As the clouds parted and the pale blue sky shone through, I thought for sure I was going to have a great summer getaway. But Stockholm was teasing me. Dark clouds rolled in and the freezing temperatures put an end to my plans for island hopping in the archipelago and cycling in Djugården.
Even if I was not prepared for wintery weather in summer, the people of Stockholm are accustomed to it and the cafes quickly fill up. So of course I did as the locals do and enjoyed a little fika time and people watching in hipster/boho neighbourhood Södermalm. This was followed by more drinks, more cake, vegetarian buffets, great sushi, burgers and my favourite Swedish cider. I hadn’t planned on eating my way around Stockholm’s 14 islands but it was turning out that way.
After indulging in all that food we then indulged in some fascinating photography at Fotografiska, Sweden’s top photography museum. I was amazed at some of the photos which looked like paintings and completely inspired by the black and white landscape photography by Brazilian Sebastião Salgado.
Salgado has visited more than 100 countries, photographing the natural beauty, animals and people from some of the world’s most remote areas. If only I had a fraction of his talent. If you love photography as much as I do make visiting this museum a priority in Stockholm. Fotografiska also run photography courses. Next time I’m in Stockholm I’ll take one of their day classes.
Getting back on the tourist route, it was time to brave the crowds and explore Gamla Stan, the gorgeous Old Town in the centre of Stockholm. This is one of those places you want to visit either very early or late in the day as it’s absolutely packed with tour groups at other times. Even so, it’s worth walking the cobblestone streets, eating ice cream in the main square or grabbing a coffee in one of the quiet backstreet cafes or bakeries.
Gamla Stan is also home to Sweden’s Royal Palace. It’s not the most opulent of palaces but it’s an imposing building and hard to miss. There are some interesting looking guards protecting the entrances and you can often see soldiers marching around the building. I don’t know where they come from but a few times they seemed to appear out of nowhere, stomping their way back to base.
What surprised me most about Stockholm, was not the beautiful architecture, stylish people or the scenic waterways but the number of tourists I saw falling for the shell game scam. That old ‘game’ where you try to find the ball hidden under a shell or cup. Of course the ball is in the scammers hand. You can’t win. Surely everyone knows that already? Seriously people, if you fall for that old scam you deserve to lose your hard earned krona.
For a little lighter entertainment we headed to Djugården, a tranquil park not far from Gamla Stan and home to Rosendal Palace, the Nordic Museum, the ABBA Museum and the quirky Museum of Spirits. Yes, Stockholm has a museum dedicated to alcohol. Ah, I love Scandinavia.
At the entrance to Djugården you can hire a bike to ride around the massive park. I think it’s the best way to get around and I recommend taking a picnic with you if the weather isn’t grey and miserable. You can also stop by the Gröna Lund amusement park which looks fun but unless you’re making a day out of it it’s seriously pricey.
I hate to judge a city when the weather is bad, especially when it’s unseasonably bad but it’s so hard to love a place when it’s gloomy outside. I think I probably loved Copenhagen so much due to the amazing weather and I had expected something similar from Stockholm. I wasn’t lucky this time. But taking a boat road around the city got me excited for more, excited to explore the different islands and neighbourhoods. One day I will return for sure to tour the archipelago so many people rave about and to check out the latest exhibition at Fotografiska. I might even try to make it for New Year which I hear is one of the best times to visit Stockholm.1