Four days in the capital of Sweden are just about right to see the tourist hot spots and pop in a museum or two. The best way to utilise the time you have is by making a plan. Just remember to leave it flexible; it is a holiday, not a work schedule. Read ahead to see how we spent our four cold days in Stockholm.
You know those lovely colourful buildings you see on Instagram photos of Stockholm? Well, this is where you can see them all. There are also many small, picturesque alleys (like Prästgatan), souvenir shops and Kaffekoppen, a little cafe with a cosy interior and massive cinnamon buns. For the more architecturally minded people, I would suggest popping in to the churches of Gamla Stan, especially Storkyrkan, the magnificent brick Gothic style cathedral. Here, just like in Bucharest, I have noticed that some tourists are very rude and disrespectful of other people and their religious beliefs. There were people posing in ridiculous poses while there were people behind them trying to pray.
Apart from some churches, museums and the already famous buildings, there is not much else to see here, but it does make for a wonderful walk through the streets, enjoying the area. Gamla Stan is definitely worth a nice sightseeing walk and stopping by for a nice mug of Bryggkaffe.
On the plane from London, I did some snooping online trying to find a breakfast place for the weekend. Of all the places I have seen, Café String seemed to have the best offer in the best surroundings. It also helped that it was in Södermalm which was our go to spot for the Saturday. The main reason I even started reading up on Café String is because it sounds a lot like Stringer. We were binge watching The Wire in that period and, of course, Idris Elba makes my knickers fly off on their own, so a cafe with the tiny similarity to his character’s name made me stop dead in my tracks and start reading. Turned out the cafe was a massive hit with the three of us. The interior is full of random, unpaired furniture and many pop culture paintings. Apparently, everything in the store was for sale but we did not ask. We just enjoyed the whole atmosphere, some of us constantly sharing Instagram stories (looking at my mate here!) and had our breakfast with unlimited hot drinks for just below 100SEK per head. Full of food and coffee, we ventured forth and explored Södermalm in the snow.
This is the part of town where you will see some of the old wooden red houses associated with Sweden and Scandinavia. Fun fact, Greta Garbo was born in a tiny apartment at the edges of Södermalm. The whole island is a lot less packed with tourists and feels like an actual city unlike Gamla Stan. There is a big park with panoramic views on the west of the island, but we only saw the east part, the side with Fotografiska. One thing I regret is not going there and immersing myself in some photography exhibitions but, unfortunately, we would have lost too much precious time. However, the Fotografiska is opening in London some time in autumn so I will be able to go to my heart’s content! I know it’s not exactly the same, but do not crush my dreams!
I think the best way to see this bit of the island is to walk down Nytorgstgatan (street with Cafe String) and explore any side streets that seem interesting. Do not miss Sofia kyrka. It was a pretty idyllic sight seeing it on top of a hill covered in snow while kids were sleighing down the slopes. The outside of the church looked like a postcard when seen through thick snowflakes. The interior though is very plain and there is generally no need to go inside.
Another more or less tourist free locations are the two little islands between Gamla Stan and Djurgården called Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen, a perfect quick escape from the noise of the rest of the city. To get there you will have to go over Skeppsholmsbron, the bridge with a famous gilded crown (Instagram spot). The islands give quite a nice view of Gamla Stan on the west and Djurgården on the east. You can also see the Gröna Lund amusement park. There are some museums and open air art installations on the islands.
Sunday turned out to be a crisp, clear, sunny day so we walked all the way from our Airbnb to Djurgården through Östermalm, down the main Biger Jarlsgatan. The way down was not spectacular, but it gave us a tourist free image of Stockholm. And we were passing by the “instagrammable” tunnel officially known as Brunkebergs tunnel. It was early Sunday morning and it was almost empty. A couple of selfies and Instagram stories later, we got to Djurgården and the clouds started to gather.
Our First stop was the Vasa museum which was actually built around the gigantic Vasa ship that has been saved from the bottom of the sea. The museum is really big and you can easily spend 3+ hours in there. It has a lot of information of the ship, the crew, the shipbuilding process and industry, but they also have a really detailed show and tell of the whole process of excavating the ship. During our visit there, they had a temporary exhibition on the Women of Vasa which focused on the forgotten stories of women working on Vasa or being in any way connected to its story.
Two hours in the museum had tired us out and we popped in for some lunch with the brother from Gothenburg. Once fed, we decided to go to the Viking museum. I really wanted to do Nordiska museum (it would have taken several hours we did not have) or ABBA museum (when in Sweden…), but we changed our minds when we saw the ticket prices; none of us were such a big fans to spend cca 240SEK to enter. So the Viking museum won. It also helped that the husband is slightly obsessed with them. Anyways, the museum is quite good, gives a nice background of the way of life and helps remove the stereotypical imagine of Vikings as bloodthirsty brutes. The husband said he loved the exhibition as it helped him get into The Vikings more. If you have kids, I think they will absolutely love it, it’s very interactive. We spent the remaining of daylight trying to see the rest of this massive island but managed to only see the tiny blob of the island connected to Östermalm by the bridge. It started to snow again, it was getting cold and the snow did not make exploring any easier. If you are travelling in warmer times with no snow, I think the perfect way to really experience Djurgården would be to pop on a bicycle.
Stockholm City library
The Library was not originally on our list as I did not come across any suggestions to see it. However, once I found out about it, I had to go! I was even willing to remove some other things from the list just to make time for the library! I mean look at those photos!!
Luckily, the library was close to our Airbnb so I did not need to demote anything else to make our schedule work. We just popped in on our way back to the centre on our last day in Sweden. When we walked in the main reading hall, we went quiet and were struck with a feeling of awe. Our eye was caught by the dome towering over three levels of shelves upon shelves full of books waiting to be touched and read. The little passages leading around the shelves are just wide enough for two people to squeeze next to each other so there is rarely too much crowd milling around giving it the perfect library feeling. We stayed for about half an hour as we still wanted to go to one of the museums. This was before we realised that it was Monday and museums, like in most European countries, are closed on a Monday. We spent the rest of the day chilling in a cafe enjoying the warmth, coffee and cinnamon buns.
You might have noticed I did not really mention any big food places. The reason is that we tried eating out as little as possible due to really high prices. For dinner we just grabbed some food in the supermarket and prepared it back at the Airbnb. On our first day we did have lunch at Kulturhuset, Cafe Panorama which was actually really good value for money. For about 95SEK you get the main meal, access to salad bar, dessert and unlimited water, soft drink, tea or coffee. If you are lucky, you might find a free space by the windows with a panoramic view of the Sergels torg. The other good offer we found was on our last day when we went to this Asian restaurant and had a buffet (sushi, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, etc) for about 110SEK. Bear in mind, both these were during weekdays lunch time so restaurants have lower prices to get more people in. The prices are not this cheap on weekends or for dinner time. Remember that bite to eat at Djurgården? It was at the bar/restaurant called Favelan and the burger we had was 180SEK, excluding drinks. If you are a foodie and going to Stockholm to try out the local cuisine, sorry I cannot be of more help, but I know for a fact there are many posts online dedicated specifically to food and eating in Sweden 🙂