Stockholm Fact File:
- Currency: Swedish Krona (SEK)
- Language spoken: Swedish
- Head of state: King Carl XVI Gustaf.
- World’s biggest exporter of pop music in relation to GDP
Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I know, I may be biased because I was born there, but hey! It’s true!
When people think of Sweden they often think of it as the home of Abba, IKEA, Volvo and beautiful movie stars such as Ingrid Bergman and Greta Garbo – but it is so much more than that!
Like many Scandinavian countries, where temperatures drop to sub-freezing during the winter, Stockholmers really make the most of their short summer. In my opinion, Stockholm is best enjoyed during the summer months – it is a summer city, and nobody does summer better than the Swedes. The people and the city go into hibernation during the long, dark winter and people restrict their going out and tend to only see their family and very close friends. So, when the sun does finally comes out for the short summers everyone wants to sit outside; go for bike rides; go for boat trips and not miss a second of it – you even see people waiting at the bus stop basking in the sun, all standing in a row with their eyes closed and their faces tilted to the sun’s rays.
With my guide, you should be able to see the best parts of Stockholm on a budget.
How to get there
There are four airports serving Stockholm: Arlanda, Bromma, Skavsta and Västerås. The closest of these is Bromma (20 minutes travel time by bus), then Arlanda which is about 40 minutes away and then both Skavsta and Västerås are about 80 minutes away. You can get to and from the airport using a company called Flygbuss and tickets are priced at 99 SEK (about £10) for an adult one way ticket or 89 SEK (about £9) for a student ticket. These can be booked in advance online or on the day – the prices do not change. If you are travelling to Arlanda then you also have the option of taking the Arlanda Express which is faster and ranges from 150 SEK – 280 SEK for a single. However, there are lots of good deals for people travelling together and as well as having a student ticket, they have a “youth” ticket which is someone aged 8-25 years, which helps make it cheaper.
For people travelling from the UK, I would advise flying to Arlanda. Companies such as Monarch, Easy Jet, Norwegian, British Airways and SAS fly from London airports to Stockholm.
Where to stay
Where you will stay in Stockholm will depend very much on your budget. If you are looking for something a bit more refined and high-end then you could stay in the Grand Hôtel which will give you front seat views of the Royal Palace, the Old Town and the waterfront.
If you are travelling on a budget and looking to stay somewhere a little bit different, then I would recommend staying on the af Chapman, which is on the island of Skeppsholmen. The af Chapman is a boat over 100 years old, which has been converted into a youth hostel. You can stay below decks in the beautifully restored cabins. In the summer you can recline on the deck in a comfortable chair, gin and tonic in-hand and take in the views across the water, where you will also be able to see across to Gamla Stan (the old town) and the Royal Palace.
What to do
If you are like me and you “live to eat” rather than “eat to live” then I think we better start off with the question “would you like to fika?” If your first instinct is to tell me not to be so rude, then hear me out. FIKA is a Swedish word, which encapsulates the Swedish tradition to meet up, have a coffee and have a bit of a chinwag. It is one of those untranslatable words that means more than just one word – it is more of a way of life. FIKA any time, any day, any place. Quick fact for you: Scandinavians drink the most coffee in the world – even more so, than the Italians. So in one fika session, each person could be expected to polish off two or three cups of filter coffee.
Now, the best place for you to experience fika at it’s best, and a place that I visit as many times as I can when in Stockholm is Vete Katten. Vete Katten is located on Kungsgatan (King’s Street) and is well-known throughout Stockholm. The interior is both modern and old-fashioned and they pride themselves on preserving the Swedish baking tradition. Here you can find the items required for fika: cakes and pastries. If you do not have a sweet tooth then you can also indulge in a traditional open sandwich, piled high with prawns and shrimps or smoked salmon. It might be a little hard to choose your fika as there is so much choice but buy a selection to share and remember: if you get filter coffee then the refills are free.
Cycling around the Islands
Every year when I am in Stockholm, I always, always find the time and money to hire a bicycle and cycle around Djurgården, as it is such a lovely way to see the beautiful city whilst working off the many fika pastries you will have eaten and catching a glorious tan. It is a lot safer to cycle in Sweden than it is in England because there is normally a bicycle lane separate to the traffic. You can hire bicycles from City Bikes by Djurgårdsbron – the bridge that leads across to the island of Djurgården and return them to different branches of City Bikes around the city.
You can literally cycle the perimeter of Djurgården island, right on the water’s edge and it is the perfect way to relax. If you are on a budget then you can bring a picnic with you or reward your cycle with fika at Cafe Blockhusporten right at the end of the peninsula of Djurgården, where you can sit and watch the sailing, cruise and freight boats go past whilst lunching on salmon and baby potatoes and a naughty slice of blueberry pie with vanilla custard. The cycle to the cafe takes about an hour, but if cycling doesn’t take your fancy then you can take a bus there from Östermalmstorg.
Stockholm is made up of 14 different islands. The most popular way to visit the archipelago is by boat. You can book trips with a service called Cinderella and a ferry company called Waxholmsbolaget. I would thoroughly recommend this and it is something that I do every summer when I am there. You can book at the kiosks that line Strömkajen in front of the Grand Hotel on Blasieholmen.
The closest island is called Fjäderholmarna (30 minutes by boat) and the furthest I have been is Grinda (1.5 hours), so it just depends on how far you would like to go. But what you will get is peace, nature, green fields, cafes and restaurants.
Take an afternoon to stroll through the narrow and cobbled streets of Gamla Stan – “the old town”. Here you can pick up some souvenirs to take home or take a look in the boutique stores. If it’s a particularly hot day then there are ice cream vendors that you will pass on your way down. Once you have reached the other side of the island of Gamla Stan then you will find an abundance of bars, restaurants and floating bars to reward you.
You may notice when you are walking around that the Swedes have amazing street style. So, if you are looking to add some Swedish style to your wardrobe then head to Drottninggatan (Queen Street), where you will find Swedish brands such as Monki, Gina Tricot, H&M, Cheap Monday and Weekday. On Drottninggatan, which stretches all the way down through Gamla Stan, there are numerous cafes where you can sit and watch the world go by, whilst admiring the minimalist street style of the Stockholmers. I once saw a woman who looked like she had stepped out of a 1920s issue of Vogue; dressed head to toe in red and walking in high heels with a stick. I just had to take a photo of her, so I ran after her to ask her permission, unluckily she must have thought I was paparazzi and she took a swing for me with her cane, it must have been quite a sight!
Stockholm is my favourite city in the summer and I hope that this guide has been useful! There will no doubt be more blog posts about Stockholm as I tend to go every year because I have family and friends there. I know I have written a lot but I haven’t even managed to add everything as it would have been even longer than it currently is, but I hope it has given you a taste and hopefully persuaded you to take a trip there this summer! Please leave any comments that you have below!