Have a Scandinavian Adventure in Stockholm, Sweden
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.
didn't want to find the scary neighborhood, but I did
want the funky 'hood with the great deals. I needed
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
a Nobel Prize
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.
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
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.
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!
SE-104 40 Stockholm
Tel: + 46 8 459 68 00
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.
Address: Ringvägen 98, Box 20025, 104 60
Tel: 08 462 10 00
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.
Sodra Blasieholmshamnen 8
Tel: +46 (0) 8 679 35 00
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.
Tel: +46 8 517 353 00
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.
Stora Nygatan 3
193 30 Sigtuna, Sweden
Tel: + 46-(8)-592 501 00
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
193 91 Sigtuna, Sweden
Tel: + 468 592 54219
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.
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
Tel: 08 6409655
Tel: 08-10 43 72
Tel: 08-508 290 58 or 59
Tel: +46 8 670 26 00
Sigtuna Tourism Information
Tel: 08-594 806 50