This month, our #gaanguide is taking you to Stockholm, Sweden: a city of welcoming people, sophisticated and charming neighborhoods, historic landmarks, and some of the most delicious food Scandinavia has to offer. So grab your parka, hat, and touchscreen gloves (product pick!) gaan + co is taking on a winter wonderland adventure worthy of all the thanks this holiday season! Välkommen!
Stockholm, Sweden is one of Western Europe’s most celebrated cities, with picturesque backdrops, especially in the winter months. In our opinion, it’s the best time of year to visit, between the magical lights, warm holiday drinks and the cold-weather activities you won’t find anywhere else in the world!
Stockholm consists of 14 continuous islands spanning across the Baltic Sea. Connected by 57 bridges, and stitched together by passenger boats with views of soaring spires around almost every corner, Stockholm is a looker, to say the least. The self-proclaimed capital of Scandinavia is the perfect balance of old-world and future-forward. It’s home to the well-preserved Gamla Stan neighborhood and historical landmarks dating back to the Vikings. It’s also home to some of the world’s most progressive cultural and culinary experiences. And let’s not forget the IKEA flagship and the best cinnamon buns of your life. Let’s get a move on.
Some basics: this is a city to explore by foot (dress appropriately), by boat (dress even more appropriately) or by the extremely convenient and easy-to-navigate subway system. If the subway is your jam, invest in a Stockholm Pass, which allows unlimited access to the public transportation system so you can hop on and off of trains, buses, and boats for one flat rate. The Stockholm Pass also includes entry to many of the city’s museums and attractions (some of which we’ll be recommending you check out!).
There are thousands of places to stay in Stockholm – with many of the AirBnb options oozing with that much-loved Scandinavian design esthetic. Stylish, yet smart and well furnished. Those in search of unique accommodations love the kitschy Jumbo Stay Hotel (which is technically a hostel). This hotel is literally constructed inside a repurposed aircraft. The rooms are situated in different parts of the plane and it’s both comfortable and a novelty that you won’t find anywhere else in Europe. Another great spot is the First Hotel Reisen, located in the popular Old Town district. This majestic hotel is right on the water, includes a delicious Swedish breakfast to start your day and is reasonably priced given its location smack in the middle of the action.
Once you’re situated, we recommend layering up and bringing a bag that’s large enough to toss that extra sweatshirt into as the day progresses. The temperatures throughout Scandinavia vary during November, and the sun is known to warm up an afternoon by 20+ degrees. Cue the body cleansing & personal use wipes for an easy way to freshen up while you’re out with the fluctuating temps!
You’ve got a lot of ground to cover in Stockholm, but we recommend starting your visit with getting a cinnamon bun, or kanelbullar as the locals call them. These yummy pastries are a Swedish staple and you’ll find them made fresh around every corner. Paired with a Swedish coffee and you’ve got what the locals call “fika” which is a much more efficient way to say “coffee break with a snack”. Three of our favorite fika spots are Fabrique, Bakery & Spice, and Vurma, which has two locations in Stockholm and an extensive menu of pastries and lunch options - but go for the award-winning cinnamon bun. It’s a must.
After you’ve filled up on kanelbullar and Swedish coffee, head to Gamla Stan, or Old Town, which is the city center dating back to the 13th century. Stroll along the cobblestone streets lined with beautiful shops, galleries, and architecture. It will take you a good 90 minutes to walk through most of Old Town – a great way to get in some morning activity. Every block is different and you’ll see the best of Stockholm’s street vendors, performers, and local culture. This time of year, Gamla Stan is extra festive for the holidays with decorations, music and plenty of warm beverage concoctions (it’s 5 o’clock somewhere!). Smack in the middle of Gamla Stan is Stortorget, the city’s oldest square. Stop and take in this pedestrian-only piece of history. Plus, November & December are prime for Christmas Markets throughout Stockholm. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the markets will make any winter day feel a little warmer! Just around the corner is The Royal Palace of Stockholm, the official residence of the King of Sweden and the royal family. It definitely stands out from the rest of Stockholm’s architecture, and while we personally think you can probably skip the tour (although history buffs or those obsessed with Royal families – head on in!) it’s worth your time to watch the Changing of the Guard Parade, which occurs at 12:15 pm every day of the year, rain, snow or sunshine. Keeping the tradition alive, the guards approach the King’s residence on horseback and it’s super cool to experience this tradition first-hand. Insider tip: the best place to stand for a direct view is along the wall near the palace information & ticket office in the inner courtyard.
Grab some lunch at Meatballs for the People for a super fun spin on the traditional taste of Sweden. You can also consider this a 101 for anyone who wants to understand why meatballs are so coveted in Swedish culture. They’ll tell you all about it, while they serve up some of the city’s best and most innovative varieties of savory goodness. Different meatball varieties (along with the classic staples) hit the menu every day. We’re talking moose, wild boar, and even reindeer (sorry Rudolph!)! There’s even a vegetarian variety or two for those who’d prefer to steer clear of meat. Everything is made fresh with organic & locally sourced ingredients from Stockholm’s surrounding countryside. Or, if you’re in the mood to lunch like a local, check out Omnipollos Hatt in the hip neighborhood of Södermalm. This place is known for it’s hand-tossed, wood-fired pizza and super cozy ambiance. The owners and staff speak perfect English and are always up for making new friends! Not to mention, the pizza is straight outta Naples and a perfect fill-up for an afternoon of exploring. Those on the hunt for super casual Scandinavian meats, cheeses and fish should hit up one of Stockholm’s food halls for lunch (or for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack). The Östermalms Saluhall is a sprawling indoor market where you can find endless varieties of Swedish meats, smoked fish and traditional Scandinavian dishes, as well as really good salads, local baked goods, and fresh fruits. Hotorgshallen is another popular food hall filled with vendors selling fresh fish, meats, cheeses, produce, and coffee. This modern building is in the heart of Stockholm’s shopping district and also serves a wide variety of international favorites such as falafel, sushi, schnitzels, and more!
After lunch, we’re gonna do a little more walking (Don’t worry, we’re just warming up your legs for one of your evening activity options). If you happened to eat at Omnipollos Hatt, you’re already there, and if not, find your way over to the Södermalm neighborhood. By comparison, many Americans say this area of the Stockholm reminds them of Brooklyn because of the trendy, creative, and slightly gritty feel compared to Old Town. If you’re planning to do any shopping on your trip, Götgatan street is the place to break out your wallet. All the stores are unique, and individually owned (no franchises here folks!) and full of locally made goods, keepsakes and some of the coolest clothing. We love Dedicated, a spot with hundreds of simple wardrobe pieces, with a twist, of 100% organic cotton right here in Stockholm. Our favorites are the basic t-shirts (see this month’s Product Picks). You choose from the funkiest patterns and bold phrases, softest fabrics and you’ll find one that resonates with literally everyone in your life…or just snag a few for yourself. Our favorite spot for modern Scandinavian décor is Grandpa, one of the many home & lifestyle stores. They have some of the coolest locally made ceramics, posters, and home décor.
Next, we’re headed to (in our opinion) one of the most fascinating museums in the world, the Moderna Museet. Everything about this place is seriously fascinating. The building exterior and street art that line the walls, the fashion, the exhibits, even the bathrooms are spectacular here. Oh, and it’s also $FREE. There’s a great coffee spot inside if you want to warm up before you take in one of the best modern art experiences of all time. Moderna Museet deems itself a museum for the future – collecting, preserving and exhibiting only modern and contemporary art. They feature experimental, interactive art (lots of participation from visitors) all to encourage conversation, not just observation. Exhibits rotate throughout the month, so there’s always something fresh and new. One of the coolest things to see is the seasonal gingerbread house exhibit where you can walk through hundreds of stunning cookie homes, submitted by Swedish architects from across the country! If modern art isn’t your thing, you can also check out the quirky Abba Museum. You may walk in, but you’ll for sure be dancing your way out of this place. To be frank, it’s just a ton of fun and while it’s a “museum”, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It will, however, help you understand why this musical group is the pride of Sweden. You can sing and dance and just be totally goofy. Good cardio to say the least!
If you’re one to avoid museums altogether, spend an afternoon on the slopes at Hammarbybacken in central Stockholm. This snow park is popular for locals and tourists alike during winter months with numerous slopes to snowboard or ski. There are hotels & shops to rent all the necessary equipment, and they have lessons in case you need to tune up your skills with an expert. You’ll want to pause for a photo op at the top in your ski gear, with an amazing view of the whole city as your backdrop! From the snow to the ocean, water is such an important part of any trip to Stockholm – even in winter. And because Stockholm is technically 14 islands, boat tours (some doubling as public transit) are fun activities year-round. There are several options for taking a boat through Stockholm, but the most practical is probably a hop off and hop on boat tour. For a mere $23 USD you can experience as much or as little by water as you’d like throughout an entire day. And don’t worry – these boats are covered and heated. Speaking of heat, if you’re in the mood for a relaxing sweat session of sorts, you’re in luck. Spas & Bath Houses are central to Swedish culture and a great way to warm up during the winter months. Centralbadet is one of the most beautiful bathhouses in all of Europe, located in a serene garden (you’ll forget you’re in the heart of a bustling city!) with Art Nouveau décor and plenty of saunas and heated swimming pools to choose from. At only $30 USD for full-day access, it’s worth it for even a couple hours!
Once you’ve wrapped up your afternoon adventure of choice, it’s time for your evening meal, and we’ve got some choices depending on how adventurous you’re feeling. First up is Ekstedt. This is a culinary adventure you should consider a splurge. Niklas Ekstedt’s Michelin-Starred restaurant uses no electricity to cook. You read that correctly – ZERO electricity. When Ekstedt said he wanted to get back to his Scandinavian roots, he was serious. His cooking techniques use exclusively fire and you’ll get to try what’s considered the “new wave” of Nordic cuisine. It’s certainly a fresh & smoky perspective on food, and we’re here for it. The hay-flamed lamb, kohlrabi and yellow beetroots, and the blackened scallop with chanterelles and sugar kelp will be forever imprinted on your taste buds. You’ll also feel like a slacker next time you make s’mores. This is one of the 50 best restaurants in the world, so if you want to go, make a reservation! If you’re looking to spice things up at another locally known spot, check out Hallmans, which operates under the slogan ”Barcelona c/o Stockholm.” Spanish-style tapas are fused with Nordic ingredients at this off-the-beaten-path location overlooking one of Stockholm’s quaint canals. Take some risks with the menu like the rabbit liver paté, and don’t miss the classic Ibèrico ham imported multiple times a week straight from Spain. The wine selection is equally exciting with several organic red blends that will pair perfectly with your chocolate cremoso with olive oil and sea salt for dessert.
Now you didn’t think we’d let you just head to bed on a full stomach, did you? We’ve got some final suggestions for your evening itinerary. And for this first nighttime adventure, and we’d prefer that you don’t ask questions. Instead, just do it. You’ll thank us later. We’re going to embrace a timeless Swedish tradition and lace up our ice skates at Kungsträdgårde. The park has rental skates (in the case you didn’t pack your own in your backpack…) and we promise that once you step foot on the ice, you’ll feel like the star in a Scandinavian fairytale. Or, you’ll fall and laugh and remember it forever. Add to the magic of the experience by getting a glass of Glogg from a local vendor, to warm you up…just careful if you get back out on the ice as those nightcaps can be super strong! Another great evening activity is a 75-minute guided Holiday Lantern Tour of central Stockholm. If you want to experience the warmth of the Swedish holidays, there’s no better way to spend an evening – don’t forget your thermos of Glühwein!
Your mornings, afternoons and evenings will be full of unforgettable adventure in Stockholm, so make every minute count! And don’t forget your gaan + co so you look and smell your freshest as you explore all the Scandinavian metropolis has to offer!
Hashtag your Swedish Adventure #gaanguidetoStockholm and tag us on Instagram @gaan_co and you could be featured in next month's newsletter and win a gaan + co Gift Pack!
- Written by Rachel Levy