I arrived into Stockholm on the Silja Line Ferry from Tallinn Estonia. Once the boat arrived into the harbour I grabbed my bags and marched to the metro station. I had visited Sweden before in 2006 when I was backpacking from Oslo Norway to Copenhagen Denmark with a stop in Goteborg. I already knew that Sweden was expensive but was a little shocked when a three station journey on the metro was over 5 USD!
I arrived at my new home, The Scandic Grand Central and checked into a special room which they have affectionately dubbed “The Blogger Suite.” The room had a massive coffee table decked out with design and fashion mags as well as a handy work desk with all the essential electronics/cords a blogger needs. I especially enjoyed the iPad on my bed as well as a tripod sitting in the corner in case I was looking to do any photo shoots during my stay.
I had a quick shower then sifted through the package I received from Stockholm Tourism. After staring at a map of the city I marched onto the street. I walked along Kungsgatan to Stureplan and then south to Nybrohamnen. During this twenty minute walk I became enchanted with the city: well dressed and attractive blonds drinking champagne on the sun soaked streets, brilliant architecture and bustling harbourfront.
I arrived at the water and noticed a line up of people about to board a canal boat. I ever so spontaneously decided to enjoy a Stockholm Sightseeing boat cruise which puttered through canals and around Djurgarden Island over the course of the next hour. Once off the boat I walked through Kungstradgarden where all of the cities hipsters could be found lazing in the sun.
I walked back to my hotel where I would be meeting with Mariel who I met in Fiji many moons ago. I would be spending every evening during my stay with her and fiance Anton, a nice departure from my lonely dining experiences over the past few weeks. I was so pleased to have guests at my table, and they were thrilled for a free meal and momentous and memorable dining experiences. Mariel and I enjoyed dinner at 2 Michelin Star restaurant Frantzen, a twenty course meal which included over ten wine pairings.
The following morning I enjoyed my first Grand Central breakfast. I filled my plate with cured ham, a hunk of brie, rye, chocolate croissants, yogurt parfait, pancakes with cream and strawberries, crispy bacon, orange juice and a latte. I properly fuelled myself for a full day of touring around the city. I started my adventure at Riddarholmskyrkan, a church known for its spiked iron spire which is home to the royal necropolis. Outside of the church stands the famous statue of Birger Jarls Torg and a short walk to the water provides excellent views of City Hall.
I walked over the bridge to Gamla Stan where I was greeted by stunning gardens which sit in front of Kungliga Slottet Palace. The “new” palace is built on the ruins of Tre Kronor, which burnt to the ground in the 17th century. Its 608 rooms make it the largest royal palace in the world still used for its original purpose. Gamla Stan is the heart of Old Town Stockholm and features some of the countries most notable buildings as well as a series of winding cobblestone streets.
A local high school band played Abba covers in front of the Nobel Museum as tourists eagerly snapped photos and locals clapped from the comfort of sun drenched patios. Nobelmuseet presents the history of the Nobel Prize and past laureates as well as changing exhibitions about art, science, creativity and inspiration. Once finished at the museum I stood in the square debating my next move when I saw a group of tourists bolting towards the palace. I followed along and was ever so glad I did as I happened upon the bravado and regal poise of the Changing of the Guard. My last stop on Gamla Stan was a visit to Storkyrkan Church, the Royal Cathedral of Sweden, consecrated in 1306. The most notable eye popping feature here is the life-sized St George and the Dragon sculpture, dating from the late 15th century.
I walked south to Sodermalm Island where I got a bit lost looking for Fotografiska the cities famed photography museum. I spent about 45 minutes just trying to locate the place. Locals were friendly when I asked for directions (albeit some got me more lost than I needed to be). Once I finally reached Fotografiska I was so pleased as it is located on a stunning stretch of the city harbour. This 2500 sq metre gallery space, housed in an old customs building, hosts several major photography exhibitions each year, all of them impressively thorough and atmospherically staged. The upstairs cafe (and patio in the summer) has the most artfully arranged display of sandwiches imaginable, with a stunning view of the city too!
Once finished at the museum I walked across the street to a long staircase which had me huffing and puffing. Once I had caught my breath from the arduous climb I walked through the cities Sofo hood known for its design, art and hipsters. My feet started to swell and my back started to ache so once I had sufficiently been inspired by pedestrian SoFo I headed back to my hotel for a shower and quick nap.
I met with Anton and Mariel in the lobby of my hotel. Anton was the first to arrive and actually had a wee present for me: a leather iPhone neck-wallet that he sells at boutiques throughout the city through his Vintage Flamingo label. The Director of Marketing took us on a quick tour before dropping us off at the hotels relaxed street side cafe and bar. After enjoying a few well crafted signature cocktails we enjoyed dinner at Teaterbrasseriet. After a fantastic meal we staggered out onto the street to spend a few hours at the cities most popular gay watering hole Torget.
The following morning I hit the pavement early with a massive itinerary to tackle. I started at the Historical Museum which does an excellent job at storytelling the unique history of Sweden from the Viking Age to present. I was happy to find a reference to ABBA as well as a room filled with royal gold in the basement.
Next I walked over to Djurgarden known as the island which is full of museums and attractions. I started at The Junibacken Museum which showcases the colourful storybook characters from author Astrid Lindgren, creator of Pippy Longstocking. The museum is full of screaming children. My sister and I grew up watching English dubbed Pippy videos that we would rent from the local library so it was a treat to be able to see Swedish children embracing these stories with so much enthusiasm.
A five minute walk along the harbour and I soon found myself mesmerized by the impressive Vasa Museum. A good-humoured glorification of some dodgy calculation, Vasamuseet is the custom-built home of the massive warship Vasa. A whopping 69m long and 48.8m tall, the pride of the Swedish crown set off on its maiden voyage on 10 August 1628. Within minutes, the top-heavy vessel and its 100-member crew capsized tragicomically to the bottom of Saltsjon. Tour guides explain the extraordinary and controversial 300-year story of its death and resurrection, which saw the ship painstakingly raised in 1961 and reassembled like a giant 14,000 piece jigsaw. Almost all of what you see is original, a jaw dropping experience.
My final stop of the day was at Skansen, the world’s first open-air museum which opened in 1891 by Artur Hazelius to give an insight into how Swedes lived once upon a time. You could easily spend an entire day here and not see it all. I was blessed with a hot sunny day, think twice if the weather is not agreeing with you. The museum is meant to be “Sweden in miniature,” complete with villages, nature, commerce and industry. I spent about three hours at Skansen marching through a Swedish pioneer village and past the Nordic Zoo which features moose, reindeer and brown bears. I didn’t make time for lunch so when at the park made sure to grab an ice cream. I became obsessed with my purchase, a lemon meringue ice cream cone.
After a quick shower and nap back at my hotel I met with Anton for dinner at 1 Michelin Star restaurant Lux. After a fantastic meal the sun had set and we walked an hour or so along the water through rolling hill parks, endless flower gardens, a quiet beach and past glowing yachts and towering bridges. This was the happiest moment of my trip, I fell in love with Stockholm during our wee stroll. There was something so magical about this city made up of hundreds of islands. An urban feast surrounded by natures beast. We arrived at one of the most stunning gay bars I have ever been to on my travels. Malarpaviljongen is a local watering hole which features thoughtful design elements and an abundance of flowers. The majority of the bar is actually situated on floating docks which bob up and down as the full moon glows across the water. After taking a deep breath I closed my eyes and a wee smile curled across my face. I was so relaxed, so well fed, a little drunk and so at peace with the world.
On my walk back to my hotel I bid Anton farewell and spent my last remaining hours packing up my life one last time. In the morning I grabbed a quick breakfast and then booted it to the airport for my long flight back home. As my taxi zoomed outside of the city I rested my forehead on the window and for the next 12 hours while I was in transit across the Atlantic Ocean I played each meal, museum, gallery, castle and empty glass of wine through my head like my own very personal slideshow.