Travelling can be challenging, since you always strive for the local experience. For people visiting Stockholm, this must be particularly challenging. The Nordic countries are infamous for their coldness, fear not, I will provide you with a full on guide to the real Stockholm. I grew up in Stockholm, I found that growing up there I never explored the city. There was rarely a time when I discovered new things, and I’ve been to all the museums on school excursions. But I cannot recall anything about my visits to them. There is an innate bias against my home city, with that said, as I’ve become a swede abroad, and on my many returns I have finally been given the chance to explore my beautiful hometown and I have gained some new found appreciation.
Which borough is the best?
This is a fairly straight forward question anyone and everybody ought to ask in a new city. Of course, this may also depend on your own preferences. But I will describe the most relevant ones and what to expect in each borough.
The image is borrowed from here.
This trendy part of Stockholm is home too many popular bars. There is amazing shopping throughout this borough, such as the high-end Stockholm brands like, Filippa K, Acne & Whyred. In the summer ‘medis’ or medborgarplatsen is filled with restaurant seating. Trying a shrimp toast or crayfish sandwich at the legendary ‘Kvarnen‘ is a must. from Slussen the North/East end (towards Gamla stan) to the southern part the street ‘Götgatan’ runs and here you can find heaps of shopping. Don’t miss cool restaurants such as the ‘Bistro Bananas’ who serve delicious vegan food and pizzas (they have meat options too, for those of you who worry).
Lots to see along ‘Hornsgatan’
Running in the opposite direction from Slussen is ‘Hornsgatan’, towards Hornsgatan. At the end of the Island, you find Hornstull, here you have a beach and park where you can swim, drink & have a BBQ. Generally public drinking isn’t allowed in Sweden, but the ‘Tantolunden’ is exempted. At this part of Södermalm you also find ‘Hornhuset‘ which hosts a bunch of bars and restaurants. Perfect for a trendy evening out.
On ‘Hornsgatan’ you have a bunch of hidden gems. Restaurant ROST a trendy Pizza restaurant with contemporary Swedish Pizzas and tasty semi-local beers. Fancy some Spanish food? Suss out out ‘Ramblas‘ by Mariatorget. This square ‘Mariatorget’, is home to heaps of bars and restaurants, it’s easy to find some nice places to hangout around here. Nearby ‘Hornsgatan’, you have one of the best viewpoints of Stockholm, on the top of a mountain. So if you feel like a unique point of view, suss out ‘Skinnarviksberget‘.
There is another trendy and hidden from tourists area at Södermalm, a square called ‘Nytorget’. Its easy to walk from both ‘Slussen’ and ‘Medis’. But, walking from ‘Slussen’ you’ll have the chance to get a terrific view over Stockholm. Around Nytorget, you’ll find some cool clothing stores and great cafés. Such as this remarkable place ‘Urban Deli’, perfect for both lunch and dinner, they have several locations in Stockholm, but this is my personal favourite, although another one of them have a lovely roof terrace. At Urban Deli, they have an emphasis on good and fresh food, they have their own grocery store. Around this area you have loads of bars too, perfect for a night out.
The hidden gems
Nearby ‘Skanstull’ you have two very local hidden gems. First is the ‘Thaiboat‘ this is a restaurant on a boat who serve thai-food, as the name gives away. On this boat, the food is amazing, but what’s even more impressive is the beach where you can have a delicious cocktail. The decor is exotic and funny, the whole experience is very enjoyable. Just ‘around the corner’ you have one of Stockholm’s best Night Clubs ‘Trädgården‘ this has a more trendy vibe rather than a posh. It has a ‘Söder-vibe’ truly incorporating the Söder-feels. So if you’ve fallen in love with Södermalm, Trädgården is a must to finish the evening off.
This small island north of Södermalm is the old town of Stockholm. Here you have the castle and the old church, the ‘Storkyrkan‘ still have a catholic vibe, although Sweden is protestant, the King(s) have chosen to let the church remain decorated in a catholic vibe, the Castle itself is open to visitors and have a museum in the basement, exhibiting the clothes worn by the royals throughout the centuries. The small island also borders to ‘Drottninggatan’ the biggest shopping street in Stockholm. Before that, you will pass a tiny island where the parliament is located. Experiencing this view is amazing, overlooking Grand Hotel and the castle. All the buildings around here are old and colourful, giving a true Stockholm feeling.
The area of Gamla Stan is crawling with tourists, and there are many shops and restaurants directed at the tourist, and many traps. Particularly at ‘Västerlånggatan’ & ‘Österlånggatan’ I’d say; ‘stay clear off’. But, wander off a bit and you will find breathtaking streets with cosy cafés and restaurants. It is a tiny island and you can easily explore every part of it. I did have the chance to go to a ‘touristy’ restaurant, in Gamla Stan, a viking restaurant, with the full decor and dishes. It was amazing, what an experience it was fun (& expensive), I was also surprised that the food was very tasty. I full heartedly recommend this viking restaurant ‘Aifur‘ it truly is an enjoyable experience.
Where the locals go
By the docks, facing the ‘Djurgården’ you have some very lovely bar/restaurants which is a popular spot any warm summer day. Particularly ‘Mr. French‘ is seemingly packed at any given sunny day. The food they serve is delicious too, I definitely recommend a visit at the restaurant.
Norrmalm & Östermalm
This massive borough is mostly divided into smaller parts. Like, Vasastaden, Gärdet etc. Most significant is that this, particularly Östermalm is associated with the posher parts of Stockholm. If you fancy some expensive shopping, here you can visit ‘Biblioteksgatan’ a shopping street, NK (Nordiska Kompaniet) and Mood Gallerian. The latter two are high-end malls, where you can find any fashion brand imaginable.
In this areas you have some famous landmarks, Hötorget (the Haymarket) where, Konserthuset, the concert hall is located, a big blue building. This is where the Nobel price ceremony is held. There is yet another high-end mall here too, P.U.B, which bridges Hötorget and Drottninggatan, the biggest shopping street stretching from Gamla Stan through the parliament and beyond Hötorget.
The famous square ‘Sergels Torg’ by Central station is also here. but it is not necessarily something you need to see. It is much nicer walking towards Djurgården and through Kungsträdgården. Djurgården is very beautiful and you have both two of my favourite restaurants there, Skroten and Oaxen.
There is a square called ‘Stureplan’ here you have a hectic nightlife and many posh clubs night clubs. Usually the nightclubs have a higher age limit that what’s required by law. Typically its 23-25 y/o, but on Wednesdays you’ll be able to get in if your younger. Of course, if you are 20 etc, you may be let in on a Friday and Saturday too, but then it’s usually better to be on the list or be a bit early.
Do you fancy Market Halls? Östermalm has one of Stockholm’s best one, definitely most beautiful Market Halls, ‘Östermalms Saluhall‘ is terrific local market. Lots of great coffees around for those Swedish ‘fikas’ (The verb for having a coffee or tea & Kanelbulle with a friend). The area is also very local and non-touristic, so can get that ‘Stockholm-feel’ and seamlessly melt in the local surrounding.
Are you looking for dinner in this area? There is a lot of restaurants around these neighbourhoods. ‘Taverna Brillo‘ right at Stureplan is a great dinner place right before a night out. The restaurant is huge, with more casual dinners to proper ones too. It’s a very cool vibe throughout the venue and the atmosphere is excellent. Fancy some meat or fish? I suggest you visit ‘Kött & Fiskbaren‘ the fresh food is of top quality and the staff is very knowing. In addition, they have great cocktails! The last restaurant I will mention is ‘Brasserie Balzac‘ a french inspired vibe with lovely staff and delicious food, what more could you wish for?
Perhaps you are keen for some bubbles and cheese? Then visit the trendy new ‘Cavabaren‘ There menu includes oysters, iberico ham and many more tapas. Of course there is an emphasis on Cava! The venue is super trendy and cosy. Definitely a place you’d like to hang around at.
Nearby Central station you can see ‘Stockolms Stadshus’, the city hall, with the 3 crowns. At the beginning of the borough ‘Kungsholmen’, although being more residential, the area has a lot of lovely restaurants such as ‘Orangeriet‘ the atmosphere of the place is incredible.
Walking along the water by the city hall, you see across to the island of Södermalm, a very pretty view. You will see the ‘München Bryggeriet’ and the skinnarviksberget. Along this walk, you’ll pass a lovely café, right on the water side with an idyllic feeling. Definitely worth a visit, the café is called ‘Mälarpaviljongen‘ and at night it turns in to a bar with latish opening hours when the weather allows for it. To visit Kungsholmen definitely accounts for an experience in the real Stockholm.
On Kungsholmen there is a huge park, Rålambshovsparken, in this park there is a very unique bar ‘The Boule bar’, although they do have several locations, this is a personal favourite. The serve, brunch, lunch and dinner, that’s beside the main point of the bar, to play the game boule. It’s a lot of fun to do with a group of friends whilst enjoying some tasty alcoholic beverages.
Feel like you are missing nature and a swim? Then I suggest you visit the ‘Fredhällsbadet‘ a lovely swimming spot right at Kungsholmen. Even though you are in central Stockholm, the nature is very present.
Other Boroughs- also key to the real Stockholm
There are of course other boroughs and much more to see of Stockholm. But these are the main areas you’ll be moving within on your visit. Something that is very unique to Stockholm is its archipelago. It consists of more than 20.000+ islands, and some are Grinda and Sandhamn popular and easy to get to. Here you can spend a night at a Wärdshus, a local in, typically serving amazing food. There are many people living here seasonally, but some are all-year-arounders, regardless life is flourishing in the summers. So, if you find yourself with a lot of time on your hands, give it a visit. It’s an experience you won’t regret.
Want to see some more photos of Stockholm? Suss out my Gallery!