March weather in Stockholm can be a bit unpredictable – chilly, grey, rainy and windy one day and sun shining gloriously giving buildings and water a golden hue the next.
It was a short 4 night trip jam packed with memorable experiences and impressions. Flying into Stockholm via SAS was a breeze from Berlin with a hour and a half flight that was comfy and calm. Hot tea was served on the evening flight and I was impressed at the bit size container of fresh organic milk – not the powered stuff along with it. (Organic milk is not served on U.S. flights - but it should!) Details. It’s the small stuff that collectively makes a big difference, especially when traveling.
Having just given a presentation on wellness in airports at ITB Berlin, I admired the architecture of Stockholm Arlanda with its clean lines, wooden floor, minimalist and functional approach to the design. An absence of advertising and shops in the gate area was a welcome change and added to a sense of peacefulness to the welcome experience.
When the bellman from the Grand Hotel opened the door to my room, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (Ode to Joy) played in my head. I don’t think I could have smiled more widely as I scanned the room. The bellman pulled back floor length curtains to reveal stellar views over looking the water and the prime real estate of downtown. Binoculars were staged nearby with a map pointing out silhouetted buildings of significance including Parliament, the Royal Palace, Stockholm Opera House and others notable buildings. A fruit platter so artfully displayed it looked like it could have been in a Renaissance painting, beckoned me to take pictures before it was disturbed. The room was truly beautiful in a regal way. For someone who loves traditional art, I couldn’t take my eyes off the walls. The wallpaper was simply gorgeous in rich hues of blue with exotic birds and flowers and the crystal chandelier gave an air of complete elegance. I was too excited to sleep despite a long day, burgeoning chest cold and heavy work/travel schedule that week so I snapped pictures and sent them to family with the subject line “I am in heaven!” announcing my glee.
Sniffle sniffle. Oh dear. Maybe breakfast would help? A nice cup of hot water with lemon and honey helped as I sat quietly watching the morning unfold from my vantage point in Veranda. There was everything imaginable served – a smorgasbord of hot and cold dishes – fresh juices, yogurts, meats, cheeses, eggs, Swedish pancakes, fresh fruit, cereal, oatmeal, breads, pastries – actually 124 items to choose from - oh my! Amazingly the most appealing dish that morning was hot farina with lingon berries. I never eat farina but the warm silky texture felt great to my sore throat and the pop of red tart berries in mound of hot cereal was cheery to my eyes and palate.
Elisabeth Daude speaks five languages and is a font of knowledge about Stockholm. She specializes in private, customized tours for the city she loves and is a seasoned pro with over 20+ years of experience. “Bundle up” she advised, before heading into the grey, windy cold. We started out from the Grand Hotel, crossed the bridge and made our way past the Royal Palace to walk Gamla Stan (Old Town). Gamla Stan dates back to the 13th century with narrow cobble streets, meandering allies and crooked historic merchant homes – its considered one of the best persevered medieval city center in the world. In this small area, you’ll find the Stockholm Cathedral (where the Crown Princess was married in 2010), the Nobel Museum, Riddarholm Church and the Royal Palace. Elizabeth timed it perfectly so we could see the changing of the guards as the clock tower rang. What I also enjoyed was Elizabeth’s eye for pointing out things she though I might enjoy. She had read up on me a bit in anticipation of our time together – so knew quite a bit about what I liked. (Hint: food and beautiful things) Along the way, we stopped at an award winning non-profit bakery and a sweet shop that specialized in historical maps and prints. Who doesn't love chocolate? Which brought us to Chokolat
Using the Stockholm Card allows you to access to public transportation and a host of attractions. We used it to make our way to the Bohemian & trendy southern island called Sodermalm (SOFO for short). This is where the hipsters hang with an abundance of quirky vintage, clothing and design shops. We stopped at a place called “Meatballs for the People” which is a unique twist on Swedish meatballs – with a wide selection ranging from bear, cow, pig an elk to salmon and vegan meatballs. The owners take food sourcing seriously and each slaughtered animal has a tracked history including the origin, owner, demographics of the animal and butcher. For me – an avid animal lover – this was of too much information but I could see for meat lovers how this is a big draw. Walking into Parlans Caramels was a blast from the past - very retro chic as if you are walking into a shop from the 1940's. Here they create artisanal creamy chews made from butter, sugar syrup and fruit purees and hand wrap these bite-sized delights. Flavors include vanilla-sea salt, coffee, peppermint, anise and so many others. Being a food lover – I truly enjoyed perusing the aisles of Nytorget Urban Deli – a super hip deli bistro and filled to the hilt at lunch. If I had more space in my suitcase or carry-on, I am sure I would have bought a stash of goods here.
In the afternoon, Elisabeth parted and Tina Larsson, Press Officer for Stockholm Tourism Board met me and we headed off to Royal Djurgården for a Swedish custom called a fika. Fika (pronounced fee-ka) is coffee break of sorts where people gather over coffee, tea and shared sweets to socialize. Rose's Garden Cafe (Rosendal Stradgard) is enchanting - everything is cooked from scratch! Raw materials are gathered from nearby organic gardens in season. In Season provide our gardener kitchen and bakery with garden organically grown crops and bread is baked from organic grain in our wood-fired stone oven. Really special!
My guess would be that I covered 25,000 steps that day. If I only had my Fitbit! Stockholm is clearly a city for walkers which is great exercise and provides a more intimate way to get to know a destination.
Watch for the next series of articles on Stockholm:
- Chockladboll (Swedish Chocolate Balls) - Perfect for Easter or any occassion
- Meet Chef KC Wallberg
- Nordic Spa & Well-being at the Grand Hotel
- Exploring Stockholm: Cruising & Culture