Ask a Stockholmer where they are from, and they will most probably say the name of their closest subway station. Being a city practically on water, it is best getting around its many narrow streets and alleys on public transport. Furthermore, the subway stations separate the different parts of the city.
Stockholm is a city of many beautiful faces and each area of town is distinctive. Centralen, for example, is a typical downtown area with traffic jams and bustling crowds. This is the part known as the City or Norrmalm. Take the subway a couple of stations and spot modern, daring architecture, such as the City Library a few blocks north of Rådmansgatan subway station and the
Östermalm & Djurgården
Why not stroll through Östermalm? This is the most elegant part of town where some of the city's most impressive buildings are found (Östermalms Saluhall should not be missed!). You can also head alongside the water and over the bridge to
The south side of town, Södermalm, is also worth seeing. In the late 1800s this was the home of Stockholm's working class. Returning home from a long, hard day by the ships the workers used to stop for a drink at the local taverns. This image of Södermalm as the home of the bohemian workers, of genuine pub culture and socializing has been preserved; more cafés, galleries and pubs are found here than in any other part of town. A lot of small, funky stores featuring local artists' and designers' works are also to be found in this area, as well as at the summer Mynttorget street-festivals. At
Gamla Stan (The Old Town)
And if Södermalm is cultural Stockholm,
With the long, dark winters of northern Europe, it is hardly surprising that Stockholmers need plenty of diversions, and you do not have to walk far to find some form of entertainment. When the rain and the snows begin to assail the city, all of Stockholm's theatres enjoy their peak season, the many cinemas draw crowds with both Hollywood fare and film festivals, the exhibitions proliferate at the museums, and the bars and nightclubs stay open until early morning. If you are in the downtown area or on Söder, you will find all the recreation you need within easy walking distance; if your stamina fails you there are plenty of buses both during the day and at night, and the metro runs until midnight on weekdays, with extended night service on weekends. In the summertime, the city itself is a fantastic experience, with all its water and bridges, swimming and fishing areas, all the architectural diversity imaginable, swarming street life, and much-frequented parks. Stockholm veritably explodes with life at the first sign of spring sunshine, and both residents and visitors delight in the long days and nearly non-existent nights that characterise the fantastic Swedish summers. This is the perfect time to stroll around Gamla stan or Djurgården and admire the boats and ships in Nybroviken, try to haggle with the vendors at Hötorget, spend a whole day at Skansen or Tivoli Gröna Lund take a trip out to the fabulous archipelago, see one of the Parkteatern outdoor performances, or to go swimming and soaking up the sunshine on Långholmen.
Stockholm's theatrical community is characterized by four main sections: state-subsidised theaters, privately operated theaters, independent theater companies, and opera/operetta.
The state-subsidised theaters typically have a large and varied selection of classics, dramas, comedies and children's theatre on offer. The Stockholm City Theater which is housed in the enormous Cultural Center at Sergels Torg, is a prime example of this with its seven stages. There are performances here from early morning until late at night, catering for all tastes and ages. Among the most popular stages are the well-known Klara "Soup theater", Unga Klara, Backstage and the Park Theater. And yes, a number of famous faces, familiar from TV and movie screens, can be glimpsed at the stage entrance. The best place to catch celebrities is probably the Royal Dramatic Theater at Nybroplan, however. Ingmar Bergman has left an indelible mark in this theatrical institution, and while The Stockholm City Theatre is modern and populist, The Royal Dramatic Theatre offers an exclusive atmosphere and royal boxes. The exception to this is their satellite stage Elverket on Östermalm, which has a much more modern and youthful appeal.
The privately operated theatres have higher ticket prices, lots of chartered buses coming in from all over Sweden, and a repertoire of musicals and farces. The beautiful Oscarsteatern with its long theatrical history, has been at the centre of much controversy lately because of acrimonious disputes over changes of ownership, but the theater and the productions are generally magnificent and lavish, with strong casts and award-winning productions. The latter is equally true of Chinateatern at Berzelii Park and Cirkus on Djurgården. Intiman, Folkan and Maxim are sure bets if you are in the mood for a farce, and Göta Lejon has also had a number of productions that have been well worth seeing over the past couple of years.
The independent theatre companies typically offer rather reasonable ticket prices, and are often home to a more experimental staging by young, hot directors and actors. Among the better known companies are Teater Galeasen and Teater Plaza, where names like Thorsten Flinck, Mikael Persbrandt, Simon Norrthon and Stefan Larsson often appear on the programmes.
The Stockholm opera scene is dominated by two stages: the Royal Opera and the Folkopera. The same comparison applies here as between The Royal Dramatic Theatre and The Stockholm City Theatre. The Royal Opera is fancy and often fairly traditional, whereas The Folkopera is often younger, fresher and more modern. The great divas appear at The Royal Opera, and the upcoming opera stars of tomorrow at The Folkopera. Both are well worth a visit.
If you prefer cinematic Hollywood entertainment, downtown Stockholm has a lot to offer. Along the route from Hötorget to Stureplan, you will find Filmstaden Sergel, Saga and Rigoletto practically next door to one another. On Sveavägen, there is the Grand, and Söder sports all the offerings of Filmstaden Söder, Biopalatset Rival and Victoria. Röda and Lilla Kvarn on Biblioteksgatan are well worth a visit, as are charming Astoria on Nybrogatan or beautiful Park on Sturegatan.
The suburbs also have their fair share of Hollywood blockbuster cinemas, of course. If you find yourself a bit off the beaten visitor track, you can make your way to Filmstaden Camera in Täby or Grand Lidingö.
For those who prefer a more original cinematic repertoire, one place to go is Zita on Birger Jarlsgatan. Sture also has a great deal to offer to those who have had enough of American box office hits. The non Swedish-speaking visitor will be pleased to hear that foreign films in Sweden are shown in the original language with Swedish subtitles. The one exception to this is in children's movies, which are usually dubbed into Swedish. Even with children's movies, however, you may find that there are two versions available, subtitled or dubbed. This is especially likely with the major Disney movies, and it could be well worth your while to check with the box office.
Stockholm has a lot to offer to those in the mood for more cultural types of diversions. Djurgården is an excellent first stop. The dramatic reconstruction of the war ship Vasa, which sank in the Stockholm harbour on its maiden voyage, is a truly impressive sight at Vasamuséet, which is highly recommended for visitors of almost all ages. Close by is the magnificent Nordiska muséet, which has been mistaken by many a visitor for a royal palace, with all its towers and pinnacles. Liljevalchs and Waldemarsudde are a must for art lovers, while the Museum of Maritime History is a boat lover's dream. Skansen is not just a zoological park, but also a reserve for historic architecture and crafts, and visitors to Stockholm should definitely put several hours aside for all the wonderful sights here. Next to Skansen is the Biological Museum which specialises in displays of taxidermists' work in showing animals in their natural habitats.
If you are the least bit interested in history, a visit to the Museum of Medieval History is an experience you will not soon forget. Here, you can learn all about the history of Stockholm through the centuries of the Middle Ages, and the displays are usually of very high quality. The National Museum of Natural History is a bit off the beaten track out by The University of Stockholm, but it is well worth the effort of taking a bus or the metro to see all the fantastic exhibits and installations. While you are here, don't miss out on the omniplex films at Cosmonova where you can learn more about the cosmos or the Egypt of Pharaohs.
Fans of sculpture should definitely make a point of visiting the amazing Millesgården.. Färgfabriken by Liljeholmen also has a lot to offer, in both sculpture and modern art. In the latter category, a visit to the Museum of Modern Art is also a must, naturally.
The Concert Hall at Hötorget, with its philharmonic orchestra under the direction of American conductor Alan Gilbert, offers a sterling repertoire of classical music. Berwaldhallen, home to The Swedish Radio Symphony, is also highly recommended, with its unique acoustic design of beautiful natural wood. Rikskonserter arrange musical events all over Sweden, with a base at Nybrokajen in Stockholm.
For jazz and blues lovers, Fasching and Stampen are the top choices, but many of Stockholm's bars and pubs offer musical entertainment of this genre, especially on weekends, so check their programmes.
The major pop and rock concerts are usually held at the Globe Arena, Cirkus the Stadium or the Concert Hall. Tickets can usually be purchased at tobacconists displaying an ATG symbol, or at Sweden House on Hamngatan.
Nightclubs and Bars
Stockholm's undisputed centre of nightlife is the area between Kungsträdgården and Stureplan. This is where you find the hottest clubs and bars, and you can count on long queues after 11pm, with celebrities and other VIP guests blithely ignoring the said queues completely. Most places are open until 3am on weekends, with a few clubs enjoying extended hours until 5am.
In Kungsträdgården, Café Opera is the ultimate nightlife attraction, but Victoria and Daily News Café are also very popular. If you make your way towards Stureplan, you may want to check out Biblos, Sophie's Bar, Karlsson & Co or Halv trappa plus gård on the way. Once there, you cannot miss the queues outside Spy Bar, East, Laroy and Sturecompagniet.
If you prefer local pub life, Söder is the place to go. Söders Hjärta, Folkhemmet or Fenix are all safe bets. Vasastan also has a number of good pubs and bars, such as Cliff Barnes and Storstad. Or why not explore the huge selection of whiskeys and the genuine British pub atmosphere of the little known but very congenial Bishop's Arms on St. Eriksgatan. For that genuine pub feeling, The Loft on Regeringsgatan also comes highly recommended to those who prefer to stick to the central parts of downtown Stockholm.
"An appetizer (or a main course) which consists of among others bread and butter, cold cuts and small hot dishes" is how a smorgåsbord is defined according to the National Encyclopedia. Stockholm's restaurant world could be described as giant smorgasbord, offering something for every taste. Over the last twenty years the Stockholm smorgasbord has developed enormously, inspired by culinary art from the four corners of the earth as well as the Swedish cuisine. One explanation for today's multi-cultural restaurant life lies in the fact that Swedes, including Swedish chefs, travel greatly all over the world, bringing new ingredients and flavors as they come back to their own cuisine. In the old days it would have been sacrilege if one served herring in any other way than the traditional. Today it is not uncommon that herring is flavored with ginger or oregano; it is no longer a question of breaking the rules of the local cuisine, but about reinventing and blending. A couple of years ago every self-respecting neighborhood had a pizzeria; now the pizzerias have been forced to move closer together to make space for more exotic spices offered by Indian and Thai cuisines. Restaurants have been and still are springing up like colorful mushrooms all over the city, which has left the ordinary man and woman in Stockholm more gastronomically adventurous.
Norrmalm - City
Why not start off with a real Swedish breakfast at Grand Hotel one of the most exclusive hotels and restaurants in Stockholm? The buffet and the view over the water will take your breath away, and some famous faces may be hidden behind the morning paper. If you would rather have people to complement your breakfast, grab a smoothie at the American-inspired Wayne's Coffee Or have a pleasant awakening with a cup of mint-chocolate coffee across the street at Dilas, the little Italian coffee shop, where a genuinely Italian atmosphere rules, even in the early morning hours.
A must for champagne drinkers and lobster fans is Berns in Berzelli Park. Operakällaren is a classic in the Stockholm restaurant world, but if the prices are too high one can find equally fine food on the other side of the Kungliga Operan at Bakfickan. Another classic and immortal restaurant is Café Opera where simple home cooking is the main attraction. The paradox of combining luxury with simple home cooking can be enjoyed at Sturehof the present hub of Stockholm's restaurant life, open practically round the clock. Prinsen is still the rendezvous place for many actors, poets and artists, and at KB the cultural elite mixed with Internet elite, sampling crossover and traditional Swedish dishes. Crossover and other food trends that characterised the Swedish cuisine during the Nineties began at Rolfs Kök. East regarded as the best soul bar in town, offers modern Asian food from Thailand, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.
Have a generous lunch and drink as much blueberry juice as you want to at Blåbär If the craving for a juicy entrecôte becomes too unbearable, visit the French tavern Minerva. Il Forno (which in Italian means "wood oven") does not look like much on the outside. It is a well-kept secret amongst pizza-lovers who make a pilgrimage from all over town to get their wood oven-baked pizzas. These, combined with great pasta at bargain prices are part of Leonardo's winning concept. Norma on the corner could easily be missed, but the cosy atmosphere and the traditional Swedish food with European influences make a meal here a long-lasting memory. Hoedupbab is a giant hit among other fun Korean specialties at Koreana. Habana is a great introduction to Cuban cuisine. Another modern Asian restaurant is Mooncake with its focus on Chinese food, serves with finesse and fantasy. A personal and relaxed atmosphere accompanied by the seas' delicacies is Musslan specialty.
Peppar is a classic in its neighborhood; here stout and masculine dishes such as chili, jambalaya and so forth dominate the menu. Sala Thai has for a long time been the Thai king of Vasastan. Small, fastidious, nice and comfortable is September, worth a visit; a piece of advice, though, is to book one of the few tables beforehand. Storstad on the other hand won the Stockholm Award for best restaurant, and is extremely popular. Tranan is well-visited, whether it is in the actual restaurant where the favourite dish is meatballs and Rydbergare, or downstairs in the bar with the pinball machines. Especially during the weekends it is frequented by young people out clubbing. Bistro de Wasahof is the pride of Vasastan located at Vasaparken where French cuisine gets on well with Swedish; it is appreciated by older-generation journalists, authors and actors. Last but not least, spend your Sunday morning relaxing at Sirap over a fragrant American brunch.
It may not be Bagdad Café, but it is Beirut Café that whets the appetite for Lebanese food. The Lebanese cuisine has a lot in common with the Turkish, and the Turkish cuisine has a lot in common with the Greek. The result is Halv Grek Plus Turk The name is a wordplay as one of the owners is a Turk and the other is half Greek. Step in through the somewhat anonymous door and in an instant you are in the Mediterranean with a taste of aniseed and green figs. Grodan Grev Ture is the mecca for many young, hip, hardworking people around Stureplan, who go to enjoy its traditional dishes. Ciao Ciao Due crowd consists of both young gluttons and well-behaved families ordering the same tasty, traditional Italian food. Lydmar has a stylish dining room where one can choose between a range of appetizing dishes, no matter what the budget, since the food comes in three different sizes. Tures is the natural hang-out after the end of a working day, while No 18 gets better the closer it gets to midnight. Wedholms Fisk is the fish restaurant with a capital F, and has kept its winning concept through the years: fresh fish, heavenly sauces and enormous portions.
Ulla Winbladh was originally built as a baker's shop for the international Stockholm exhibition in 1897, and everything from the interior décor to the food still is genuinely Swedish. Villa Källhagen is regarded as one of the best restaurants in town. The food is made with a never-ending passion for the Swedish flora and the four seasons. Please make a trip to Rosendals trädgård a priority. On a sunny day either go here for an early fresh lunch (the queue starts early) or have one of the irresistible home-baked pastries and sit down among the old, beautiful, knotty apple trees in the garden.
The Old Town
The historical Den Gyldene Freden was opened in celebration of the peace at Nystad in 1722. Hence the name, Gyldene Freden, which means "the golden peace". Ever since, the restaurant has been much frequented, and well-established among locals. A comfortable quality restaurant with staff that does everything to make you happy is Järnet. Kaos is an imaginative retreat and a culinary surprise. Gourmet food is served at Lejontornet, in medieval surroundings. The modern and robust atmosphere at Mårten Trotzig is hard to resist. Trattoria Romana is located in a charming basement, with equally charming food and accompanying violinists.
The view is unique and dazzling at the international Gondolen and the same goes for the food. The flagship at Södermalm is Hannas with unaffected and unconventional food and patrons. Across the street is Hannas Deli which is much more crowded and fashionable. Il Tempo Italian food is a cherished culinary dream. The kitchen's concept is "food from all over the world" and Matkultur is a place where lunch is a sacred institution. Muggen is a romantic place with praiseworthy, modern Italian food. Delicious French crepes are made in a steady succession at Creperie Fyra Knop and ordering in French is deeply appreciated. Snaps/Rangus Tangus is an affable restaurant located in a palatial building at Medborgarplatsen. An unpretentious eaterie is Sjögräs either after work or before the adventure of the evening. Sushi and sashimi are very good reasons to visit Sushi-Ya. Wake up slowly at Mosebacke Etablissement eat their weekend buffet and play a game of chess.
Mamas and Tapas is Spanish culture and cuisine personified. You are well taken care of, plus you have the opportunity of enjoying traditional Swedish food in the yellow-painted place called Absinth Bar & Bistro. Snails cooked in a variety of ways are L'Escargot's speciality. High-class food and perfection are Bon Lloc's guidelines—the world champion chef Mathias Dahlgren rules in this kitchen. Göken used to be a beer-house, and has developed into a little pearl with regards to the food and the service. The sushi is in a division of its own at Roppongi Something as original as a crossover between Gotlandish and Mediterranean food is what people eat at Spisa hos Helena. Beautiful restaurants with carefully cooked food close to the water are Sjöpaviljongen and Ocean.
Although the Stockholmer has become more educated in the culinary art, a hot dog with bostongurka and rostad lök still has a sacred place in most hearts. You might actually get one of your best culinary experiences in Stockholm at one of the hot-dog stands around town.