A beautiful city on the water, Stockholm is an archipelago of 14 islands connected by 57 bridges – your eyes won’t be watering with ugly high rises and smoggy polluted air. There’s a reason locals called their city ‘beauty on water’ and it wasn’t hard to fall in love with this gorgeous city, lush with greenery and fresh air. Here are 10 reasons why is was easy to fall in love…
For practical information we explored Stockholm as part of a private tour with Stockholm Safari and a tour guide called Micheal wh0 gave us a great introduction to the city. (I organised this tour independently)
1. A City on Water
A city built on beautiful clear water, Stockholm has been named the ‘Venice of the North’ and though the main city is built on 14 islands, it is actually made up of 30,000 smaller islands where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea.
As well as being a beautiful city of water, Stockholm is made up of a vast amount of park land, in fact a third of the city is green space. Of course with such limited time we only scratched the surface of what there was to see but we took a walk through Djurgården which on an island in the centre of Stockholm and encompasses Oaxen where we had lunch as well is as the ABBA Museum.
The area includes Royal Djurgården Park which was once game park for the Royal Family but is now an area of natural beauty and also includes the Gröna Lund amusement park and various museums and galleries including Skansen, the first open air museum and zoo in Sweden and the Vasa Museum.
I had heard about a beautiful place called Rosendels Trädgård, a biodynamic garden which included a gorgeous Greenhouse cafe that I thought would be perfect for an afternoon snack. We walked there after the ABBA museum but as it closes at 4pm we were too late (sob!) however I got loads of recommendations for the place, just get there on time if you choose to go!
3. Beautiful Hotels
It was no secret that I totally fell in love with our accommodation during our time in Stockholm. Our small, intimate hotel, Ett Hem was designed to have a homely and cosy feel – the name even means A Home. Everything about the place from the staff welcoming you, to the cosy design and the comforting food made us feel totally at home… but also in total luxury.
As you know, I can’t help but have a sneak peek at other hotels in the area and the one that appealed most was the historical, Grand Hôtel. The five star hotel has had a gorgeous water front location in the city since 1874 and been home to many celebrities and influential people over the years.
Part of the reason I chose to eat at Matbaren was so that I could take a look around the Grand Hôtel where the restaurant is located, it’s also home to classic Swedish Veranda restaurant which apparently serves the best smorgasbord in town.
The hotel is utterly gorgeous but I will say, it’s like so many hotels I’ve seen before so I was glad we chose Ett Hem which was personal, special and different.
4. The Food
I didn’t eat one bad thing in Stockholm and we were really impressed with all the restaurants that I booked as all the ingredients just tasted so fresh. The city offers a great breadth of Michelin star restaurants, cafes as well as plenty of fusion food. With the Baltic sea location, seafood is a staple part of the diet, which is great for a fish lover like me.
I was sad that we ran out of time to try proper Swedish meatballs but a few places that I was recommended were Prinsen and Pelikan for historical traditional restaurants and Meatballs for the People for something casual and fun.
Now honestly, I can’t think of Sweden without thinking of the famous four-piece pop group made up of two married couples. Yes, ABBA is one of the most famous exports of Sweden, with their catchy songs, memorable costumes and famous Eurovision Song contest win. More recently the success of film Mamma Mia! and sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again has bought them back into the spotlight.
I’m a huge fan of cheesy music and so the ABBA museum was on my Stockholm bucketlist, I had thought Mr S would be sceptical but he was keen too! The museum isn’t huge and doesn’t take much more than two hours but you can do an audio tour to find out about the history of the band and the two couples, Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaeus, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson and how they got together and eventually divorced and disbanded.
As you can imagine this is no stuffy museum and there’s plenty of interactive fun to be had such as mixing music, singing kareoke and becoming the fifth member of ABBA by stepping on to a hologram stage. It was an unmissable experience for me and I really recommend it.
Fika is sort of like the art of the coffee break … it’s a state of mind that is about making time for people to share a coffee, cake and catch up with a friend. It’s considered important to do, to sharpen your brain, as well as strengthen relationships. In some companies it’s actually mandatory and some places encourage fika twice a day.
I really liked the idea of Fika – I mean coffee, cake and an chat, what’s not to love – so was keen to try it for myself. Our hotel Ett Hem, encourages a Fika / afternoon tea with a cake of the day which I washed down with hot chocolate. I had definitely intended to indulge in a few more coffee breaks but we just ran out of time. A few cafes that put on my list were as follows: Snickarbacken 7, Coffee Drop, Chokladkoppen and Vete-Katten.
7. Gamla Stan
Gamla Stan is the old town of Stockholm and dating back to the 13th Century it’s one largest and best preserved medieval city centres in Europe as it was never hit by the Second World War. It’s a very atmospheric part of town and you can explore narrow cobbled streets as well as see beautiful grand buildings.
Here you’ll find the Royal Palace, The Royal Cathedral of Sweden and the Swedish Parliament building among many other historical spots.
I’d been looking forward to seeing the charming square of Stortorget with its colourful buildings and bustling cafes but unfortunately it was under reconstruction when we were there. There goes my perfect Instagram shot!
When I think of Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, I immediately think of beautiful design and interiors. The ‘Scandi’ looked is characterised by simplicity, minimalism and functionality but it is the beauty in this minimalism that has made the style so popular.
Our hotel, Ett Hem and Matbaren, the gorgeous Michelin-starred restaurant that we visited, were both designed by Ilse Crawford. The design guru is known for creating environments where humans feel comfortable and creating intimate spaces to bring people together. She famous for styling Soho House New York, Babington House and Duddell’s in Hong Kong.
Another beautifully designed space that we visited was Oaxen Slip created by architect Mats Fahlander, interior designer/architect Agneta Pettersson, and general contractor Einar Mattsson. The restaurant is built in a former ship yard and the marine interiors are inspired by the location.
One of the key historical things to see in Stockholm, I highly recommend a trip to the Vasa Museet to see the world’s best preserved 17th century ship.
The 69 meter-long warship sank on its maiden voyage in Stockholm in 1628 and was salvaged 333 years later in 1961 when it was restored to its original glory. It’s quite a sight to see and unsurprisingly one of the most visited museums in Stockholm.
10. Beautiful Buildings
With few ugly sky scrapers and lots of historical buildings preserved, you don’t have to look far to find gorgeous architecture and eclectic facades in Stockholm.
The Stenbock Palace on Riddarholmen island dates back to 1640 and makes for the perfect Accidental Wes Anderson moment.
And I also loved the nearby House of Nobilty, known for being one of the most beautiful works of architecture in Northern Europe – it was commissioned back in the 17th Century.
Those are the reasons why I fell in love with Stockholm… as you can see it’s easy to do!
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