Travel Guide to Stockholm and its Top Attractions

 

A unique landscape – 14 islands connected by bridges – and a blessed proximity to a breathtaking archipelago gives the Swedish capital its charmed, almost mystical aesthetic. Yet, despite this classic, natural beauty, Stockholm has in the last decade evolved into a vibrant city with contemporary offerings on par with Europe’s most exciting destinations.

An aerial look at Stockholm's Old Town.

An aerial look at Stockholm’s Old Town.

Exploring the Stockholm nightlife

Though locals debate whether weekend shenanigans should begin on Wednesday or Thursday evenings, they are usually agree to kick off the night with options ranging from after-work cocktails at the upscale Östermalms district to bar-hopping in the hipster haven Sodermalm. Nytorget Urban Deli is a mini-market (resembling a vintage general store) that whimsically doubles as a restaurant with a bar at the rear. Located in Sodermalm’s bohemian SoFo neighborhood, the place is usually packed – blame the inventive versions of classic cocktails. Another enticing option in this part of town is the Pet Sounds Bar, owned and operated by the legendary Pet Sounds Records store just up the block. Patrons enjoy premium imported beers while guest DJs perform on select theme nights.

A classic car in front of Pet Sounds Bar. Photo by Martin Pulaski/Flickr.

A classic car in front of Pet Sounds Bar. Photo by Martin Pulaski/Flickr.

On the scenic island of Djurgården, fashionable patrons savor cocktails and chill DJ beats at trendy Josefina. At the upscale Stureplan, revelers meet up for food and drinks at local classics such as Sturehof Obaren or the sushi restaurant/lounge bar, East. Those seeking a hipper vibe flock to the Story Hotel Bar with its mixed bag of urban misfits and those appreciative of live music midweek.

The Story Hotel is a cool place to stay and has a great bar. Photo by Joe Pemberton/Flickr.

The Story Hotel is a cool place to stay and has a great bar. Photo by Joe Pemberton/Flickr.

For the last word in breathtaking scenery, then Och Himlen Därtill (And Heaven Beyond,) is an absolute must. A most unexpected restaurant and cocktail lounge situated on the 26th floor of one of the tallest buildings in town. The stunning panoramic 360-degree views of the city are reason enough to visit.

Stockholm clubs generally open at 11 p.m. and close at 3 a.m., with some exceptions. Door policies are strict; bouncers will deny admission for any number of mysterious reasons. Best way to avoid the hassle is to go earlier or opt to eat at the club. Two vastly different club vibes can be experienced at Kåken – located in the annex of bistro restaurant 1900 – where knowing the current vintage fashion trends is often more important than being familiar with the underground bands that play there. Berns Salonger, is the ritzy, often pretentious nightclub of one of the city’s most fashionable boutique hotels. Other notables include the dance club Café Opera, Stekare central Sturecompagniet and White Room, a popular hangout for Stockholm’s celebrated “beautiful people.”

Berns Salonger takes glam to a whole 'nother level. Photo by stormgrass/Flickr.

Berns Salonger takes glam to a whole ‘nother level. Photo by stormgrass/Flickr.

Taking a look at Stockholm’s best lodging options

Cosmopolitan Stockholm offers a wealth of accommodation choices; from classic to luxury to downright wacky. For a relaxed stay in minimalist yet elegant surroundings, opt to stay at Hotel Skeppsholmen, – located on one of the city’s striking green islets. The spacious, 18th century hotel provides a perfect haven across Lake Mälaren – a good distance from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Fashionistas prefer Mariatorget’s (Maria Square’s) stylish Rival Hotel, a onetime movie theater turned boutique hotel owned in part by former ABBA bandmate, Benny Andersson. Old movie memorabilia decorate the premises to the delight of guests – including the dramatic, red-velvet-curtained dining area. Adventurous visitors on a budget will love the Red Boat Hotel which is, quite literally, what its name suggests. Docked right next to the Gamla Stan (Old Town), it provides a unique way to experience the charm of Stockholm.

Inside the hotel lobby of the hip Rival Hotel. Photo by brockvicky/Flickr.

Inside the hotel lobby of the hip Rival Hotel. Photo by brockvicky/Flickr.

Eat and be merry at Stockholm’s top restaurants

Food choices run the full gamut from traditional Swedish cuisine (think seafood, meatballs and mashed potatoes with assorted sauces) to most every other popular fare on the planet. But as they say, when in Rome…

Nybrogatan38 prepares standard Swedish fare with such creative flair that it’s nearly impossible to get in without a reservation. Ostermalms Saluhall is an indoor food market frequented by visitors and locals alike for their wide selection of tempting dishes at their surrounding food court. B.A.R is arguably one of the best seafood restaurants in town – patrons can select their own fresh lobsters from a tank and even buy fish by the kilo to take home after dinner from their adjoining market.

Inside the wonderfully delicious Ostermalms Saluhall market. Photo by Rosapolis/Flickr.

Inside the wonderfully delicious Ostermalms Saluhall market. Photo by Rosapolis/Flickr.

Meat-lovers flock to old saloon-inspired Pelikan, where the country’s signature dish is served in a mouth-watering cream sauce with traditional lingon berries. For excellent gourmet dining made with the freshest regional ingredients (even the bread and butter are homemade!) then Gastrologik is an absolute must for serious gourmands. Each dish is lovingly prepared and explained by the knowledgeable staff. At the end of the meal, one attractive hardcover menu book is awarded per table on top of a playful dessert surprise.

Diners enjoying the intimate atmosphere of Pelikan. Photo by me_maya/Flickr.

Diners enjoying the intimate atmosphere of Pelikan. Photo by me_maya/Flickr.

Death by shopping… and other fun activities in Stockholm

Hardcore shoppers are in luck in Stockholm, unlike many other European cities, most shops are open on Sunday. For clothes, electronics, books and other knick-knacks, stop of at the Gallerian Mall, considered the largest in town with more than 80 shops for all budgets. For those looking for something a bit more unique, MOOD features two floors of elite lifestyle brands including South Lane, Club Monaco, Samsoe & Samoe and Scotch & Soda.

The Gallerian is a great place to shop in the center of Stockholm. Photo by Michael Kazarnowicz/Flickr.

The Gallerian is a great place to shop in the center of Stockholm. Photo by Michael Kazarnowicz/Flickr.

For great vintage finds, venture to the area called South of Folkungagatan (SoFo) to quirky shops such as Silvetto, Tjallamalla and the previously mentioned Pet Sounds, for retro items not found anywhere else in the city.

If history floats your boat, the Vasa Museum (named after a famous Swedish king and one bad-ass 17th-century warship) offers a wealth of information on Sweden’s heyday as a world power. Nature lovers might prefer a day at Skansen, an open-air museum of sorts featuring a zoo, aquarium and art studios.

The Vasa warship is seriously big, and seriously cool. Photo by To Uncertainty And Beyond/Flickr.

The Vasa warship is seriously big, and seriously cool. Photo by To Uncertainty And Beyond/Flickr.

As Stockholm is surrounded by thousands of islands and islets, exploring them is a popular pastime. An hour by ferry from the city, Vaxholm boasts a 16th century fortress along with picture-perfect wooden houses overlooking a pristine harbor. For a gander at how good it was to be the king, visit the stunning 17th century Drottningholm Palace, a UNESCO site. Highlights include enchanting cultured gardens and the mystical Chinese Pavilion – built as a romantic birthday gift for Queen Lovisa Ulrika in 1753.

A look at the waterfront fortress in Vaxholm. Photo by Mercury dog/Flickr.

A look at the waterfront fortress in Vaxholm. Photo by Mercury dog/Flickr.

 

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Jessica is an American freelance writer who has lived on four different continents and counting. Her articles focus primarily on travel, lifestyle and the luxury market. Visit her website.

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