How Stockholm wasn't what I expected but much more.
Updated: Mar 14, 2020
In a few days we managed to see a highlight of the city that has so much to show-off and for some reason people keep it a secret.
Sweden had been in my Tier-2 travel list. I hadn't heard much (or knew) about Sweden other than the standard typical comments from people. But for some reason this year I was more intrigued about visiting the Nordic countries and what best time to visit them than Summer when weather invites you to be outside and exploring.
Our arrival in Stockholm was one of the most memorable ones that I can remember. As we landed in Arlanda around 1:00am because of a delay in London, then getting a taxi would take forever at that time. By the time we got to our hotel and checked in, the sunrise was getting through the windows and we couldn't avoid to leave the hotel and walk around the archipelago to see the sunrise as it illuminated this beautiful and pristine city.
Sweden has its act together, not only in Stockholm but Gothenburg as well. It is a true destination with a great restaurant scene, unique and affordable shopping, one-of-a-kind museums and grand hotels that go way back in time but staying current with the times.
When you search online for hotels many names will pop-up, I was actually impressed with the selection. We nailed it down to Lydmar Hotel, which is perfectly located right on the water with views of The Royal Palace across the water and easy access to trendy neighborhoods nearby. It's not a big hotel, it's a classic hotel with perfect Scandinavian decor, every room is different and I felt like I was living in a design magazine with so many uniquely curated design elements and decor. If you're lucky you can get a room overlooking The Royal Palace but most of the rooms face the side streets. A favorite hotel now.
Stockholm is part of archipelago comprised of more than fourteen islands, with more than 50 bridges connecting these islands, all surrounded by the Baltic Sea. So the best way to get around is by foot and boat, many ferries offer transportation to all the different islands and I wish I had been there for a month to explore them all. As you walk out of the hotel lobby and around the sidewalk surrounding Lake Målaren you will cross the first bridge taking you to Gamla Stan, or Old Town. Here you will find the Royal Palace which is the Royal Residence and major palace of the Swedish monarchy. The Old Town is as unique as Prague or Bruges, with cobblestoned streets, chocolate shops, old buildings dating back the medieval times and many restaurants and pubs. It feels small, local and quaint, with great shopping options and fun getting lost in these tiny streets that sometimes feel like Venice alleys.
While in Old Town, visit the Nobel Museum. This was one of the nice highlights of our trip as you can learn so much about Alfred Nobel, his life, his legacy which still stands today and it's supported by his family's trust since his passing away in 1896. So many people have been honored with the Nobel Prize and it was quite interesting to see all different achievements by these remarkable people.
A great way to get yourself oriented is by jumping on the boat tours, which leave right outside the Lydmar and Grand hotels. The boat tour will take you around the archipelago, through Lake Målaren and back to Old Town. This was helpful for us. Fun fact: the Grand Hotel hosts a large number of guests that come to the Nobel Prize ceremony. For decades celebrities and prize winners have stayed there.
I was very impressed with the number of museums in Stockholm. Another fun one is ABBA museum. I grew up with my mom playing their music, then after two blockbuster movies I do know the music so why not visit the museum dedicated to their music legacy? I learned so much there, but in a fun way. I felt transported back to the 60's and 70's with their music, style, fashion, and so much memorabilia. Believe me, even if you barely know their music you have to visit to understand more of the pop explosion that this band caused not only in Sweden and Europe after winning the Eurovision competition, but the impact that it had around the globe. Making Sweden a big exporter of pop culture to this day.
A few minutes down the road from ABBA museum you'll find the Vasamuseet (or Vasa Museum) which is a maritime museum displaying a shipwreck that sank back in 1628 while making its first voyage from Stockholm port. This ship sank just twenty minutes after leaving the Stockholm port and it was never recovered until the late 1950's which means that the ship stayed in the Baltic Sea for over three hundred years. Due to the water conditions and temperature it was able to preserve the vessel almost intact until its recovery last century. Impressive one-of-a-kind ship that tells us so much about hour history from the 1600's and how ships were built and produced back then.
The food scene in Stockholm is like the rest of Scandinavia, trending. They've found a way to make food so sophisticated with the limited local resources that they have there due to weather conditions. As much as sophisticated it is, it's yet cozy and comforting. One of my favorite restaurants was Rolfs Kok and we were lucky to get a table outside as reservations are usually needed and they can take weeks to confirm a table. Sit outside and mingle with the locals and you'll be surprised on how much they know about food and where to get it. Definitely felt like a foodie town. Other good restaurant recommendations are Bino at the Opera House, overlooking The Royal Palace, and Flying Elk in Old Town. Food at the Nobis Hotel was totally on point as well.
We ran out of time. We spent a total of six days in Stockholm and for some reason it wasn't enough. I get the feeling that we didn't take enough boat trips to explore all the islands in the archipelago. This is a place that I want to go back, not only to see more but to hangout more with the locals.
Swedes can be the friendliest people, that I wasn't expecting, it was overwhelming when interacting with them because of how authentic they are, determined and friendly at the same time. They know how to have a good time, how to eat deliciously, how to style a room and how to set trends. How come they don't get more credit for all this? I guess we will be seeing and hearing more about them in the coming years because this country, and city, are ready to wow the world.