A Swedish September
I have never been to Sweden before, so when the opportunity to visit arose I was best pleased. Given that it also meant I could spend time with a dear friend, Corinna, who now calls Stockholm home, I went into something akin to an excitable tailspin. A Swedish September, very exciting indeed.
Waking up with the sun
Our only task on the Saturday was to explore as many twists and turns of the city as our legs would take us. With a long day ahead I impatiently woke at a fresh 7am, sitting on my bed until it was a socially acceptable time to wake my host. Eager to enjoy the crisp, dewy September morning, I lasted less than half an hour. We donned our most comfy sneakers and set off, camera in hand, for the morning’s fika, the Swedish name for the ritual of coffee accompanied by cake or pastry.
With the entirety of Stockholm ahead of us we started off in the north-east suburb of Ostermalm, Corinna’s local area. Ostermalm is home to some of the most picturesque homes I’ve ever laid eyes on. I could vividly imagine log fires lapping up the cold in winter, warm spiced Glögg and wholesome Swedes having wholesome Swedish fun behind each pair of solid wooden doors.
Continuing west across the top of the city through Vasastan, I couldn’t help but be thoroughly impressed in the pride the locals took in their appearance. This was particularly true with older women as they looked effortlessly beautiful, combining style and sensibility with aplomb. With so much Scandinavian influence in fashion, everyone is dressed like they are walking down a runway, with the bone structure to match. Note to self, more time on outfit curation for tomorrow.
Gossiping away, we reached the island of Kungsholem and snaked our way along the footpaths framed by glassy, mirror-like water. Without counting the archipelago, Stockholm sits upon fourteen islands. If mermaids exist, it’s here. We lapped up the views complemented by morning kayakers and passing ferries at the outdoor café of Mälarpaviljongen. Ginger cheesecake for breakfast is how I holiday.
Gamla Stan, of course
From there we headed down through the cobbled alleyways and hidden squares of Gamla Stan, the city's old town. Stockholm is what I would call ‘handsomely beautiful'. The buildings are thoughtfully decorated - intricate and pretty yet solid enough to withstand a Nordic snow storm. Hues of terracotta, yolky yellows and dusky oranges adorn the winding streets, with the imposing royal residence taking on a golden hue. I’m convinced Diagon Alley actually exists, but we’ve all been looking the wrong country. While we weren’t successful in this particular search, we did find the narrowest street in Gamla Stan. It is impossible to walk past it without seeing how high you can shimmy up it.
Mooching around Sodermalm
Stomachs rumbling, we headed south towards Stockholm’s uber-cool Soldermalm district in time for a late lunch traditional yet oh-so clichérein meatballs. Squirreled away in our little corner with delicious steaming plates in front of us, Corinna told me all about her fascinating PhD topic studying reindeer herding and the Sami people (more on that to come in a new series!) As a good lunch is always made great when paired with dessert, we went into hunter-gatherer mode. We stalked the streets until we reached the old-worldly, delightful Pärlans confectionary store. It is worth flying to Stockholm for their salted, soft toffee alone. Sodermalm will drain your bank balance, be warned. With a super-chic French friend of mine (think Kate Moss meets Lou Dillon) recently welcoming her first bubba, I had my work cut out for me as I attempted to find something remotely stylish for little Navid. Problem easily solved at Mini Rodini - is it just me, or is everything Scandinavian beyond cool?
We then made our way through Bergsprängargränd, which used to be home to some of the city’s poorest working class. Now, it is something of a living museum, with tiny but oh-so-Swedish wooden houses holding fort in the 21st century. Following cobbled streets like a yellow-brick road, we weaved back north past Katarina kyrka and lapped up the views at Mosebacke Establishment . Another cool kid haunt with great views, food trucks and live music.
By the time the autumn sun started making its way down from its perch, our feet were protesting loudly. We headed back up to Ostermalm on Stockholm’s metro system, the tunnelbana. With art in every station, it has been called the ‘world’s longest gallery’. Although I only visited a handful of these subterranean masterpieces, T-Centralen station definitely wowed and took first place in my books.
A ferry ride to remember
Stockholm is full of early risers and weekends are no exception. Keen to explore beyond the city limits, we set off early on Sunday morning to the island of Djurgården. The ferry ride out of Ostermalm is the most picturesque I have ever been on. The best view of Stockholm is definitely from the water.
Postcard summer houses and sweeping views of the water greeted us on our arrival. The walk from the Djurgården's ferry dock back towards Ostermalm takes around an hour at leisure. We shared the gravel pathway with morning joggers, horse-riders and napping bubbas strapped to their parents. On this particular Sunday, dogs of all shapes and sizes seemed to be taking their owners for a run in an owner & doggie marathon. Fun-run can live up to its meaning.
How to spend your pay-check No trip to Stockholm is complete without participating in the practice of retail therapy. Sweden’s answer to John Lewis is Åhléns, with a treasure-trove of inimitable nordic homewares which has me promising to return once we have our own little flat to make into a home. Östermalms Saluhall is the city’s dear food hall, a stalwart of the gourmet food scene situated on the fringes of the best shopping in the city. If you’re a fan of Selfridges, it’s NK you want to check out where Swedish brands like Gant and Filippa K are showcased. And lastly, for more affordable Swedish fashion, head to & Other Stories and Twist & Tango.
I am truly, madly, deeply in love with Stockholm. And I’ve only just scraped the surface. With my Mama remembering her Abba obsession with fondness, I’m sure I’ll be bringing the dancing queen to visit the world famous museum soon. With some more achipelago exploring to do, I can’t wait.
Tips, tricks & observations
Swedes will greet you with ‘hey’ (spelt ‘hej’), which I relished as the word is a firm fixture in my vocabulary. In fact, ‘hey’ is a perfectly acceptable form of communication for just about anything. “Hi”, “how you doing?”, “what?”, and “it’s early and all I can muster is hi because I haven’t morning coffee’d yet” all make the grade.
Sweden is not cheap, but it does not have to be all money money money (see what I did there Abba fans)? Evening drinks are particularly expensive, so long nights out could set you back. (At-home dinner parties fill social calendars in the winter).
I rose out of bed early one Sunday to wander the streets of Gamla Stan before the onslaught of daily visitors. It was well worth it for the pictures alone, never mind the enjoyable serenity. Corinna was the best tour guide I could ask for, however I’ve heard from credible sources that the walking tours of Gamla Stan are well worth your time.
With Love, Kate
(P.S read up on all the eating we did here)