Forget Sweden's reputation for being expensive - with a weak Swedish Krona your holiday cash goes further in Stockholm than you might imagine
Scandinavia probably isn't the first place that you would look for a bargain break, but the relative weakness of the Swedish Krona (SEK) compared to the Euro and no frills flights from regional airports make Sweden's capital, Stockholm a competative short stay destination.
At Lake Malaren’s junction with the Baltic Sea, Stockholm has a proud maritime history, so fittingly we checked into the Malardrottningen Boat Hotel Stockholm (Riddarholmen, 111 28 Stockholm). The world’s largest diesel yacht when launched in 1924, the Malardrottningen was given to Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton as an eighteenth birthday present. Today she is berthed near Gamla Stan Tunnelbana (underground) station and has on offer rooms ranging down from the opulent luxury of the owner’s cabin to the functional bunk bedded sailors’ cabins that we occupied for around £80 a night.
Things to do and places to see
The Malardrottningen was an ideal base for us to explore Gamla Stan (Old Town). This jumble of streets and squares is the place to pick up essential souvenirs like painted dala horses or perhaps some hand blown glassware. There are plenty of bars and restaurants offering similar prices to the UK and some more expensive and quite swanky ones down on the waterfront, like the floating Strandbryggan Sea Club bar (Strandvägskajen 27; +46 8 660 37 14; www.strandbryggan.se/home.m) where a pint will set you back about 50SEK.
The island of Djurgarden is a must. We got there by ferry (http://www.waxholmsbolaget.se/djurgardsfarjor/en/djurgardsfarjor.aspx) from Slussen, at the lower end of Gamla Stan. Having the exact fare of 40 SEK is essential, no change is given. Ashore it’s a short walk to the Vasamuseet (Galärvarvsvägen 14; 46 8 519 558 10; admission 90SEK; http://www.vasamuseet.se/sitecore/content/Vasamuseet/InEnglish/About/VasaMuseum.aspx). The Vasa was a 64 gun warship launched in 1628 and sunk almost immediately on her maiden voyage just off the southern point of Djurngarden. Entombed in the mud of the Baltic Sea she was rediscovered and raised from the depths in the 1950s. By far the best preserved warship of the 17th century anywhere in the world, the Vasa is the centrepiece of a fascinating museum, the innovative architecture of which is almost as interesting as its content. Take a view of the main deck from the dizzying heights of the pitching crow’s nest if you dare.
Djurgarden’s other main attraction is Skansen (Djurgardsfarna 49; +46 8 442 80 00; http://www.skansen.se/pages/?ID=221; admission 90SEK). Founded in 1891, Skansen was designed to be a living record of the Swedish way of life in an increasingly industrialised world. Throughout its 70 acres there are 150 buildings that have been shipped and rebuilt piece by piece from all over Sweden. This fascinating insight of days gone by is complemented by traditional craft workshops and a farm with rare breeds of Swedish domestic animal. There is also an aquarium and a zoo featuring Swedish wildlife like brown bears, wolves, grey seals and elk.
A right royal day out
Just like their British cousins, the Swedish Royal Family has a place outside the hustle and bustle of the city centre. However unlike their British counterparts they don’t mind the public wandering around their gardens at the Drottningholm Royal Palace on the island of Lovon. We took the 50 minute ferry journey across Lake Malaren to Drottningholm from Stadshuskajen (City Hall Quay). Stromma Kanalbolaget (http://www.stromma.se/kanalbolaget) offer a round trip for 150 SEK or for 270 SEK you can get admission to nose around the palace interior thrown in. We were lucky enough to sail on the SS Drottningholm, a genuine steam powered ferry.
The waterfront palace was designed by Nicodemus Tessin the Elder in the 1600s in the baroque style. To the rear there are extensive gardens. Passing through the formal French Baroque gardens with their fountains we found ourselves in the more relaxed English Gardens. There are some quite curious buildings here, like the Guard’s House, which from a distance this looks like a very fancy tent. Up close you discover it’s solid, the walls have been sheathed in zinc and then painted to fool the eye.
Towards the rear of the English Garden we found the eighteenth century Chinese Pavilion and an intriguing raised building known as the Confidence. The Confidence was built over its own kitchens and engineered with a table that, once laid below stairs could be raised fully laden into the dining room above. The royals could then entertain without even having to see a servant. Well I can’t vouch for the quality of the food back then but today you can get an extremely good waffle with cream from the same kitchen.
Food on the go
Stockholm’s fast food is herring (Stromming) and there are numerous stalls selling this tasty treat. Served with dill sauce, red onion and cucumber it can be enjoyed as a wrap, on crispbread (knackis), with mash or even as a burger (Strommingburgare) from 30SEK to60SEK. Kebabs are also popular and I heartily recommend the Jerusalem Kebab and Café tucked away in Gamla Stan (Gasgrand 2; +46 8 20 40 35) where you can get a really large spicy Palestinian selection platter for around 65SEK.
We took a Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) flight from Stansted to Skavska and from there it’s about an hour into Stockholm’s T-Centralen Station by bus (179SEK return; www.flygbussarna.se). It was then a short hop on the Tunnelbana to Gamla Stan. On a previous visit we stayed at the more conventional Adlon Hotel (Vasagatan, 42, tel: +46 8 402 65 00, http://www.adlon.se/lang_uk/index.shtml) close to the T-Centralen Station, which was a very comfortable establishment with an interesting collection of antique telephones.