6.10.2011

Stockholm City Guide

CITYGUIDE

Hello there, friends and Svenskaphiles. Before departing for whatever destination I've set my heart on, I have the habit of meticulously researching said place, hunting for the neatest restaurants, shops, things to do and see. Admittedly, I'll first glance at a tourist guide to get the gist of a place, but I could care less about the Crowne Plaza or guided bus tours. I've found that aside from suggestions from the locals, the real good stuff  is discovered on blogs, written by people like me, budget-conscious and inclined to opt off the beaten path. For instance, if I'm in Stockholm, I want to know where they filmed the Millennium trilogy, where I might see the rumored, enormous vagina sculpted into a stone wall, what bars Robyn patronizes and where I can get that fermented herring that smells like poop. I want to blend in, which to me means eating all of Sweden's wacky hot dogs while safely and courteously riding a bike (no helmet required) with my neon socks pulled over my skinny jeans. Thankfully, the Internet tells me these things. True, much of our trip was formed from suggestions and whims of our gracious, intuitive Swedish friend and host, but after years of appreciating and drawing ideas from travel blogs (namely, Hither and Thither and Design Sponge's City Guides), I felt inspired to create a travel guide based on my own Stockholm favorites. 

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Coffee: Albert and Jack's. When traveling, Kurt and I tend to drink lots of coffees. Admittedly, I'm a coffee maniac whether I'm home or abroad, but flying to Scandinavia from the States will jet lag you to death, so I was double fisting lattes like there was no tomorrow. Of all the cafés we stopped at in Stockholm, this one was our favorite. The coffee was strong like we're used to, not to mention the killer cinnamon rolls. 

Lunch: Urban Deli. Here's a cute lunch/brunch place tucked in the back of a charming grocery store. The dining room was clean and bright, filled with light and pops of color and the smiley waitress sat down at the table with us while taking our order as if we were regulars. On the menu you can find that very Swedish open-faced sandwich - toast piled with fresh shrimp and aioli. Or perhaps a leafy, colorful salad with smoked salmon and creamy dill dressing. Or if you're ravenous, there's the Nytorget brunch; fluffy whipped eggs, topped with bacon and sausage, toast and a side of pommes frites. With mustard. (Photo via Lotta Agaton)

Street Fare: Ostermalms Korvspecialst. On every street corner in Stockholm you're bound to find a hot dog kiosk selling some wild concoction like sausages shrouded in bread, topped with mashed potatoes or shrimp salad, possibly both. Swedes don't mess around when it comes to sausages. Even the regular old hot dog sold at Hammarby Stadium is a comically long wiener stuffed in a tiny bun so that both ends stick out and curve upward like a joker's smile made out of processed pork products. While wondering around town, we saw signs for the "French hot dog" everywhere we went. Don't be fooled by the name. This is Sweden's own version of the hot dog, but they call it "French" only because it is served in a loaf of french bread. Our friend Joakim claimed that the best French hot dogs were found at Ostermalms Korvspecialist where they serve up a wide variety of sausages bathed in a spicy tomato sauce, sauerkraut and mustard. Joakim recommended the spicy Polish Karbanos, which was spectacular. (This place was written up in Serious Eats a few years ago. Article.) They don't have a website, but the address is Nybrogatan 55, Stockholm.

Dinner: I only had two goals when I set out for dinner in Sweden. I wanted to try a very traditional Swedish meal and I wanted to eat copious amounts of the seafood they are famous for - Baltic herring, smoked salmon, crayfish, open faced shrimp sandwiches, Gothenburg oysters, caviar (sold in toothpaste tubes).

For our traditional Swedish meal, we ate at Tranan ("Crane" in English), a favorite of the locals that has been serving fried herring and potatoes for 80 years. Inside it was relaxed and cozy (though quite alive for a Tuesday night), with red checkered table cloths and large street-facing windows. We all ordered the Swedish meatballs, which wasn't actually on the menu, people just know, and it was spotted on literally every table in the restaurant. The golf-ball sized meatballs were served with brown gravy, mashed potatoes, lingonberry jam and sliced gherkins.

For seafood, Joakim took us to B.A.R., a modern but uncomplicated restaurant that focuses on the fresh and simple flavors from the sea, inspired by the seasons and Sweden's local produce. After a round of fresh oysters, we all gathered around the fish case where we selected our dinner from a bed of ice. I went for fried mackerel with white fish roe, dill and sour cream. Everyone at our table ordered a different side to share family style. Favorites were the wheat berry salad with pomegranate, cardamom and lemon and the apple-mustard coleslaw. (Photo credit: B.A.R.)

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Cheap Monday. It seemed like all Swedes, both men and women, wore skinny jeans, sometimes rolled at the cuffs with Converse. Cheap Monday makes Kurt's favorite brand of jeans but they are a bit pricey at home. At their three story Stockholm store, Weekday, you can also find soft stripey tees, shlubby off-the shoulder tops, tank dresses and member's only-style jackets. I'm particularly a fan of these jeans and this ultra comfy dress

Plagg is a sweet little clothing store that carries fantastic Swedish clothing from designers like Filippa K, Odd Molly and Tiger of Sweden. I went here on the hunt for a pair of those beautiful Swedish Hasbeens (pictured). 

WeSC makes the raddest headphones and streetwear. The boys liked this place for their awesome collection of brightly colored Nikes. I like WeSC's women's line of clothing because it reminds me of when I used to dream of being a b-girl. 

Grandpa generally focuses on upcoming designers and vintage clothing, but they also have a nice selection of furniture, gifts and accessories. I loved their collection of vintage science-inspired home decor like test tube vases and specimen chart posters. They also have a small café!

Monki is a cutesy women's clothing company that strives to create trendy and unique clothing while holding true to their pledges to humanism and the environment. They demand decent working standards for their workers and suppliers, don't use chemically treated fabrics and ensure that no animals suffered to produce wool for their sweaters. All this for a very affordable price! It's kind of too good to be true. Make sure you check out their adorable website and digi-mag.

Smiley Vintage makes ethical and environmentally friendly clothes at a reasonable price. They also have a nice rack of carefully selected vintage dresses. They have three shops, one of which is inside the Grandpa store.

Happy Socks. Socks seem to be kind of a big deal in Stockholm. maybe because everyone in the city rides bikes, which means everyone is constantly rolling up their pant legs, which means their socks are always showing, which means they can't just wear those nasty old sagging tube socks their grandmother gave them seven years ago. You've gotta come correct with some quality, colorful, outrageously patterned socks! Happy Socks clearly makes the best socks of this sort. While I'm generally anti-sock in the summer, I can't wait for fall because I'll be stocking up on their socks, knee-highs and tights. They ship (2-5 business days) to the US for only $4 and if you buy 4 pairs, shipping is free!

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1. For clever, well designed and inexpensive housewares beyond Ikea, there is StockHome. I love my owl  salt and pepper shakers. 

2. Krabat is an awesome Swedish toy store for children and adults. Here you won't find blinking lights, battery powered gadgets or video games. They specialize in timeless, durable toys that inspire imagination and play. On Kungsgatan, there is an adjoined Krabat shop for adults featuring gifts, curiosities, stationary, mobiles, figurines and artwork. That's where I snagged this awesome Flensted sparrow mobile (pictured). 

3. Iris Hantverk is a lovely shop that sells Scandinavian handicrafts like carved wood utensils, candles and woven or printed textiles. I spotted this beautiful Catherine Kullberg table lamp in the window. It's made of Norwegian birch paper and the light glows through the delicate paper-cut forest silhouette. 
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The streets of Stockholm are ruled by cyclists, from toddlers on training wheels to business women in heels with their briefcases bungeed to their fender rack. Cycling is really the easiest and most fun way to get around the city, and you can usually ride from one side to the other faster than you'd travel by bus, car or subway. Best of all, every street has a wide bike lane and drivers are very cautious and mindful while sharing the road. Stockholm City Bikes will rent you a bike for 3 days for about $27 USD. Here's how it works. (Photo credit: bike photo/infographic from City Bike's website.) 

4. Stockholm has two highly regarded indoor marketplaces. We went to Hotorgshallen ("hay market"), where many food stalls showcased the finest and freshest produce, meats and cheeses from all over the world. It is heaven for any food lover and a great place to buy snacks or quick lunch. There is also Saluhall in Ostermalm, which is said to have many restaurants and sells the best ingredients Sweden has to offer.  (Photo Credit: Saluhall by Madcrow via Fotopedia.)

5. Gamla Stan (Old Town) is one of the best preserved medieval city centers in Europe. The neighborhood was the original Stockholm in the 1300's. It is home to Stockholm's Royal Palace, many old cathedrals and stunning, warmly-hued stone buildings centuries older than anything we have in the US. Explore the narrow cobbled streets, admire the architecture, pop in the Tomten shop, stop for a coffee, .etc, .etc. 

6. Riding bicycles through Djurdarden ("the royal game park") was my favorite experience during our stay in Stockholm. Djurgarden is a recreational island in central Stockholm, almost entirely comprised of parks, museums, art galleries, gardens, picturesque harbours and even an amusement park. Once you cross the bridge to the island, you're transported out of the city into an Astrid Lingren story.  Amongst the grand buildings and monuments, there are manicured tulip beds, rolling hills and pastures, picnic areas and winding gravel paths through the forests. For lunch we ate at Rosendals Tradgard garden and cafe. I ordered  a tasty prosciutto and fresh mozzarella sandwich, cider and blueberry cake. On the way back, I swear I saw a flaxen haired child frolicking down a daisy-studded hillside and he was wearing a kelly green shirt and matching green tights. That's the type of place this is, where children do shit like that. 
(Illustration from Rosendals Tradgard.)

7. The Vasa Museum contains the only fully intact 17th century warship salvaged from the Baltic Sea, just 1300 meters from Stockholm's coast. The ship made its short but fateful maiden voyage in 1628, where it quickly sank after barely having any wind in its sails. The tale of Vasa's salvage in 1961 is just as fascinating as its fate. The excavation, lead by Anders Franzen, was successful in recovering the entire ship, along with much of its contents including the skeletal remains of those trapped inside. You can read more about the Vasa here. (Photo credit: Vasa by Sergio Pitamitz)


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11 comments:

  1. the vassa museum was my FAVORITE THING in sweden (granted i was only there for one day). i still think about it.

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  2. I totally want to go to Sweden now!

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  3. this is SOOOOO great, and it looks gorgeous. you should travel the world creating city guides. dream job, right??!

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  4. OMG this post kicks ass! Gotta appreciate the effort you've put into it = Hats off!

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  5. when i saw some of these pics on flickr, i got very excited and have been looking forward to this post! just reading it makes me want to jump on a plane right now and head to the Happy Socks store!

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  6. Beth: It was pretty cool! Someone told Kurt that first time he went to Sweden that it was super touristy (and therefore, lame) so he didn't go. I don't think the touristy factor could even sully the neatness of an old shipwreck like that! We were all totally into it.

    Mia: You should go! I think you'd really like it.

    Jasmine: Thank you! Man, I'd love to do that. I was thinking I will make a similar post for all of our travels just for fun. I really appreciate it when I read about other people's trips too.

    Adrienne: Awesome. Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

    SJ: Happy Socks are the best! They are so nice and soft. I don't think we'll own another pair of white socks ever again. It would definitely make matching easier

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  7. Johanna, I am completely blown away by how beautiful you make Sthlm sound. I don't think I've ever read a better and more personal guide. I'm completely amazed by how you picked up all those details.
    Having read this, my only regret is that we didn't have more time for exploration.

    Ps. I found a picture of that sculpture in Gamla Stan... :-) http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4126/5129171296_16d488ae03.jpg

    Looking forward seeing you all again very soon!
    /Joakim

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  8. DEFINITELY bookmarking this! This is amazing!!!!

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  9. Joakim, thanks for linking that picture! We had a great time. Thanks for being an awesome host and showing us all these neat places! xo

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  10. Celeste- YES! You have to go on your next excursion through Europe.

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  11. So glad I found this! We're planning a trip to the area next summer -- any thoughts on what part of town to stay in?

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