Stockholm is probably one of the last remaining places on my “must do” list and I finally made it. And the city did not let me down! What amazing architecture – and I mean well beyond the stereotypical “Scandinavian minimalism” that you see everywhere – and the people were sweet, kind and helpful. As I always do, I just wandered and wandered some more to take in the city as much as I could. And I will return: perhaps next time, in the winter – although my friend says the winds off the water are brutal and will chill you to the bone – as I suspect that city has fewer tourists and there will be a gorgeous blue light on everything (when the light is actually up!)
I chose to stay that at the Hotel Skeppshomnen (http://www.hotelskeppsholmen.com/) on the small island of Skeppshomen and I honestly can’t recommend this hotel enough! The island is really quite quiet with few cars, apparently no residential housing, and no bars or restaurants except that in the hotel. Upon my arrival, I was told that I had been upgraded to a larger room which, when I arrived, was quite lovely. But something was amiss: after much searching – jetlag sure does take a few brain cells away doesn’t it! – I realized that I had booked a sea-view room.
And this is where the hotel received a failing mark. Not only did they fail to tell me that the upgraded room didn’t have a sea view, but when I went to ask, they told me that “something was wrong with the room,” that they had no more sea view rooms available, and could move me later. Subsequently, I wrote to the manager and, voila, a sea view room became available. But I didn’t take it and I recommend that you don’t take it either: the sea view rooms are more expensive (and the one I was shown, the size of a large closet) and, until the trees either lose their leaves or you stay in the winter, you can’t see the water. And because the island is so quiet and peaceful, the rooms that look to the park (and the Modern Art Museum, by the way), are equally as calming.
But the staff were lovely and the breakfast in the morning a wonderful way to begin the day. I like to believe that the hiccup upon my arrival was simply due to the wedding that was scheduled later in the week and that you’re experience upon checking in will be hassle free. It’s worth a try!
If you want to be about a 15 minute walk closer to the city centre, I can also recommend the Lydmar Hotel (http://www.lydmar.com/), a lovely small hotel close to the National Museum that appears absolutely stunning and is probably worth a try.
The other hotel that I would probably recommend is the Grand Hotel (http://www.grandhotel.se/en), one of the old “grande dames” of the city. The lobby, itself, is stunning and their signature restaurant “Mathias Dahlgren” (more on this below) is beyond belief.
Food in Stockholm is really quite lovely and definitely centered around meat and fish. In the summer months, going in to early fall, I suspect vegetarians can do all right. But in the winter and early spring – before the vegetables start to show – you will have either slim pickings OR you will have very expensive imported food. Just be warned.
One of the best meals I have ever had – truly an event and one that actually took in to consideration my eating habits – was at Mathias Dahlgren (http://www.mathiasdahlgren.com/). The dining room is the upscale version where everything from the food, to the wine, to service is meticulously planned and choreographed. If you want a meal to remember, and are ready to pay dearly for it, you must go!
There is also a “food bar,” which is just a lower end version of the dining room mentioned above so if you aren’t ready to pay that kind of coin, check out the food bar.
If you are wandering around in the Gamla Stan – as we all should at least once – check out Marten Trotzig (http://martentrotzig.se/). I went here with a friend and it was absolutely lovely: very small dining area (so reservations are key on weekends) with a larger private space downstairs and views on to the cobble streets. I would describe the food as upscale traditional which is exactly what I was looking for and would definitely put this on every visitors list.
Further afield from the city center, but easily walkable and a lovely walk as long as it’s not raining, is Trattorian (http://trattorian.se/). The owner is Italian and prides himself on good quality Italian food. And if I do say so myself, the mozzarella was divine and the homemade pasta made and cooked to perfection. I would have returned again had I had more nights in Stockholm.
There is much to see and do in Stockholm and 2 days really doesn’t do it justice. I could have walked and explored for days!
If time is short – or even if you have lots of time – you must make it to the Vasa Museet! This is a ship that sank upon leaving the port back in the 1600s and sat there for 333 years before being found and excavated. Now fully preserved, yet up close and personal, the ship and all its amazing craftsmanship is a wonderful display and a fantastic example of what modern technology can do to preserve such a wonderful piece of history. Arrive early however – they open at 10 – as the tour groups start filing in shortly thereafter and it does become a challenge to get close and see the various details.
Another thing that I would recommend you do is to go past Gamla Stan to the island of Sodermalm. Once you cross the bridge and are the island, turn left on to Katarinavagan and walk up the gently sloping hill: you will see some of the most amazing views of the city and get a real feel for the real, working, Stockholm as opposed to all of the tourist haunts. Continue to wander around and ultimately, seek out Gotgatan (street). My friend said it’s like Chelsea or the East Village in New York and it definitely is a great place to stroll. And if you are in need of an original piece of Stockholm to take home, check out Galleri Hantverket (http://www.gallerihantverket.se/), a shop of artists with their designs that I just loved.
So there you: Stockholm in a couple of days. I am certain that I will return and, if the Swedes ever decide to join the euro zone and prices drop, I’ll be back more time and much sooner. But don’t let the prices scare you: we only live once and Stockholm is definitely a place that should be on everyone’s list! Enjoy and I hope you love it as much as I did!