Stylist’s bookings editor Amelia Trevette discovers that Sweden’s capital is not a destination for must-see monuments, but a city to savour for its distinctive culture
I have a long-standing love for all things Swedish. I binge-watched The Bridge and I frequent The Scandinavian Kitchen. I actually quite enjoy a trip to Ikea, and not just for the meatballs. Nothing pleases me more than a plate of pickled herring (don’t judge) and I adore the insouciant Scandi style. Despite all this, I’d never been to Sweden so a trip to the capital was long overdue.
We arrive late in the evening and head straight to At Six in the Brunkebergstorg district. In the 1800s this area was the hedonism hotspot, attracting all the city’s revellers for after-dark debauchery. It remained this way until the Sixties, when a city clean-up saw the square replaced with brutalist modernity. After a period of neglect the square is now the focus of regeneration and At Six is one of two shiny new adjacent hotels – Hobo is the second and slightly edgier of the two with quirky touches and an indoor herb garden – built with the aim of drawing crowds back to this forgotten quarter.
The At Six entrance is all polished stone, gun-metal grey and clean lines, with an imposing white granite staircase as a central feature. It’s where, after a serene night’s sleep, we head out to see what the city has to offer.
Stockholm is a flâneur’s paradise. There aren’t really any tourist ‘must-see’ monuments to tick off your list so it’s best to follow your instincts and amble across the 14 islands and 50 bridges which comprise the city. We pass the Royal Opera House and stop in Strömparterren Park to admire the Adonis-like form of The Sun Singer statue, then onto Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s quaint old town.
Next we stop off in hip neighbourhood Södermalm on the South central side for ‘fika’. The Swedish take this enlightened coffee break very seriously. Its purpose is to take time to slow down, appreciate good company and have a baked good with a hot beverage; preferably coffee – another fundamental part of Swedish culture. We order sugar-adorned cinnamon buns at Gilda’s Rum café opposite popular summer hangout park Nytorget but swap our coffee for cold white wine; no doubt a sacrilegious move.
Dinner is a traditional affair at Aifur Krog & Bar (aifur.se), a bustling Viking-themed restaurant complete with live musicians. As you descend into the cellar your name is announced to your fellow diners before juniper-smoked pig’s side, parsnip cake and warm saffron pancake with cream and dewberry jam is served up. All eaten with traditional Viking cutlery.
Still a little blurry from the Viking grog, the next morning we need a slow start, so head to Skeppsholmen island, passing artist Niki De Saint Phalle’s colourful Fantastic Paradise sculptures outside the Moderna Museet, Stockholm’s Museum of Modern Art, to find a spot to sit in the sunshine. The Terrace of The Grand Hotel (grandhotel.se) nearby is perfect for a lunch of pickled black radish and asparagus salad with spectacular views across the harbour.
In the two days we take to explore the city, Stockholm’s slow-paced, relaxed energy becomes quickly evident. Walk slowly and indulge in the culture of fika with guilt-free social media respite. This, it turns out, is what I appreciate most about Sweden. OK, also the cinnamon buns.