True friends fly almost 4,000 miles across the world to visit you only 3 months after you’ve moved away. And friends who endure an overnight flight and jet lag for only a four-night stay? I’d say those are very special friends, indeed!
In late June I met two of my best friends (Lauren & Suzanne) on the lovely archipelago of Stockholm, Sweden for a little adventure. Despite enduring a grueling overnight flight and chaotic connection through London Heathrow, they arrived looking lovely and happy as ever.
Thanks to Suzanne’s mom’s sweet set-up with a home exchange program, we were able to get a fantastic apartment on Södermalm, also known as the ‘cool, hip island’ of Stockholm. (Thank you, Mal!) It was centrally-located, beautifully decorated and fully functional for all our needs.
It wasn’t long before we were exploring our surroundings, chowing down on local foods, and day drinking on various patios, one of which was overlooking the water and the old town, Gamla Stan. Of course I was a little too tipsy to capture the stunning view, so you’ll have to trust me on this one.
We had all done our research prior to arrival, but we quickly found the city was chock-full of unlikely concierges, from our bartender at Häktet – a low-key, totally understated and cool bar and restaurant that was an 18th century prison once upon a time – to the cashier at the 7-Eleven on our corner. No lie. Some of our best recommendations came from Marcus, our 7-Eleven concierge. From delicious dinners to incredible day trips, Marcus knew his city well.
We used a hop-on hop-off sightseeing boat as our main transportation around the islands. Pretty sweet mode of transportation, if you ask me. We spent one day indulging our inner children at Gröna Lund, a compact but incredibly clean and beautiful, well-themed amusement park on Djurgården, another island in the city. Flying swings, roller coasters, ice cream, and people watching. That’s my kind of amusement! Though you couldn’t pay me enough money to get on those super high flying swings again. I screamed my head off the entire time, and not in enjoyment.
We dined on meatballs with mashed potatoes and pickled cucumber and lingonberries, of course. When in Sweden, right? Delicious! We also tried Swedish cheesecake and gummies, both of which are very different than traditional incarnations. While we opted not to try the ubiquitous local delicacies of reindeer, salmon and herring, we did order some of the smoked peel em’ and eat em’ shrimp. So tasty!
On Marcus’ suggestion, we took a ferry to a nearby island for a day trip. A quick 25-minutes aboard a boat and you’re on the quiet, woodsy and delightfully quaint island of Fjäderholmarna. There are no full-time inhabitants on the island, but there are a couple of small marinas and a sprinkling of restaurants, artisan shops and countless breathtaking views. Fortuitously, a sailboat regatta was starting in the Stockholm archipelago the day of our boat trip. We had a front-row seat to see some fantastic boats, old and new, speeding through the choppy waters. (Side note: Did you know that the Stockholm archipelago is made up of some 30,000 islands?! No, not 3,000. 30,000!!)
We spent a significant amount of time strolling through Gamla Stan, the charming ‘old town’ island of Stockholm. I was surprised at how much I loved it given its wide tourist appeal. We found that it was significantly less crowded and substantially more beautiful in off-times when tourists had retreated to their hotels.
At the end of our wonderful four days together, it was hard to say goodbye to my friends. We’d had such a fabulous time and made some great memories we won’t soon forget. I’m already ready to go back!
If you find yourself in Stockholm anytime soon, here are some of my recommendations:
Nytorget 6 – Chic and classy, but totally quirky and hip, this restaurant had delicious food and a beautiful bar. The service was incredible, even by American standards, and the atmosphere was spot-on cool without trying too hard.
Ebenist – Dark wood and ambient lighting make Ebenist a cozy gem of a restaurant, but the food takes it to another level. We all three ordered meatballs, because, well, duh. And we were all three very pleased with the meal. Captains of the Clean Plate Club all around! It’s tucked into an adorable open-air square on Gamla Stan which made it all the better.
Urban Deli – Much as its name insinuates, this is a gourmet deli and grocery, but it’s also a good bar and restaurant with some lovely outdoor seating. This was a great place for us to stock up on bread, cheese, jams and spreads for our daily European breakfasts.
Häktet – The ‘prison bar’ referenced above was a great stop for a pre-dinner drink. Fancy cocktails and a Grade A playlist quickly endeared this place to me, but the hip and nerdy concierge bartender and the two-toilet restroom stall (YES, I’M SERIOUS) made this place one-of-a-kind.
Shopping – You really can’t go wrong with the shopping in Stockholm. Every shop we walked into was interesting, well-curated, and aesthetically delicious. Scandinavian design is everywhere, and it’s addictive. Some of our favorite shops: Swedish Hasbeens, Granit, Habitat, Happy Socks, and MOOD Stockholm. This is really just touching the surface.
Vasa Museum – This was the coolest. The Vasa was a ship that capsized and sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. It didn’t even make it out of Stockholm harbor. The ship sat at the bottom of the Baltic Sea for over 300 years until divers in 1956 found that it was mostly intact and in good condition due to the cold, fresh nature of the water. It was excavated in 1961 and has been meticulously treated and preserved over the years and is now on display in its entirety in the museum. Such an incredible sight!
Gröna Lund – Seriously, just do it.
Fjäderholmarna – I think this was probably our favorite activity in Stockholm. Such a quick, easy and perfect day trip. There’s nothing like being out on the water!
If you get a chance to go to Stockholm, do it! I’m dying to go back to Sweden and see more of the countryside. It’s a pretty big country, by European standards, and the woodland I could see from the plane, train and boats reminded me a lot of Canada. Just one more place added to my to-see list!
Have you been to Stockholm or Sweden? Please share your thoughts and experiences!