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Leisure Guides. Stockholm Guide.

 

It’s Scandinavia’s unofficial capital of cool, swimming in talented designers and boasting some of the most elegant architecture in northern Europe. And yet, for all its glamour, Stockholm is a surprisingly friendly place with plenty for the curious traveller to love. 

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Hotels


From five-star hotels to hostels and even campsites, there’s no shortage of places to stay in Stockholm, much of it pleasingly stylish. Some, indeed, even have style in their name, the comfortable Hotel ibis Styles Stockholm Odenplan (Västmannagatan 61) among them. A modestly priced three-star, the hotel is central enough to be convenient and stylish enough to please even the pickiest of travellers. Pleasant though the ibis Styles is, for something with a little more pizzazz, little beats the Berns Hotel (Näckströmsgatan 8), a glamorous establishment that has been welcoming visitors since 1863. Despite its longevity, it has had several makeovers, the most recent of which took place just a couple of years ago. It also has an excellent restaurant named Nosh and Chow on site, as well as a cocktail bar popular with local hipsters.

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Getting around

Sprawled across 14 islands, Stockholm ought to be a public transport nightmare but it’s not – largely thanks to its comprehensive network of buses, trams and trains, all of which run like clockwork. The Tunnelbana, or T-bana, metro system is the quickest way to get from A to B, although the bus service is also easy to use and a good way to explore if you have time to spare. Trams are fewer, although the number seven, the Djurgårdslinjen, wends its way past many of the main sights. If you’re planning to rely on public transport, pick up a Stockholmskortet which lasts for one, two, three or five days and gives you unlimited travel on all routes. Other options include taxis (expensive), car hire or bicycle, with those interested in the latter able to benefit from Stockholm’s excellent – and extensive – public bike scheme.

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Top 10 sights


Top 5 sights for first-timers
 
See the city from Södermalm
Not much is free in Stockholm but taking in the view atop one of Södermalm’s hills most certainly is – and well worth doing. Take the metro to Mariatorget and take a stroll along Monteliusvägen, a pretty lane that boasts picture-postcard views of Gamla Stan, the Old Town, and Stockholm City Hall.
 
Kungliga Slottet
Unlike Buckingham Palace, most of Sweden’s royal seat is open to visitors. Built on the ruins of Tre Kronor, a royal castle that burned down in 1697, the palace houses the Karl XI Gallery, which was inspired by Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, the Royal Treasury and a silver throne that once belonged to Queen Christina.
 
Slottsbacken
www.kungahuset.se
 
Vasamuseet
The Vasamuseet is one of Sweden’s most visited attractions and it’s easy to see why. Home to the warship Vasa, a 69-metre long beast that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628, the museum tells the story of the doomed craft and the sailors who perished as it descended into the depths of the Saltsjön Bay.
 
Galärvarvsvägen 14
www.vasamuseet.se
 
Storkyrkan
No visit to Stockholm would be complete without a tour of the Old Town, Gamla Stan, and nowhere is lovelier than Storkyrkan. Built in 1279, the medieval church houses some unique relics and was the setting for the 2010 wedding of Crown Princess Victoria and her erstwhile personal trainer, Daniel Westling.
 
Trångsund 1
www.stockholmsdomkyrkoforsamling.se
 
Fotografiska
Sweden is justifiably famous for its stupendous grasp of art and design, and Fotografiska is a good place to start exploring it. Dedicated to contemporary photography, its rolling programme of exhibitions (four large, 20 small) means you’re unlikely to get bored. 
 
Stadsgårdshamnen 22
www.fotografiska.eu
 
Top 5 sights for old hands
 
ABBA The Museum
Stockholm’s newest museum is also one of its most entertaining – much as you’d expect since it’s dedicated to Sweden’s most famous pop export, ABBA. This is one museum where you’re expected to get involved and boasts a dedicated dance floor should the urge to strut your stuff become too hard to ignore.
 
Djurgårdsvägen 68
www.abbathemuseum.com
 
Nordiska Museet
The question of just how the Swedes managed to become the kings of cool is cause for much head-scratching elsewhere. Luckily for the flummoxed, the Nordiska Museet has the answers and charts Sweden’s cultural course from bearskin-loving Vikings to Acne-clad hipsters.
 
Djurgårdsvägen 6-16
www.nordiskamuseet.se
 
Östermalms Saluhall
It would be worth visiting for its gorgeous 18th-century carapace alone but there’s plenty more to be found inside Östermalms Saluhall, one of Stockholm’s most impressive food markets. From live langoustines to traditional cinnamon buns, it’s the place to go for a taste of fresh, local fare.
 
Östermalmstorg
www.ostermalmshallen.se
 
Kaknästornet
Ignore, if you can, the brutalist architecture and take a lift to the top of the Kaknäs Tower for one of the city’s best views. From the apex of the 152-metre building, the whole of Gamla Stan is visible as are the glass and concrete blocks of Norrmalm beyond.
 
Mörka Kroken 28
www.kaknastornet.se
 
Millesgården
Once the home and garden of sculptor Carl Milles (1875-1955), Millesgården, on the island of Lidingö, is a gorgeous series of open terraces dotted with examples of his Grecian-esque work and overflowing with local flora. 
 
Herserudsvägen 32
www.millesgarden.se
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Top 5 activities


Park stroll
There’s no shortage of pretty parks in Stockholm but Rosendals (‘Valley of Roses’ in Swedish) is easily one of the loveliest. With groves of gnarled apple trees as well as just about every type of rose imaginable, the garden is perfect for whiling away a couple of hours.
 
Rooftop hiking
It’s certainly not one for the faint-hearted but for an unusual perspective on Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s rooftop tour is unbeatable. Starting by the statue of city founder Birger Jarl, highlights include clambering across the roof of the medieval Riddarholmen church.
 
Kayaking
A cluster of 24,000 islands an hour away from the centre, Stockholm’s archipelago is a magnet for wildlife and remains unspoilt despite its proximity to the city. From the kayak base on the island of Runmarö, tours take you out past tiny skerries, many of which are populated by colonies of seabirds.
 
Saunas
Swedes are almost as fond of sweating it out in the sauna as the neighbouring Finns and as a result, there’s no shortage of places to try it. One of the oldest is Storkyrkobadet, a quaint basement bathhouse in the middle of Gamla Stan. For a more upmarket experience, try Sturebadet – a favourite of Greta Garbo.
 
Bridge tours
As befits a city sprawled over 14 islands, there’s no shortage of crossing spots – many beautiful, unique or simply bizarre. It’s also a leisurely way to take in the main sights as most tours glide past Gamla Stan, Södermalm and Djurgården. 
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Top 5 events


Stockholm Design Week
From flat-pack homes to Filippa K, Sweden has an enviable reputation for design, and this five-day smorgasbord of style shows why. A mixture of staged events, exhibitions and the odd artistic experiment, Stockholm Design Week offers a peek at Scandinavia’s hottest new talent. 
 
Date: February
Venue: various 
 
Fettisdagen
The Swedish version of Shrove Tuesday is the perfect excuse to stuff yourself silly with fastlagsbullar, a delicious cardamom bun filled with cream and almond paste (also known as semla). Vete-Katten (Kungsgatan 55) is one of the best places to tuck in.
 
Date: February/March
Venue: Various
 
Walpurgis Night
Celebrated with open-air sing-songs, bonfires and plenty of akvavit, Walpurgis Night might be named after an English saint but the celebrations are distinctly Viking in character. Open-air museum Skansen is home to an entertaining version, complete with traditional choirs.
 
Date: 30 April
Venue: Skansen (and elsewhere)
 
Midnattsloppet
A running race that lasts into the small hours could only be possible in the Land of the Midnight Sun, the Midnattsloppet doesn’t disappoint. Participants are cheered along by vast crowds there to enjoy the party, complete with live music.
 
Date: August
Venue: Ringvägen
 
Stockholm Open
Sweden’s glitziest event, sporting or otherwise, brings the tennis world’s biggest names to Stockholm. While you’re cheering on Murray and co, keep a weather eye open for A-list fellow guests – the Swedish royals regularly appear courtside.
 
Date: October
Venue: Kungliga Tennishallen
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Shopping

It might be famous for flat-pack furniture but it would be criminal to waste a trip to Stockholm on a visit to IKEA. The Swedish capital is a design hunter’s paradise, whether you’re after über-cool clothes or unique homeware. Department store Nordiska Kompaniet on Hamngatan is a good place to start and boasts a carefully curated edit of the major local names. For something a little more unusual, try Store Stockholm on Tjärhovsgatan or head to ETC on Odengatan, a boutique specialising in quirky labels, among them shoe brand Gram which creates footwear sold by weight. Elsewhere, Birger Jarlspassagen, a pretty fin-de-siècle shopping arcade in Östermalm, is perfect for anyone in search of homeware, jewels and vintage boots courtesy of retro emporium, Mrs H. For homeware, don’t miss DesignTorget on Götgatan, where you’ll find everything from incredible art to bizarre knick-knacks

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Restaurants


Fresh, locally sourced ingredients are the order of the day in Stockholm wherever you choose to eat. Unfortunately, eating out in Stockholm isn’t cheap so it’s worth checking out markets such as Östermalms Saluhall if you’re on a budget. If not, there’s plenty of choice with everything from local favourites to Peruvian specialities on the menu. For Swedish fare, few do it better than the recently opened Lux Dag för Dag (Primusgatan 116), which, along with toothsome seasonal specialities, boasts stunning views of Lake Mälaren. Those who like their food with a view should also check out Södermalm’s Gondolen (Stadsgården 6), where supper takes place in a cable car suspended over the harbour. The touristy Gamla Stan is also worth a look: despite its many landmarks, it has many a hidden gem, including the Cultur Bar and Restaurant (Österlånggatan 34) which offers Spanish tapas with a Scandinavian twist.

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Nightlife


The locals might have a Teflon-like attachment to heavy metal but there are still plenty of places in Stockholm where you won’t be assailed by the sound of caterwauling guitars. One of the more unusual is the Icebar Stockholm (Vasaplan 4), where you can indulge in a sub-zero cocktail in surroundings made entirely from ice. But while the Icebar scores points for its interesting concept, most of the action happens in and around Östermalm’s Sturegatan. Among its many bars and clubs is Sturecompagniet (Sturegatan 4), Stockholm’s biggest club – and its busiest come 1am. For a slightly more relaxed evening, head south to Södermalm, which boasts a diverse range of bars and clubs offering everything from rock to reggae. Och Himlen Därtill (Götgatan 78) is one of the most glamorous, largely thanks to its Skybar. Pet Sounds Bar (Skånegatan 80) is also worth a visit and does a good line in live music although, be warned, its repertoire does include death metal.

 

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