Moin moin ihr Lieben!
Arriving in the Swedish capital directly from its Norwegian counterpart, my first impressions weren’t great. Stockholm Arlanda airport was absolute chaos. When you leave a plane and go into the terminal and have to weave your way through the passengers waiting to board the plane you’ve just exited, you’re asking for trouble. There were suitcases and skis all over the place and there didn’t seem to be much reason behind the way the place was structured, but once I’d got my case and was through arrivals, things seemed to make a little more sense.
Arlanda operates an express train system similar to the one in Oslo. The Arlanda Express reaches speeds in excess of 200km/h and gets you to Stockholm central station (also a chaotic place, just FYI) within about 20 minutes. It claims to be a ‘green power train running on 100% renewable energy,’ but what it makes up for in environmental awareness, it certainly lacks in being budget-friendly. It’s not cheap, but when you buy your ticket, in Swedish Krona (SEK), it also gives you the option to buy a return, thus decreasing the price a little.
Tickets are available at little standalone machines and once out of arrivals, there’s a clearly marked lift down to the platform. I was at Arlanda North (Terminal 5), and the train stops at Arlanda South (T 2, 3, 4) on its way to the city centre. Buses are also available, but I was keen to try the promoted way of travel!
Once there I managed to navigate my way to the Omena hotel in Torsgatan, which due to my still-developing navigation skills, took a lot longer than it should have! It was another staff-less hotel and this time didn’t even have a key/key card, instead a passcode and room number which were texted to me the night before I arrived! If you book here then make sure you don’t lose your phone en route, because there are no staff on hand to buzz you in!
I had a great view over the ornate rooftops of that corner of Stockholm, and the room was huge, with its bathroom in a little pod. Yes, really. A separate little red pod in the middle of the room. Quirky, but I’m sure there’s method to the madness!
Having settled in I then went and explored. I don’t really like to look like a tourist when I’m out and about, so I didn’t have a map, and instead just went for a wander, walking down past the main station and coming across Gamla Stan, which I had read about when researching places to go in the capital. The view of it from across a bridge was all it took for me to fall in love with Stockholm. The light was fading but Gamla Stan was twinkling in the twilight by the water.
Gamla Stan is the original Stockholm, so to speak. It’s the old town and is one of the most charming places I’ve ever been. In fact, I found the city in general incredibly charming. With its faded facades of the multi-coloured houses and worn cobbled streets you might even think you were in the Mediterranean, and every little alleyway has a personality of its own. It is really beautiful, and I’m so glad I stumbled upon it on Sunday evening!
The only issue on my wander was when I was followed by a man after I went under the arches behind parliament. He was standing still under the arches and then started walking when I went past. I noticed and so I stopped at the upcoming bridge, which I wasn’t intending to do. He also stopped on the other side of the bridge. I took some photos and walked a few paces. So did he. I increased my speed a little and thought I had lost him at a set of traffic lights, when I managed to cross before it went red. I went into a little souvenir shop to try and hide, but he then came in there too. The second I saw him come in I went straight out a different door again and managed to lose him.
I guess that’s the definite downside to travelling alone, but fortunately I noticed what he was up to and was able to control the situation as much as possible and get away. I’d intended on exploring a bit more of the city as night fell, but after that I thought it best to head back to my key-less hotel (where I was now glad to be able to bolt the door) and get ready for my full day in Stockholm!
My first port of call of the day was the tourist centre on Vasagatan by the station to go and collect a Stockholm Card which I had pre-paid for online before I left Hamburg. This is the same premise as the Oslo Pass and covers public transport and certain attractions, and for ease of travelling around the city it’s a must-have. While I was there I also asked about their Winter Boat Tours, and so I headed down Strömgatan, which skirts along the bridge over to Gamla Stan, and gives a beautiful view of the Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet) and parliament (Riksdag) on the right, with the Opera (Kungliga Operan) on the left.
Down from Strömgatan you find Strömkajen which is a little port where I bought my ticket for the tour.
This area is beautiful, with tall and decadent architecture in a wide array of neutral shades. An exception to this lies just behind the Kungliga Operan, and the coral pink exterior of Sankt Jakobs Kyrka is plain to see from afar. Its green roof and bright walls make it seem out of place amongst the beige surrounding it, making it one of Stockholm’s most interesting architectural triumphs, of which it certainly has many.
The boat tour lasts an hour and fifteen minutes and ventures out to the beginning of the Swedish archipelago, which comprises over 30,000 islands. The tour gives a beautiful view of Gamla Stan, the district of Södermalm, Prince Eugene’s former residence and Strandvägen, a sea- and dock-facing boulevard which was said to be modelled on the most beautiful streets in Paris.
I sat on the top deck of the little boat, wrapped in one of the red blankets they provided as we circled round one of the archipelago’s bigger islands, Fjäderholmarna, which was once used as a military base. These days it’s looked after by three people who live there all year round, and is open to the public in the summer. The military dug into rocks on the island to create storage for equipment, and these areas are now used to mature whiskey.
The journey out to the archipelago is beautiful, and we were lucky that the sun began to shine over the frosty city as we travelled, giving some gorgeous views of the capital!
After the tour I caught Stockholm’s only tram line, the blue Tram 7, to Vasamuseet on the island of Djurgården, which houses the warship Vasa. The ship is the only preserved 17th century vessel of her kind, and she sank 20 minutes into her maiden voyage in Stockholm harbour in 1628, but wasn’t recovered from the harbour until 1961. I would definitely recommend the Vasamuseet if you only have time for one museum in Stockholm.
Words can’t adequately explain just how big the Vasa is; as much of a cliché as it sounds, she’s magnificent. There’s a cinema screen showing the story of the construction of the Vasa’s doomed and over-ambitious design, as well as detailing how she was raised from the seabed only last century. The films run on repeat in various languages with subtitles, and there’s a timetable showing timings as well as private tours around the museum led in different languages.
The museum has more to offer, including the skeletons of some of those who were found on board and research into who the people may have been and which ailments they had, as well as certain artefacts which were recovered with the ship and a reconstruction of part of the ship for visitors to roam around. There are also masts on the outside of the museum to give an impression of just how big the Vasa was, and also how inappropriate her proportions were to withstand travel.
I wanted to walk over to Gamla Stan for one last look to round off my day (I did fit in a bit of shopping beforehand, but we won’t dwell on that one. Pure market research, of course.), and found myself in Stortoget, a public square in the old town.
There’s a tall red building next to a shorter yellow one, which combine to create one of Stockholm’s most famous sights, and on closer inspection you find the red house is actually a café called Kaffekoppen.
Kaffekoppen, although extortionate (as I found out only when seeing the exchange rate from SEK to Euro. I’d rather have remained oblivious!), is a fascinating little corner of the city. The design is quite gothic inside, the eeriness of the ashy grey walls and distressed, mismatched furniture only added to by flickering long white candles in tarnished pewter candlesticks. They do a mean apple cake though, I have to say!
I rounded off my day with a walk over to Södermalm, and then somehow managed to navigate the very complex underground system back to the central station and ultimately to my hotel!
I said a very sad goodbye to Stockholm that morning (made at least marginally easier by having bought my return ticket for the Arlanda Express. It’s the little things), it’s quite an enchanting place and I’m looking forward to being able to venture back there one day; I know there’s so much more to see.
Just like Norwegian, Swedish is a North Germanic language derived from Old Norse, but I personally found it to have fewer similarities with written German than Norwegian. Mutually intelligible with Danish and indeed Norwegian, some of its greetings and exchanges were very similar to ones I heard in Oslo. ‘Thank you’ is ‘Tack’, and the Scandinavian greeting of ‘hej’ (pronounced ‘hey’) or ‘hej hej’ (which I find really cute) seems to be the same across the Nordic countries, but that’s about as far as my knowledge of Swedish goes…for now.
Desire to learn the language: 7/10
Likelihood of that happening: 4/10