Earlier this winter, we spent a four-day city weekend in Sweden with our friends Maria and Anders. We settled on Stockholm because none of us had been there before. I love discovering new places, and although I usually browse through guidebooks for ideas, I nowadays rely more heavily on tips from acquaintances and travel articles, especially when it comes to food! This is a long post with a summary of our stay. Below our itinerary, I consolidated a list of spots for sightseeing and food. I also marked with an asterisk places that have been recommended by trusted friends but that we haven’t tried yet, I am saving those for our next visit.
Overall, I really enjoyed Stockholm and I wish we could have stayed a few days longer. The Swedes are very friendly and you can get around easily with English. They offer great service. In some cafés and lunchrooms, you have to order yourself at the counter. Don't always expect a waiter to take your order at your table.
Stockholm is not a budget destination. Like other Scandinavian countries, Sweden is more expensive than Western and Southern European countries (although cheaper than Norway) .
Special thanks to Sylvie, Silke, Pascal, Hanna and Mireille for sharing with me their recommendations!
When to go
- Winter: expect snow and cold temperatures. We traveled in March and there were absolutely no signs of spring! Some of the ice was melting and it snowed frequently. It was gray, cold and windy so don't underestimate proper winter attire: bring warm sweaters, coat, gloves, hat and snow boots! Sometimes we were too cold to stay outdoors for longer than an hour. Plus, some activities were unavailable during that season.
- Summer: most tourists prefer the warmer season and I now understand why. Stockholm is known for being lively and pleasant in the summertime. You can explore the city by foot or bike, and you can visit by boat the archipelago of islands. Ideally, I would like to come back to Sweden for the Midsummer's Eve festivities.
Where to stay
- We looked into an Airbnb but this avenue turned out to be pricier than a hotel for the four of us. Maria snatched a great early bird deal including a copious and healthy breakfast at one of the Scandic Hotels. We stayed at the Downtown Camper. It is located in the heart of Stockholm, near the shopping center and the central station, and in a safe area. The decoration is modern and urban, the place is clean. There is a nice restaurant, a bar on the top floor with a view of the city and a spa. The staff is friendly.
- Haymarket is another design hotel of the Scandic chain with an elegant 1920’s decoration theme, you feel transported to the era of the Great Gatsby. The building facade is historical. It is located centrally next to markets and concert halls. I’d very much like to give it a try next time.
- For smaller budget: Castanea Old Town Hostel Stockholm*
Day 1: Thursday, March 8 / Weather: 0-1°C with light snow and rain
Day 2: Friday, March 9 / Weather:1°C cloudy with light snow
After a good breakfast at the hotel, we head out to the Kungliga Slottet (Royal palace). We make it just on time to watch the Royal Guards Ceremony at 12:15p.m. (check the detailed schedule). We then walk around Gamla Stan and grab a hot chocolate to warm ourselves up. It is so cold that we don’t want to stay outside! We head to the ABBA Museum, the perfect place for us to stay warm, sing, dance and goof around for a couple of hours. We eat a late lunch at the indoor food market: Östermalms Saluhall. Then, we go for a walk in Södermalm and grab coffee at Café Foam. We feel full so we decide to skip dinner and take it easy with drinks at the Nest. We chat all evening.
Day 3: Saturday, March 10 / Weather: -2°C (but feels like -10°C with the windshield) with snow flurries
Today, it is freezing! We walk in town and cross the water to land in SoFo, where we enjoy a nice view of chilly Stockholm. We go window-shopping in second-hand shops. I find a book about Lagom (that I still need to read) in a small bookstore. I ask for a lunch recommendation and we end up at Kaferang, a cute spot filled with locals, for a nice bowl of soup. I indulge with a slice of coconut/brownie and a chai latte. In the afternoon, we pass again by Gamla Stan, I randomly find a crystal shop and buy some stones. We stay downtown to check some home stores and head back to the hotel for a rest. We go out later in the evening for a nice Swedish dinner at Pelikan. Then we grab drinks at Lilla Paris upon the recommendation of a local but we dislike the atmosphere so we hurry up and end the evening at the Campfire.
Day 4: Sunday, March 11 / Weather: -2°C overcast
- Go for walks in the various neighborhoods:
- Gamla Stan: old town, highly touristic but historical
- Södermalm / SoFo: artistic district of Stockholm
- Norrmalm: city center, mainly for shopping
- Östermalm: for food, shopping and nightlife
- Take a boat trip to the islands*:
- Grinda island
- Langholmen island
- Djurgården island for a bike ride and a summer concert at Skansen
- Sandhamn island
- Fjäderholmarna island for a swim
- By the waterfront*:
- Canoe around Kungsholmen
- Mariaberget for another view of the city
- Swim at Fredhäll bergsklippor
- Outside of Stockholm*: visit Uppusula
Breakfast / Brunch: our hotel included breakfast so we never ate "out" for brunch
- Urban deli Nytorget or Sveavägen: don't be surprised to enter through a market, the sitting area / restaurant is in the back of the store
- Östermalms Saluhall: a huge food market with various options, it has the same spirit of Amsterdam's Foodhallen and Rotterdam's Markthal
- Kaferang: a cozy spot for fika , brunch or lunch.
- Hermans*: for a vegetarian menu
- Sally Voltaire & Systrar*: made with fresh seasonal ingredients (also open for dinner)
- Gondolen*: for a lunch by the water
- Pelikan: Swedish cuisine in a large dining hall. Book a reservation!
- Meatballs for the people*: for the famous Swedish meatballs (also open for lunch)
- Supper Stockholm*: with a garden for outdoor eating
- Berns*: this place is a hotel with a bar and restaurant
Fika / Cafés / Pastries
Don't leave without trying a kanelbulle (cinnamon buns) and a semla (a bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream).
- Vete-katten: a cute but busy bakery with a wide selection of pastries. Ideal for afternoon tea and brunch / lunch.
- Café Foam (also works for brunch and lunch)
- Fabrique: we passed by in front of this place on full stomachs. The kanelbulle (cinnamon buns) looked amazing!
- Saturnus*: according to many, they have the best kanelbulle in town
- Mr Cake*: I've been informed that is is currently a very popular place (also works for brunch)
- Mellqvist Kaffebar*
Drinks / Bar
- The Nest: I love everything about this lounge, especially the pastel Scandinavian interior design. In the day, it is peaceful and relaxing. At night it is elegant and you can enjoy a view of the city. The cocktails are delicious!
- Campfire: one of the bartenders is a world champion, he crafted the cocktail menu. He also made me a unique drink on the spot. Not too sweet and not too strong, made to perfection! (also a restaurant for dinner)
- Café Opera*: recommended to me by three people for its live music and nightclub
- Nybrogatan 38*
- Mosebacke Terrassen*: biergarten for the summer
- Department stores: Åhléns, Mood Stockholm*, Mall of Scandinavia*, Stockholm Quality Outlet Barkaby*
- Home / interior design: Granit, Asplund, Designtorget, Design house Stockholm
- Stroll in Götgatan*
*heard of but not tested yet. This is a recommendation from trusted friends.