I had made the rookie mistake of picking the airport furthest away from the city, but as Google Maps told me I could still get to the central station in 20 minutes with a train called Arlanda Express, I didn’t think too much of it. That was until I saw the price of 540 SEK for the return ticket – that’s 63 dollars! It’s incredible how a price tag of something one absolutely needs can get one into the ‘red zone’ temper wise, and that was definitely what happened to me for a short moment in the airport. Luckily I spotted a commercial for a cheaper option – the airport coach buses which took 45 minutes, and cost a ‘green zone’ 198 SEK for a return ticket. Welcome to Sweden, one of the few places in the world more expensive than Denmark.
Got off the bus at Centralstationen, and made my way to Gamla Stan 15 minutes walk away. I had three things I really wanted to do on this ultra short visit of the city: to wander the streets of Gamla Stan (Old Town), have a fika in the form of a Swedish kanelbulle with that special delicious sugar on it, and go on a boat ride through the city. I was a little afraid I would get stressed out by only having about 7 hours before having to leave again, but it turned out just fine.
In Gamla Stan I let my feet take charge – instead of following the throng of tourists I turned down a narrow and completely quiet and tourist free street called Prästgatan, which led me to Stortorget all the same. Here I found a café I had read about, Chokladkoppen, who was said to be supplier of a fantastic hot chocolate. I was more in the mood for coffee, so I got a large kanelbulle and an enormous cup of mochachino. Seriously, I felt like Thor trying to drink the ocean! (Never heard that story? Well, the norse god Thor visits some jætter (norse myth giants), and they give him a handful of challenges: one is to dance with a lady named Ælle (which means old age), another to lift a cat which is really the Midgard Serpent, and the relevant one, to empty a drinking horn that magically contains the entire ocean. Now I’ll shut up on Nordic mythology).
After my coffee & pastry adventure I was fuelled up to explore the rest of the old part of town. I thoroughly enjoyed Gamla Stan – it is so cosy with all those narrow streets, coloured houses and trees suddenly popping up here and there. Even the more touristy streets had their own charm. I fell over a shop at Köbmanstorget selling all kinds of old maps, and ended up spending a good while in there and actually bought two maps as a souvenir. They will look awesome back in the apartment I’m sure.
For the wanted boat trip I went for the Royal Canal tour which went all the way around Djurgaarden, the big island in the center. I had some initial problems when I asked where to go to board the boat and was directed to ‘the place with the flags’ as I heard it. As there were multiple places with flags both near and far I was eventually faced with a short jog, my backpack suddenly gaining a life of its own wildly trying to bounce off my back in every direction, across the bridge to the boarding site in front of the Grand Hotel, which, sure enough, had a bunch of flags on its roof. Once on board, I was however well and truly entertained and will recommend this trip to anyone who asks.
You sit with headphones on and a big map in front of you, while this lovely British voice guides you through the city. No need to listen to the other 17 languages in succession while classical music is blasting along with it as was the procedure in Prague.
I listened to it in English as my Swedish is not too good, which I ought to be ashamed of since I listen to it everyday at work. Anywho, I misheard the name of the islands marking the end of Stockholm and the start of the archipelago – I thought he said Fjärteholmene which means Farting Islands. I later found a sign saying Fjäderholmarna so I don’t think I was too far off the target..
After the boat trip I was excited to walk along the water towards the island of Djurgaarden. The harbour side had looked quite beautiful from the water but didn’t really live up to the first impression when walking next to it. Might have been the overhanging grey clouds on this lovely northern summer day.
Luckily the walk wasn’t too long. My aim was the Vasa museum, which contains a ship from the 17th century that was raised from the bottom of the sea just off the Stockholm coast a couple of decades ago. It looks exactly like the ships in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and it is so gorgeous, and stunning in its size. I enjoyed my visit there so much, and nearly exhausted my phone battery shooting so many pictures. (These were the days before I got myself a separate camera!)
After Vasa I was hungry, and faced with a dilemma. I wanted to go for a longer walk on Djurgaarden, but I also wanted to sit down in a nice place, and had actually had a mind for dining in the Old Town, hoping that the exorbitant prices would be better matched in quality than on the island, very close to an amusement park. I chose to walk back to eat in the Old Town, thus missing the chance for the longer walk, and while typing this I’m not sure I would have done that given a second chance, but that’s how it went – one of many little trinkets of experience to save for another time.
I spent my last 15 minutes before leaving trying to locate the source of a very high church tower I could see from the bus station. Turned out to be a church called Klara that was completely closed off – walked all the way around it and could barely catch a glimpse of the building because of trees. At least the tower was pretty, but it was a little bit weird I thought.
I had a great day in Stockholm. I did the things I wanted to do the most, and now I have a long list of stuff I want to do next time around: visit Skansen museum and take a proper walk on Djurgaarden; visit Fotografiska museum; go on a day cruise in the archipelago, and try the metro which is said to be the longest piece of art in the world.
Have you been to Stockholm? How did you like it? Comment below.