Travel Tips from Locals in Your Fave Cities
Although Stockholm may be known for its cool climate – as with most Scandinavian destinations – its atmosphere and people are undeniably warm and welcoming. Whether you plan on visiting Gamla Stan (the capital’s medieval urban core), having ‘fika’ at a cozy neighborhood café, or exploring the Stockholm archipelago traversing the city’s waters by boat – there’s plenty of things to experience. Agnes Pedrosa Mårelid, now based in Abu Dhabi, has lived in Sweden since 1997 until later relocating in 2008. Despite now living in the emirates, Agnes still feels a sense of home whenever she goes back to Sweden: “We still go back every summer to our red wooden house in a lakeside forest, about twenty minutes away from Stockholm city. Our village is situated near a nature reserve so summer is spent hiking around the forest, picking berries and mushrooms and swimming in the lake.” She shares tips for your next visit to Stockholm.
Before you go
Sweden has four beautiful seasons and each season is as beautiful as the other. Being far up North in Europe, Sweden is famous for the midnight sun during summer. It is when the sun never sets but come wintertime, daylight could be just a few hours. Winter guarantees plenty of snow and up in the North, the famous northern lights abound. One thing a traveler should know when visiting Sweden is that there is no such thing as bad weather, only wrong clothes. This means that every season is to be enjoyed with the proper attire or gear. If you come in the summer, be prepared to bring rain gear as it could rain anytime. And if you are visiting in winter, the proper winter wear that can withstand subzero temperatures should be at hand, the right winter shoes for walking on snow and not slipping on icy paths, and of course, one must be equipped with knowledge on the layering of garments to keep the body warm.
Must do’s and must see’s
Stockholm is called the Venice of the North. So, when visiting the capital try to take advantage of both city sightseeing and a visit to the islets out in the archipelago. A visit to the Old Town (Gamla Stan) is a prerequisite to making your fairy tale dreams come to life. Apricot-colored buildings with black roofs line up along cobbled-stone pathways of Drottninggatan in the Old Town. Quaint, small and delightful Scandinavian shops huddle up all the way to the end of the street, the tempting waft of newly baked waffles in a nearby ice cream shop signals that the Royal Palace is not far. Upon reaching the end of the street, you find the majestic and imposing Royal Palace on top of the hill overlooking the lake and the National Museum across. A stone’s throw away from the palace is a boat terminal with cruises and boat sightseeing that will bring you around the Stockholm archipelago, I recommend a visit to Vaxholm, an idyllic island which is an hour boat from the city proper or check out culture, cuisine and history at Fjäderholm Islands.
Another landmark not to miss in Stockholm is the well-preserved Vasa warship from 1628 at the Vasa Museum located in Djurgården, a long walk or bus ride from the city proper. While at Djurgården, visit Skansen, the world’s oldest open-air museum that features Sweden’s Nordic animals (if you haven’t seen a reindeer or a moose or a bear – this is the place) but what makes Skansen unique are the very old houses and farmsteads that come from different parts of the country and moved to Skansen to create a mini-village teeming with life from the past. A visit to Skansen warps you to the time when Sweden was an agriculturally based country – experience village life in the Nordics by starting it out with a visit to the glass factory, then move on by grabbing a cinnamon bun at a local bakery, peek at a merchant’s house, and pass by the local printer then to the local grocery store.
What to be aware of
Travelers should be aware that most of Stockholm’s shops and restaurants prefer that you pay by card. The idea of carrying cash and paying cash will soon be a thing of the past. Sweden in 2023 will be the first cashless city in the world. The country that first introduced bank notes in Europe in 1661 will now be the first country to go cashless. If you happen to go to ABBA museum in Stockholm, you can only pay by card or pay online. IKEA and other stores are following the trend.
Sweden adopts one of the world’s best policies: the right to roam. It is the freedom to roam, a general public’s right to access public and privately-owned land, lakes and rivers for recreation and exercise. You can go kayaking, pick berries and swim in any lakes or forests around Sweden. It means nature is accessible to the public!
Fika (coffee break) is a way of life. You find plenty of Swedes in coffee shops with a cup of coffee in hand and a cinnamon bun. At work, people take breaks to find time for “fika”.
Lagom is a word that defines what moderation is all about. It’s quite a helpful value because it allows you to appreciate the things you have and yearn for things that are not too little or too much. Lagom means “just about right’.
Traveling on a budget
Although Sweden is known to be an expensive country to visit, there are many ways to save money and be on a budget. If you are visiting Stockholm for one, three or five days – I would recommend that you get the Stockholm Pass. It is a card that gets you access to 60 wonderful places of interest in Stockholm, including all of the aforementioned places I recommended earlier. It gives access to cultural and historical places and museums and yes, the pass includes boat sightseeing in the archipelago. My recommendation is that if you are in Stockholm for three days, get the 3-day Stockholm Pass for twelve major attractions and hop on hop off bus and boat sightseeing, all for a price of only USD133.
How to get around
Forget taxi and uber, Stockholm is a place where walking is highly needed to get around. But, for long distances, there are very punctual buses and similarly punctual trains that operate all over Stockholm. Avail of the SL card which is basically the train and bus card that can be bought as a day pass, a week pass, or a month’s pass – not for unlimited rides in buses and trains however.
Best food and places to eat
The best coffee shop to try fika is at Vete Katten in Kungsgatan near the Haymarket.
Try authentic Swedish fish and seafood dishes at Sturehof in Stureplan or if you want a feel of eating in an indoor marketplace, try Melanders Fisk at Soderhallarna at Medborgarplatsen. Toast Skagen is a national seafood delicacy.
Swedish meatballs is the national dish and must be tried while in Sweden. It is delectable with potatoes and lingonberry jam. Every Swede would claim that their grandmothers make the best Swedish meatballs but in the absence of a grandmother nearby, most restaurants along Old Town serve meatballs. The best one I ever had in Stockholm was at Restaurant Prinsen in Östermalm.
Hermans Restaurant and Garden Café. Atop Sodermalm hill overlooking a panoramic view of the Stockholm inlet and the Old Town is a garden restaurant that serves the best vegetarian lunch buffet in town.
Mälarpaviljongen at Norr Mälarstrand is your garden pavilion restaurant and floating bar situated by the lake with a perfect view of the archbridge Västerbron. It is romantic, it is unpretentious, and it is good food. Try the smoked salmon and their house rosé wine, and enjoy Stockholm summer by the lake – yes, right in the middle of the city.
Tyresö Slott. If you find a chance to get out of the city, try Tyresö town located South of Stockholm. There you find the very romantic Tyresö Slott (Castle) and its sprawling English gardens with a connecting islet ideal for swimming and sailing.
Within Djurgården island (part of the city), just right behind Skansen is an organic garden called Rosendals Trädgård where you can enjoy walking around the rose gardens and follow the path to the aromatic herb gardens. It has a garden café that serves apple pies and rhubarb pies and wonderful Swedish desserts. You can freely picnic at the apple orchard.
Best time to visit
Summer is definitely the best time to visit. July to August is perfect for more activities outdoors. But I have brought friends to Stockholm during the winter and it is lovely in the winter with all the snow around us. Walking on a frozen lake is an unforgettable adventure.
There are no Filipino restaurant in Stockholm, but there are Asian stores if you wish to buy Filipino ingredients. Mai-mai Asian Market is where Filipinos buy their ingredients and vegetables. The nearest comfort food would be to visit a Thai Restaurant or a Chinese restaurant but nothing beats knowing Filipino friends who cook and cater, they ease the homesickness and cravings.
Read the full edition of Illustrado Work & Play 2019 on www.issuu.com
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