One thousand islands, almost as many languages, endless flavors, and tucked under a roiling sky, Stockholm, Sweden must be staggeringly different for each visitor, every resident.

I had a mere six days, with my girlfriend and family, in which to absorb it all and while any vacation only scratches the surface of a big city; this one left me wondering if residents ever do the same. By the way, if you hadn’t read my earlier post on Karlstad, Sweden and meeting new relatives, do so here.

DAY ONE, GETTING ACCLIMATED

We hit the ground running as soon as we arrived from a four-hour drive from Karlstad. An amazing meal at Rolfs Kök, kicked our senses into overdrive and provided a sweet tone for the rest of our trip. We drank dessert and some local Swedish snaps provided just the right amount of sleep. Food became priority, as it was clear that this city had sin to offer the taste buds.

Second priority was changing the crappy hotel we got cornered into. Luckily, Hotel Hellsten granted our wishes, and we went from dark, compact, and right-off-the-noisy-street room, to fresh and airy courtyard view. Loved it after that, now off for adventure.

Day Two and the Swedish Archipelago

Stockholm archipelago, Sweden
Stockholm archipelago, Sweden

I’m torn to say it, but I still feel it all the same. I’ve nary felt more relaxed than on the Swedish island of Vaxholm. Of course, after spending half the morning wandering through Stockholm’s old town, Gamla Stan, one can’t help but feel relaxed. Think of California’s north coast, but on an island, with better weather and food, then populate with Swedes and Pinterest-esque copper cottages. Tough to replicate? Yup. Don’t try, just go.

Swedish archipelago

After wandering for a few hours, having lunch at Bistro Magasinet, and meeting a few locals, time was up and our ferry home had arrived. Oh well, more relaxing with Swedish beers on a boat ride back to the hotel.

Day Three – The touristy stuff: Subways, SkyView, & Fotografiska

If you’re going to be in Stockholm for a few days, it’s well worth the effort to do as locals do and grab a subway pass for the Tunnelbana (Tunnel Rail). There are stops almost everywhere you might need to go and the experience is quite pleasant compared to other city metros.

Stockholm Tunnelbana Metro
Stockholm Tunnelbana Metro

After said experience, we hopped on the SkyView, a pretty unique people-mover globe that takes you to a taller globe and gives you great views of the surrounding areas.

Done with SkyView, now time for a bit of mall shopping (right next door) and off to Södermalm for Fotografiska, a three-story art gallery situated on the waterfront with some world class exhibits. I highly recommend it, for the quick trip through its corridors, and if nothing else, the view at the top is a good one offering panoramic scenes of Stockholm herself.

Day Four – More boats!

You might have gotten the point already, that Stockholm is very boat-centric, but I’ll drive it home all the same. It is ridiculously easy to climb aboard one of the “boat buses” or a ferry to get around this city, and since there’s so much too, it saves precious time and energy, in the most pleasant way possible.

We used the Hop-On, Hop-Off boats, mainly because they were included in our Stockholm Pass cards, but also, quite frankly, they were one of the most relaxing ways to get from A to B.

Day Five & Six – Time to meet up with the siblings

I’ll combine our last few days, not because they weren’t important, but more they were a total blur. From our hotel room in Norrmalm we ventured forth to see Södermalm once again. Meeting up with the brother and sister in our AirBnB, we got a few moments to catch our breath because we would be later losing it in the ICEBAR.

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As cringe-worthily touristy this place is, we had a lot of fun. Sipping elder flower cocktails in 20 degrees F with furry ponchos? Worth it the entry fee (includes one tasty adult drink).

Now for more serious touring: Drottningholm Palace. Mia wanted to see this one most of all and the experience was pretty cool, if a little too self-guided. One can wander the palace, gardens, or nearby historical points, so it makes for a suiting half-day’s trip if you want to extend it.

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On the way back, we hopped off close by to our apartment, strolled through an awesome open space park, mingled with locals in a flea market and meandered back for more great food. I’m sure you could do the same combination in any big city, but somehow this portion of Stockholm felt like a dream. The air was somewhere between crisp and warm, the evening seemed like it could last forever.

Last day and last words

It isn’t so much that we weren’t ready to leave. In fact, I feel a 10 day vacation is the perfect amount of time. Enough to relax, but compact enough so you don’t get sick of one place. Such was our experience.

We crammed so much into certain portions, but balances enough downtime to make up for it. All the same, home was waiting, the day job was calling and Stockholm will again be here for another trip.

I will leave you with the same feeling I started with: Stockholm calls for a greater awareness of difference. Whether it’s for taste, smell, people, language, or light, this city culls an interesting variety to it; an amalgam that doesn’t quite fit the bill of stereotypical. Nothing you read will quite prepare you for its unexpected, but it will fill the familiar, if you’ve done your research.

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Special thank you to the people at Visit Stockholm for providing resources to help make my stay possible.

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