Four volumes of SUITCASE Magazine, with a new issue delivered to your door each quarter
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Four volumes of SUITCASE Magazine, with a new issue delivered to your door each quarter
Need to hit reset? Stockholm is just what you need. Inhale a deep breath of fresh salty air and let the Scandinavian sun warm your skin; strolling out in the morning is the ultimate refreshment. The breezy sunshine and wide, paved streets strike a distinctly positive vibe, which is only enhanced by locals jovially calling out “hey hey!” to each other in passing. Within minutes of walking, you’ll cross several islands (the land masses which make up the city), each with its own buzz and charm. With so much to see, trainers are essential – just watch that step count rise. It will take you but minutes to crack it: Sweden’s capital is tailor-made for adventure.
It’s a city of contrasts: nature flourishes alongside the cosmopolitan; new architecture complements the old, and land is interspersed with sea. The water glimmers under the sun, near omnipresent in summer, casting a joyful ambience over the city. But Stockholm isn’t just a pretty face; here, aesthetic is matched by substance. Searingly cool Scandi restaurants and bars rule the land and with countless museums, culture centres and independent shops and boutiques, immersing yourself in the chilled out local culture is infectious. You’ll be taking your new passion for “fika” (coffee with pastries) home with you. What’s more, just 20 minutes away sit 30,000 islands – the Stockholm archipelago – just waiting to be explored.
The Swedes will tell you not to visit them in winter; they say it gets dark and they get mean – though I find that hard to believe. But consider this: in January, the sun rises at 8:47AM and sets at 2:55PM, and in July the sun rises at 3:40AM and sets at 10:02PM… Summer it is, then. This is how to do Stockholm properly.
When you step off the Arlanda Express – the shuttle train that goes from Arlanda airport to Stockholm – and through the doors of Central Station, you’ll find this four-star hotel staring you down from across the road. It’s ideal after a long journey, when you just want to drop your bags and crash. But The Freys Hotel isn’t just any scruffy station-side stopover; it’s a beautiful and extremely popular family run hotel. The rooms are bright and contemporary, with a rustic feel and generous windows look out onto rooftops turned golden by the sun. Our tip after a long day exploring? Book into the private sauna and relax (reserve at least one hour in advance with reception). The varied breakfast spread will have your returning for thirds, while from lunchtime the dining room turns into the hotel bar which is always buzzing thanks to its sun-filled terrace.
When in Stockholm, your first thought should be fika. And when it comes to fika, Bageri Petrus wins. Just check their Instagram account, which features myriads of different breads in curious forms and freshly baked pastries, all of which taste as enviable as they look. There are different toasts, like bruschetta, topped with cheese (“ost” in Swedish) and a side of fresh vine tomatoes. As in most cafés in Stockholm, the coffee is freshly filtered on a “serve yourself” table; another nod to the relaxed vibe. We love the chic Scandinavian interiors but, realistically, Bageri Petrus is so popular you’ll likely find yourself on one of the large trestle tables outside. No harm done – in the summer sun, the outdoor seating is a bonus.
Take it from us, this new restaurant is Michelin Guide material. Opened in May 2017 by Kalle and Dogge, the spirit of the tiny restaurant is so uplifting you won’t know what’s hit you. No wonder; the opening is the culmination of a 10-year long dream of the two friends, who attended culinary school together. The focal point is the open kitchen, where the modern Scandinavian menu of starter-sized plates is put into action. “We don’t want to have an uptight restaurant where you’re afraid of laughter and fun,” they say. “We want people to have a really good meal in a fun, relaxed restaurant and just want to go back!” And so the fillet steak has a generous serving of brie underneath, the potato recipe belongs to one of their grandmothers and the lemon doughnut oozes unforgettable flavours. Freshly sourced ingredients mean an ever-evolving menu of seasonal ingredients. There’s a marker pen hanging in the loo for you to leave your comment on the door – only one month into service and it’s already full of love. This is incredible food in a cool environment, absolutely made by the two young men behind it. If you eat out just once in Stockholm, make it here.
As one of the most popular restaurants in Stockholm, you need to book several days in advance (although the bar area does accept walk-ins). Located in a refurbished boat shed, it’s split into two restaurants; Oaxen Slip, an upmarket bistro, and Oaxen Krog, a two-Michelin star restaurant with a ten or six-course option. On the banks of the island Djurgården, the restaurants bring themes of nature and city together – think Swedish duck with forest capers, fennel seeds, oak moss and green juniper-seasoned calf cheese. Using wild herbs from the island, all of the ingredients are sourced from Nordic businesses using sustainable and humane agriculture. This is exceptional Swedish food, anchored in traditional techniques but with a contemporary update. The wine? All sourced from a select number of small old-world vineyards.
In the heart of Gamla Stan (the old town) this high-end gastro pub is named after a Swedish legend about an elk – the king of the Jämtland forest. That’s just the beginning of owner and chef Björn Frantzén’s celebration of pub culture. It’s intended to be a second living room for the residents of Stockholm; a place to drink after work, tell stories and meet people. But don’t let that fool you. With a menu that plays contemporary tricks with classics like burgers, steak and scallops with flourishes such as delicate hash browns and oil-infused onion cups alongside a carefully curated selection of craft beers, this is not your bog-standard tavern. The proof is in their cookbook, full of their own original recipes that merit sharing. Once you’ve ordered a beer, try veal schnitzel “Björn Frantzén” – the house classic. It’s traditional Scandinavian food with contemporary flair which makes for an off-kilter and unmissable experience.
Rumour has it that Café Opera is where the rich and famous go to party, but it’s also the kind of place your parents would’ve hung out in the 80s. With a similar vibe to Casino de Monte-Carlo, who wouldn’t want to sip on champagne in the company of the grand white columns and gold embellishments of Stockholm’s grand opera? Come Saturday night, the crowd spills out onto the street and the music booms, making it one of the most popular spots in town. If you’re feeling flush and fancy a break from the music, meander further inside and try your luck in the casino.
Located on the expansive Skeppsbron promenade, the chic maritime decor, sink-in sofas and open terrace at Mister French are perfect for wild summer nights. When the heat hits, it’ll be busy from lunch until very late, with a real party atmosphere thanks to live DJ sets. Check out the Instagram feed before your trip for details on summer events and to pre-book. Fuel up for the madness in the restaurant, which serves up elegant French-inspired comfort food. If you’re feeling adventurous afterwards, hop on one of the nearby boats and head to another island.
If you’re in the market for an trendy club with a focus on jam-hot cocktails, Kaken is the one. It’s located in the annex of restaurant Niklas, right in the centre of the city and gets packed out quickly. With a relatively young demographic, there are always different themed nights to choose from (keep an eye out for live gigs to really get in on the Stockholm music scene.) With sleek wood-panelled interiors, luxurious seating and a fairy-lit terrace, it’s a great place to meet people. The cocktails are exceptional – choose from vintage or cutting-edge mixes with brilliant side snacks.
Of all Stockholm’s impressive museums, this centre for contemporary photography comes up trumps. Located in the trendy Södermalm area, it’s the new kid on the block (kind of), having opened in 2010. No permanent collection means it doesn’t classify as a museum, but it’s this freshness that makes it so appealing. Contemporary and fashion photography aficionados will fall for the calibre of exhibitions, which are world class. That said, it’s never been hotter than this summer’s offering. One highlight is Like a Horse, which features works by photographers including Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton. But even that loses when it comes to the headline exhibition: Irving Penn, Resonance – Photographs from the Pinault Collection. Marking the centenary of the photographer’s birth, the exhibition celebrates the influence of his portraiture. You have it on our word that this exhibition alone is worth a trip to the Swedish capital.
Stockholm is not your average city. Contemporary and urban it may be, but just 20 minutes from the capital await 30,000 islands, islets and rocks. The Stockholm archipelago is the largest in Sweden and second largest in the Baltic Sea. These islands are reachable by car and bike, but the most popular mode of transport is Waxholmsbolaget – a public boat service. Head online to find timetables, or download the official app. Spend a day island hopping, or head to stockholmarchipelago.se and find out which island suits you best. The peninsula of Galo is a summer hotspot, where Swedes go to swim in wild coves, hike through blooming meadows and catch some sun. Known as Stockholm’s “garden of paradise,” it’s the perfect choice for a sweltering day. From wild, uninhabited islands to seaside settlements, each island has its own character – if you have a day to spare, do it.
If you’re a fan of London’s Shoreditch or New York’s SoHo, you’ll slip straight into the bohemian vibe of the Stockholm equivalent, Södermalm. Söder (that’s what the locals call it) is known as the trendiest area in the Swedish capital, and has been named by Vogue.com as one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Europe. Sprawling with independent fashion boutiques, bars and cafés, this is where young professionals hang and live music ricochets. Arrive in the afternoon to make the most of the pop-up shops and Grandpa; a particularly well known boutique stocking cult Swedish labels like Dagmar. Our favourite? Papercut, which we love for its unrivalled selection of independent publications (including SUITCASE, of course) and its support of creative industries. Don’t spend too many hours browsing though – it’s in the early evening that the restaurants and bars here start to fill up and the fun really gets going.
Every brilliant escape needs an equally brilliant souvenir. We trust you won’t head for fridge magnets; opt instead for Erika Petersdotter ceramics. Having grown up in the north of Sweden near Umeå where her mother was a shoemaker and her father was a musician, Petersdotter fell in love with pottery in her art-focused high school. After moving to Stockholm in 2009, she started her ceramic work. “I wanted to hand-make things that people can use in their every day life,” she says. “Like a cup that feels good in the hand while drinking your morning coffee. I’m inspired by the northern nature, earth, stone, snow, ice, and I try to let it show in the colours I use.” And that nature is palpable in every piece, whether a plate, bowl or cup; each item is simply made, with an almost raw quality. Visitors can shop directly from Petersdotter’s studio in Stockholm, where prices start at around £30. This is Nordic craft that will slot seamlessly into your everyday life, enhancing it little by little.
You know how you have that one incredible friend who knows their city inside out? That’s us. We take the world’s most dynamic destinations, hand-pick the best bits and give them to you in one place. This is the kind of guide that you don’t need to run by a local – it was written by one. Eat your heart out, shop until you drop, drink like a fish, dance your socks off, sleep – then repeat.
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