I arrived in Stockholm for what would be the start of a seven-week journey through Europe. I figured I would start up north and make my way to warmer climates in the days ahead. Stockholm in summer is terrific because the days are long and the way the sun hits the city makes its colors come alive.
However, when planning a summer trip to Stockholm, it is important to bring along some sweaters and a jacket. I have made this mistake before in packing shorts and t-shirts thinking the Baltic countries are just like the rest of Europe. Not so. The weather can be quite rainy and cool, so be prepared.
Stockholm can best be summarized as civilized. In my opinion, Sweden is probably the most civilized country in the world. Everyone is incredibly friendly and helpful. And unlike in some cultures where they are friendly and, rather than not give you any information, they sometimes give you wrong information, the Swedes are very precise and accurate. I grew to love this in my five days exploring the city.
Everything is super organized in Stockholm, from the bike lanes, to street signs, to ferry service, and more. Speaking of ferries, most people do not realize that Stockholm is made up of thousands of islands (the archipelago) and the mainland. You will end up exploring the sites on the mainland, Old Town, Sodermalm, and perhaps a few of the other islands further afield.
My preferred attractions include the Vasa Museum, the Nationalmuseum, walking the Old Town and the boutiques in Sodermalm, the Royal Palace, the Photography Museum (have a drink on the top floor for amazing views), and taking a ferry to Vaxholm if it’s sunny. Also, on a prior trip, I took a dinner cruise on the way to a concert at the Royal summer palaces. This is well worth it! The food is good and the setting is gorgeous.
On the subject of food, I just love the Nordic cuisine – lots of seafood! It is no wonder that all these people are thin. While steaks and other meats are easily found, I come to the North for amazing arctic char, sea bass, herring, and shrimp (often on bread with mayonnaise). It is the freshest fish you can possibly find.
The Swedes enjoy fine dining, and unlike many other places in Europe, the service level is top notch. My favorites on this trip include Restaurant Prinsen (for traditional Swedish cuisine), PA and Company (a small, charming restaurant), Hjerta (for a very neighborhood type place – no tourists here), Sud (in Sodermalm), and the Lydmar Hotel restaurant, with its lovely terrace. For lunch, do not miss the Östermalm Food Hall. It has many vendors selling fresh meat and seafood with tables at which to eat. Be warned that everything in Stockholm is expensive. Dinners are typically $80 to $100 per person. That said, it is hard to have a bad meal.
For hotels, I stayed at the Grand Hotel. This and the Lydmar are the best in town. The Grand is more traditional or classic, with lovely spacious rooms. Because it is larger than the Lydmar and has more frontage on the water, you are likelier to get a nice view at the Grand – and a view of the water and Royal Palace is well worth the splurge (see the photo at the top of this post). Also, the Grand's service is outstanding. My only criticism is that the concierge staff did not have a very good grasp of what restaurants to recommend to different guests; I had a sense that they advise the same restaurants to all. I tended to do my own research on this.
Some other solid hotels that offer a good value include the Berns, Riva (more hipster), the Rica Hotel Gamla Stan, and the Lord Nelson. Also, for those who love modern decor, then Nobis is a good pick.
My only critique of Stockholm is that it can be a little hard to connect with the people here initially. Emotional would not be an adjective I'd use to describe the Swedes. You have to work at it (and likely some alcohol is needed). Having said this, the people are incredibly beautiful and helpful!
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