Scattered across 14 islands, Stockholm is a city with a magical setting. Here's how to spend a perfect day there.
It's no wonder that Stockholmers always look so happy. They live in a city filled with charming neighbourhoods, all easily walkable, connected by bridges, ferries, and a metro system that doubles as an art gallery. Throw in a medieval city centre with cobblestone streets and imposing palaces, plenty of cutting-edge fashion and food, and some great museums – not to mention the vast archipelago that surrounds it – and it is easy to understand why living in (or visiting) Stockholm is pure pleasure.
8am Up and at 'em
Start the day in Gamla Stan, the city's beautiful medieval heart. Kick off with breakfast at Under Kastanjen (underkastanjen.se/en), named for the chestnut tree which shades it, where baked goods (including gluten-free options) are served fresh from the oven. From here, you can visit the Royal Palace (kungahuset.se) or the lovely medieval abbey of Riddarholmskyrkan (kungahuset.se), or simply wander through the cobblestone streets lined with colourful houses. Bypass the tourist shops on the main drag of Västerånggaten and head down the side streets to discover artisanal shops such as stainless steel jewellery at Edblad (edblad.com/en) and handmade gloves at Handskbutiken (handskbutiken.com). Keep an eye out for the city's narrowest street, Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, which whittles down to a tight 90cm.
11am Mamma mia!
Take a ferry to Djurgården to pay tribute to Sweden's most famous export at Abba The Museum (abbathemuseum.com/en). Much more than a collection of memorabilia – although there are plenty of those notorious costumes on display – this well-thought-out museum has plenty of interactive displays that let you sing in Abba's studio, or even see what you would look like in their outfits.
1pm Eat your greens
It has lovely views across the Old Town, but that's not what makes the restaurant at Fotografiska (fotografiska.eu/en), on Södermalm island, such a great place for lunch. Chef Paul Svensson puts the spotlight firmly on vegetables; think salt-baked celeriac flavoured with lemon, ramson, spinach and just a small helping of plaice. After lunch, take a stroll through the museum. Fotografiska has a superb collection of contemporary photography, and also holds exhibitions featuring big names such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Sebatiao Salgado.
4pm Cool down
Stroll to Stockholm's hippest neighbourhood, SoFo (from SOuth of FOlkungagatan), where the streets around Nytorget Square are filled with cool shops, bars and restaurants (sofo-stockholm.se). Bondegatan is where local designers such as Matilda Wendelboe have their outlets; along Nytorgsgatan, you will find quirky outlets such as Hipp! (hippstory.com/en) and Grandpa (grandpa.se/en), which sell a quirky mix of products. Refresh yourself with a drink or a snack at the charming Café String (cafestring.se), where everything from the plate you are eating off to the table you are sitting at is for sale.
6pm Enjoy an aperitif
Stockholm's bars don't really get going until late at night, but a pre-dinner drink never goes astray. In Södermalm, drop in to the gorgeous art deco bar at the Hotel Rival (www.rival.se/en) – owned by ABBA's Benny Andersson – for a cocktail. Beer drinkers should head for Oliver Twist (olivertwist.se/en), which has around two dozen choices on tap, including a number of microbrews. If you prefer a glass of wine, head to Gamla Stan, where the lovely Gaston (gastonvin.se) offers around 400 wines from boutique producers around the world.
8pm Enjoy some pub grub
Stockholm has more than its share of outstanding New Nordic restaurants; unfortunately, most of them are eye-wateringly expensive. That explains why The Flying Elk (theflyingelk.se) has become such a local favourite. This gastropub from wunderchef Björn Frantzén – his empire also includes the Michelin-starred Restaurant Frantzén and Gaston wine bar – takes pub food to the next level. We love the scallops with truffled scrambled eggs and the hand-cut veal tartare, but the big mover (go figure) is that English pub classic, fish and chips.
10pm Turn in
Ostermalm's Ett Hem hotel (etthem.se) pulls off that rarest of achievements: it actually feels like you are staying with friends. The eclectic décor, relaxed feel and the profusion of welcoming spots to settle in (we love lounging in the glasshouse) all help create the mood. So does the relaxed approach to mealtimes (think "whatever, whenever"). Leave time for that favourite Scandinavian treat, an invigorating session in the sauna.
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