How Swede It Is: Exploring Handsome Stockholm

17/09/2014

Now that the excitement of last week’s national election is largely behind it, while the politicians jockey, at street level Sweden‘s handsome capital has returned to business as usual. This elegant, eminently liveable city made up of 14 islands, gateway to a Baltic Sea archipelago of 24,000 more, is a masterly mix of the cutting-edge and the historic, and lately infused with new energy and multicultural flavour that have brought some truly world-class features to this city.

Two of those islands, Gamla Stan and Riddarholmen, together make up Europe’s largest and best preserved mediaeval quarter, home to narrow streets (including the narrowest of all, Marten Trotzig Gränd, a whopping 90 centimetres/35 inches wide). Knock around its little shops and have a bite in its lovely restaurants, such as the classic Fem Små Hus. Catch the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace, one of the largest on the continent. Nearby is the austere yet impressive red-brick city hall, where all the Nobel Prizes but the peace prize are awarded each December.

Top spots not to miss, including more than 70 museums, with standouts such as the Vasamuseet, a museum built around a restored 17th-century ship; the Nobelmuseet, covering the history of the Nobels and their recipients; the Modern Art Museum, designed by Spaniard Rafael Moneo, with a suitably impressive collection of national works with names including Picasso, Dalí, and Matisse; and Skansen, an absoluteley enchanting example – and the world’s oldest – of an open-air ethnographic museum, where houses and shops from centuries past are brought together and brought to life with actors to show you how it was back in the day (here they throw in a zoo with Nordic critters).

To all that, of course, these days you have to add the Stockholm of the late Stieg Larsson, who wrote The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and its sequels, much of it set in the working-class district of Södermalm, including Kvarnen, a pub frequented by the series heroine Lisbeth Salander.The City Museum actually organises tours at this point, so have at it! .

Useful Facts

Sweden has a bit more than 9 million inhabitants, of which its capital has 1.28 million.

The climate is moderate in summer due to the Gulfstream, but cold in winter, with frequent snowfalls.

The currency is the Swedish krona (crown).

More information: VisitStockholm.com

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images  | Benoit Derrier