Often confused with Switzerland by many Americans, Sweden is the long country to the north, sandwiched by Norway and Finland. Although Scandinavia is something to be marveled at- with its high happiness ratings, fashion-forward citizens, and innovative technology- many overlook it while planning their Euro trips. Stockholm is considered the capital of Scandinavia (though, that’s often debated), and is located on the western coast of Sweden.
I had the absolute privilege of living in Stockholm for two years before moving to Ann Arbor. Living in Stockholm can often feel like living the charmed life- the streets are clean, the architecture is beautiful, and there’s water EVERYWHERE. I’m not joking; the city is actually an archipelago, so waterways, lakes, and the Baltic Sea section off the different areas of the city from one another. While the city itself is beautiful, the Swedish citizens milling about are even more beautiful. Its common knowledge that the Swedes are an attractive bunch, but being surrounded by them day in and day out brings people-watching to whole new level (warning: drooling may occur).
Although the winters are cold and long in Stockholm, Swedes are rewarded for their patience with a magical summer time (though personally, I really enjoyed the winters.) Terraces open up, cafes push out onto the sidewalks, and parks are filled with picnicers and sunbathers. Late spring/early summer is really the best time to visit Stockholm because its light for 18+ hours each day and is right before tourist season begins.
The transportation system in Stockholm is very user-friendly (as the city isn’t that big) and efficient. The subway system is called the Tunnelbana or Tube, and has three different colored lines (red, blue, and green) that branch off the further you get out of the downtown area. They all meet at T-centralen though, which is in the heart of the city. Although transportation is easy and reliable, I find it extremely beneficial to stay as centrally as you can. The hotel chain Scandic has hotels scattered throughout the city, varying in price, location, and quality. The Scandic Malmen is a good option for partygoers as its located on Medborgarplatsen, a hot spot for nightlife on Södermalm, which is the hip, southern part of Stockholm. They have a nice, complimentary breakfast in the mornings and two popular bars in the evening. Another nice accommodation is STF Fridhemsplan, a hostel/hotel that’s located in Kungsholmen and is reasonably priced. If you’re the adventurous sort, Stockholm has a couple boats-turned-hostels that sit on lake Mälaren, like the Red Boat Mälaren, which are also centrally located and quite cozy!
So now that you have some places to sleep at night, let’s look at what to do before that time comes. Stockholm is a playground for all types of people. If you’re looking to be enlightened by the arts, Fotografiska is the place for you. Having world renowned exhibitions come through every couple months, Fotografiska gives visitors access to some of the most creative and provocative photographers to have graced the planet. There is also an excellent cafe at the museum and it has a lovely view of Gamla Stan (the old town), from across the water.
For those history buffs out there, the Vasamuseet (Vasa Museum) is the place for you! The museum is dedicated to a recovered ship that set sail on August 10, 1628 only to sink about 1,300 meters into her voyage. In 1961, she was build out of the sea and the Swedes got to restoring her. She now resides in the Vasamuseet for visitors to marvel at. The museum is testament to Swedish culture, both then and now, and is a must see. The museum is situated on the island of Djurgården, which used to be the hunting grounds for the king. Djurgården is also home to the Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum), Junibacken (Pippi Longstocking museum), and Skansen. Skansen is Europe’s largest open air museum and a favorite spot for both Swedes and tourists. The park is arranged to mimick the geographic and cultural regions of Sweden. Moving from region to region, visitors get to experience what life in the individual regions of Sweden was like a few centuries back. There are also great views of the city and tasty cafes in Skansen as well. The more favored part of the park however, is probably the zoo. Wolves, grizzlybears, and moose, as well as many other animals, all share a home at Skansen.
No visit to Stockhom would be complete without a visit to it Old Town, called Gamla Stan. Gamla Stan is located on its own island, in between the center of the city and Södermalm. The streets are all narrow and cobble-stoned, with shops full of trinkets for tourists. The Nobel Museum is in Gamla Stan on Stortorget (The Big Square), with some of the best cafes the town has to offer. The Castle is also on Gamla Stan and worth a walk around.
After a long day of cultural enlightenment, sometimes you just gotta let loose and Stockhom will provide the opportunity. The nightlife in Stockholm is extensive, with a place for every type of partygoer. If you love to fist-pump the night away, Stureplan is your playground. Boasting of some of the best in-house Djs, the clubs in Stureplan know how to show their patrons a good night of good music and expensive drinks. Yes, the drinks in Stureplan are expensive… but everything in Sweden is more expensive so it's just part of the experience. Some of the best clubs include Berns, Sturecompaniet, Café Opera, and F12 Terrassen (only open in the summer). If you like a more hipster scene, you should head south to Södermalm and hit clubs like Debaser, Marie Laveau, and Under Bron. BE WARNED: There will be a cover charge unless you get there early. There are pubs littered all over the city so if you’re in need of a drink fast, you’ll most likely be able to get one right around the corner.
As you can see, there is so much to do in Stockholm. I didn’t even get to tell you about heading over to Drottninggatan for some shopping or up to Hermans for a dinner with a view. The lovely bit about Stockholm is that once you get there and if you find yourself lost and confused, most Swedes speak English and will be happy to point you in the right direction. They can seem cold at first, there definitely isn’t the extreme friendliness we experience in the midwest, but they often warm up over time and will always be cordial to you.
I hope this has convinced you to consider traveling north for your next (or first) European adventure. I guarantee you'll fall in love just like I did :)
Kaknästornet- Amazing view of the city with a brilliant cafe Stadshuset- City Hall and home to the Nobel Prize Banquet Drottningholms slott- The Palace where the royal family lives (a bit out of the city but worth the trek) Archipelago- Small islands everywhere