and clients. We opted for home once it started raining. I bragged that Stockholm is so walkable that I could easily get us back to our hotel after arriving just 24 hours earlier.
For Saturday, the plan was to walk as many neighborhoods between Ostermalm (North) and Sodermalm (South). We went North first because Matt suggested a coffeehouse called Foam, and I still hadn’t had a fika yet. We peered into every window with Scandinavian design furniture, and passed by numerous barber shops. Then, we actually stumbled up on an amazing market with decadent seafood dishes, jars full of colorful pickles, and pastries made of cardamom and cinnamon. The counters were similar to those you’d see at Grand Central station market. We couldn’t resist a pre-fika treat of shrimp lasagna. Don’t worry, this didn’t stop us from having an official breakfast sandwich of tuna and egg, a fresh juice and a coffee when we finally arrived at Foam. Up the street was a circular shaped park with a flea market type vibe.
Then we found our way to Skansen, an open air museum on one of the archipelago islands. I pictured statues and sculptures rising up along tree-lined pathways, but we soon found that the open air museum was more of a park set up to mimic old time Stockholm. We still bought tickets even though we could see that the target audience was families with children 10 years of age or younger. Didn’t stop us from ducking into the wooden doorways to strike up conversations with employees in ‘old school’ outfits. We talked with the town weaver, as she spun wool onto a spindle. Corey asked “What’s that?” and her response was “Where are you from!?” I quickly responded: “The city clearly!!!”
As big kids for a day, our next stop was the zoo inside of Skansen. I don’t think this housed local animals that wandered the woods in Stockholm centuries ago. We were astonished when we were allowed inside the lemur cage and when we found a space for small monkeys had absolutely no boundaries for the animals. We thought we were walking into the plastic flaps to see the butterfly sanctuary when seconds later, a monkey almost peed on my head! We saw crocodiles, fish, bears, seals, baboons, and Corey and I finished off at the petting zoo with a snake and a tarantula. We probably should have had balloons tied to our wrists and ice cream melting down our chins the way we were carrying on at this old school theme park.
We split a glass of wine and some fried herring before moving onto Sodermalm to see this hipster part of town. This area boasted many vintage shops, cafes, and great views across the sea. We found a fun playground and Corey even peppered with some locals in the neighborhood green. We followed the sounds of amplified music and came upon a park concert (Hela Stockholm), and watched volunteers set up a midnight running path for a race later that evening. At this point, I have to boast that we had walked over 30,000 steps and we hadn’t even gotten ourselves back to the hotel yet. We were pretty wiped out, and also realized that many of the restaurants we’d wanted to hit up were now closed. We knew we’d made the most of our day, ate at a hotel restaurant, and then hit the hay for our final morning.
Determined for a fika at Fabrik, we packed our bags and set out early for a morning coffee. Alas, the cafe is closed on Sundays, so we ended up back in Sodermalm on a lovely road lined with art galleries. Our open faced sandwich was amazing!!! I wanted to visit a Sunday market at the other edge of the neighborhood, near the sea. This proved to be a pretty disappointing market, but the window shopping along the way in all of the art galleries was perfect. We found a lovely pottery piece for my aunt, and the seaside air was just great on our last day. We knew we wanted Swedish meatballs as our last meal, but Tradition is also closed on Sundays, so we opted for its next-door neighbor and we were satisfied.
Stockholm is a relaxed city with good food and really walkable neighborhoods, something you can also find in other parts of the world. But what makes the city stand out is the friendliness of its people, the beauty of the archipelago, and the way one can feel very calm even in the midst of the touristy sections of town.
- Lunch at Tradition: order something with seafood (book ahead if you can)
- Nobel Museum: there is a possibility that the next time you visit, the museum will be relocated to a larger, more permanent facility
- Explore Gamla Stan neighborhood
- Dinner at Fjaderholmarnas Krog, but I can’t remember which ferry you’d need to take. If you can’t get here, try Prinsen for dinner.
- Explore New Town neighborhood if you’re into shopping
- Lunch at Prinsen– the Swedish meatballs are really good!
- Walk the library, city park, and then go for a fika of your choice
- Have crayfish (in August) at BAR; if not visiting in August, pick out your catch of the day from the fish bar!
- Breakfast at Ostermalm Saluhall (or Foam if you’re looking for something more cafe like)
- Skansen Open Air Museum -it’s a bit pricy if you’re not willing to head inside, you’ll be fine to spend your day doing something a bit more mature 🙂
- Walk the Sodermalm neighborhood and get to the Museum of Contemporary Photography if you have the time
- Dinner of your choice. Our hotel restaurant isn’t worth a mention.
- Tartan cafe for breakfast or lunch
- Stroll down Hornsgatan for art galleries and shopping