Stockholm has got to be the most picturesque city in Scandinavia. From every angle, it’s just beautiful and at you’re constantly met with pretty cobbled backstreets and colourful camera-baiting views. Whilst a visit in summer might offer warmer climes and a chance to explore the parks and the archipelago, winter in Stockholm shouldn’t be overlooked, for the crisp blue skies and low winter sun casts the city in the most striking light.
Stockholm is just a 2 hour flight from the UK and the flights are frequent and pretty cheap. (There are multiple airports in the area but Arlanda has the best transport connections to the city; the Arlanda Express takes 20 minutes, costs about £15, and runs you straight to the Central Station.) Ed and I arrived late on Friday night back in January with me devilishly unprepared for the minus-10 degree climes… We were staying at the Hilton Stockholm Slussen Hotel, which was just a 15-minute walk from the main station — perfect! I’d definitely recommend the hotel if you’re looking for an affordable well-located option. It was by no means the chicest hotel we’ve ever stayed in and I’d say it felt slightly dated but our room was spacious and immaculate, the bathroom was lovely, and the view from our room had to be one of the best in the city (the picture above was taken through the bedroom window!). There are numerous uber-trendy design hotels in Stockholm, but the Hilton is really well located on edge of Södermalm, which we later discovered to be by far the coolest area of Stockholm, and if you’re just there for the weekend, you need somewhere central.
We woke up to beautiful blue skies on Saturday morning and an incredible view of the old town from our room. After layering up (literally, 8 layers I piled on my top half!), we wandered over the bridge to Gamla Stan — the colourful old town — which was quiet and peaceful on Saturday morning, and every street more picturesque than the last. We wandered around Norrmalm, the more modern part of the city with its department stores and H&Ms on every corner, and discovered Urban Deli, a seriously cool grocery-store-come-cafe, full of all sorts of delicious looking things, gourmet ready meals and Swedish craft beers. It’s a great brunch spot I hear but also go to just browse the shelves!
K25 is awesome food hall we stumbled upon and were very happy we did — least of all because it was warm inside! Any guidebook will tell you there are several food halls in Stockholm but I’d say this is by far the best if you’re looking to sit and eat, rather than browse pricey produce. There’s sushi, burritos, dim sum, you name it, and a really cool seating area at the back that’s staggered like a lecture theatre! We were in the market for a snack so shared some great nachos and a couple of non-alcoholic beers! (We persevered with Dry January whilst we were there, which actually meant we saved a tonne because alcohol is expensive, but great alcohol-free beers are rife!) Later we went to Ostermalm Saluhal, which is considered the 7th best food hall in the world. It’s a lot like Harrods’ food hall and though really beautiful, it’s definitely more about looking than trying or buying! I definitely vote K25 if you want a quick feed and good atmosphere.
We spent the rest of the afternoon just wandering and popping into shops to keep warm (it was minus 14 degrees by the afternoon and we were bloody freezing!). There’s no shortage of shops in Stockholm. From the top of my head I remember a good Fjällräven store, a giant & Other Stories, Woolrich, WeSC, and a cool Urban Outfitters housed in an old cinema. We bought various trinkets for our house from DesignTorget, a cool Scandi design store where you’ll want to buy everything, trust me!
Dusk was setting in by 3:30pm (crazy early in the height of winter!) and the temperature was dropping even further so we wandered back to hotel through the posh streets of Östermalm and via the picture perfect Nybroviken Bay, then stopped for a couple more alkoholfrei beers on the way to keep us warm. Don’t be fooled, winter in Stockholm is ABSOLUTELY FREEZING. It’s a beautiful time of year to see the city, but go prepared with thermals, thick socks, scarves and hats…If you don’t you’ll just be miserable.
We chose to have dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Eken Matsal, which isn’t something we’d usually do when there’s a whole city to explore, but it was fantastic — plus, too cold to go back out! Ed raved about his venison starter, and fillet of rainbow trout was so fresh and also huge(!), and for dessert we tried cloud berries, a local delicacy in Sweden. They’re a bit like a mash up of red currents and raspberries, and are often picked by pensioners as a hobby and welcomed source of money for going on cruises! If you see them, definitely try them — especially if you find them in a dessert and served with ice cream 😉
We woke up to more perfect winter skies and wandered across to Stadshuset. It was gorgeous sunshine which meant, thankfully, we were slightly warmer than the day before! Stadshuset is Stockholm’s City Hall and stands tall and defiant in the city skyline. Built in 1923, it’s offices nowadays but also hosts the Noble Prize banquet every year — pretty cool! You can go up the 106m tower but only from May-September, so we just strolled around the courtyard and basked in the sun.
We then spent the whole of the rest of the day exploring Södermalm (or Söder as the locals call it). It’s Stockholm’s version of East London or Brooklyn, and is full of independent coffee shops (we liked Kaffeebar), galleries, stylish people, and great clothing boutiques. Nitty Gritty is a nice men’s and women’s concept store complete with an in-store barber, but our very favourite store as Grandpa, which we actually discovered and LOVED in Gothenburg, and were pleased to stumble upon it here too. It really is the nicest store. You could buy your dream Scandi wardrobe here, all Carin Wester and Minimarket, and fit out your house oh-so-beautifully if you had the money. We settled for a cool print which we’re looking forward to getting framed when we move into our new house!
We stopped for some fries and drinks across the road at BRICKYARD, a nice (warm!) bar with a low-key vibe but a good buzz, then headed to Nudie Jeans and Acne — Söder is definitely the best neighbourhood to pick up wardrobe updates in Stockholm! (And if you’re looking for cheaper arms, there’s Weekday, which is full of basics that will help you master the Swedish look!)
If you’re on the hunt for food around here, BRICKYARD has a good brunch menu, there’s also an Urban Deli in the neighbourhood (which I mentioned earlier), plus a great spot called Meatballs for the People, which serves, you guessed it, meatballs and has rave reviews! Though Ed was keen for meatballs, I was on a mission to find the fried fish and herring combo we devoured in Gothenburg and have dreamt about ever since. Though Google suggests its a popular Swedish dish, in reality it’s damn hard to track down! There’s the Strömmingsluckan street cart in Gothenburg, and Nystekt Strömming here in Stockholm, another mobile food van outside Slussen T-bahn station, which shuts at 3pm in winter meaning we had 30 minutes to get there!! We pretty much sprinted through the streets of Södermalm to make it in time and arrived just in the knick of time. They must of thought we were crazy because we were panting as we ordered, then ate it so fast, sat on a snowy bench forgetting for a minute about the minus-10 degree climate! My God, it was so good. Possibly better than the version we had in Gothenburg with extra salad, coleslaw, and a generous serve of lingonberries. At £7, this has to be one of the best value meals in Stockholm and you’d be foolish to visit the city without trying it. It might look little more than a greasy burger van from the outside, but make a pilgrimage, it’s worth it.
With just a couple of hours left in Stockholm, we went to see Katarina Kyrka (one of the main churches in Stockholm, which is a gorgeous golden yellow colour and looked stunning in the winter sun), before strolling back down Söderledstunneln — another great shopping street — to our hotel. We hopped back on the Arlanda Express (this time opting for the duo ticket, which works out way cheaper if there’s two of you, FYI),
Stockholm isn’t cheap and in winter, it is absolutely, absolutely freezing BUT it’s damn beautiful, seriously stylish, and definitely worth a trip. 48 hours is long enough to for a trip in winter to get a good feel the city, but if you’re going in summer, definitely allow more time so you can explore the big parks and spend a few days on the islands of the archipelago too. I’m not sure I’ll fit that into this summer, but it’s definitely something I’ll be thinking about next summer… Camping on the different islands, swimming all day, and spending a few summer days in the city sounds like the perfect summer holiday to me!