Welcome to one of the world’s most creative and exciting urban scenes. You are within walking distance to eight centuries of unique cultural experience and you are surrounded by 24,000 islands and islets. Where in the world are you? You’re in Stockholm, Sweden of course, a most popular tourist destination.
The Kingdom of Sweden is in Northern Europe, located on the Scandinavian peninsula between Finland and Norway, and the Oresund Fixed Links connect Sweden with Denmark. My recent visit to Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, built on 14 islands, treated me to a unique blend of old charm, modernity, creativity and vitality. From Gamla Stan – Old Town – northern Europe’s largest and best-preserved medieval city dating to the 13th Century – to its throbbing modern metropolis with famed design centers, vibrant shopping districts and modern architecture, Stockholm offers the visitor the best of both worlds.
Old Town has held onto its medieval-city character with narrow lanes, cobbled streets and old market squares. I sat in a quaint cafe and was captivated by its ancient charm. Deciding it would be fun to start my visit here in a most regal fashion, I made my way to the Royal Palace. With 608 rooms, this is one of Europe’s largest palaces and is used today as offices for the King and Queen.
Walking through the Royal Palace’s majestic halls, I distinctly felt the presence of royalty, a sensation both grand and solemn. This regal presence led me into a room where I saw the very costume that Gustav III wore the night he was murdered, and the horse (stuffed, of course) that Gustav II rode into the Battle at Lutzen.
Leaving that rather melancholy room, I entered the Treasury which displayed some of the past monarchy’s most important symbols still worn at Royal weddings, baptisms and funerals. I was told that the Changing of the Guard was an event not to be missed. This ceremony takes place every day at noon and is replete with pomp and circumstance, color and grandeur. I was lucky to find a guide who escorted me through the Hovstallet, not far from the Palace, where I got an up close and personal look at the King’s horses, magnificent coaches and handsome uniforms.
To carry a Royal visit to its logical conclusion, be aware that a number of palaces near Stockholm offer overnight accommodations. You can spend a night at both Sodertuna Slott and Sundbyholms Slott, each beautifully situated near the water. Sodertuna Slott was constructed in the 18th Century, and is located 43 miles south of Stockholm while Sundbyholms Slott is west of Stockholm and can be reached by car in about an hour and a half. Both palaces retain much of their former glory but have been brought into the 21st Century with the addition of modern conveniences.
I visited City Hall, widely considered to be one of the most beautiful city halls in the world. Here I found a living symbol of this city, a building buzzing with activities, people and life. The famous Blue Hall and Golden Hall, where the Nobel Prize Gala and Banquet are held each December, was a highlight of my tour. Knowing that I’d never experience this banquet first-hand, I went for the next best thing: dinner at Stadshuskallaren, a restaurant in the basement of City Hall, where I had the chance to sample food enjoyed by Nobel Prize winners. The chefs here are the very ones that prepare the banquet and I couldn’t resist asking for “whatever the prize winners have.” Out came a mountain grouse breast baked in black trumpet mushrooms with caramelized apples served with Calvados sauce and potato cake and for dessert, a fig and cherry compote.
While wandering around the alleys of Old Town, I stumbled upon Stockholm’s central cathedral, I Trangsund. My lucky day. A classical music concert was just beginning. Dusk filtered in through leaded glass windows and shimmered off the golden angels on the high brick ceiling.
Before returning to my hotel, I was attracted to a patio bar, the Babylon, where I was surrounded by chattering clusters of fashion plates and artist types. Wrapping myself in one of the restaurant’s green fleece blankets to ward off the evening’s chill, I enjoyed a late bite of potatoes and roding, a local fish. From my barstool, I watched skateboarders dip and sail around in an adjacent park, and I reveled in a priceless travel high: the giddy feeling of having discovered the coolest place in town!
Incredibly cool, also, was being surrounded – everywhere – with contemporary, innovative Swedish design – versions of beautiful everyday things that are at once environmentally friendly and embody a broad range of sustainable materials, conceptual ideas and functionality. Think Ikea and even H&M, both of which we would be loathe to do without, not to mention my favorite, the languorous Pernilla chair designed by Bruno Mathsson. Both the Rohsska Museum in Gothenburg and the Ikea Museum in Amhult tell the Swedish history of functional design and are well worth a visit.
One day I visited Royal Djurgarden, known as Animal Island because it was once the Royal hunting ground. On this island is Skansen, an open-air museum and one of the most visited places in the city, containing more than 150 historic buildings that have been dismantled and reassembled here. The area houses more than 70 varieties of animals, and I enjoyed watching 3 bear cubs, a Scandinavian moose and some frisky reindeer.
Nearby is the famed Vasa Museum featuring the warship Vasa which sank in Stockholm fifteen minutes after it was launched on her maiden voyage in 1628. After 333 years under water, she was raised in 1961 and is now, after meticulous reconstruction, housed in its own museum.
A great way to view this city is by boat. There’s an “Under the Bridges of Stockholm” tour, a “Royal Canal” tour, an “Historical Canal” tour, and many, many more. I took the Royal Canal tour and as I gently glided through the water, I felt somewhat royal myself. A classic – and classy – way to see Stockholm.
The beauty of this city, built on many islands, with bridges, squares and glorious Beaux Arts buildings all perfectly integrated, has no rival. It’s a welcoming, walkable city where delightful experiences await you at every turn. Stockholm – a truly capital city!
If You Go:
Visit Sweden – www.visitsweden.com
Publisher / Editor-at-Large Hezi Aris Note: “Barbara Barton Sloane, is the Yonkers Tribune Contributing Editor. She is a well respected publicist, Yonkers Tribune Travel Editor, Yonkers Tribune Fashion Editor, and Yonkers Tribune Restaurant Review Editor. She is constantly globe-hopping to share her unique experiences, from the exotic to the sublime with our readers. She keeps us informed, as well, on the capricious and engaging fashion and beauty scene, eloquently gives us notice to various establishments throughout Westchester County and neighboring communities, and engages, expands, and satiates our culinary interests, Yes, she does it all! How does she do it?”.