The first stop on our recent Scandinavian adventure was Stockholm, Sweden and we thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful city that is made up of 14 islands in a Baltic Sea archipelago. Stockholm is very cosmopolitan and offers plenty of things to do. It did feel surprisingly touristy, but that may have been because it was a European bank holiday, cruise ship season, and the city was playing host for a major European soccer final. In any case, there were tourists everywhere and most of the sights were quite crowded. Despite that, we loved Stockholm and would definitely return! One of the things I appreciated most about Stockholm is that many businesses only accept credit cards. There are even signs stating the country’s goal of having a cashless society. As someone who rarely carries cash and hates doing so, I am very much on board with this idea!
Upon our arrival, we hopped in an uber from the airport to the hotel. Typically, I don’t love taking taxis or uber from the airport because it’s usually a lot more expensive, but in this case, it turned out to be the best option for us. We could have taken a bus ride that cost 105 SEK each (210 total), but would have taken us an hour. As we had limited time, we felt it was worth it to get our day started more quickly. We also could have taken a 30 minute train ride that cost 260 SEK per person (520 for both of us). Or we could take a 30 minute flat rate taxi ride for 470 SEK total. It obviously made the most sense to do the taxi. If you do the same, just keep in mind that there are several different flat rates depending on the type of car and company. We had an annoying situation on our return to the airport (at 6 am) where we were forced to take a more expensive flat rate taxi (520SEK) because the hotel only contracted with the more expensive cab company but did not tell us that until the taxi arrived. Of course, at that point, it was too late to try to make other arrangements so it ended up being quite an expensive ride.
We stayed at the Clarion Hotel Sign, which I highly recommend. The location was perfect and we were able to walk everywhere we went while in Stockholm. The hotel has beautiful views of a park and offers an incredibly generous breakfast, including the yogurt bar to end all yogurt bars. Generally, I was incredibly pleased with the yogurt offerings across Sweden and Norway, but this one was easily the best. Clarion provided several kinds of yogurt and a massive selection of toppings to choose from, including fresh fruit, dried fruit, granola, nuts, seeds, and honey. It was yogurt heaven!
We arrived into Stockholm mid-morning, so after checking into our hotel room, we walked to a nearby market for lunch. Trusty TripAdvisor led us to Kajsas Fisk, a local favorite where most people order the famous fish soup. Do yourself a favor and do the same. The fish soup is hearty and filled with multiple types of seafood including fish, shrimp, and mussels. Served with a side of bread, it is quite satisfying, and has the bonus of being one of the more economical meals you will find (soup is 110 SEK or $12.60).
After lunch, we walked around the Old Town for a while, admiring the beautiful architecture and people watching the stylish Swedish people and the many tourists. ProTip: If you need to use the restroom while walking around, the Grand Hotel has a beautiful and clean restroom that I was able to use. It’s an elegant hotel where international leaders and distinguished persons stay in Stockholm, so it’s worth walking in to look around even if you aren’t using their facilities.
We took a late afternoon boat tour of the canals and bridges through the hop-on hop-off tour company, Red Sightseeing. We were the only people on the boat, making it a very pleasant and relaxing way to spend an hour. The tours depart nearly hourly and will take you under several of Stockholm’s 57 bridges, through the Royal Djurgarden Canal, and along Stockholm’s skyline. Our boat was in great condition and offered free wi-fi as well as snacks and drinks available for purchase. Each passenger gets their own headphones and can tune into one of 14 languages to listen to the audio tour.
After our boat tour, we were more than ready for dinner and an early bedtime, since we were still adjusting to the time change after arriving from the U.S. We walked to Meatballs for the People in Old Town for a fantastic meal of pork, reindeer, wild boar, and moose meatballs. The restaurant uses only organic ingredients and meat from local farms. The pork meatballs were mixed with goat cheese and served like escargot in a plate of melted garlic butter – divine! You can order meatballs with the classic accompaniments, like cream sauce, potato puree, lingonberries, and pickled cucumber, or with various other sides, like mushrooms, spinach, spaghetti, or salad. I also recommend having the homemade lingonberry juice during your meal. And if you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, consider ordering the meatballs take-away, especially if you’re on a budget. You can save a lot that way!
After a very good night’s sleep and a delicious breakfast at the Clarion, we walked to Old Town for the 10 am free walking City Tour. You might recall that we are very big fans of the free walking tour concept (we’ve done them in Sydney, Melbourne, Paris, Athens, Istanbul, and Auckland). We had great experiences in all of those cities and there were never more than 15-20 people on the tours. However, the Stockholm tour was enormous. There were easily 50 people. I’m not sure if free walking tours are growing in popularity everywhere or if it’s busier in Stockholm, but we almost left when we saw the group size (which, I might add, seemed to grow throughout the tour). I am very much not into walking around cities as part of a large group of tourists. Not only is it harder to hear the guide, but I also feel unsafe given the current climate. I hope our days of free walking tours are not over, but I don’t think we’d do another in such a large group. With that said, the guide of the tour was very informative and engaging and we learned a lot about Stockholm. If the group size doesn’t bother you, definitely do it!
After the tour ended, we walked over to Oaxen Krog and Slip on Djurgarden Island, based on the recommendation of one of my favorite foodie friends, for lunch at Oaxen Slip, a two star Michelin bistro. We went for the 3 course lunch special (one meat dish, one fish dish, and one vegetarian dish for 145 SEK), but unfortunately the restaurant was not serving the special as it was a holiday. They were offering their weekend brunch menu, so we had to order a la carte items, making our lunch much pricier. We shared a small snack of smoked salmon and the roasted brioche with a 63 degree egg and sausage. Both were beautiful dishes that tasted as amazing as they looked and we enjoyed them on the patio outside in the crisp air.
After lunch, we walked to the Vasa Museum. My in-laws had previously been to the museum and raved about how unique it was so we were very excited for our visit. There was a long line to enter the museum, but it moved quickly and we were inside in no time. We happened to arrive just as a free English tour was starting so we jumped onto the tour before walking around on our own. I have to agree that the Vasa Museum was one of the most uniquely fascinating museums I have visited.
The very nature of the museum is distinctive because it houses the only (nearly) fully preserved 17th century ship ever salvaged. The warship, commissioned for Gustav II Adolf, sank in the shallow fresh water of the Stockholm harbor only 1300 meters after embarking on her maiden voyage in 1628. Over 300 years later in April 1961, the ship was raised up and a lengthy restoration process began. The ship itself is quite impressive and the museum does a great job of providing information about what life would have been like on the ship, the disaster, salvage of the ship, and the restoration process. I also appreciated the smaller size of the museum and believe most ages would find it to be quite manageable to get through in under 2 hours. The 130 SEK entry fee was definitely worthwhile!
Just outside of Vasa Museum were several food trucks so we shared a second late lunch course of a grilled haloumi sandwich while enjoying the harbor views. One of my favorite parts of Stockholm were the many cafes on docks in the water. On our way back to the hotel for the evening, we stopped at Strandbaren, which offered rose, champagne, beer, and non-alcoholic beer in a beautiful setting overlooking the water. It was the perfect way to reflect on our time in Stockholm and get ready for the next portion of our trip, in Norway.
We ate our final dinner at Verandan Cafe and Bistro, a cute cafe near our hotel, where we shared a pizza for dinner and Swedish pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream for dessert.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the next post about Oslo!
Clarion Hotel Sign, Östra Järnvägsgatan 35, 10126
Kajsas Fisk, Hötorgshallen 3, 11157
Meatballs for the People, Nytorgsgatan 30, 11640
Oaxen Slip, Beckholmsbron 26, 11521
Strandbaren, Strandvägen 18, 11456
Verandan Cafe & Bistro, Sergelgatan 25, 11157
Red Sightseeing (Ticket Office and Boat Boarding), Saltsjön, 11130
Vasa Museum, Galärvarvsvägen 14, 11521