It’s Scandinavia’s unofficial capital of cool, swimming in talented designers and boasting some of the most elegant architecture in northern Europe. And yet, for all its glamour, Stockholm is a surprisingly friendly place with plenty for the curious traveller to love.
From five-star hotels to hostels and even campsites, there’s no shortage of places to stay in Stockholm, much of it pleasingly stylish. Some, indeed, even have style in their name, the comfortable Hotel ibis Styles Stockholm Odenplan (Västmannagatan 61) among them. A modestly priced three-star, the hotel is central enough to be convenient and stylish enough to please even the pickiest of travellers. Pleasant though the ibis Styles is, for something with a little more pizzazz, little beats the Berns Hotel (Näckströmsgatan 8), a glamorous establishment that has been welcoming visitors since 1863. Despite its longevity, it has had several makeovers, the most recent of which took place just a couple of years ago. It also has an excellent restaurant named Nosh and Chow on site, as well as a cocktail bar popular with local hipsters.
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Sprawled across 14 islands, Stockholm ought to be a public transport nightmare but it’s not – largely thanks to its comprehensive network of buses, trams and trains, all of which run like clockwork. The Tunnelbana, or T-bana, metro system is the quickest way to get from A to B, although the bus service is also easy to use and a good way to explore if you have time to spare. Trams are fewer, although the number seven, the Djurgårdslinjen, wends its way past many of the main sights. If you’re planning to rely on public transport, pick up a Stockholmskortet which lasts for one, two, three or five days and gives you unlimited travel on all routes. Other options include taxis (expensive), car hire or bicycle, with those interested in the latter able to benefit from Stockholm’s excellent – and extensive – public bike scheme.
It might be famous for flat-pack furniture but it would be criminal to waste a trip to Stockholm on a visit to IKEA. The Swedish capital is a design hunter’s paradise, whether you’re after über-cool clothes or unique homeware. Department store Nordiska Kompaniet on Hamngatan is a good place to start and boasts a carefully curated edit of the major local names. For something a little more unusual, try Store Stockholm on Tjärhovsgatan or head to ETC on Odengatan, a boutique specialising in quirky labels, among them shoe brand Gram which creates footwear sold by weight. Elsewhere, Birger Jarlspassagen, a pretty fin-de-siècle shopping arcade in Östermalm, is perfect for anyone in search of homeware, jewels and vintage boots courtesy of retro emporium, Mrs H. For homeware, don’t miss DesignTorget on Götgatan, where you’ll find everything from incredible art to bizarre knick-knacks
Fresh, locally sourced ingredients are the order of the day in Stockholm wherever you choose to eat. Unfortunately, eating out in Stockholm isn’t cheap so it’s worth checking out markets such as Östermalms Saluhall if you’re on a budget. If not, there’s plenty of choice with everything from local favourites to Peruvian specialities on the menu. For Swedish fare, few do it better than the recently opened Lux Dag för Dag (Primusgatan 116), which, along with toothsome seasonal specialities, boasts stunning views of Lake Mälaren. Those who like their food with a view should also check out Södermalm’s Gondolen (Stadsgården 6), where supper takes place in a cable car suspended over the harbour. The touristy Gamla Stan is also worth a look: despite its many landmarks, it has many a hidden gem, including the Cultur Bar and Restaurant (Österlånggatan 34) which offers Spanish tapas with a Scandinavian twist.
The locals might have a Teflon-like attachment to heavy metal but there are still plenty of places in Stockholm where you won’t be assailed by the sound of caterwauling guitars. One of the more unusual is the Icebar Stockholm (Vasaplan 4), where you can indulge in a sub-zero cocktail in surroundings made entirely from ice. But while the Icebar scores points for its interesting concept, most of the action happens in and around Östermalm’s Sturegatan. Among its many bars and clubs is Sturecompagniet (Sturegatan 4), Stockholm’s biggest club – and its busiest come 1am. For a slightly more relaxed evening, head south to Södermalm, which boasts a diverse range of bars and clubs offering everything from rock to reggae. Och Himlen Därtill (Götgatan 78) is one of the most glamorous, largely thanks to its Skybar. Pet Sounds Bar (Skånegatan 80) is also worth a visit and does a good line in live music although, be warned, its repertoire does include death metal.