Despite being dubbed the world’s smallest big city, Stockholm is Sweden’s economic powerhouse, and a global hub for technology innovation. Yet it’s also steeped in Nordic culture and filled with thriving, pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods, says local expert Annika Hipple, which are all excellent reasons to stay on after business is done
British Airways’ The Club, September 2014
Built on 14 islands where the Baltic Sea meets Lake Mälaren, Stockholm is shaped by water. Hop on a sightseeing boat plying the city’s waterways, or take a day excursion into the archipelago with Strömma or Waxholmsbolaget. Feeling active? Stockholm Adventures offers kayaking tours in the city and outer archipelago.
Stockholm’s vibrant culinary scene focuses on fresh local ingredients and innovative spins on Swedish cuisine – try Fem Små Hus (‘five small houses’) in Gamla Stan, where dishes include veal and reindeer fillets, seared char fish and vanilla ice cream with cloudberries. If you’re visiting around Christmas, don’t miss the julbord buffets of meatballs, gravlax and herring at either Wärdshuset Ulla Winbladh or Operakällaren.
Trace Sweden’s often turbulent history at the small but well-presented Museum of Medieval Stockholm, tucked away under a bridge by the Royal Palace, or the Swedish History Museum on Ostermalm, where highlights include the Viking exhibit and glittering Gold Room.
The concept of fika – a social coffee break – is a cornerstone of Swedish culture, and in Stockholm you’re unlikely to be far from a cafe where you can enjoy a kaffe with a kanelbulle (cinnamon bun). Grab a table overlooking Stortorget or Järntorget squares in Gamla Stan for prime people-watching or join the locals at a sidewalk cafe on hip Södermalm.
Green at heart
Eco-conscious Stockholm boasts the world’s first urban national park, the Royal National City Park, which includes the leafy Djurgarden Island. Explore on foot or rent a bike, kayak or canoe by the Djurgården Bridge. Stop for lunch or fika at organic bakery and café Rosendals Trädgård where the menu changes daily depending on what’s fresh in their garden.
Views to thrill
There’s nothing like seeing Stockholm from above to get a feel for its network of islands and waterways. Ascend the City Hall Tower for a superb panorama of central Stockholm, or head to Fjällgatan or Skinnarviksparken for free views from the heights of Södermalm.
One of Sweden’s most successful exports, ABBA, recently got their own museum on Djurgården. For those whose tastes are more dragon tattoos than dancing queens, Stockholm City Museum’s Millennium walking touron Södermalm traces the footsteps of author Stieg Larsson and his memorable characters.