A Swedish beacon of refined, royal civilization
Established in the 1250s, Stockholm occupies a dramatic setting – it’s spread over 14 small islands and linked by 50 bridges. Its 1.9m inhabitants enjoy one of the most refined cities in Europe, which offers visitors impressive functionalist architecture and a stylish design mecca. Sweden is one of the world’s most liberal, progressive and democratic countries, achieved through high taxes and big government. Two-thirds of the city’s area is occupied by parkland or water and nowhere is the Swedes’ deep-seated sense of responsibility more clearly demonstrated than at the Rosendal Botanic Gardens, where everything is fervently organic! The main area of interest is the Gamla Stan (Old Town), which lies at the foot of the Kunglige Slottet, the largest royal palace in the world. If your tastes are bohemian, hang out in Sodermalm; if you prefer gentrified, stroll gracefully through Kungsholmen.
During summer, get up at 3 a.m. to witness the Northern Lights: an eerie blue sky emerges from a swathe of peach! Tuck into Sweden’s most famous gastronomic delight, the Smorgasbord; this huge buffet of herring, salmon, eel and hot and cold meats can be enjoyed at the Grand Hotel.
When to go?
It’s important to know that Swedish winters are long, dark and harsh, with Stockholm temperatures dropping to -7°C, with only 6 hours of daylight at New Year. Conversely, you can enjoy 18 hours of daylight at midsummer, when temperatures rise to a heady 25°C! You should book accommodation in advance during the summer, and will find that prices drop at weekends.
How to get there?
The main airport for Stockholm is Arlanda Airport (ARN) which is 38km from town. You may also fly into Bromma (BMA), 7 km from town, or Vasteras (VST) at 96 km. Arlanda serves most European airports, including London Heathrow (LHR). There is an express train every 20 minutes from Arlanda to the city centre; a Stockholm card will get you onto all public transport, from the subway to the ferries.
For a taste of “Old Sweden in a Nutshell”, go to the open-air museum at Skansen. Drottningholm Palace is a spectacular island complex of stately buildings. The most frequently-visited attraction in all Scandinavia is Vasamuseet, the 17th Century Warship “Vasa”; its early demise and subsequent restoration are a source of enormous national pride for Swedish people. If you prefer more modest vessels, why not hop on and off a boat-tour to see the city for just 10 Euros?