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If you want to picture in your mind something, think of … Scandinavian summer, dusk, relaxed music jazz-chill out, mohitos, relaxing on a chair, staring to the sky, dreams, your companion for life or the girls of your dream (these two could be mutually exclusive) or just a great friends of yours, blond angels walking around you, making plans for the future…
My initial introduction to Stockholm was not a very memorable one, I have to confess.
I had to sustain an 8-hour bus ride from Lund via probably half of Sweden to Stockholm courtesy of a quick 2-day trip there in the Spring of 1997.I arrived there totally knackered and ready to collapse as this was one of the first long bus-trips I had ever taken by that time. It has probably, unconsciously, functioned as one of the key factors that formed my solid belief that bus rides of more than 15 minutes should be dearly avoided.
I stayed downtown and barely remember anything…apart from the impressive Kaknastortet the tall telecom tower, the Central Train station and Klarabergsgatan.
Still, it seemed that city had more to give and in the years following my first visit, I visited Stockholm probably another 5 times – 2000/2001 New Years and another four times for a couple of business meetings and a couple of leisure trips.
Stockholm is not New York, London, Paris, Sydney. It is not flashy. It is not glittering. It does not show off. It is, though, – and I am going to use a hugely popular yet cheesy wording – a hidden gem. Not many people have Stockholm in their A-list of destinations, but I can easily say that Stockholm is truly one of my three favourite European Capitals and should dearly be visited by all!
Of course this personal affection has to do with the specific sentimental bonds that have been created as a result of those visits – even though the accumulated period of time I spent there is not more than 40 days. Such bonds have to do with the period of time I visited, the people I met, the places I visited. Still, such bonds were formed as a result of my effort to dig in into the everyday life of Stockholm…because Stockholm does give the visitor exactly that.
The opportunity to feel for a while like a Stockholmer and appreciate in all its glory a truly humane city…weather excluded!
When to Visit.
Winter is definitely an interesting period to visit if you are fond of loads of snow and temperatures that are barely lifting off -5 degrees. For those not having cultivated such … interests, do visit in May/June or September. If September is associated with autumn and rain then the best period by far to visit is May –June. The city thrives with people before the summer vacations and if you are lucky to have some great weather, then you are guaranteed to have a fantastic time. As far as I am concerned, my best memories (apart from … spending New Year’s 2000-2001 there) are from my visit in June 2001.
Most probably you arrive by air so it is a very quick and humane ride from Arlanda (if you are flying in to the main airport) to the city centre with Alranda Express. From the main train station you can grab a taxi or just walk to your hotel. The central train station is also a great option to travel around Stockholm or anywhere in Sweden with train. I executed my return trip from Stockholm to Lund and I literally enjoyed the vistas of the endless Swedish forests! Truly unmissable! If you do have the chance visit one of the cities around Stockholm and your itinerary allows it, do so. Uppsala is one of the close-by suggestions.
What to do.
The first thing to do is walk downtown. Get the vibes of the city. There are some truly beautiful buildings and places to relax and appreciate the city.
Try Gamla Stan, the Old Town. It is arguably slightly touristic, but yet it is a very good place to walk around.
Check out the Stureplan Area (my favourite area …and a friend of mine will be sardonically smiling now), in the Östermalm Area. Truly the main area to go out. Stureplan used to thrive with bars with the famous Sturecompagniet club.
Absolutely do not miss the famous Vasa museum. If you do want to visit just one museum then this is the place to be. It is also a nice walk from down town.
Don’t miss the City Hall where you can get some nice photos and the Royal Palace and do pay a visit at the Nobel Museum (Gamla Stan).
Walk all the way (or take the bus) to the impressive telecom tower Kaknästornet and enjoy some great 360 views of the Stockholm metropolitan area a dna quiet cup of coffee.
For those who want a day the average Stockholm resident lives, there is the Södermalm area (Slussen station), south of the main city or Skansen where you will find many things … happening!
Most importantly spend time next to the sea and feel the special connection of the city with water! If you are after cruises, try one of those offered.
As a final suggestion, try the … local food. Swedish cuisine may not be famous to the average people, but you will find some amazing dishes being offered in the city.
All in all, all the above will fill up easily 4- days.
If you have travelled and spent some considerable time in Scandinavia you will realise that away from numerous comments about cold people and climate, places not worth visiting, places where only penguins and ice thrive, Scandinavia, is truly an amazing place that makes you feel so much differently compared to other places in the world.
It has also has to do with this …northern proximity away from e.g. Central or South Europe. Once you get to know Scandinavia, its capitals and of course Stockholm, and once you want to get to really know these places and not just do a touch-and-go, you feel these mysterious bonds being created. It is the clean air, the blue skies, the emptiness [physical and metaphysical] you feel in the air, that create in your heart and mind some special … attributes that characterise these lands.
In that same way Stockholm is truly a place to spend some considerable time. Check the city, spend some time just sipping your coffee, walk all over, feel the vibes of this humane city that paves and shows the way of how cities should be built and managed, become one with the city. Get to know this mysterious Northerners from the Kingdom of Northern Barbaria and their capital and you will realise that both the city and its people deserve a special place in your heart.