This time last week, it was our last day in Stockholm. We’d been there since late on Wednesday night, the second “instalment” of our family holidays which we decided this year to split into two city breaks. (Our first was Granada in May.)
It’s very different to Granada, as you’d expect. We were in a capital city, after all, so in lots of ways it was much more like London with it’s public transport system, banking district and shopping areas.
In hindsight, it wasn’t the best place to go for a restful week in August, especially as when there’s something to be seen then we like to see it, but Stockholm has been on our list of places to visit for a long time so we knew that we wanted to go when we were planning our holidays at the beginning of the year. We went on the sightseeing bus tour on our first morning – always our first port of call in a new city as it gives us a good overview of what’s there and what we want to go back to see.
Stockholm is built on an archipelago of islands, the closest ones which make up the city connected by bridges. Gamla Stan is the old medieval town situated on a small island in the middle, untouched by modernisation (the Gamla Stan waterfront which you see in many pictures of Stockholm is in the picture above). There are lots of narrow streets which are always so inviting …
the Royal Palace where the King and Queen of Sweden live, and plenty of bars, restaurants and cafes where you can find traditional Swedish dishes of meatballs (small daughter was keen to find out if they tasted the same as the ones at IKEA!) and enjoy Fika which is one of those words that’s a bit like “hygge” without a direct English translation, but generally means coffee and cake with or without company whilst you eat. A sort of elevenses but not always at 11 o’clock. I like the idea of this very much as I’m always happy to eat cake, and I did particularly like the cinnamon buns (Kanelbullar) in Stockholm!
We stayed quite a way out in Hammarby Sjöstad which was much more of a residential area and the apartment that we stayed in was just like living in an IKEA catalogue! I felt like a lot of Stockholm was like being in an IKEA catalogue; lots of straight lines, tidy spaces and very environmentally friendly. Big daughter was fascinated by the plastic bottle recycling points in the local Lidl and Co op stores where you can recycle empty bottles for money which you either donate to charity or get back in the form of a voucher to spend in the shop. It seems like a brilliant idea and is obviously one of the reasons why the Swedes are so good at recycling – I’d certainly use it if the system was introduced here in the UK.
It’s very easy to get around Stockholm which is just as well as it took us an hour to walk to the city centre. It was a pleasant walk past apartment blocks built around one of the many lakes …
but is still a long walk back if you’ve been out into the city centre for the evening. It didn’t take us too long to discover the public transport system – you can buy a pass which lets you onto the buses, the trams, the underground trains and a couple of the ferries so we spent a lot of our time zooming around on them. The buses and trains were very clean, felt safe even quite late at night and were always exactly on time. We spent a lot of time debating why it was that our public transport in the UK isn’t as efficient, and we came to the conclusion that it’s because the car is the priority transport here so everything else fits around that. There were bikes everywhere in Stockholm and wide cycle paths and even on the buses there were advertisements telling people how many more calories they would have burned if they’d cycled instead of taken the bus.
We spent most of our time outside and although there are lots of interesting museums to visit in Stockholm, we only went to this one …
and it was great fun! My husband was a bit unsure as his musical taste is much more in the heavy rock direction than ABBA, but even he was surprised how much he enjoyed it. It’s not just about the music, it’s about the people and that’s always interesting – and means that it doesn’t matter if you don’t know all the words to the songs. The English version of the audio tour is narrated by the band themselves, and listening to their memories of being in the band whilst looking at the exhibits was quite emotional at times. We couldn’t persuade the girls to dance on the stage with the holographic band (ha! I wouldn’t do that either so we didn’t push them too hard! 🙂 ) but we did all join in with the karaoke – no audience, thankfully, but the audio track was uploaded to our own account linked to our tickets so that we could listen in the privacy of our own apartment. Just once was enough 🙂
We reach the ABBA museum by the Djurgården ferry, although it’s just as easy to reach by bus or tram – we wanted to try out all the transport! There’s a theme park called Gröna Lund next door to the ABBA museum which we could see across the water from our routes around the city – it seemed to be very popular but none of us are that keen on theme parks (especially the sort where the rides go up very tall towers, as you can see in this photo) so we didn’t visit.
I don’t usually go out of my way to look for yarn shops on holiday but we did find a couple of them: Makeri 14 which had a tempting display of sock yarn in the window and Litet Nystan which apparently is a fabulous shop to visit. They were both shut. Perhaps just as well as I really don’t need any more yarn, but I would have liked to have had a look. Many shops in Stockholm open late and close early and are shut at the weekends too; we presumed it was to do with their home/work-balance culture which is considerably better than our work-every-hour culture, but you do tend to miss out on seeing things when you’re only visiting for a short time and you’ve got sight-seeing to fit in.
Most of the time that we were in Stockholm, the weather was very hot and sunny which meant that when we headed out to the beach, it was the perfect time to sit for a bit and soak up the holiday atmosphere.
There are quite a number of beaches that you can get to from the city. This beach was on the edge of the lake and was very busy – further round were jetties and diving boards and lots of families making the most of the nice weather. Small daughter was rather disconcerted by the number of fish that were swimming around our legs, and it’s quite different being at a lake beach to a seaside beach in that only waves came from the boats passing by further out in the water. It’s all good travel experience, though, and we’re fortunate that we’re able to take our girls to different places in the world for them to see how life is different.
Supermarkets hold a certain fascination in whichever country we’re in. Big daughter was stunned to see how many varieties of oat milk, soya milk, vegetarian and vegan alternatives were available to buy even in a corner shop. Living away from home has made her much more conscious about what she’s eating and what it all costs and she’s been experimenting with cooking ingredients – I’m very glad that she’s not a beans-on-toast student! We liked the washing up liquid that was left in the apartment for our use …
although sadly the name didn’t appear to mean “yes, we know where the housework fairy lives and she says she’ll come round”. We were also childishly amused by the chocolate bars …
Small daughter wanted to try a Kex as we saw advertisements for it everywhere (it’s a chocolate wafer biscuit), we buy Marabou bars from IKEA sometimes but have never seen such a choice, and Plopp … well, there’s the childish bit. How can you resist a chocolate bar called that?! It was a caramel chocolate bar, not our favourite of the three but you’ve got to give it a go! 🙂
Flying home from Stockholm, the weather was clear and I had such a good view from the window.
We flew over land and lakes for far longer than I expected, and gradually the scenery changed from more land and a few lakes to great expanses of water with small islands. There were houses on some of these islands too, sometimes just one on a piece of land surrounded by water. Who lives in these houses? How do they exist with no one close by? How do the houses not get washed off the islands in the winter storms? So many questions!
If you’re planning to visit Stockholm, it is expensive to visit and we were very glad of the local supermarkets to stock up on essentials, but we knew that before we got there so it wasn’t a surprise. We didn’t find the people particularly smiley which was more of a surprise but that could be a capital city thing; people aren’t always very smiley in London either. However, we’d go back if just to use it as a base to see more of Sweden which is a beautiful country, and a man we got chatting to at the airport told us how easy it was to get to Copenhagen and Helsinki too, which sounds like fun – we’d definitely like to see more of Scandinavia.