Stockholm | Sweden

Stockholm is an absolutely beautiful city (I think she knows it) & it feels like a proper city. I’m not completely sure what I mean by that but it makes sense walking around. While traveling through the Nordics we’ve gotten a taste of cities, a bit of the unforgiving natural elements that define this region & have found places we could call home, but now in Sweden everything feels a bit more posh, elegant & refined. To put it shortly, we felt fancy & smart, falling in love with the city.

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We arrived in Stockholm on Midsummer’s Eve, when most Swedes celebrate the traditional holiday. Since traditional festivities usually include plenty of nature & family time, most city dwellers flock to their country homes or visit with friends & family leaving much of the urban areas deserted.

The streets & canals are lined with ornately designed buildings, both commercial & residential, not just in the touristy old town, as is always the case, but also in the more “modern” areas. This has been the one city in the region we’ve seen that reminds us of the stereotypical picture you get in your mind when thinking about a European city. It’s probably getting old to hear, but we couldn't help pausing every so often just to say, “wow this really is simply beautiful” - even with the constant on & off again rain showers.

The city has grown on 14 small islands interconnected by 50+ bridges, making viewing it by the water an absolute must. One of the first things we did was to hop on a 2-hour boat cruise. The cruise weaved its way throughout the canals & through Lake Mälaren & (if you can handle the chilly wind) is easily the most relaxing & scenic ways to see most of Stockholm, learning a few bits of history & random “Jeopardy-style” facts.

Cities along the water seem to be our favorite; if anything, traveling around the world has made us even more sure we need to live somewhere on water someday.

Gamla Stan

Stockholm’s old town is one of the oldest in Europe & easily has the busiest street in the whole city as tourist flock to the cheeky shops & plethora of bars & restaurants. While we appreciated that many locals were out for the holiday, it was obvious the cruise ships were not. In need of a place to sit & rest, we wandered into Stortorget, sitting along the steps of the Nobel Museum & received a surprise piano concert by a young gentleman pushing his CDs by the fountain. It was basking in the warm summer sun, listening to classical piano music that brought on the feeling of posh sentiments; though less cozy after learning of the square’s bloody history.

The Royal Palace, the King’s official residence, is open as a museum for visitors (though we didn't go in) & it is rumored to be a) haunted & b) one room larger than Buckingham Palace. It’s obvious the town adores the royal family, or at least the beautiful Crown Princess’ family as their pictures are everywhere. As I am equally obsessed with a certain other famous princess, I understand the appeal.

A bit outside of old town you can visit the Royal National City Park, once the hunting grounds of Kings. For a chance to do something a little different & something we hadn't done on this trip so far, we spent one morning horseback riding through the park! As if fated, Ben’s horse was strong & stubborn, only wanting to eat & mine was apparently grumpy with new comers & only happy once he was out on the trail. It felt fitting.

Fotografiska & Vasa Museum

Stockholm has any number of things to do to keep you busy when it comes to the arts. Between Mosebacke, the Opera house & what must be the highest number of museums in a single city, it’s hard to be bored. There is even the ABBA museum dedicated to the famous group. Ben, however, didn’t have much interest in that particular one, I just sang all the lyrics I knew around town for 5 days. 😊

Fotografiska was probably our favorite; it’s a modern contemporary photography center showcasing various unique exhibitions, large & small, throughout the year. We lucked out & got to view a collection of Irving Penn’s work throughout his life. I was always obsessed with the work he did for Vogue. Also featured, was a curation of horse photography (probably the inspiration behind our sudden desire to ride) & frankly, a far too disturbing small exhibition on photos from a lab in South Korean that works to clone dogs…not my favorite.

The Vasa Museum is by far one of the most impressive & unique museums we’ve seen. The entire building is built around the Vasa, a war ship that was commissioned & sank roughly 20 minutes into its maiden voyage in Stockholm’s harbor. Whoops. She sat there for over 300 years until she was raised from the sea floor, fixed up & put on display along with various side exhibits about life in the 1600’s.

One evening, with the setting sun in the background, we sat alongside the main canal in one of numerous old ships now permanently docked & used as bars & restaurants, sipping drinks & looking out over the water across to old town. Spending nearly a full week in one place had been a treat, allowing us to get more of a feel for all parts of the city & not just feeling like tourist for a while. With Stockholm’s immense charm, we can see why so many of our European friends say the city is one of their favorites.