Long days, stylish residents, islands to explore and cherry blossoms in full bloom – summer in Stockholm couldn’t be a farther cry from the dark nights of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. One of Europe’s most stylish cities is just waiting for you to explore it...
Water way to get around
As Stockholm is a collection of 14 islands on Lake Mälaren, linked by about 50 bridges, the best way to see the city is from the water. Take a boat tour of the city, there are plenty to choose from, which generally last from 40 minutes to a couple of hours. Or opt for a popular hop-on hop-off ticket, which is valid for 24 hours and means you can absorb the city slowly and in your own time.
If you want to be given a guided tour, try the Stockholm Grand Tour with City Discovery. The three-and-a-half-hour experience will take you under 15 of the many bridges around the quirky city, and to the major landmarks, including the striking City Hall, the popular Vasa Maritime Museum and the must see Old Town – or Gamla Stan in Swedish – which is full of small boutiques and cafés (city-discovery.com). In fact, when you’re in the Gamla Stan head to café Chokladkoppen to try their famous hot chocolate – even if you’re there in the heat of July, it’s a heavenly must-try.
Coastal city’s are known for their amazing seafood, and Stockholm is certainly no different. The most stylish city dwellers are to be found at Rolfs Kök – their chili crab is unmissable (rolfskok.se) – and the French-inspired Le Bistrot de Wasahof, make sure you order the oysters (www.wasahof.se). For a low- key meal and a true foodie experience, head to the food markets; Östermalms Saluhall has about every kind of pickled herring and fresh fish you could dream of, while the Hötorgshallen food hall is a bit less touristy. Make a beeline for one of the bespoke cheese stalls, and you’ll know exactly which cow the milk that made your cheese came from, slightly odd but all good fun.
Bright nights, big city
Summer in Stockholm is a bright affair, and the northern location means that the sun only sets for three hours at the height of summer, but it never gets extremely hot, and in July the temperature stays around the mild 20°C mark. These long days mean everyone stays out well into the night, and your touristy strolls won’t be cut short.
And so at this time of year, you can’t leave the city without enjoying at least one night out. You’ll find the best weekend nightlife in Stureplan or Kungsträdgården in the city centre.
Trying out a medieval bar in Gamla Stan is also a must, and one of the best is Sjätte Tunnan, which comes alive at the weekend with live music, boisterous crowds and staff dressed in medieval costumes
For a night out that’s slightly more modern, head to downtown’s Norrmalm, where the bars and clubs are always buzzing. Ambassadeur on Kungsgatan is like several clubs under one roof and they serve up a mix of house, current and retro tunes (www.clubambassadeur.se); but if live music is more your thing, Debaser Medis has gigs over three floors and can be found in central Södermalm. For a bit of a novelty treat head to Icebar, the perma-frozen spot is made of ice from Lapland’s famous Icehotel, and will give you a Swedish winter feel as you don a parka and boots and sip from frozen glasses while perching on icy seats.
Shopping where skarsgÅrd shops
There is no denying that Stockholm has a totally effortless style, wandering down Drottninggatan in the city centre you’ll chace across plenty of hipsters who look like they’ve stepped out of the pages of W magazine. This is also the part of town to head to if you want to get some shopping done, whether you want high-end international brands or more high-street finds. You’ll find Swedish brand-gone-global H&M’s flagship store (which is five-storeys and amazing!) and the edgy-beyond- words fashion house and design studio, Acne – the brand of choice for Alexander Skarsgård and Chloe Sevigny – which is just a short walk away on Norrmalmstorg.
Other Swedish labels to look out for are Cheap Monday, Tiger of Sweden and Whyred; plus you should check out the department store, PUB, on the corner of Klarabergsgatan, where iconic Hollywood star, and Stockholm native, Greta Garbo, worked before she made her way to Tinseltown.
Weekends on the islands
At the height of summer you’ll find that the centre is slightly quieter than usual, as many of the city’s dwellers head out to their summer houses for the weekend. Either take advantage of the quiet and explore the streets without the hustle and bustle, or make like a Stockholmer and hit the islands.
The nearby isles, or the archipelago as they’re known, are as close as 25 minutes by boat from the city. The nearest is Fjäderholmarna, a quaint little spot that only opens for the summer. Visit there and you can get involved with pottery workshops, check out the glass and textile designs from emerging designers and indulge in a spot of culture at the open-air theatre.
Another gorgeous destination is Sandhamn, which boasts a longer and more prominent coastline than most of the other islands and is the perfect place to enjoy an outdoorsy weekend of sailing and fishing. While you’re there make sure you try the delicious seafood – but don’t look for a hotel or chain restaurant, as you’ll get the best experiences in one of the locally owned cafés.
Alternatively, for a weekend trip head to Vaxholm, a coastal town steeped with history, which is just one hour and a picturesque boat journey away from Sjeppskajen in Stockholm. Once there, revel in the typically Swedish wooden houses, explore the great fortress museum and stay overnight at the seaside Waxholms Hotel (waxholmshotell.se).
To get a feel for the city’s surrounding islands, do an Archipelago race. The fast-paced boat trips take you by speed boat around the islands, so you will see many of the 30,000 striking and solitary islands that surround Stockholm, and
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Kungstradgården translates to the King’s Garden, because for years it was used as the royal vegetable garden. But now it’s the city’s most popular park, and in summer is full of city folk playing, relaxing and reading. You’re guaranteed to see some of the famous cherry blossoms during the warmer months, too.
Tread the boards
The Drottningholm Royal Theatre was restored at the beginning of the 20th century, and there’s now a regular schedule of opera and plays on; but be sure to book tickets in advance as they often get booked up. This summer they’re performing famous Italian operas Jason and Medea and Orlando Paladino.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The American, Max Manus, The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, 1920: Evil Returns, Melancholia
Budget: Nordic Light Hotel
This minimalist and striking hotel is a calming environment in the heart of the city, and a perfectly relaxing place to stay after busy day of sightseeing. Enjoy soothing lighting throughout the environmentally conscious hotel, especially in Light Bar And Lounge, which buzzes of an evening and boasts one of Scandinavia’s finest collections of imported wines. Rooms available from Dh600-per-night.
Mid-range: Hotel J, Nacka Strand
This quaint little hideaway (pictured right) is just outside of the city on the Saltsjön waterway. Check in for a bit of a secluded break tucked away in the rocks. The New England-esque hotel features heavy wood furniture and totally uninterrupted sea views. Rooms start at Dh800-per-night.
Luxury: Nobis Hotel Stockholm
For a touch of classic elegance, check into this impressive hotel in Norrmalmstorg Square, which dates back to the 19th century. Located in the heart of the city,
with theatres and museums, you can venture out and enjoy the nearby hotspots, or enjoy the in-house fine dining option of the rustic Italian restaurant, Caina, which sources all of its ingredients seasonally. Double rooms start at Dh1,100.