City High: Stockholm

Stockholm is wonderful. Very, very wonderful. Yes it’s expensive. A beer is going to set you back the equivalent of about €8, and it costs €4.50 for one trip on the Metro (or at least it does if you don’t look into the transport system properly and just use the app you can download for your phone like we did). Also most places don’t take cash, which is actually a really good thing, but not so if you’ve just withdrawn a load of Krona from a cash machine and then you can’t spend it anywhere. But Stockholm is wonderful.

One of the 3,000 coffees we had in Stockholm
One of the 3,000 coffees we had in Stockholm

A huge part of Swedish life is fika. As far as I can make out, that’s basically having an hour off work, drinking coffee and eating a pastry. See, I told you Stockholm was wonderful. Sometimes the pastries got too much for us because they definitely prefer them on the sweet side of things, but I can assure you that we were tireless in our research on this matter.

Stockholm is going through a change though, with more and more barista-style coffee places popping up. Johan & Nyström is credited with starting the revolution, and it is easy to see why. The staff are knowledgable, and give you advice of what you’ll like whether you want to drink in, take away or just buy some beans. Then just around the corner is Drop Coffee, which hits the perfect spot between the relaxation of fika and the quality of the modern take on coffee culture.

You can’t move for coffee and you’ll be spoilt for choice. As well as the two above, I’d recommend Albert & Jack’s and Il Caffe. The former is simple and reminiscent of a farm shop, while the latter is aimed directly at those that enjoy their coffee with a side of MacBook. Snickerbacken 7 is vast. It covers several rooms, and as well as coffee you can pick up a really good salad or sandwich. It’s more than just that though, with a great little concept store on the side, and regular art shows.

Caitlin and the MacBooks at Il Caffe

Anybody who has read anything on this blog before will know how important food is. I was going to end that sentence with “food is to …”, but there are so many things that food is important to, that I’ve decided “food is” sums it up perfectly. Stockholm has a lot of good food.

Greasy Spoon knows how to brunch
Greasy Spoon knows how to brunch

As everybody knows, it is important to start each day with brunch. Brunch is by far the most important part of the day, and there are certain rules that should be adhered to: brunch should consist of at least four drinks (Bloody Mary, coffee, orange juice, water); brunch should look great when Instagrammed; brunch should be something hot, but still taste great when it has cooled a bit; you should put as much time and effort in finding the perfect brunch as possible; brunch should be booked in advance whenever possible. I’m pleased we’re all in agreement.

There are two brunch places in Stockholm I’d like to talk about. The first is Broms. Broms was good. I had a chicken burrito. The chicken burrito was good. Caitlin totally out-ordered me though, and food envy is a terrible thing. Avoid my mistake. Order the Huevos Rancheros.

Greasy Spoon is the sort of place you want to go to more than once, because you want everything on the menu. I went for the Full English, because when you live in Lisbon, finding a good Full English is an impossible task. Caitlin went for pancakes, because Caitlin invariably goes for pancakes. With my dish, the bacon was crispy, the butter was perfect, the egg was runny and the beans came out of the pot as soon as I’d taken a photo. The pancakes didn’t last long, so I can only assume that they checked Caitlin’s very high pancake standards.

Duck a l'Orange, at Usine 38
Duck a l’Orange, at Usine 38

When it comes to dinner, over on Djurgården you’ve got Oaxen. Half double Michelin starred Krog and half modern Nordic Oaxen Slip. We ate in Slip (and in fact couldn’t even work out where Krog was), and it will come as no surprise that I highly recommend it. You can start with a cocktail, mixed with their own homemade juices, and then onto plates that can be shared or kept for yourself. Expect lots of fish, lots of meat and lots of sauce. All the good stuff.

Other places of note include Usine, which as well as having a beautifully designed eating space, has a bistro, a tapas bar, a cafe, a take away section and, if you’re so inclined, a conference centre. Pelikan is a local institution, where you should definitely get the meatballs and then never eat at Ikea again.

If you eat one thing in Stockholm, make it herring from Nystekt Strömming
If you eat one thing in Stockholm, make it herring from The Herring Wagon

Of all the food in Stockholm there was one thing that I was looking forward to more than anything else. And in fact, we didn’t go there until lunch time on our final day. Nystekt Strömming is a herring wagon, just in front of Slussen Metro station in Södermalm. The special is fried herring, served with mashed potato, knäckerbröd, pickled cucumber, red onion and coleslaw. My god it’s good. The service is quick, and the price is low. I was too busy eating, but if memory serves that dish was about €6. I’ve thought about it every single day since we left.

I know that this is probably hard to believe after all of that, but there is actually more to Stockholm than just food and coffee. It’s the perfect place to just walk around. Thanks to the early sunset, it seems people are up at the crack of dawn. Walking along the water in the early hours, wrapped up nice and warm, is the perfect way to start the day. I wasn’t a fan of the old town, Gamla Stan, finding it a bit overrun with crappy tourist trap shops selling viking hats and trolls with yellow and blue hair, but if you walk down the side of it to get from Södermalm to Östermalm and Norrmalm, you can’t help but be taken by the views across the water. There’s also an Albert & Jack’s there, so you can dip in for a quick coffee fix too.

We didn’t manage to make it to the Abba Museum, although I’m not going to pretend we weren’t very, very tempted. And the same goes for Skansen, Stockholm’s famous open-air museum. There’s only so many hours in the day, and there was all the coffee drinking we had to fit in of course. We made sure that we got to go to Fotografiska however, and I’m really pleased we did. It was in its final days, but if you see it touring anywhere I’d suggest to try to see Albert Wiking’s We Have A Dream exhibition. It consists solely of portraits, with a brief biography and quote from each person featured. Some are famous throughout the world, others totally unknown. Everybody chosen is an inspiration though, and some of the stories are incredible for lots of different reasons.

Set on one of the small islands, Moderna Museet has a world class collection of modern and contemporary art. Warhol, Picasso, Matisse, Pollack, Miro, Bourgeois, Richter, Dali and Lichtenstein all housed in a building that lives up to the artworks featured inside. Overlooking the entire museum is Alexander Calder’s The Four Elements. It is a must-see, and I’d suggest dedicating at least an entire afternoon to it.

Girl looks at art, 2017
Girl looks at art, 2017

Grandpa, Stockholm
Grandpa, Stockholm

Whichever part of town you’re in, you’ll find yourself drawn into no end of great shops. You’ve got standalone shops from brands like Sandqvist, Acne Studios (including the famous Acne Archive) and Stutterheim, plus, as you’d expect, an exceptionally good Cos. Multi-brand shops like Grandpa, APLACE and the C-Store offer all the brands you’d expect – Wood Wood, Norse Projects, A.P.C. and Our Legacy. And there is at least one high quality vintage store in Siv & Åke. Probably more, but that was the best we visited. The highlight is undoubtably Nitty Gritty, with the men’s and women’s stores found on the same street as each other. A great range of brands, and very nicely laid out. Between the two is great little place called Papercut. As well as a huge range of international print titles, you’ll find stationary from Mark’s and blu-rays from the Criterion Collection.

Finally, I feel I should give a mention to The Grand Hôtel. The first few days of my trip were with work, before Caitlin flew out to join me for pretty much everything I’ve mentioned above. I was hosting a conference and let me tell you, The Grand Hôtel may as well be called The Grand Budapest Hotel. What a place. If you’ve got a spare €400 to spend on a night there, do it. The Nobel Prize dinners were hosted there in the early days, and you can pretend you’re there to pick up your Peace Prize. Not that I did that. Obviously…

ship stockholm
herring wagon stockholm