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Stockholm, Sweden, a Week of Sundays
by Margaret Hundley Parker

Have a Scandinavian Adventure in Stockholm, Sweden

There's a seedy underbelly in most American cities - the neighborhood you don't want to be in after dark. If there's one in Stockholm, I couldn't find it. While I was there in September, warm weather added to the utopian vibe. My Swedish friend swore the weather was always nice, but I know that it's dark and cold in winter, and the water that sparkled from all sides would be mostly frozen in a few months. But before all that, I had five perfect days to explore the little islands that make up Sweden's capital city.

Boot Quest

I didn't want to find the scary neighborhood, but I did want the funky 'hood with the great deals. I needed boots.

First I wandered out on the Strandvagen, near my hotel, and as with all cities of a certain size, there were the ubiquitous McDonald's and 7-Elevens, but alas there was also Gucci, and other stores I couldn't afford. I got slightly off the beaten path, and found some pedestrian malls nearby that had much more reasonable wares - clothes, fragrant soaps, shoes, and more. But, no boots for me.

There are ferries, taxis, and a subway system, but I walked. I heard there was more shopping a short walk south of the Strandvagen. After passing H&Ms on every corner, I found another pedestrian mall on Drottningg that had cafes, shops, and lots of souvenir stores for tourists. That's where you can buy the plastic Viking hat with the horns, little wooden horses, and other Swedish treats.

It wasn't until I crossed Gamla Stan into Sodermalm (all little islands), that I eventually found the perfect boots. Think pink. I'd heard that Sodermalm had a neighborhood, a "SoFo," like New York City's SoHo, but while it's South of Houston in New York, here it's South of Folkungagatan. It's not like SoHo, though, it just doesn't feel as much like a happenin' neighborhood than like a regular neighborhood with a few cool spots. Part of this was timing, I did most of my walking around in this part of town late on a weekend afternoon and lots of places were closed already. Another night, I went to SoFo again to try to find somewhere to relax. But the fun places aren't obvious. It reminded me of San Francisco, where it's hard to find the heart of the city. There are lots of cool places, though. They're just tucked away among the quiet streets. I did find Roxy, a most delicious brand new restaurant, and the WC (I assume that stands for something besides "water closet"), a cozy bar.

Brunch Cruise

I could've spent weeks walking around the city, but with only a few days, I needed another angle. They say Stockholm should be seen by water, so I hopped on a brunch cruise. While we wound our way up through the archipelago, all the way to Vaxholm, I sat with my friends, enjoying a brunch of typical Swedish delicacies such as various kinds of fish, potatoes, meat, salads, and sweets. On the return, the sun beckoned, so many of us sat up on deck and watched Stockholm come back into view.


All I knew about "smorgasbord" before I went to Stockholm, I learned from the Swedish chef from the Muppet Show. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy a long meal at the Grand Hotel, where they offer the traditional Swedish smorgasbord. Smorgasbord is a buffet, but you eat dishes in a certain order. I loved filling my plate with tasty little bits over and over - boiled potatoes, pickled herring, crisp bread, eggs, and salmon - there were more choices than I could ever try. I had it in the traditional manner, with a shot of aquavit, sharp liquor; and a tall glass of Spendrups, the local lager. This is a must-do for first-time visitors to Sweden.

The Icebar in Stockholm ,Sweden


The temperate weather was throwing me off. I needed a taste of Swedish winter, so I went to drink cold vodka out of an ice glass, in a room made of ice at the Icebar in the Nordic Hotel. As soon as I walked in, I was draped with a furry, silvery parka, with gloves attached. Then I was set free in the human-sized freezer, an icy dream. This bar is great fun for about one or maybe two drinks, until you realize your fingers are numb. Must be fun in the middle of summer!


Win a Nobel Prize

If you want to pretend you've been nominated for a Nobel Prize, go to City Hall in Old Town, where they have the Nobel Banquet every year. Strut in and out of magnificent rooms, soaking in all the prestige. There's even a Golden Hall, covered in a giant sparkling golden mosaic. Eat the dinner served at the banquet at the restaurant there. Afterwards, go to Nordiska Kristall and buy the same champagne glass they used.


There's more to do in Stockholm that can possibly be done in the few days I was there, but I took a quick day trip to the oldest medieval town in Sweden, Sigtuna. It's very close to Arlanda Airport. There are castles and palaces along the way, but I was struck by one in particular - the Rosersberg, built in the 1630s. There was a large table in one of the rooms, covered in a silk cloth. Our guide lifted the tablecloth to reveal that the table was light, cheap looking, collapsible. Turns out, when they weren't using the table back then, they folded it up and put it out of sight. I had sudden insight into Swedish design, Ikea made sense! It was inspiring. There is indeed something soothing about looking at uncluttered space.

On the very last day of my trip, a rain cloud darkened the sky. I knew my week of Sundays was over, so I had to say goodbye to the city I was just beginning to know. Coming back from any good trip, you bring back more than just souvenirs, you bring back a new way of looking at things. The palace with the table inspired me to come home and clean off my desk. If Kings and Queens moved furniture around for the sake of sleekness, I can certainly put away a few stacks of paper. I need somewhere to put up my new pink boots anyway.


For more family-oriented fun, Skansen is a wonderful place to spend a few hours or so. It's Sweden's Colonial Williamsburg, where people in ye olde outfits live on display as our foremothers and fathers did. I got the tastiest sugarcoated baked good from the olde timey bakery. There's an open-air market, where I wished I could've bought some purple potatoes. A highlight from my trip: Skansen had the cutest thing I've ever seen. There's a room full of kittens, with lines of pacifiers strung up along the sides. There's a tradition that when toddlers outgrow their pacifiers, parents bring them to Skansen and the baby gives the pacifier to the kittens. You can adopt kittens there, too. This was definitely not a seedy neighborhood! Kittens and babies everywhere!

Where to Stay

Hotel Diplomat
Strandvagen 7C
SE-104 40 Stockholm
Tel: + 46 8 459 68 00

It's centrally located and offers a relaxed elegance. My room was perfectly small--just enough room to put everything away, but not so much room that I felt guilty only zipping in to sleep or change clothes. The hotel is right across the street from the water, so some rooms have balconies that overlook the sparkling sea.

Clarion Hotel Stockholm
Address: Ringvägen 98, Box 20025, 104 60 Stockholm, Sweden
Tel: 08 462 10 00

Young, hip and happening, this stylish hotel has live music in the bar in the evenings, and plenty of good-looking people wearing their sunglasses indoors. But like so many things in Stockholm, the rooms are very sleek and comfortable.

Grand Hotel
Sodra Blasieholmshamnen 8
SE-103 27
Stockhom, Sweden
Tel: +46 (0) 8 679 35 00

The Nobel Prize nominees stay here, as do royal families and other famous people. The security is high, the rooms are lush, and the surroundings are traditional. The place screams: history. If you want to pretend you're a laureate, have them send the blonde Lucia, clad in white with candles on her head, into your room early in the morning like they do to the laureates in December.

Hilton, Stockholm Slussen
Guldgränd 8
SE-104 65
Tel: +46 8 517 353 00

Slussen is an area of central Stockholm, named after the locks between Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea. This Hilton is business-vibe hotel in the hip Sodermalm neighborhood. Good for meetings, good location for familiar surroundings.

Sigtuna Hotels

Sigtuna Stads Hotel
Stora Nygatan 3
193 30 Sigtuna, Sweden
Tel: + 46-(8)-592 501 00

Starkly beautiful in that uniquely Swedish way, this hotel has been recently refurbished. Everything is gray and white, except Lake Mälaren outside the windows that bursts with the greens and blues of a New England getaway. When I was there in early September, it was hard to imagine that there'd be ice-skating there in a few months. Perfect for a two-person visit or a business trip. In-room tables (actual tables) make it easy on people traveling with young children (you can eat in your room), or business people (you can meet in your room).

Bed & Breakfasts

193 91 Sigtuna, Sweden
Tel: + 468 592 54219

I knew I found the place I'd come back to as soon as we turned onto the gravel driveway, and a white dog with a teddy bear in its mouth greeted me. This place is cozy and comfy, with swings in the yard, and a friendly communal atmosphere. Come with one other person, or you can fit up to twelve of your closest friends in the various rooms around. There's a dark, cozy wine seller that would be a perfect retreat on a cold winter night.

For more information:

Brunch cruise
Tel: 08-587 140 00

in the Nordic Sea Hotel
101 37 Stockholm
Tel: +46 8 50 56 30 00

Tel: + 46 (0)8 442 80 00

Roxy (restaurant)
Nytorget 6
Tel: 08 6409655

WC (bar/restaurant)
Skanegatan 51
116 37
Tel: 08-6441981

Nordiska Kristall
Tel: 08-10 43 72

City Hall
Tel: 08-508 290 58 or 59

Stockholm Visitor's Bureau
Tel: +46 8 670 26 00

Sigtuna Tourism Information

Tel: 08-594 806 50