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Visiting Sweden: Once Stockholm, Always Stockholm
While I’m waiting for my coffee to be ready, I’m scrolling through Instagram. Darren, with whom I’d spent six months freezing at open air parties on minus ten degrees Celsius in Stockholm, uploaded new photos. Sweden’s got him smitten. Facebook tells me I’ve got a message from Hana, a Russian girl and my ex boss who now works as the head of PR at the University of Stockholm and is one of the head organisers of Nobel Night Cap. Hana came to Stockholm three years ago and despite visa problems she faces every year and the cost of living being almost thirty times higher than her native Russia, she’s still decided to make Stockholm her home. Today she speaks Swedish, manages to navigate the dating life of Stockholm (which is even worse than the one in Croatia) and isn’t planning on going back, ever.
I ask Hana to remind me what I should say are the main attractions of Stockholm. “Tell them to bring their own alcohol,” she answers with a string of emojis, adding that she paid a regular bottle of vodka a staggering eighty dollars. Systembolaget, the only place where you can buy alcohol in Sweden, is government-controlled and open only till 1pm on Saturdays. It’s completely closed on Sundays. Plan your drinking escapades and all that. Partying by the Swedish standards starts fairly early, usually around 6pm. It shouldn’t be that surprising when I tell you that the sun sets at 1.30pm in winter. While living in Stockholm, I’d been to countless parties ranging from the cheap student ones to the ones at Cafe Opera, one of the most exclusive places in the city. If you’re staying over the weekend, the round around Stureplan is the best option. All the clubs there are posh and expensive, with bouncers being extremely picky as to who gets to come in. However, once you’re in, it’s totally worth it. To get there, just take the red T-Bana line and get off at Östermalmstorg and take the exit for Stureplan. If you’re more of a one drink kind of person, my recommendation is a bar called Vampire Lounge in Södermalm which is, you guessed it, decorated in a vampire-style interior and has amazing, one of a kind cocktails.
The accommodation in Stockholm, much like everything else, ranges from expensive to extremely expensive. If you’re traveling alone, my recommendation is the City Backpackers Hostel that is highly acclaimed. If you’re travelling in style, skip the Grand Hotel and go for the Nobis Hotel, a contemporary hotel that is a favourite of all the design fanatics.
Stockholm - Yes or Nah?
How much do you love Stockholm?
Getting from point A to point B in Stockholm can be complicated. There are fourteen main islands with six you have to see. However, Swedish people are firm believers newer is better so they made a bunch of apps that make everyone’s lives much easier. Download SL for the metro, Stockholm Sounds to keep track of visiting all of the attractions, Food Lovers Stockholm is there for, well, food lovers, and Spotted by Locals will list you all the things you can do in categories. Paper maps of the city are pointless. Rather invest in a Comviq card and put some credit on it online. 1GB of data will cost you a few euros. You can usually find people handing out free Comviq cards at all the main metro stations.
Walk. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Stockholm isn’t Amsterdam where you can walk the whole city in three hours. You’ll need to use the metro, and in some cases you can even take the boats which are also part of the city transport. However, almost all of the biggest attractions are easily reached by foot and it’s the only way to really take in the vibe of the city.
Gamla Stan is the old city centre and is situated on its own island right next to the central station. Get lost in Gamla Stan. Give yourself a few hours to just wander around and don’t forget to visit the Royal Palace.
Östermalm and Djurgärden are my personal favourites. Östermalm is the expensive residential area where the prices of apartments are astronomic. Luxury designer houses on Biblioteskstan, elite cafes and beautiful buildings will leave you breathless, especially in winter. Östermalm Food Hall is the best place to people watch in the whole city. If I were to go back to Stockholm today, the first place I’d visit is the bridge that leads you to Djurgärden. There’s just something about it that makes you feel at home. Make sure to visit Vasa Museet, the best museum in the whole city that was build around the ruins of an old ship that sunk in 1627.
To sum up, I’ll tell you what Hana told me while we were having fika the first time we’d met. There are cities you visit once and you never go back. You’re happy you went, you think of it as a great experience and you tick it off on your go to list. And then there are the ones that swallow you in and spit you back out and upon your departure you’re already planning your return. For me, next on the schedule is Stockholm once again in the summer, what about you?