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krisek Stockholm - A travel report by Krys
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Stockholm,  Sweden - flag Sweden -  Stockholms Lan
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krisek's travel reports

Scandinavia's capital city on water. Stockholm.

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It started bright and sunny with blues skies. The city on islands looked stunning. Then weather changed dramatically. Heavy, grey clouds invaded the sky over Stockholm and stayed there until wee hours of the night. They created a different perspective. report of the month contest
Sep 2009


The Riddarholmen island seen from the Kungsholmen island.
The Riddarholmen island seen from the Kungsholmen island.
For a good number of years I had wanted to visit Stockholm. When Roxette filmed their music clip to the song Fading Like A Flower in Sweden's capital, I knew that it would be an interesting place to explore. Amusingly, Stockholm, as well as St Petersburg and Amsterdam, used to be compared to Italy's Venice, as it was bulit on many islands, therefore surrounded by water. But obviously, such comparisons are inadequate and silly. Venice is unique! And so are St Petersburg, Amsterdam, and Stockholm!

When I got the Ryanair ticket to the so called Stockholm Skavsta airport, which in fact is over 100km from Stockholm, and found out that the coach to the city would take 1h 20 minutes, I realised that this was not going to be convenient at all. The coach was €10 one way, and waited 40 minutes for the air passengers before departing. It was such a waste of time, considering that I landed at 21:20 and it was going to take until midnight to reach my hotel. However, considering that I paid just £5 for the flight, I should hardly be complaining. Of course, I could find a couple of more inconveniences, like the metro blue line did not operate from the Central Terminal in the city, so I had to change the lines, and then the train did not even stop at my station at all, so I was forced to continue to the next station and ended up taking a taxi, which set me back SEK110! Yet, I will keep quiet and will look on the bright side of life.

The capital of Sweden retained much from its Medieval and Renaissance past. The collection of different styles in architecture wonderfully married one to another in this refreshing Scandinavian way made a great impact on me. Brightly painted facades of centuries old buildings, narrow lanes, cobblestone squares, and this fresh, sea-scented air almost hypnotised me.

But one thing shocked me. Right by the impressive and imposing royal palace/castle, a colony of blue plastic toilets stood, ruining what might have been the city's most attractive sight.

Favourite spots:
The Gamla Stan island seen from the Skeppsholmen island. Royal Palace on the right.
The Gamla Stan island seen from the Skeppsholmen island. Royal Palace on the right.
My favourite spot in the entire Stickholm was a chocolate shop at 10-14 Drottninggatan. They had chocolate bars from all over the world; Venezuela, Grenada, Trinidad, Italy, Ecuador, Belgium, Australia, Madagascar, Switzerland. And they specialised in extra dark chocolate with over 70% content of chocolate solids. The rest of the shop was below average, but that part with all that chocolate was unbelievable.

But seriously, there were also other magic places in Stockholm. On Riddarholmen island, the Riddarholmskyrkan was the church where the graves of Sweden's monarchs had been placed for over 500 years. The church, although impressive, was not glorified that much. It was not even illuminated properly at night. And yet, because it was located on this quiet islet, its surroundings were respectable and somewhat dignified. A good place to be buried in, I guess. The Stadshuset (the famous and incredible City Hall) was best photographed from the western shores of the island. Day or night.

What's really great:
The Stortorget
The Stortorget
The old town, concentrated on the Gamla Stan island, and a few nearby islets (Helgeandsholmen, Riddarholmen, Skeppsholmen, Kastellholmen), retained its authenticity by keeping to the cobble stones on the pavements and roads, avoiding modern structures, and fixing discrete nighttime lighting in the old lanterns. It was very easy to like it.

The Stortorget, an old square complete with medieval merchant houses, and the old Börsen (Stock Exchange), the Västerlånggatan, Stora Nygatan, Järntorget, Köpmantorget, Köpmangatan, and Österlånggatan pedestrianised lanes and squares were great for wandering, eating, drinking, and shopping. But mainly just wandering. Many people did. I put my map in the pocket and browsed around the narrow streets and old little squares, one of which was invaded by fabric trolls. I found the arched little lanes leading from Österlånggatan to Skeppsbron particularly special.

Sights:
The Stadshuset (City Hall) at night. It dominated the capital's skyline.
The Stadshuset (City Hall) at night. It dominated the capital's skyline.
Stockholm's old town was the base for sightseeing. It could be explored by foot or by boat, landings of which were dotted around the city's various islands.

The obvious sight in the royal city was obviously the Royal Palace. It was built in the 1600s and has over 600 rooms. Its form was simple and the building was regularly square. Still, it was imposing and vast. It dominated the Gamla Stan island. It housed, of course, the Crown Jewels. I managed to catch part of the Changing of the Guard and was surprised to see that the guards were all female, most of whom were rather developed in years. Also I was shocked that the Royal Family had to spend so much on so many oversized uniforms!

Stockholm's Stadshuset on Kungsholmen island, was not only a matchless landmark, with its massive square tower, but a lovely spot by the water, where the Nobel Prize has been awarded on an annual basis, except the Nobel Peace Prize of course. As it is handed out personally by Norway's monarch in Oslo.

Accommodations:
Small windowless room no. 136 at the Mornington Hotel Stockholm Bromma.
Small windowless room no. 136 at the Mornington Hotel Stockholm Bromma.
I booked the Mornington Hotel in Bromma, near the Bromma airport and a cluster of industrial offices, including Carlsberg. Expedia charged me £53 for two nights, which I thought was a jolly good deal for Stockholm. The location was not brilliant, but I could not twist my own arm to pay at least five times more for a room in the city centre. I considered a couple of hostels but the nicer ones were full, and most charged over €15 for a dorm bed without bed linen, which was some €10 extra! The rate at my Mornington Hotel included superb buffet breakfast! So really hard to beat, I thought.

My room (#136) had no window, was not big, but with enough space for a party for six people. It was equipped with a classic TV set, desk, chair, reed armchair, small round glass top table, iron and ironing board, and was clean. The ensuite bathroom, with shower cabin, was mega clean, and the towels were crisp and fragrant. But the hairdryer was strangely placed in the room, by the large, 5 foot mirror.

Nightlife:
The O'Connell Pub on Stora Nygatan
The O'Connell Pub on Stora Nygatan
The Temple Bar, which sold Paulaner, was my favourite night spot. It dubbed as a restaurant as well, but it was greatly animated and had tables outside climbing an old narrow cobblestone alley.

But the O'Connell's Pub on Stora Nygatan was busier and livelier. So was Wirströms Pub few yards along the same street, yet the second one attracted much more mature crowd. I could not stay long in either as I had to be up early in the morning. But it was good to step for a second and had a peek what the atmosphere was like. The O'Connell's was so busy at times, that people had stand outside in the street. They did not mind though, as long it was not raining too much. I did. It was rather cold, and I only had one shirt on my back. The other day, I wore two shirts. I did not care about some strange people's looks. I do that often, actually.

On my way home, I had a quick one at the Vapiano by the Gamla Stan metro station, which was really atmospheric. And busy. It had good selection of wines.

Hangouts:
The Vandrarhem af Chapman tall ship moored at the western shore of the Skeppsholmen island.
The Vandrarhem af Chapman tall ship moored at the western shore of the Skeppsholmen island.
In fact, Stora Nygatan, the pedestrianised cobblestone alley in the heart of the old town, had a number of cosy cafes, bars and restaurants. Many of them had tables on the street, which were great for people watching.

For hanging out, I also liked the eastern side of Gamla Stan, the Skeppsbrokajen, a paved waterfront were various vessels moored, a small number of bars offered drinks, and a view of the tall ship Vandrarhem af Chapman on the other island and the dramatic northern ramparts of the Södermalm could be admired.

As for cafes, my eye caught a couple near the City Hall, which were particularly cosy with great ambiance and one of them offered a spectacular view. Both of them served great coffees and spectacular ice-cream. They were the Norrmaelarstrand Cafe near the Kungsholmskyrka on the Kungsholmen island and equally small Cafe Stadshuscafe on Norrmalm. The latter was adjacent to the boat landing, from which one could take a sightseeing tour around the city.

Restaurants:
Grilled chili king prawns and chicken green curry, as part of the Thai buffet at Pong Restaurant.
Grilled chili king prawns and chicken green curry, as part of the Thai buffet at Pong Restaurant.
I stumbled upon a Thai restaurant, which offered buffet. Oh, yes! I went there for a treat. The selection of dishes was absolutely perfect: deep fried tempura prawns (great); pad thai (wonderful), grilled chili king prawns (perfect), red beef curry (lovely), green chicken curry (superb), chicken satay (incredible), sweet chili spicy beef (yummy); stir fried vegetables (excellent); selection of fabulous spicy soups; vegetable fried rice (splendid); fragrant steamed rice (nice and sticky), and fruit salads (tangling)! I tried everything, I just did not bother with vegetable salads. My tastebuds nearly passed out from pleasure! I was so happy for them. And a la carte dishes were also available. I was tempted, but strangely resisted. I ordered a glass of beer, but that was not necessary. Water was available free of charge. With slices of lime! All this feast was SEK 148 (€15) + SEK 44 for beer. The name of the restaurant was Pong.

Other recommendations:
The Birger Jarls Torg, by the Wrangelska Palatset and the Riddarholmskyrkan
The Birger Jarls Torg, by the Wrangelska Palatset and the Riddarholmskyrkan
The Stockholm 24 Hour Ticket, good for all forms of public transport (excl. taxis) costing SEK100 (€10) was a jolly good idea, as three single rides (on an hourly ticket each) cost SEK120!

On weekends, the buses were really infrequent. They ran every half an hour or so. Given that Stockholm was not huge, and provided one did not have to travel great distances, this was not terribly helpful. If it was not raining, it was actually good to walk around. It was safe.

Beer was prohibitively expensive in Stockholm's bars. Contrary to its supermarkets. Depending on a bar and type of beer, a pint could set one back by €7 or more, while a 500ml can of lager or Guinness at a supermarket was just €0.9! I found it much cheaper to foreplay with the cans and before heading for the main action, when I only needed to buy few pints at the pubs to top me up.

Published on Sunday September 13th, 2009


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Mon, Oct 12 2009 - 03:03 PM rating by eirekay

As always, great insight and marvelous tips! Great tip about the 24 hour ticket! Sounds perfect!

Sun, Oct 11 2009 - 08:36 PM rating by aufgehts

Congratulations on another great report.. .I'm always sure to be entertained when I read them!

Fri, Oct 09 2009 - 03:35 AM rating by leillli

Krys,my sister in law is living in this city,i always heard about its beauty and i convince to spend next year,exploring it:)very nice words indeed you deserved the ROM.congradulation:)

Wed, Sep 16 2009 - 05:54 AM rating by annagreg

Very good and interesting report !

Wed, Sep 16 2009 - 04:34 AM rating by bineba

Very nice report of a city I have yet to visit. Good to see that food prices are bit more in line with the rest of Europe now. Last time I went to Sweden, over 20 years ago, we paid as much for a simple omelett as you paid for your Thai feast.

Sun, Sep 13 2009 - 03:57 PM rating by pesu

Hehe, sorry, this happens when you don't use your own PC... The last comment was mine, my poor son hasn't been to Stockholm yet. ;-)

Sun, Sep 13 2009 - 03:54 PM rating by chriseysa

I have been to Stockholm so many years ago but its magic still seems to be the same. It is a great place to wander around. Good report, Krys!

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