This was a first for me! A trip to the Nordics. Before boarding my Norweigan Air flight to Stockholm, I made a little list in my head of what I want to thank Sweden for. Thank you Sweden, for giving us Abba, Ikea, H&M, Absolut, Volvo, and finally. And most importantly. Alexandar Skarsgard. Cue crazy-fan shrill scream and excessive drooling.
I recall travellers who’ve been to Scandinavia whining about about the obscene prices. I’ve been living in the UK for almost three years now, and I brushed this off. Not because I have a lot of money (and I don’t!). Mostly out of naivete. My wallet learned the hard way, and I found myself whining a few times.
Fun fact about Stockholm! This capital of Sweden is spread across 14 islands. Lots of parks and open water. Experiencing the city varies every season. We saw Stockholm during the winter. It actually snowed the night we arrived, to the demise of my UGGs walking the slippery sidewalks in search for our Air BnB flat.
My top tens!
(10) Köttbullar – Swedish Meatballs
Most shopping trips to IKEA are followed by meal at their cafeteria… Swedish meatballs often the dish of choice. What makes these meatballs particularly Swedish? Hmm. The side of boiled potatoes and lingonberry jam? The light brown gravy?
Unfortunately, I did not have a Swedish meatball on this trip. I settled for the next best thing instead (erm, because it was the only thing available that resembled a meatball): a burger steak! Most of the meatball ingredients were there anyways! It just took on a different shape. Tasted the same too!
We had ours at a food court of the Kulturhuset, just outside the T Centralen train station. Our free walking tour guide recommended the food court to us, saying it wasn’t too expensive and they had Swedish fare.
This traditional Swedish spice cookie has stolen my heart. A pepparkakor can take several shapes (hearts, stars, flowers, rounds) and goes with most beverages! Coffee, tea, or even glögg (Swedish mulled wine) It is ubiquitous in Swedish cafes!
I bought a tub of these babies for my co-workers. And I got two boxes of Annas Peperkakor for myself! The ginger flavoured ones, when enjoyed with strong blue cheese, is just divine.
(8) Beautiful Swedes
Tall, blonde, and beautiful. Yes the Nordic gods walk the earth, and some of them are in Sweden! I spotted a few in one of the local breakfast bars we went to (more about those later!) and just walking the streets. They walked fast, with their long strides and all. I did not manage to get a decent photo. Only two girls singing in Gamla Stan. I’m not even sure if they’re Swede.
We noticed though, that some Swedes when they speak in English, can easily be mistaken for Americans! Or perhaps there are a number of American tourists/expats in Stockholm.
The mothership of clothing giant H&M is here in Stockholm! The second largest high street fashion retailer in the world, H&M had its humble beginnings in Västerås (60-some miles west of Stockholm). Apparently, the ‘H’ stands for ‘hennes’, which is the Swedish word for ‘hers’ or ‘for her’. And the ‘M’ stands for ‘Mauritz’ Widforss, a hunting clothing retailer who took over the business in the 60s.
Of all the H&Ms around the city, we spent the most time in the H&M along Hamngatan, where the latest clothes first arrive. Our timing was perfect, because there was a promotion going on (extra 20% off for every 500 kroner spent).
(6) Colourful buildings
Our weekend home in Stockholm was a studio flat along Atlasgatan. The closest train station was St Eriksplan, which is just a few stops away from the city centre. The residential area was not too busy, and was littered with neighbourhood cafes and restaurants (more about that later!).
Anyway, these residential buildings are just nice and colourful. A lovely combination of pastels and more impressionable, strong colours.
The picturesque Stortorget in Gamla Stan (Old Town) is the oldest square in Stockholm. And one of the prettiest, might I add!
(5) Island hopping Swedish style
Other travel books recommend cruising the Stockholm archipelago. Best to be done in summer. I saw a few boats docked somewhere during the winter. We island hopped using Stockholm’s tram system, which was dismantled in the 60s, but recently returned.
(4) Gamla Stan – Old Town
Who could resist the lure of the medieval part of town? We couldn’t! The narrow alleyways and cobbled stone streets take anyone back to 13th century Stockholm. We did an afternoon walking tour (which easily felt like an evening walking tour, with the sun setting at 3pm!). A guide who took us around Gamla Stan. We walked past the Royal Palace and Storkyrkan (Stockholm’s medieval cathedral).
There are a couple of museums around Stockholm. We chose to go to the Vasamuseet, a museum built around a 16th century warship which sunk on its maiden voyage. It’s impressive how the ship was restored and preserved! We spent a good two hours admiring the wooden ship, exploring some of the artefacts, and listening to the interesting story of how a fatal design flaw led to this embarrassing event for the Swedish king (his newest and proudest warship sinking close to shore).
(2) Clever and expensive design shops
Ikea showcases the Swedish ingenuity and design aesthetic. Imagine our delight when we visited other shops in Stockholm. There was always something clever to buy. Lots of ‘Hey! Why didn’t I think of that’ stuff. When we got over our delight, we moved to wallowing in disappointment. Deng! They were incredibly expensive!! Then came the rationalisation that we’re likely to find something cheaper in Ikea! Haha. Aaaaand we’re back to supporting mass production.
We were salivating at nice household stuff at Design House and DesignTorget. Contemplated on getting one or two things, but later ultimately decided that we’d rather spend our Krone on cardamom buns. Oh how I wish I could fill my house with these lovely things!
(1) Cardamom buns enjoyed at a Swedish breakfast bar
Cardamom buns. I. Love. You. I can’t even put into words why I love these. They’re… complex! Sweet, spicy, savoury, soft. I had two of these for breakfast. One was not enough. They were just darn good!!
We enjoyed these fresh warm buns for breakfast at the equally brilliant Mellqvist Caffè Bar, along Rörstrandsgatan. It’s amazing how breakfast can be hip and sexy! The kaffebar’s caffeine-induced perkiness is infectious. Lots of beautiful people around. Aspiring diners eagerly awaiting empty tables. Coffee was good. Fresh juice available. Self-serve pastries. Hip bar meets breakfast. What’s not to love?