Well, after trips to Copenhagen, Oslo and Sweden, my ‘Summer of Scandinavian Adventures’ has sadly come to an end. We flew back from Stockholm last Friday after a fantastic week staying with friends in the city centre and then pootling around the archipelago that spreads out to its east.
Stockholm is a city of islands, water and vast skies, and I was instantly struck by its beauty when we first visited last year. That stay was in the depths of winter, when we were greeted by snow flurries, cosy candlelit windows and frosty pavements; this time we were treated to long Nordic evenings, balmy breezes and a soft, shimmering light that made the terracotta and ochre buildings look like they were glowing from within.
Stockholm’s residents tend to gravitate towards the water during the brief Swedish summer, and we spent a large chunk of our time joining them. We sipped drinks at Mälarpaviljongen, a floating bar spread across fairy-lit pontoons in the neighbourhood of Kungsholmen. We ambled through riverside parks where weeping willows framed views of the sun sinking behind the opposite shore. And we lingered over lunch at waterfront cafés as the backwash from passing boats sploshed gently against the quayside. Everywhere we went, there was a laid-back, holiday-like vibe; many Swedish businesses all but shut down during July, and life takes on a slower pace.
An entire day was spent meandering around the winding, cobbled streets of Södermalm, once a working-class district and now one of the city’s hippest quarters. We lost hours browsing its mass of independent boutiques and galleries, and stumbled across remnants of its past life, including shaded graveyards and tiny wooden workers’ cottages sandwiched between apartment blocks.
While in Söder, we couldn’t resist returning to Fotografiska, an excellent photography museum in a converted dockside warehouse and one of our favourite haunts from last year’s trip. After mooching around the exhibitions (including breathtakingly beautiful images of Africa from one of my favourite wildlife photographers, Nick Brandt), we headed up to the top-floor café. Here we indulged in fika, the Swedish take on afternoon tea (in this case coffee and spicy cardamom buns) as ferries whizzed past the floor-to-ceiling picture windows.
Our final evening in the city before heading out to the archipelago was taken up with a stroll around Gamla Stan, the historic heart of Stockholm. Its narrow alleys and wonky-roofed houses are touristy but oh-so-atmospheric, and we decided to go all out by joining a ghost walk (complete with a costumed, lantern-toting guide who regaled us with tales of murder, massacre and medieval plagues) before dinner at a raucous Viking-themed restaurant – both enormous fun.
I’ll post more about Stockholm, including our time in the archipelago and a review of a rather stylish hotel, next week. In the meantime, I think we might have to start planning a return trip. Perhaps next time around we’ll aim for a festive December break and experience yet another side of this wonderful city…
All photography by Abi Dare