Summer in Stockholm is a breath of fresh air. This beautiful city on the water with its clean, crisp air and long summer days will leave you feeling invigorated and revitalised...
Savvy Stockholm was declared the first ever ‘European Green City’ by the European Union this year. One reason is the Arlanda Express - this fast-speed train is the most environmentally friendly way to travel non-stop between the airport and the city. The Express leaves every 15-20 minutes and takes only 20 minutes to reach Stockholm Central Station or the airport. We only had a weekend and didn’t want to waste any precious time so we let the train take the strain. (http://www.arlandaexpress.com/start.aspx) see website for prices, reduced weekend rates are available and cheaper travel for under 26 year olds, tickets can be purchased at the airport.
Spread over 14 granite islands, linked by 57 bridges and situated where the brightly, sparkling Lake Mälaren meets the brisk Baltic; it makes sense to experience Stockholm from the water. The Hop-on Hop-off Boat is a fun and relaxing way to do just that - hop on and off to your heart’s content or just stay and enjoy the ride; the 180SEK ticket is valid for 24 hours and the 8 stops include the Royal Palace, the Vasamuseet (entry included in ticket), Gröna Lund amusement park, the Gamla Stan and Nybroplan for shopping. www.stromma.se/en/Sightseeing/Stockholm/Boat-Tours/Hop-on-Hop-off1/
Our first stop was medieval Gamla Stan, the pedestrian friendly, old town, for a walking tour with our guide Elisabeth, a human ‘Who’s Who’ of Stockholm. With the royal wedding of Princess Victoria to her personal trainer, Daniel Westling, (stuff of fairytales) to take place on 19th June, Elisabeth couldn’t resist openly peering into every car that pulled into the square outside the Royal Palace. The Swedish royal family have offices here and come and go quite frequently - if they were going to be around Elisabeth wasn’t about to let them go unnoticed!
The impressive changing of the guard with military band can be seen at the Palace (daily 1215 hours; Sundays and holidays 1315 hours from May to August) and is one of Stockholm’s free highlights. The church of St Nicholas, just a stone's throw from the Palace, is also one of Stockholm’s main attractions. The baroque interior has recently been painstakingly restored for the Royal wedding - by hand (and thousands of cotton buds) and is quite stunning, particularly the statue of George and the Dragon.
Gamla Stan is full of cobbled alleyways, tubs of cheeky-faced pansies and quaint shops selling souvenirs and handicrafts. In the centre is Stortorget, the oldest square in Stockholm edged with traditional ochre and orange painted buildings - the perfect spot for a ‘fika’ – Swedish for ‘go for coffee and a pastry’. Chokladkoppen sells delectable pastries, the best hot chocolate and has tables on the square; perfect for people watching, that is if you’re not too busy drooling over the white chocolate cheesecake.
The Stieg Larsson trilogy, Millennium, (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is partly set in Stockholm and there are Millennium tours in English at 11am on Saturdays, organised by the City Museum (+46 (0) 8 5083 1659; www.stadsmuseum.stockholm.se/museet.php?artikel=109&sprak=english (120SEK or if you’re on a budget buy a Millennium map for 20SEK for a self-guided tour).
Fish was on the menu that evening at Restaurant J (Augustendalsvägen 52, Box 1220, 131 28 Nacka Strand, Stockholm; +46 (0)8-601 30 25; www.hotelj.com/) where we ate grilled char, a trout-like fish, with seasonal vegetables; very fresh and totally delicious. (Mains 150SEK to 300SEK) Dessert was sublime raspberry pannacotta with dark chocolate jelly (100SEK). Set on the water with the deck perfectly situated for catching the warm evening sun, this nautically themed restaurant was lively and full of chatter; we could have happily stayed until the sun went down at 11pm.
Next day arrived bright and sunny as we headed off to the Vasamuseet (Vasa Museum) on the island of Djugärden. Galärvarvsvägen 14, Djurgården; +46 (0)8-519 548 00; www.vasamuseet.se) The museum is home to the incredibly restored Vasa, a royal warship, which sank in 1628 on its maiden voyage - before it had even left the confines of Stockholm harbour. The wreck was salvaged in 1961 after 333 years underwater. The wooden vessel (think Mary Rose meets Pirates of the Caribbean) is 95% original and adorned with carvings. (1 Sep-31 May Daily 10am-5pm, Wed 10am-8pm; 1 June-31 August Daily 8.30am – 6pm) Free to under 18s, Adults 110SEK or included with Hop-on Hop-off boat fare.
Sticking with the marine theme we decided to take a boat into the magical archipelago. There was no time for a leisurely cruise so we got suited up, donned leather WWII fighter-pilot type helmets with goggles and made the jump to ‘warp-speed’. A RIB (rigid inflatable boat) is an incredibly fun and high-speed way to explore the spectacular archipelago made up of over 24,000 islands, islets and skerries. The RIB would cut across the wake of a boat and we’d take off before crashing back down into the water, desperately clinging on and laughing hysterically before speeding on through the magnificent landscape. The guy in front of me screamed like a girl. We arrived back on the jetty breathless, blasted and completely revitalised. (Museikajen 1111 48 Stockholm; +46 (0)8-202 260; www.ribsightseeing.se/eng_default.asp 395SEK for 1.5 hour trip)
Our final evening and dinner at Berns. (Berzelii Park, 103 25; +46 (0)8-566 322 00; www.berns.se) Set in what was once a ‘pleasure palace’ the décor of red velvet, gilded ceilings and glorious chandeliers was as sumptuous as the Asian food. We started with sushi, dim sum and chicken satay followed by a clever take on not so Swedish meatballs – served in a green Thai curry sauce – genius and delicious. (Mains 195SEK-375SEK).
Where to Stay
We stayed at Elite Hotel Marina Tower on the waterfront at Saltsjökvarns a converted mill with stunning views overlooking the Baltic. The city is 10 minutes away by the hotel’s own commuter boat which leaves from the jetty outside. Light airy rooms with cool, contemporary décor and a fabulous indoor pool. Rooms from 920SEK
I have also stayed at the Scandic Anglais Hotel. A good central hotel with great bars, free internet and a very Swedish recycling policy – even the bins in the rooms have sections for recycling. Rooms from 1920SEK including breakfast
Something different - recycled accommodation - A budget option is Jumbo Hostel (www.jumbohostel.com) at Arlanda Airport; but only if you fancy sleeping in a converted Pan-Am 747 parked at the end of a runway. Perfect for that early morning flight! Dorm beds 350SEK