Not for nothing is this Nordic beauty the unofficial capital of Scandinavia: Stockholm is a growing center of great food, cutting-edge design and postcard scenes of storybook bridges, canals and architecture.
Author Chaney Kwak Photography Nicholas Pitt
DAY TWO | After breakfast, you head out to Haga Park, a lush English garden dotted with King Gustav III’s architectural whimsies. Ferries ply the intricate channels of the archipelago, but you hop on one of the city’s ubiquitous blue public bikes, which can be rented for three days for about $20, and reach the park in a half hour. Once there, you take a well-deserved break at the main attraction, Koppartälten, three bright blue circus tents made out of copper that, depending on your point of view, demonstrate King Charming’s humor or folly. Decide for yourself after a spin through the museum inside, which chronicles the park’s history.
Ride back to Norrmalmstorg, drop off the bike, and catch one of Tram 7’s vintage streetcars out to Djurgården. This idyllic island once served as a royal hunting ground, though you won’t see any wolves or elks anymore. Instead, the island is now home to Gröna Lund, a vintage theme park, as well as Vasa, an oak battleship from 1628 restored to its original glory. You enter Skansen, an open-air museum and zoo, and rest your feet at a restaurant called Gubbhyllan. Homey Swedish comfort food like meatloaf and lingonberry get rave reviews, but the buttered knäckebrød — crisp rye bread essential in every traditional meal — steals the show. After lunch, immerse yourself in pastoral Sweden at Skansen, a 75-acre sanctuary with 150 houses from the 19th-century countryside. Today, it stands as a nostalgic time capsule of a bygone Sweden, complete with costumed craftsmen, attracting tourists and locals alike.
A sputtering cable car takes you down the hill. It’s time for fika, the revered ritual of afternoon coffee and cake. Walk to Ostermalm, Stockholm’s ritziest district, and climb the well-trod stairs to Sturekatten, a cozy cake shop tucked inside a turn-of the-century bourgeois home. From the sumptuous selection of pastries, you pick out kanelbulle, the classic cinnamon bun.
Revived by the heavy dose of sugar and caffeine, you bounce out to Nybrogatan’s smorgasbord of shops, which range from luxury jewelers to stylish furniture shops like Svenskt Tenn, located inside a former theater. There, you stand among the bold fabrics arrayed onstage, gazing out at the rows of uncluttered Swedish design. Steps away, the food market of Saluhallen tests your willpower with moose pâté and open sandwiches heaped with shrimp. But don’t spoil your appetite yet.
Hop over to 1900, a restaurant and nightclub run by Niklas Ekstedt, a culinary wunderkind with a successful TV cooking show. You start with nässelsoppa (nettle soup with mussels), followed by sillinläggningar (pickled herring). Having been to IKEA, you recognize köttbullar, meatballs, although this version involves cucumber sauce and almond mashed potatoes.
Stockholm’s spotless subway takes you to Hotel Rival at the Mariatorget stop. This cinema-turned-hotel is owned by Benny Andersson (of ABBA fame). But don’t expect “Dancing Queen” playing on loop. This is a tasteful boutique hotel that doubles as a popular performance venue. Smartly dressed designers and filmmakers surround you, although their gre gariousness isn’t apparent until you strike up a conversation. Unwind with the aptly titled Shy Cocktail — vodka, honey, ginger and fresh mint — before retiring to your room upstairs, where a larger-than-life still of Greta Garbo casts her cool gaze from the wall.
(1) Haga Park Haga Norra; Tel: 8-508-285-00
(2) Koppartälten Haga Park, Solna; Tel: 8-27-70-02
(3) Skansen Djurgårdsslätten 49-51; Tel: 8-442-80-00
(4) Gubbhyllan Djurgårdsslätten 49-51; Tel: 8-66-44-200
(5)Sturekatten Riddargatan 4; Tel: 8-611-16-12
(6) Saluhallen Östermalmstorg; Tel: 8-553-404-40
(7) 1900 Regeringsgatan 66; Tel: 8-20-60-10
(8) Hotel Rival Mariatorget 3; Tel: 8-545-789-00