Three days in Stockholm

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Wednesday 22nd October 2014

IMG_1212A friend who has three daughters and two granddaughters organises a “daughters’ day” every year. It can be anything – lunch at a posh restaurant, an evening at the theatre or a day at a spa hotel. What a brilliant idea, I thought, so I promptly went and organised a daughter’s day myself. Or three days as it turned out.

After lots of discussion we decided to go to Stockholm, or the Venice of the north as it’s sometimes known. Neither of us had ever been there before and Stockholm has everything – a stunning waterside setting, a historic old town, great design, cool shops and good coffee. I read somewhere that the Swedes love coffee so much that they drink an average seven cups a day – I’m clearly not in their league.

We stayed at the Story Hotel in Stureplan, which is chic but good value. It’s also a five-minute walk to Strandvagen, the posh street that runs along the waterfront. When we first arrived I couldn’t get my head around the geography of the city, which is spread across 14 islands, and the best thing we did was take a boat trip to get our bearings. My daughter was sceptical at first because she isn’t keen on organised tours but after a two-hour excursion in the October sunshine she was as entranced as I was. We saw everything from Gamla Stan, a maze of narrow, winding streets that looks like something out of a fairy tale, to the Royal Palace. In between, we soaked up a little of Stockholm’s culture and history.

One of our favourite discoveries was the island of Sodermalm, particularly the SoFo area, which is like a Scandi version of Shoreditch and has almost as many hipsters. How couldn’t you like somewhere that boasts a shop called Grandpa and a food store called the Nytorget Urban Deli that looks like Wholefoods and sells the best coffee beans?

Away from Sodermalm, I’d recommend the gloriously named Snickarbacken 7, a narrow 19th-century building with high ceilings and gothic arches that has been converted into a shop, art gallery and café. Their avocado on toast is heaven.

But the thing that stood out for us during our stay was how charming the Swedes are. My daughter accidentally left her purse at Fotografiska, the photographic museum with glorious views across the water to Gamla Stan and Skeppsholmen. When she rang at 8.30pm to ask if they’d found it, the woman on the switchboard exclaimed “we have been so worried about you. We will keep it safe for you.” I don’t think you’d get that reaction in London.

We felt guilty about not speaking Swedish but everyone in Stockholm speaks perfect English and no one looks in the least disapproving when you can’t attempt a single word of their language.

Another interesting discovery was Sweden’s strict laws on the sale of alcohol. We decided to buy a bottle of wine one evening and found that you can’t simply pop down to the supermarket and buy a bottle of Pinot Grigio. In Sweden wine, strong beer, spirits and liquors can only be bought at state-run stores called Systembolaget. There are apparently 25 Systembolaget shops in the centre of Stockholm and not only do they take a bit of finding but they usually close at 7pm during the week and at 3pm on Saturdays. Worse still, they aren’t open at all on Sundays. There would probably be a riot if laws like this were introduced in the UK but now I come to think about it, it would probably solve an awful lot of problems…

Leave a Reply