Advantages Wonderful, vibrant city with a lot to offer, summer or winter!
Disadvantages Very few, possibly difficult to get the most out of for a first time visit?
|Value for Money|
|Ease of getting around|
I'm fortunate enough to have a good friend who's lived all her life in the city, and both times I've stayed with her, in her family home around an hour from the main city centre, and in an apartment in the heart of the city, and both experiences have been wonderful.
So far, I've visited Stockholm twice, once in the snowy depths of February, and in the exquisite summer of July. The main thing to say is, I can't wait to go back!
I grew up in London so I perhaps have a certain arrogance to European cities, but I also found myself utterly comfortable in Stockholm in moments, despite speaking barely more than a "please" and "thank you" in Swedish!I travelled via Ryanair to Stockholm Skansta, which is the equivalent, if you will, to Stansted in London, indeed, that's where the flights go from, and on arrival you need to take a coach for around 50 minutes to the main central station. This is extremely easy to do, and the return coach costs around 200SEK, which is excellent value, coming to about £15 for the long journey in a comfortable air conditioned coach.
From there, it's easy to travel pretty much anywhere in the city on the superbly clean and efficient tube system - it costs 20SEK (about £2.30) for an hour's travel anywhere around the bus and rail system, though that seems fairly flexible depending on how many changes you need to make - this may include some exceptions, although I didn't find any myself.In winter, the city was covered in a thick layer of snow, and the lakes that separate the nine main islands that make up Stockholm were largely frozen over - this didn't seem to inhibit the city at all, and for someone who has rarely, if ever seen snow like this, it was a beautiful spectacle, with people ice skating and playing ice hockey all around!
In summer - and the summers are much warmer than anyone as ill-educated as me might have been given to think - it's all go for European tourism with wonderfully comprehensive and informative boat tours available around the city at very reasonable prices, I'd recommend these to any visitor for a great and enjoyable way to appreciate the scenery and the architecture from a fantastic vantage point!As I was staying with a friend, she was able to take me to her favourite restaurants, clubs, pubs and so on, and we visited many, and I was always, always impressed with the quality of the food and drink. Pricewise, it's similar to upmarket London - you won't get a great deal cheap when eating out, but I always found the food value for money, everything, everywhere we ate seemed extremely fresh and tasty, and the level of service was excellent, with staff speaking competant English everywhere, and, I noticed, often German or French as well.
To the food itself - it's not all meatballs! All manner of delicious salads, pizzas, tapas, pasta, steak and so on can be found in most restaurants, and I was honestly so impressed with some places that the food alone would be enough to tempt me back!The city is so separated by the lakes and so on that it's easy to find, for example, an excellent waterside view of somewhere, and can be equally pleasant to sit out on a balcony and enjoy the atmosphere of the place as it would be to go out.
The nightlife is good, although it's useful to know that on Friday and Saturday nights a lot of clubs employ a high age requirement, often over-21 or even over-25 for some of the more upmarket places. The music, well, I'm sure it's good if you go to the right place, but the emphasis in the four or five places we visited seemed to be more on the conversation and socialising, with large seating areas and a variety of people from all areas mainland Europe looking just to get to know people and swap experiences. It's a fantastically sociable place in that respect, with a lot less...how to say...pressure? than a number of London clubs, where it's all about looking right and dancing like a maniac! I'd also highly, highly recommend ordering a vodka and lime - something about the way they serve it there with fresh limes and so on is stunningly delicious, although it can come to around £6 a drink - it's worth it for the taste if that's your thing!For sightseeing, there's plenty to see. The royal palace is fascinating, guarded all day every day by the Swedish Army, it's well worth a visit, and in the summer months, the Skansen open air museum, easily accessible by boat, comprises a zoo, a funfair, and an exhibition of Swedish architecture from around the country and the centuries (honestly, it's amazing) is well worth a trip to get a sense of the country and its heritage, as well as the local wildlife!
The Old Town (Gamla Stan) I would recommend visiting, summer or winter, with its collection of little shops and cafes, and wonderful bakeries, it caters considerably to the tourist market, but, hey, I wanted to buy clogs, and I wanted to pick up a model Swedish horse and so on, and you can very much do so there! It's worth taking your time there and browsing as prices vary considerably from shop to shop, and you can do a fair bit of examining, though there's a particularly lovely place that does Swedish woolwork, mittens and jumpers and socks and so on that I utterly fell in love with, run by a wonderfully accommodating Swedish woman who was only too happy to help me out as I dithered over what to take home for gifts!There are all manner of shops and so on, and I'm the kind of person that even enjoys the supermarkets (I brought home a supply of Swedish toothpaste because I found it so nice!) so gauge what you will from that, but shops that you would find even here, such as IKEA and H&M are in abundance in Sweden with all kinds of things that you just don't get here, and at slightly lower prices than you'd find in the UK as well. Almost all main brands can be found in the department stores, such as Åhlens City, connected to the central station itself, including a number of beautiful Swedish ranges of clothing and so on that are incredibly well made and stylish!
For a city for a weekend break, I would recommend Stockholm as much as I think I would anywhere - it's an easy two hour flight (booking in advance I managed to get flights for just 1p each way, excluding taxes, where it came to just £15 in total) - I hear accommodation is easily available, and most hotels are of a very high standard simply as standard. The city itself is a pleasurable and diverse mix of easy life and high-tempo business, and it's an experience in itself to wander the islands and see what you can find! I'm told almost every restaurant and coffee house is of a good standard simply because land space is at a premium and you can't afford to deliver poor service, so this makes for a reliable and pleasurable experience all round!The Swedish people in general were very accommodating and happy to speak English when it was asked of them, and great fun was had all round.
I, as I say, can't wait to go back and take my partner this time, because I think this is a wonderful city, full of history and "hidden" pleasures, take a wander for yourself and experience everything you can!
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