After a visit to friends in Stockholm, our recent Swedish adventure continued with a few blissfully lazy days in the archipelago – a vast scatter of forested islands and rocky outcrops stretching from the city’s eastern flank out into the Baltic Sea.
Our base was Hotel J, which sits on the shore in Nacka Strand, a 20-minute ferry ride from central Stockholm. Spread across a 19th-century summerhouse and a series of modern blocks, it made a lovely retreat from the city hubbub.
The hotel’s interiors were styled by GANT in a chic nautical theme – nothing tacky or overdone, but a crisp and elegant blend of white and navy. We found tongue-and-groove walls, relaxed linen chairs, canvas-fronted cupboards and star-patterned throws – and, this being Scandinavia, candles glowing from every available surface.
Our room was perched at the top of the highest wing, with sweeping views towards the sea in one direction and the distant city lights in the other. After a very busy few months we were keen to do as little as possible, and much of our time was spent lazing on our terrace as steamboats pootled past and planes glided overhead. Every now and then, huge ships on their way in and out of port would emerge slowly and silently from behind a headland, almost as if they were playing hide and seek among the islands. And when a storm descended, we enjoyed snuggling up on armchairs by the floor-to-ceiling windows, watching the clouds and rain roll in.
On our second day we managed to find enough energy to explore and headed down to the jetty to board one of the little ferries that criss-cross the archipelago, joining bag-laden families journeying out to their summerhouses. The boats are the only way to reach many of the islands, and we were amazed to see people lugging BBQs, furniture, water vats and even huge planks of wood on board.
After a leisurely float past bobbing yachts and tiny islets dotted with cabins, we hopped off at Vaxholm, the so-called ‘capital of the archipelago’. It’s one of the most populated islands but still retains a sleepy air, and we spent a happy couple of hours mooching around its pretty square, shelling a mound of giant prawns at a seafront café, and gazing out to the fortress that guards the entrance to the harbour.
Back at the hotel, we passed our evenings lounging in the bar before meandering down to Restaurant J, which occupies an old boathouse on the marina. It was a fantastic spot to linger over fresh seafood, watching the water turn golden as the sun dropped behind the opposite shore.
All in all, our seaside stay was the perfect complement to a weekend in the city, and a wonderful way to make the most of the brief Swedish summer. I’m sure we’ll wash up at Hotel J again one day soon…
All photography by Abi Dare