Stockholm has long been on my list of cities to visit. A few years back I stayed with my best friend in Riga for almost a month in the summer. Just down the road from her apartment, you could catch an overnight ferry to Stockholm and I used to daydream about spontaneously heading off on an adventure for a couple days. Looking back, I really wish I had. So when I was talking to my friend Ade about heading somewhere to visit the Christmas markets and Stockholm jumped to mind, I didn't hesitate in booking it.
Getting Around and Where to Stay
We flew with BA into Arlanda Airport and from there you can get to the city centre within roughly 20 minutes with the Arlanda Express. The train ticket isn't too expensive and trains arrive frequently. On our way back we were waiting to board the express train when we were told there had been an incident on the line and our flight back to London had been cancelled due to bad weather in London. Talk about stressful, but they were happy to refund us for the return leg our express ticket and we jumped into a cab which didn't work out to be much more expensive. BA were able to fit us onto an earlier plane which had been delayed so we still got home at the same time.....phew!
We were in Stockholm for a long weekend so we grabbed a 72 hour ticket for the metro/bus/trams/boats from the ticket office in the station for about £20-£25. We got great value out of our tickets especially as the weather was pretty cold so weren't able to walk around quite as much as we thought we would. The public transport is really easy to get the hang of and you can even use the pass on the commuter ferries to visit the archipelago.
We stayed at Motel L after reading about it on The Anna Edit. The hotel was cheap, but clean, modern and cheerful. As we booked directly with the hotel, breakfast was included which was ideal for us. We didn't have to hunt around in the cold for a breakfast spot and we filled up on the buffet breakfast which kept us full and warmed us up for a morning of exploring. There is a tram stop right outside the hotel (Martensdal station) and it's really easy to get to the Central Station which will connect you with most places you'll want to go. You just take the commuter tram one stop to Gummasplan and from there you can get the metro to the central station. I would totally recommended Motel L, it's well connected, comfortable (the bed was so cosy) and convenient.
As Sweden rejected the euro, the Swedish krona is the national currency. At the moment just under £1 will get you 11-12 Swedish krona. Also many places in Stockholm are now card only even the Christmas Market vendors accepted cards. You might want to come prepared with a card that won't charge you for overseas transactions such as a Monzo or Revolut card.
During January in Stockholm, the sun rises at 8:47 am and sets at 2:55 pm, while in July the sun rises at 3:40 am and sets at 10:00 pm. If you're planning to visit Stockholm for the Christmas Markets, be mindful that the daylight hours will be limited, about 6-7 hours. We wanted to make the most of our time there and see the city so we were up and out pretty early, sadly no long lie-ins for us.
The most widely spoken language is Swedish, but almost everyone speaks English too so it's easy to get by.
Stockholm weather can be quite a mild in the summer. However we travelled in winter and for us it was cold and below freezing! We wore thick parkas, multiple layers and the warmest walking or snow boots, though we saw a number of locals with just a leather jacket on. They told us this was mild for them! Also night temperatures in the winter can be really cold and that's something to factor in when the sun sets at 3pm.
Where to Eat
On our first night we wanted comforting Swedish food and stumbled across Slinger Bulten in Gamla Stan and we loved it! As soon as you step in there is a super welcoming environment and the food was so good. Ade opted for the meatballs and mash while I went for the grilled fish with mash and it was incredible! I wish I was tucking into that dish right now.
Other great fika stops include Kaffekoppen at the famous Stortorget Square right by the Christmas Market. It is a very cosy space, but if upstairs is full, head downstairs for food and drink and explore the historical cellar vault from the 1600s! For your Swedish cinnamon bun fix or the most incredible bread, head to Fabrique and if only cake will do you can't go wrong with the food hall in Åhléns. For fika with a different twist the Café Tram is a great experience, especially if you're a tram lover.
Albert & Jacks bakery & deli came highly recommended and I would say it's a must visit. A great stop for breakfast or for fika. We headed there for a late lunch and fika after a morning of exploring the archipelago. Our boat trip had left us pretty cold so I grabbed some homemade tomato soup, a goats cheese and cloudberry jam filled croissant and a mini cardamom bun and had zero regrets! For brunch Smörgås or macka the traditional Swedish open sandwich is perfect!
On the Sunday night as a lot of things closed earlier, we headed to the Mall of Scandinavia on Ade's recommendation which was a great idea. We shopped away and stayed warm while at the same time building up a serious appetite so we explored the food hall and settled on Lebanese food at Sook. Oh my the potions are generous, with salad, hummus, potato, bread and falafel and it was good value, to be honest we struggled to finish it all and thought we should have shared a dish.
After the cinema on our last night in Stockholm, we both came out with a craving for Chinese and noodles. A quick search on Tripadvisor led as to Waipo which was a great find and was exactly what we were after. The food was warming and full of flavour ad we were impressed with how much choice there was. The menu caters also for gluten free and vegan dietary requirements too so a great option for all.
What to See and Do
There is so much to see and do in Stockholm - but we were a little limited by the short days and the cold weather especially after the sunsets. Stockholm is definitely a city I'd love to experience in the summer too. On our first day, we dropped off our stuff at the hotel and headed to Gamla Stan, the old town of Stockholm. We wandered around the little cobbled streets and got our bearings before heading over to the Christmas Market at Stortorget Square (close to the Royal Palace). The market felt magical and we treated ourselves to delicious waffles with Cloudberry jam (you have to got to try it) and warmed up with hot chocolate. There is plenty of mulled wine too!
A highlight for Ade and I really was the ABBA Museum. We went on Sunday morning and were lucky as there wasn't a queue, but if you go during the peak summer season it's wise to pre-book your tickets in advance if you can. We weren't sure what to expect, but we loved the interactive experience and honestly it's the most fun museum I've been too. Ade even had me doing karaoke, which is super rare! We were sad when we came to the end. We also visited the Vasa Museum. When I first heard about it I wasn't sure if it'd be a miss rather than a hit, but it's so interesting and actually takes your breath away. I'd recommend taking the guided speaking tour, it really brought the exhibition to life for us. The Vasa ship sunk to the bottom of the harbour on its maiden voyage and lay there for 333 years. When the ship was reclaimed back to the surface, it was found to be almost fully preserved!
Both of these museums are on the Djurgärden island, along with other museums including Skansen, the world’s oldest open-air museum, which showcases the whole of Sweden with houses and farmsteads from every part of the country.
I love, love, love old fashioned trams and if you're like me you will love the Djurgården Line tram service which runs Saturdays and Sundays from early April until mid-December and daily during July and August. The trams are from different eras, the oldest from the 1910s and the newest from the 1960s.
On the Monday we headed out of Stockholm city, and caught the commuter ferry to go explore some of the archipelago. You can help yourself to free tea and coffee on the ferry and it's a pretty frequent service. We took route 80 from central Nybroplan to Frihamme, stopping off at Nacka and Lindingo and had a bit of a walk around before doing the rest of the roundtrip back to the city centre. We had such a lovely morning and were really glad to see a different view of Stockholm.
There is a quarter mile long path running along the northern end of Södermalm known as the Monteliusvägen walking path. From here, you will get an incredible view of Lake Mälaren, City Hall, and Riddarholmen. There is a safety rail on the path, but be careful in the wintertime as the path can get very slippery. This spot is also great for sunrise and sunset views.
The Katarina Elevator is another must-visit vantage point. The elevator is now closed, but at the site you can catch the lift for the Gondolen restaurant right up to the viewing platform for views of the river and Gamla Stan.
The Scandinavian evening temperatures can be pretty breathtaking in Winter and with more evening than daylight we were in search of things to do to make the most of our evenings without freezing! On a Sunday many things close earlier in the city centre, but surprisingly some shopping centres are open later. We headed to the Mall of Scandinavia which was a great idea. We shopped, grabbed some dinner and then it was just one tram ride back to our hotel.
The cold, Christmassy evenings also made for perfect cinema night weather. We found most English speaking films have Swedish subtitles instead of being dubbed over, so it was great to have movie nights.
Where to shop
Perhaps unsurprisingly you'll be spoilt for choice in Stockholm if you're on the hunt for affordable homeware. Sodermalm is a great place to head to for great homeware stores such as Granit. There was a great mixture of interiors, kitchenware, storage and Christmas ornaments and decorations. We wanted to buy everything, but doing hand luggage only reigned in our plans. I picked up a label maker, which made me super happy and Ade got a gorgeous mustard throw for her sofa. Designtorget is also right next door and again we wanted to buy everything. A great place to get something for the home and do some of your Christmas shopping.
A visit to Stockholm wouldn't have been complete for us without a visit to Nordiska Kompaniet (NK) as we loved exploring the store on our Gothenburg visit. Be prepared to spend some time there as there is so much to see. I loved the kitchenware department. We also loved Åhléns, so many tempting homeware, kitchenware and stationery items.
Of course the Christmas Market (23rd November till 23rd December 2019) is a great shopping stop. We picked up some amazing sheepskin mittens which were lifesavers! They're my favourite gloves, even if I did have to get junior sized ones to fit my little hands. If you're searching for stocking fillers, Christmas ornaments or wooden toys you will love the market.
We loved our time in Stockholm, such an incredible city. We would definitely love to come back to visit in the Spring or Summer and explore more of this beautiful city.