Sunday, 8 December 2013


1. DO visit during Advent
Scandinavians know how to do Christmas. Advent starts four weeks before Christmas and every Sunday is a mini celebration, so for the whole of December the city is alive with light. Every window - home or office, shop or restaurant - boasts an advent star ablaze 24/7. It's the perfect excuse to get those decs up early.

2. DON'T be afraid of the dark
Because you can forget about daylight. This time of year it doesn't get light until around 9am, and twilight starts setting in around 1pm. By 3pm it's dark - and I mean middle of the night dark.

3. DO cycle
Or walk. Or both. The metro is fast and easy to negotiate, but not particularly cheap. And if you take the metro, you miss the side streets, and little gems like this...

4. DO drink coffee
Stockholm is the city of coffee. The best coffee I've ever drunk in my life, ever, came from Kaffe on Saint Paulsgatan (pictured below) - if you're not staying in Sodermalm it's worth a trip south of the river just to taste it (also excellent buns and sandwiches). But you don't have to travel far for decent coffee in Stockholm. There's a coffee shop on every corner, and chains are rare (although Stockholm has its own - Wayne's). No sign of Starbuck's from the moment I left Heathrow until I got back here.

5. DON'T hit the bottle
This is the home of the £35 bottle of house red. Thirty. Five. Pounds.

6. DO get lost in the old town
Yes, it's quaint - but as its origins are more than seven hundred years old, it's allowed to be. This area (Gamla Stan) is the perfect place to lose several hours wandering the back streets and peering through doorways.

7. DON'T worry about being a tourist
Like it or not, Stockholm can't get away from Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. If you're feeling really lit-grock you can go for the whole tour (yes, there is one). Failing that, just wander nonchalantly into Mellqvist Kaffebar on Hornsgaten, where Steig Larrson wrote some of the series and which features in first book, and treat yourself to a cardamom bun. The staff will be tolerant, they're clearly used to it. While you're down in that neck of the woods, pop into the bar or cafe at Hotel Rival. Sightings of the owner, Benny from Abba, are rare but not unheard of. (Someone I met whilst there claimed he'd taken their coat the day before.)

8. DO windowshop
About the same time Isabel Marant entered our lives, so did Scandinavian fashion. Stockholm is home to Acne, the label that started it all, so a visit to their Normalmstorg global flagship is a must. Other worth-sees include Danish lifestyle concept store Illums Bolighus and the H&M flagship, both on Hamngatan and the designer shops in the district known, cringily, as SOFO (South of Folkungagatan). If you like a department store, Greta Garbo used to work in a hat shop in PUB on Hortoget. (I won't pretend it's not a stretch to envisage it.)

Acne's flagship store on Normalmstorg

9. DON'T believe anyone who tells you scandinavian designers are a bargain here
They're not. Stick to H&M.

10. DON'T calculate the exchange rate
Or you won't leave your hotel room. (In fact, are you sure you can afford to be in that hotel room?) They don't say Stockholm is one of the most expensive cities in the world for no reason, but it's still one of the loveliest. And they do great buns.

11. DO hang out in the local supermarket
I have a theory that if you want to get a feel for a place, visit a supermarket. The place to go to test my theory in Stockholm is Ostermalm, one of world's finest food halls. Failing that, though, any supermarket will do for a window on the average Swedish shopping basket.

12. DON'T be on a diet
Did I mention cinnamon buns?

No comments:

Post a Comment