My trip to Stockholm was a bit of a disconnected one. As part of my wider Amsterdam-Stockholm-Stöde travels in late December, I spent four nights but only two days in Stockholm – one day either side of Christmas.
How: KLM MCR-Arlanda (via Amsterdam), £180 return
When: 22nd & 27th December 2013
Where: Interhostel, Kammakargatan 46 – £17/night in 14-bed dorm
Best Hostel City, Luntmakargatan 14 – £15/night in 14-bed dorm
Weather: Heart-breakingly void of snow, chilly, sunny
Arriving in Stockholm, I was heartbroken. Despite being late December, it was mild and there wasn’t a single flake of snow to be seen. I was warned beforehand about the seasonal weather, but I can’t pretend I wasn’t disappointed. One thing I learned in Sweden is you can’t control the weather.
On a more positive note, I spent my first full day walking around. I absolutely love getting my bearings in a new city and Stockholm is very walkable. While neither of my hostels were deemed close to the centre, both were no more than 10-15-minute walk from Gamla Stan – Stockholm’s old town and the heart of the city. Gamla Stan is a lovely little area with a lot of picturesque alleys, small cafes and bars, and a few too many tourist shops selling ‘I heart 1D’ T-shirts. There was a modest Christmas market on at the time I visited, but the main draw is Mårten Trotzigs Gränd – Stockholm’s narrowest alley, and potentially its most instagrammed sight.
After exploring the old town, I headed to Södermalm, Stockholm’s southern island, where my guidebook promised I could find great views overlooking Gamla Stan. True to form, Lonely Planet did not let me down and after scaling an almost vertical street, I found a brilliant look-out point facing out over the city.
The views heading back into the city of Södermalm’s built-up hillside weren’t too shabby, either.
Almost a week later, I spent my second full day in Stockholm. As the weather was a lot grimmer (still no snow) and the fact I’d traversed most of the city in day one, I headed for a museum. After being told that the ABBA Museum was almost £25 entry (I suppose the winner really does take it all…), I headed for the Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum), which was definitely the highlight of my time in Stockholm.
The first thing to note about the museum is its exterior – it is grand. Visible from practically every corner of central Stockholm, the huge building is unmissable – it’s hard to believe it was planned to be three times the size. Originally designed to house collections from all over the Nordic countries, the museum today only contains exhibitions from Sweden, despite its name. Inside, there’s a whole range of themes: from design and fashion to Swedish history and traditions. During my visit, there was a brilliant temporary exhibit on the evolution of patterns and meaning, focusing on stripes in fashion, nationalism and everyday society. I spent absolute hours in the museum – it is just huge.
There’s also a particularly moving exhibit on the treatment of the native Lapps in Sweden’s far north, which will be covered in a later post.
Overall, Stockholm left a strange impression on me. In my opinion, you could find a more impressive old town in Riga, a grander city on water in St. Petersburg and more innovative design in Berlin. And yet, I really, really liked Stockholm. I can’t put my finger on exactly why (which might have something to do with my unconventional stay there) but I was really taken by the place. The city doesn’t feel huge, but there is plenty going on: the range of tourist activities and excellent museums is seemingly endless and the old town is ridiculously photogenic. There are also a lot of bars around town and the city itself wasn’t half as expensive as I expected.
In short, Stockholm is a city I would definitely recommend, but two days isn’t enough to get more than a passing feel for the place.
I hope my travels take me back in the near future. And next time, I am going to fork out for the ABBA museum.