Last April, my boyfriend took me on a city trip to Stockholm to celebrate my (hum) 30th birthday. I had never been to Scandinavia before and I was eager to discover this city that had always been on my list – and which apparently seems like a destination of choice: we received so many helpful tips from friends and family!
Stockholm is nice, it’s clean. It’s colorful. It’s expensive – but not as much as I expected, although the price of alcohol is really something (a pity for a weekend of bday celebrations, but I guess a little detox never hurt nobody).
We didn’t really have a schedule: for once, I accepted to let things happen as we went and just enjoy. We did have some ideas on what we absolutely wanted to do and see (I mean who am I kidding): museums, restaurants, architecture, so much to discover and three days ahead to do as much as possible.
We were very lucky with the weather, non-stop sunshine and temperatures above 15 degrees, despite a strong wind that I had underestimated a little (I probably should have taken a jacket, but when it comes to the weather, I’m like the iPhone app: always a bit too optimistic).
I loved walking the little streets of the old town, the island of Gamla Stan, the marina, the parks, the hipster neighbourhood Södermalm, taking the ferry to the other islands … What people had told me was true: the best way to discover Stockholm is to get lost.
In the end, we were rather active and managed to cover a lot of the city in just under 72 hours – although there is still so much to see and do! Anyway, we had a good time, discovered great places and you know me, I’m not one to keep this for myself.
Here are 10 of my favorite places, in case you consider taking a little trip to the North yourself:
Located right in the center, this über cute pink cafe is attached to the Scandic Hotel. You can drink and eat all kinds of things, provided you can decide between breakfast (served all day), a bottle of champagne (I didn’t even bother doing the conversion from crowns to euros) or a simple afternoon snack. It’s (really) very good, the prices are affordable and the setting is absolutely beautiful. The only drawback is that you may have to wait a little for a table to be available during busy hours.
We stumbled upon this shop as we were strolling through the trendy Södermalm district on Saturday afternoon. My eye was caught by the vintage objects, my boyfriend saw the huge record collection, and we ended up spending an hour just looking around for fun. Contrary to the Swedish standard regarding closing hours (like, 5pm on Saturdays), we were still comfortably browsing at 6pm.
If there is one context where you can afford a slightly extravagant moment of relaxation, it’s during a birthday city trip, right? While doing our research, we kept bumping into “Central Badet”, an absolutely unique spa in the center of the city. Not far from the shopping streets, hidden in an inner courtyard, this magnificent Art Nouveau building is housing, on several floors and for more than a hundred years, a large swimming pool, a sauna, a Roman bath and water jets, a barber and dedicated massage and care rooms. This place seems to be a locals’ favourite, judging how they arrived en masse at about 11 am. Fortunately, we had been there since 9 and enjoyed a few peaceful hours – I gotta say that when the quiet and relaxed atmosphere gave way to resonant conversations and laughs, it suddenly lost a bit of its charm.
Good to know: it’s not cheap – at least 35 euros per person, a little more if you also need to rent flip flops, a towel, or if you want to book a massage or skincare.
Wherever I go, I can never resist a good old museum of modern and contemporary art. I love it, so I definitely wasn’t going to miss the famous Moderna Museet! They have some Matisse, Picasso, Dalí, Duchamp. Andy Warhol, Nan Goldin, Niki de Saint Phalle, Miró … A hell of a line-up, right? However, I gotta say I was slightly disappointed with the museum itself: despite an impressive collection, I found the scenography and navigation a little complicated. Some places were badly arranged, poorly lit, and I really felt it. Mixed feelings, but then again: you can visit the permanent collection for free, so it’s definitely worth it – even if only to be able to say that you finally saw Duchamp’s Fontaine with your own eyes. And for the gift shop! (I love gift shops)
Do you believe in the death of paper? Me neither! Papercut is a real temple to the glory of the most beautiful magazines, books, games, zines and other printed goods for the lovers of what one can still touch and expose at home on a gorgeous shelf. From fashion to cooking, from cult titles to the most niche ones, you’ll find everything and come out with your hands full!
To mark the occasion, we wanted to have a nice dinner during our first evening in Stockholm. After doing some research, we finally booked a table for two at Brasseriet, the chic restaurant of the Stockholm Opera. Once there, our eyes wide open, we were delighted to see that the decor was as sumptuous as we had seen in the pictures (always a very big plus, right?). But when the time came to order, the slight disappointment started: the menu is really limited, very centered on meat and rather expensive. My lamb with eggplant cream and feta crumble was pretty good, but not crazy either, not to mention the cocktails that just did not match what you would expect from this kind of establishment. We ended up spending about sixty euros per person, by restricting ourselves as much as possible (and trying to ignore the waiter’s dark looks).
My tip: just go there for a drink – everything but a cocktail – in the “bar” part. Enjoy the scenery and have your dinner somewhere else, you won’t miss anything and you’ll save some money ;)
What a pleasure to find real Italian gelato when it’s 20 degrees and you’re strolling the cobblestones of an unknown city under the sun! StikkiNikki’s ice cream is a real phenomenon in the whole city – there is a line all the way up to the the sidewalk, all the time, in each of their shops. The flavours vary constantly and throughout the day, you can enjoy great classics (stracciatella, Belgian chocolate, lemon sorbet …) and homemade creations (vegan peanut butter or a favorite of Sweden: licorice). Their ice creams are organic and made of natural ingredients, without preservatives, flavor enhancers or any of that chemical stuff. What’s not to love?
Have you always fantasized about what your life would have been a few hundred years ago? A small farm, a vegetable garden or a printshop? In Skansen, you can see how people lived in Sweden before the industrial revolution. The open-air museum, which combines a zoo and many different types of buildings (farms, houses, shops …), opened in 1891 with the ambition to perpetuate Swedish traditions, making sure that decades after, we couldn’t forget “how it was before”.
On paper, the idea seduced me greatly and I was super excited to go there.
On site, it didn’t turn out as I had expected: half of the buildings were closed (many activities are seasonal), and I found that there were too little opportunities to see the inside of the houses and to make real discoveries.
The place is full of charm, sure, but I was just expecting more – so it may be my fault.
It is, I think, a place that must be very nice to visit as the holidays approach, because a series of additional events usually take place there. I’ll be back!
9/ Vasa Museet
The Vasa Museet, on the other hand, was THE pleasant surprise of the weekend as far as I’m concerned: I wasn’t particularly excited about visiting a museum dedicated to a boat (guilty as charged), but I gotta say: wow wow wow.
The Vasa was a vessel destined to conquer, to intimidate, to show the world the greatness of Sweden. As she was leaving the harbor for her first trip, she was knocked down by a gust of wind and sank, just minutes after her departure. This enabled a large majority of passengers to make it out alive – and allowed, a few decades later, the recuperation, in an almost perfect condition, of the boat.
It is already impressive to see such a unique and impressive remnant so closely, but in addition, the museum is so enjoyable to visit, informative and didactic, that we spent two absolutely captivating hours. And we could have stayed even longer, it’s just it was 5pm and at 5pm, everything closes ;)
The Vasa Museet can be visited with a free audio guide: you connect to the museum’s wifi with your smartphone, go to the website, choose your language, put on your headphones and follow the numbers. A great way to make the most of your visit!
10/ Hotel Hilton Slussen
Being myself a fan of AirBnB, it was my first reflex when booking our accommodation. But I quickly realised it wouldn’t be that easy: turns out in Stockholm, AirBnB’s really, really, really expensive. And when a studio costs the same as a great 4 or 5 star hotel, the choice is pretty much made, right?
So we booked a room at the Hilton (someone’s gotta pay for Paris’ lifestyle, right?): well located (5min of the Slussen metro, from which you can reach almost everything else in the city within 15min max, a 10min walk from the ferry, 10min walk from Gamla Stan, in the heart of Södermalm …), luxurious (the style was a little “80’s action movie kitschy” but I liked it) and the service was impeccable. For a little over a hundred euros per night, it was a pretty good deal.
Oh and I spent the weekend taking pictures of our marble bathroom, so if that’s not “making the most of it”, I don’t know what else you need.
Unfortunately I did not take any pictures, but we also visited the Army Museum in Östermalm and against all odds, I loved it. It tells you everything, from weapons to uniforms, from the Middle Ages to the Second World War. It was super interesting.
Had we had half a day more, I would have loved to visit the Fotografiska.