Idealist City Guide: STOCKHOLM

The port city of Stockholm is a northern beacon of modern elegance and historical allure. A fascinating mix of islands, bridges and canals perfect for exploring over a long weekend, the city is also a design mecca. From the hipsterisms of the trend-obsessed Sodermalm island neighbourhood to the higher end delights of the Ostermalm district, Stockholm’s attractions for style buffs are many.

Great Shopping

Stockholm is famous for the quality and abundance of its design shopping. Stick to Sodermalm for the best vintage finds, higher end design boutiques and art galleries are scattered throughout the

  • Ostermalm,
  • Vasatan,
  • Gamla Stan areas

Modernity (Sibyllegatan 6, Ostermalm)
This legendary store specializes in vintage design and 20th century antiques and is run by Brit ex-pat Andrew Duncanson. Find Scandinavian design icons such as Alvar Aalto, Georg Jensen and Arne Jacobsen here.

House of Rym (Hornsgatan 73, Sodermalm)
This interior design shop offers an unexpected combination of modern Scandinavian design and historic Tunisian craftsmanship. Elegant porcelain pieces and bold patterned textiles are carefully curated with plain and clean design.

Nordiska Kompaniet (NK) (Hamngatan 18-20)
Stockholm’s equivalent to London’s Harrods dates from 1915 and retains many of its striking original architectural details.

Design House Stockholm, famous for its contemporary Scandinavian furniture collection, has its flagship showroom here.

Stockholm is also home to H&M, of course, and the largest IKEA in Europe (fittingly enough) with a store of 594,000 sq ft in an areas of town called Kungens Kurva (literally, “The King’s Bend” or “The King’s Curve”), 20 km south of the city. The area’s name comes from when the king’s Cadillac got caught in a ditch in 1946 and the name, like the king, stuck.

Where To Stay

Hotel Birger Jarl (Tulegatan 8 in central Stockholm) is a quintessentially sleek designer hotel created with input from some of Sweden’s leading architects and interior/fashion designers. Each room is uniquely decorated and the onsite restaurant and bar serve typically healthy Swedish fare.

Stockholm’s coolest hotel may be the Story (Riddargatan 6 ), located just by the 18th century Sturebadet spa and the world famous Saluhall food market in Ostermalm. It is full of quirky design touches and surprises (for example, it’s home to one of Stockholm’s finest Asian restaurants, Ling Long).

Galleries and Museums

Fotografiska, Stadsgårdshamnen 22 is one of the world’s largest centres for contemporary photography. It contains multiple exhibition spaces, a book and souvenir shop, an award-winning restaurant that features seasonal Swedish cuisine and a top floor café with stunning vistas over the city.

On the nearby island of Skeppsholmen, ArkDes, the Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design is devoted to Swedish architecture and construction from the 19th century up to modern times. Here conceptual and practical thinking about design and sustainable urban development take shape in thoughtful exhibitions and a full schedule of lectures and events. The centre features a library, book store and café, and entry is free. While you’re there, check out the adjacent modern art museum Moderna Museet. If all that art makes you feel like slumming, the ABBA museum is also within striking distance on the nearby garden island of Djurgarden (accessible by ferry from Gamla Stan). As is the zany historical Skansen open air musem and zoo dating from the 1800s.

Where to Eat

Agrikultur (Roslagsgatan 43). With only 24 seats, this tiny open kitchen is typical of Sweden’s up to date thinking about the purest foods, artisanally prepared. Produce is hand-picked or foraged locally and the menu changes daily according to what’s available.

Woodstockholm (Mosebacke Torg 9 in Sodermalm) is a neighbourhood bistro, wine bar, and designer furniture store (featuring pieces by Uglycute) dedicated to the highest standards of Swedish cuisine and design. The tables are communal, the wines are organic and the menu changes fequently based on the seasonal availabilities of produce and ingredients.

The traditional Scandinavian concepts of fika (cafe) and hygge (cozy) culture are gaining traction further south. Both find stylish interpretation at Meatballs for People (Nytorgsgatan 30). Contrary to what we might have learned from IKEA, meatballs are a staple served in Swedish schools and at family meals every Friday. Here they are made from locally sourced, organic meats and served in the classic way – with potatoes, lingonberries and cream sauce. And yes, there is a vegetarian version.

Must-see Stockholm Sights

Some of Stockholm’s best public attractions are concentrated in the Gamla Stan (Old Town ) so if your time is limited, base yourself in this historical pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood. Don’t miss the 600-room Royal Palace, an 18th century wonder that has parts that date back to the 10th century. Though still the official residence of the Swedish Royal family, many of the rooms, with their magnificent period furnishings and architectural flourishes are open to the public.

Also in Gamla Stan, you can check out the geniuses of the world at the Nobel Museum (Stortorget 2) and visit the island of Riddarholmen, with its private palaces and the Riddarholm Church, burial place of Swedish monarchs (in the summer the Church hosts a candlelit concert series on Sundays).

Stockholm is remarkable place to visit; repeat visits may be necessary to fully experience its culinary riches, unique style sensibility and splendid natural and architectural beauty.

How to Get There

Cheap direct flights from London Stansted via Ryanair start at £42. Easyjet flies from Luton and British Airways from Heathrow.

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