LuxeGetaways Magazine – Fall 2016 | Stockholm is not a hard place to love; I learned that almost instantly on my quick, long weekend in the Swedish capital. It was the finishing touch on a 40th birthday jaunt around Northern Europe, and I was not so secretly excited for my first time wandering the streets of the Swedish capital. I pinned all of my hopes on Stockholm, and within hours of being there, I knew that I had made the right choice. But I also made an overwhelming choice. Unlike nearby Helsinki or Oslo, there were simply too many choices: too much to see and do, and definitely too much to eat. By the end of the weekend though, I had sussed out the best way for any first-timer to truly experience Stockholm, in the most comfortable and enjoyable way possible.
Eat All The Food
Swedish food is the Rodney Dangerfield of the food world. No one really gives it the respect it deserves; instead most people assume that it is just a larger version of an IKEA cafeteria. While there are elements of that, and yes, Swedish meatballs are in fact delicious, Stockholm enjoys a fun blend of food styles that draw on its very traditional past, but has a foot firmly planted in the global marketplace. I was short on time, and while I would have loved to spend a week eating my way from one market or restaurant to another, I needed help, which is why I hopped on the best food tour in town, Food Tours Stockholm. Led by a local cookbook author (insert Swedish Chef jokes here), I spent the better part of an afternoon following in Cathrine Schück’s footsteps, and hanging on her every word. I also should have skipped lunch, because the portions at the many stops along the way were enormous; and they ran the gamut from Swedish meatballs to more European influenced fare, and my favorite aspect of Swedish food culture, fika.
For the uninitiated, fika is frankly the last thing I expected to find in this incredibly productive and driven society, and yet it is actually at the heart of their success. Simply put, fika is that special time in the afternoon when you join a friend or two at a local coffee shop to reenergize and enjoy some cakes or pastries. It is a wonderful way to relax for several moments in the middle of the workday, and refocus before tackling what lies ahead. It is fun, progressive, and it is undeniably Swedish.
The food tour was not my only sampling of delicious food; I also had some of the best bites of the trip at the place where I least expected to find it, my hotel.
It is difficult to call the Ett Hem [Sköldungagatan 2 | +46 8 20 05 90] a hotel, but it is certainly not a B&B either. It is a curious mix of both, and is currently the top rated hotel in the city. An unlikely contender for that prized spot, housed in a former mansion in the middle of the city’s embassy district; but what it lacks in flash, it more than makes up for in relaxed sophistication. With only 12 rooms, every guest is guaranteed an individual experience, and from my time there, I can attest to the amazing service at the Ett Hem. In Swedish Ett Hem means “at home” and that is exactly what you feel like; from the warm and comfortable living rooms, to a parlor where I loved curling up with my book and a cup of coffee.
Locally though, they are well known for their food, with guests enjoying right of first refusal at meals. The star was their breakfast preparation, my favorite meal to enjoy at a hotel, and how I usually compare luxury accommodations. Starting with coffee and homemade pastries, transitioning into cold meats, cheeses and yogurts, I thought the event was over before I realized that the a la carte hot menu had not even been delivered. It was a relaxed and peaceful way to wake up, perfect for a long weekend getaway.
The rooms echo this sophistication, and thanks to the fact that the hotel used to be a home, each room is different (and a little quirky). They range from the smallish loft-style, to more traditional suites with all the accouterments you find at any luxury hotel around the world. Ett Hem is a rare instance where the hotel does not simply complement the travel experience, but instead, it greatly enhances it.
Out and About
Eating and sleeping is all well and good, but Stockholm honestly has a lot to offer just about any type of traveler. One of my favorite things to do in a new city is to visit their strange (and often a bit bizarre) museums, which is why my first stop was the new-ish ABBA Museum [Djurgårdsvägen 68 | +46 8 121 328 60], which is now one of the top attractions in town.
Whether or not you are a fan of the music, I find it hard to believe anyone would not enjoy singing along to “Dancing Queen” in a private recording booth, or dancing with holograms of the musicians themselves on stage. It is fun, kitschy and a must-do activity in Stockholm. The ABBA Museum is also close to several other museums, including the always-popular Vasa Museum [Galärvarvsvägen 14 | +46 8 519 548 00]. Here you will find the only (almost fully intact) 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged, and it is a surprisingly fun experience.
Other Stockholm Experiences That I Strongly Suggest:
- Take a ferry tour around the many islands surrounding the city.
- Stroll down the cobblestone streets of Gamla Stan, the city’s Old Town.
- Go on a tour of the Stockholm City Hall with its stunning Gold Room.
Stockholm has a lot to offer first-time visitors. But if you only have a few days, make sure to get out there and experience as much of it as you can, and of course, vow to return and see even more of this colorful and fun city as soon as possible.
Stockholm Tourism: www.visitstockholm.com
Ett Hem Hotel: www.etthem.se
Food Tours Stockholm: www.foodtoursstockholm.se/en
ABBA Museum: www.abbathemuseum.com/en
Vasa Museum: www.vasamuseet.se