Stockholm – things to do

There’s no doubt that Stockholm is among the priciest capitals in the world to visit, but with a few smart choices, you can make each dollar last a little longer. 3 days in Stockholm did set a small hole in my pocket, but not big enough to keep me off my next trip! And most important of all, it was a enthralling and entertaining 3 days in this colorful capital of Sweden.
Take a walk along Lake Malaren. And a new adventure begins. Many attractions in Stockholm are situated around or near Lake Malaren, which flows through the city out into the Baltic Sea. What better way to begin an exploration of Stockholm than with a walk along the lake side. From the train station, I first headed south towards the water, then east along it, passing a couple of interesting sights along the way.
Having been to a few other European cities, I was amazed at how clean Stockholm was, and how safe it felt. Walking through the streets, modern amenities alongside centuries old buildings, felt surreal. Not long after, I found myself standing in front of a grand looking hotel. Unfortunately, not looking like one that will fit my budget, and I continued a little further to the accommodation I had booked for the next 3 nights, which was rather interesting too.
On the other side of waterway from the af Chapman is Gamla Stan, an island on its own in the middle of Stockholm. This historic district is where the Royal Palace is, as well as where long winding alleys lined by centuries old buildings can be found. Across the street from the Royal Palace, you’ll find a maze of long narrow streets, perfect for getting lost in, or to be transported a few centuries back in time. The sun was setting, and my tummy rumbling. Cutting across Gamla Stan from north to south, I found myself at Sodermalm, a more modern district in Stockholm, and where I was hoping to chance upon more wallet friendly alternatives to the fancy restaurants in Gamla Stan.
The shortest way to get from Sodermalm back to the hostel was through Gamla Stan. I was pleasantly surprised and how different it felt the second time I went in, through a different set of alleys this time. I definitely wouldn’t dare linger along such alleys in most cities in Europe, but here in Stockholm, I could afford to indulge a little and soak in the mysterious atmosphere that grew with the night. As I wandered around Gamla Stan, I suddenly found myself standing in the Parade Square of the Royal Palace, where everything stood still.
It was a little unnerving being the only one there, other than the guards who stood ever so perfectly still. Not sure if I was even supposed to be there, but there were no signs or barriers. I quickly took some shots and left back to the slightly more lively square at Slottsbacken. Weaving around Gamla Stan, I chanced upon the beautiful square at Slottsbacken. To the left, the Finnish Church, almost 400 years old. On the extreme right, the Royal Palace’s southern facade, and to it’s left, the Storkyrkan (Church of St Nicholas). It is the oldest church in Gamla Stan at over 700 years old. Finally, in front of the church, the 22m high, 200 year old Obelisk. Standing in the middle of the square and admiring the historic landmarks at Slottsbacken is a calming, subtle way to round off the first day in Stockholm.
It was getting late, and a little chilly, being in middle of September and me still dressed in summer wear. I quicken my pace as I made my way back across the bridges to the ship for the night. Though not being far from all the bustle of city life and the attractions, the island where the ship was anchored at, Skeppsholmen, was refreshingly quiet, not too still but great for getting a good rest. And if you ever needed to be reminded of the hustle and bustle, Gamla Stan was just across the water: With the ship gently rocking with the slight waves, I drifted into a sound sleep, tired from the day of walking.
Surprisingly, I was able to sleep well and wake up early the next day, despite my roommates crashing in all together in the middle of the night after a heavy partying session. Skies looked brilliant. But first, to breakfast, which was also the first challenge of the day – finding the shuttle bus to Ikea. I was first directed to the Gallerian, near Sergels torg, by the hostel staff, but an enquiry at the information counter there led me further down the road all the way to the front of the Stockholm Central Station.
Back in the city, off for another walk to work off the morning junk. Not far from the railway station is the Stockholm City Hall, or Stadshus, another prominent landmark in Stockholm, almost a hundred years old. Stop by the promenade, and enjoy panoramic views of Gamla Stan from across Lake Malaren. High walls of the Stadshus conceal a charming courtyard inside, perfect for photo opportunities. The lawn in fronting the City Hall, along the lake’s edge, is also a lovely place to sit and relax. Views of Gamla Stan complimentary (so is entry to the courtyard).
On the other side of the city hall, a sharp contrast, also featuring prominently on the skyline, the Stockholm Waterfront. After admiring all that architecture, old and new, it was time to explore something else, finding the heart of all the action, in central Stockholm. Ostermalm Saluhall, established in 1888, showcases a wide variety of fresh and cooked food, and is one of the top things to do while in Stockholm. During my visit though, the old building was undergoing renovations, and a temporary market was set up next to it until the renovations are done in 2018.
Entry to this permanent food fair is free, but as someone suggested on TripAdvisor, it is not a good idea to visit when hungry. Fortunately for my wallet, I was still a little full from the heavy breakfast and took the opportunity to enjoy the sights and smell, without the tasting this time. I’d love to come back some day to try some of it though.
Station designs in the Stockholm metro range from the absolutely stunning to the bizarre, and it wouldn’t be an understatement to say that they’re out of this world. Of course, they’re also one of the more affordable things to do while here, that you definitely can’t do anywhere else. (Though the Moscow and St Petersburg metros are just as beautiful and out of this world too). Took a quick metro tour deep below the surface. Something to be mindful of, that in this underground labyrinth devoid of sunlight you can quickly lose track of time. Much like in a casino.

Chris Agar

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