9.7.2018 – 9.11.2018 || Stockholm || Sweden
Is three nights enough time in Stockholm? Sure, but I also could have spent an entire week or more if given the time. We were lucky and had pretty amazing weather for this time of year in Sweden. Everyone kept telling us that, too! The day time temperatures were in the 60s (Fahrenheit) so it was ideal for seeing the sights. Stockholm is a solid contender for one of my top 5 favorite international cities because of the sights we saw, the food we ate, and the neighborhoods that we explored.
Once again we walked A LOT on this trip. Despite having a 3-day transit card for the bus and subway we ended up walking a bunch since the weather was great and we could make pit stops along the way if something caught our attention. We basically walked a marathon around Stockholm, totaling 29.99 miles!
The overnight flight from Washington, D.C. landed in Iceland just in time to catch our connection to Stockholm. Between the two flights and the two time changes that we went through it was nearly 4pm local time when we made our way into Stockholm. Our bodies were craving breakfast so we grabbed the last cup of coffee at Fabrique before they closed for the day, and enjoyed our first Swedish fika, a cardamom bun. Fika is an afternoon tradition or ritual and is essentially a coffee break with something sweet. Already fitting in with the locals and it has only been a minute.
After recharging our batteries and taking in the scene around us, we headed a few blocks down the road to our hotel. We booked three nights at the Hilton Stockholm Slussen and were treated to the beautiful views of Gamla Stan (and a bit of construction) right out our window!
The Hilton is in a great spot with both subway and bus stops right outside the main entrance. We were within walking distance of Gamla Stan and the main tourist attractions while also being centrally located in the trendy neighborhood of Södermalm.
As a frequent business traveler and Hilton Diamond Member we also had access to the Executive Lounge afternoon happy hour. It was a great way to unwind from the day’s activities before heading out to dinner.
We were a bit off the first day but wanted to try and get on local time so we headed out in search of a restaurant called Meatballs for the People. It was a short walk from the Hilton and had good reviews so it seemed like a good introduction to Swedish cuisine.
The restaurant is pretty small and doesn’t take reservations but the tables turnover quickly so grab a drink at the bar and enjoy people watching in the neighborhood while you wait. We had reindeer (not me) and salmon meatballs with mashed potatoes, lingonberry sauce and pickled cucumbers. The food and experience lived up to the reviews and were worth the wait.
We didn’t linger at dinner since there was a line of people waiting so it was still pretty early. We headed back towards the Mosebacke area in Södermalm to take in some of the views from up above.
We ended up wandering around a bit more and checked out Babylon, a lively bar with a sidewalk terrace alongside a park called Björns trädgård. With only a few hours on the ground in Stockholm we already knew we were going to like it here!
The next morning we wanted to explore Gamla Stan (Old City), look into a boat tour, and possibly check out another neighborhood.
Supposedly, Gamla Stan is great for getting lost. It was still pretty early (pre 10 am) and with nowhere to be we spent some time wandering around and kept coming back to this street (unintentionally).
The main attraction in Gamla Stan is the Royal Palace. We heard the changing of the guards is a mob scene but one of the things to see while near the palace. We lucked out and caught a glimpse of two guards re-assuming their posts so we skipped the official changeover and purchased tickets to tour the Royal Apartments instead.
The Royal Apartments are used by the King and the Royal family for official and State entertaining. The chandeliers and the ornate detail on the ceiling was the most interesting part to me. No Royals were spotted.
Needing a break from groups of tourists we headed to Osterlanggatan 17 for lunch. Despite it’s proximity to the Royal Palace, this place is a hidden gem on the street below the historical landmark, Saint George and the Dragon. There is a fountain that drowns out the street noise and makes for a relaxing lunch on their sidewalk. The halloumi sandwich hit the spot and their “bread basket” was cute in a branded to go bag.
After lunch I was in search of some postcards so we headed back out to explore a different section of Gamla Stan and came across a reminder of home.
And then we finally found Marten Trotzigs Alley, the narrowest alley in Gamla Stan. A bit of a let down after walking around in circles earlier in the day but we found it.
Being a city built on water, what better way to explore Stockholm than by boat? We purchased tickets for a 2 hour “Under the Bridges” boat tour right outside of the Royal Palace and walked a few blocks along the water to board the boat. You receive a map and a pair of headphones so that you can tune the audio recording to your language of choice while being able to follow along with the map.
The bridges were the main attraction..
…but you get a completely different perspective of the buildings and city from the water.
After spending time walking around the winding streets of these neighborhoods, it was nice to relax on the boat for a while (and maybe take a quick nap).
Not realizing a bunch of places are closed on Sunday we ended up eating pizza for dinner the second night. Omnipollos Hatt specializes in craft beer and brick oven pizza. Both were pretty good even if this wasn’t truly a Swedish experience. After dinner we strolled through Södermalm and came across a very welcoming 7-Eleven. Why are they not like this in the United States?!
Mondays are for museums! The one museum that we both wanted to check out was the Vasa Museum so we headed there first thing in the morning via the bus.
Vasa is the name of a Swedish warship and you can spot the building right away. It is the one with sailboat masts sticking out of the roof!
The Vasa was completed in the 1600s and sunk after 20 minutes on its maiden voyage! It remained under water for 333 years until it was rescued. It is pretty incredible in person and even more incredible that it is over 98% original! Definitely stop by, go on the 25 minute guided tour in your language of preference, and check out the 20-minute video to learn about the rescue and preservation effort. Assuming you like ships like we do!
After the Vasa Museum we took a (long) walk to Djurgården for lunch at Rosendals Trädgård, a garden open to the public with a cafe and a couple of garden shops.
It was hard to choose as everything looked delicious but I ended up with a well-balanced meal consisting of a cinnamon bun and a slice of toast with beet hummus and veggies. I don’t usually have a sweet tooth but when on vacation and in the land of fika, the cinnamon and cardamom buns were not to be missed out on.
We enjoyed lunch and then explored the fields and garden for a bit before heading back to the hustle and bustle of the city.
After wandering around the neighborhood of Östermalm for a bit it started to rain so we took a bus to the Fotografiska museum. For the price of admissions there are three indoor exhibits and one outside exhibit along the side of the building, but their cafe is most memorable to me. We sat there for a bit writing postcards and taking in the view before heading back to the hotel before dinner.
In search of one more traditional Swedish meal we headed to a restaurant called Traditions in Gamla Stan. It was exactly as advertised and lived up to the reviews. We walked around Gamla Stan after dinner and couldn’t believe how deserted it was at night without the tour groups!
We had a few hours in the morning before having to head to the airport for a 2 pm flight so we went on a final neighborhood walk.
There are two scenic view points, the first being Monteliusvagen where you have a closer view of Gamla Stan.
The second being Skinnarviksberget, where you have a more expansive 360 degree view and more space to spread out if you were planning to stay for awhile.
We had time to fit in one more fika before heading to the airport. The cardamom bun from Bageri Petrus was my favorite one of the trip. It wasn’t overly seasoned and it was just slightly under-cooked and gooey. I miss these!
Until next time, Stockholm! I had a blast 16 years ago, I had a blast in 2018, and can’t wait to see the other side of all this construction next time around! Cheers!
- Exploring Gamla Stan
- The Royal Palace – be sure to visit the Royal Apartments
- Under the Bridges Boat Tour
- Vasa Museum
- Exploring Södermalm, Norrmalm, and Östermalm
- Scenic views from Skinnarviksberget and Monteliusvagen
Notable Food Experiences:
Question: What’s your favorite thing to do in Stockholm?