on 17 Nov 2016
Reindeers, IKEA, meatballs with lingonberry sauce, ABBA, chunky snowflake jumpers, men called Lars, television shows called Wallander, cars called Volvo and sewing machines called Husqvarna. This is Sverige. The centre of Scandinavia, Sweden is one of the world’s most liveable countries. Once home of ferocious Vikings, Sweden’s modern face is one of neutrality, and is the largest sovereign state in Scandinavia.
Stockholm - Stockholm is the largest city and the capital. It rests upon the Stockholm Archipelago, spreading across 14 islands interconnected by some 50 bridges. The Royal Swedish family resides within, giving it an extra dimension beyond other popular tourist stops. The cobblestone streets and ochre-coloured buildings of Gamla Stan (the old town) are home to the 13th-century Storkyrkan Cathedral, the Kungliga Slottet Royal Palace and the Nobel Museum, which focuses on the Nobel Prize (the one that Bob Dylan doesn’t want to collect). Ferries and sightseeing boats shuttle visitors between the islands.
Must-see – Gamla Stan. Gamla Stan, the Old Town with its narrow, winding cobbled streets, is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centres in Europe. Stockholm was founded here in 1252. All of Gamla Stan and the adjacent island of Riddarholmen are like a living pedestrian-friendly museum full of sights, attractions, restaurants, cafés, bars and places to shop. Stockholm Cathedral, the Nobel Museum and Royal Palace (over 600 rooms) are located in Gamla Stan. In addition to the reception rooms, there are several interesting museums in the Palace, including the Royal Armory, with royal costumes and armour. Don't miss the parade of soldiers and the daily changing of the guard.
The WOW factor – Who didn’t go ‘WOW’ when ABBA graced our screens way back when. Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid were and still are, for most of us, ABBA. The Swedish platform-booted and sparkly super troupers stormed the pop world between 1972 and 1983 and gave us pop classics such as ‘Dancing Queen’. ABBA The Museum is a permanent exhibition in the new Swedish Music Hall of Fame on the island of Djurgarden, a brisk walk or short bus or tram ride from the centre of Stockholm. The museum is a 5-minute walk from the must-see Skansen Open-Air Museum and the famous Vasa Museum, which displays the only almost fully-intact 17th century 64-gun warship – the Vasa, that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628.
Oh, and the Gondolen bar and restaurant. Enjoy sleek fine-dining in surrounds suspended above the harbor with sweeping views over the city.
Must try – IKEA and The Muppets have introduced the world to kottbullar (meatballs) but there’s more to Swedish ‘husmankost’ (traditional fare) than those little bliss balls. Head to Prinsen (Master Samuelsgatan 4, 111 44 Stockholm – Tel - +46 8 611 13 31) for a herring platter, Pelikan ( Blekingegatan 40, 116 62 Stockholm - Tel - +46 8 556 090 90) for SOS (Smor, ost och sill) – butter, cheese and herring and pytt I panna – diced and fried meat and potatoes adorned with a fried egg and pickled beetroot; and Lisa Elmqvist (Humlegardsgatan 1, 114 46 Stockholm – Tel - +46-8-553 404 10) or Bakfickan ( Jakobs torg 12, 111 52 Stockholm – Tel - +46 8 676 58 08) for more quality Swedish chow.
Something different – Grab some herring and lingonberries from a local supermarket or market and head for the green oasis of Djurgarden. The island, a short walk from downtown Stockholm, has many picnic spots, tranquil walking and cycle paths, and fantastic city views. Swedish monarchs have owned the island since it was first acquired by King Kal Knutsson in 1452, and today a branch of the royal court continues to administer it.
Best time to visit – The Nordic spring and summer. The sun starts to shine in Sweden from around end April through mid-October. Optimum time is between June and September.
Visitors should also head to Gothenburg Malmo, situated along the southern tip of Sweden and which offers an intriguing landscape of maritime culture. UNESCO-listed Visby is also worthy of exploration, as are the university cities of Lund and Uppsala.
Stay tuned for - Copenhagen next week.