It’s a last minute whim. Suddenly we’re booked on a flight along with two night’s stay in Sweden’s pride and joy, Stockholm. With down jackets and thick socks at the ready, we were set for a whistle-stop visit around what I’d later consider as one of the most beautiful and unique cities I’ve ever visited. Ladies and gents, Välkommen till Stockholm.
First impressions of Sweden are straight from some edgy crime drama. Vast open spaces blanketed by snow and ice, black pine forests and little red houses punctuate this lonely landscape. The bus journey was quiet and allowed us to soak in this new environment. Stockholm had a little more life to it, and reminded me of older parts of New York, the buildings echoing the Browns Stones, mixed with Renaissance pomp, a truly magical mix. Our first stop was food! So we decided to dive straight into the stereotype and chow down a bowl of steaming meatballs, mash potato and loganberry jam. Perfect for two weary travellers. This food was provided by a bustling restaurant called Pickwicks, where a warm welcome greeted us and a little lesson in Swedish language and culture from the waitress and two fellow diners!
After satisfying our stomachs, we made the decision to whet our appetites for some of the Swedish culture. [Before I continue, you have to know that Stockholm prides itself as one of Europe’s most densely populated cities with regards to cultural attractions] En route to our hotel which was located in the oldest part of the city, Gamla Stan, we stopped in to visit the Medeltidsmuseet or Medieval Museum in English. Story has it that this museum was originally planned to be an underground car park until workmen discovered the remnants of the city’s original wall and cobbled streets. Instead of continuing with construction, it was decided to use this as a way for people to experience what medieval Stockholm would have been like. That it did very well, with false buildings, models and painted scenes and even 4 jovial men making nets!
After that it was out into the cold! Although not ridiculously cold, there was a biting wind coming from the water that eats into any exposed skin, the down jacket and I became one. Shortly we arrived at the First Hotel Reisen, which is in fact the oldest hotel in Stockholm. A beautiful building which again follows the same successful recipe of old and new as the medieval museum. Our room was warm and toasty, clean and with all the right facilities.
Time for dinner.
We ventured further into Gamla Stan walking along the narrow streets and across squares until we arrived at Stortoget Square; home of the Nobelmusseet or Nobel Museum. On another side of the square we found a lovely cafe called Chokladkoppen that offered us a reasonably priced meal of soup and sandwiches along with hot chocolate. Delicious! Then it was back to the hotel to bed.
Next morning, we were up early to take full advantage of the Stockholm Card that was purchased the day before. We journeyed across the city using free public transport (thanks to the card) and arrived the Vasa Museum. The museum is situated on the waterfront in a massive hangar-sized building. After going past the ticket kiosk and through a pair of double doors you are face to face with Vasa, an enormous 16th Century tall ship, complete with rigging. The ship was constructed on behalf of the King of Sweden. The ship was built in a hurry and as a result, quickly found itself lying on the seabed only a few miles from shore. Since then, it has been salvaged and treated to preserve the workmanship used to create the Vasa all those years ago.
Moving on, it was to Sweden’s version of the Victoria & Albert Museum where there happened to be a cheese market on. After filling our boots, we then proceeded to Stockholm Palace where we experienced how Scandinavian royalty get treated when they visit the capital. We had the chance to watch the changing of the guard. These chaps were all rather striking with their big bushy beards…and guns. To finish off the visit, we then made our way back to the Nobel museum where we spend over an hour looking at the different people who were awarded the prizes over the years.
To conclude, Stockholm is an amazing city that we endeavour to return to again. A beautiful scenery that can be enjoyed in the summer months but should you wish to really absorb everything Sweden has to offer (and to avoid the crowds), then go when it snows.