by Nicha Jones
When I was a young one, I had a Swedish pen pal that I found online -- back when the screeching dial tone of the internet dial-up drove one insane, and AOL messaging was some sort of archaic form of text messaging. Through the pictures my Swedish pen pal Stina would send me, I began to paint a magical landscape of what I thought Sweden would be like. Lost in the imaginary world of my version of Scandinavia, it was about that time that I promised myself that I would travel there one day. Little did I know that this would change my life in more ways than one.
I ended up meeting my now husband while swiping on Tinder in Stockholm -- and upon our first date (at some grimy pool hall bar), felt instantly connected. Due to international long distance and me being miserable in San Francisco, I decided to quit my job and crash with him for a few months. After several months of back-and-forths, Sweden became my second home.
I have since moved to Philadelphia, but the design aesthetic, the art museums, and the slew of attractive Scandinavians of my second home still make my heart flutter. This majestic city is just full of interesting things to do.
This is my insider's guide to Sweden...from an outsider's POV, of course.
This modern museum is one of my favorites in the world. The private collection is quite impressive, with several heavy-hitting feminist artists sprinkled in, and some the most interactive exhibits I’ve ever experienced. Outside of the museum you’ll find installation art, including a permanent Picasso garden in the rear. If you really want to be ambitious, you can walk next door to their Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, which is totally free!
MUSEUM OF FAR EASTERN ANTIQUITIE
I found this museum to be a pleasant surprise. The Chinese Ceramic exhibit was fascinating due to the sheer number of artifacts they have collected. There’s also a Japanese Buddhist section in the museum that walks you through the different sects of Buddhism practiced throughout the ages, and statues that correspond with the given eras. It’s a quick see, but definitely worth it if you are on a budget and have time to kill!
BARRELS BURGERS & BEER
This cozy food joint offers tasty burgers that range from classic to gourmet and boasts the best beers on tap. Johan, the bartender, has the chops to educate you on the curated collection of rotating beers on tap and help you decide based on personal preference. The service is delightful, PLUS it’s located right in the middle of historic Gamla Stan (Old Town).
I’m from the wine country, so I have a pretty high standard when it comes to bottles I enjoy. This particular wine bar, also located in Gamla Stan, is by far my favorite place in Stockholm to enjoy a fine glass of wine. They offer up a wide variety of European styles, along with a few American ones peppered in. The French selection is definitely worth exploring, just know that you most likely will spend a little more than you may want if you are on a budget. But hey, sometimes you have to treat yourself!
Swedes partake in a daily ritual called fika, which basically means coffee break time. Petrus is a great place to indulge in this custom! I would highly recommend getting either a sandwich or a delicious pastry with your coffee. It’s quite cozy, but sometimes it does get a bit crowded, so I would suggest going there during off hours. It’s located in the infamously hip neighborhood Södermalm, where you can watch the attractive well-dressed Scandinavians walk by.
People go here for their tasty pizzas, but I prefer their small plates, which range from steak tartare to duck pâté. There are of course a couple of things on the menu for vegetarians as well! Be sure to get there earlier than later on weekends since it can get packed very fast and the space isn’t that big.
MAGNUS NILSSON'S KORVKIOSK AT TEATERN
If you’re into sausages, then this is the place to go in Stockholm! Magnus Nilsson is the head chef at the Swedish equivalent to Noma. He specializes in sausages and makes them Swedish style, which is a wrap crammed with shrimp salad and cucumber. It’s located inside a shopping center in a food hall called Teatern. There’s also other delicious food options such as ramen, bánh mì sandwiches, pastries, and more.
This place is what I would describe as a fusion between traditional Swedish seasonal ingredients and experimental gourmet. It’s not the cheapest place to grab a meal, but it’s definitely not over priced considering what you are getting. The atmosphere is really casual and it’s not hard to grab a table if you just want to walk in without reservations. I tried reindeer heart here for the first time and must say, it exceeded expectations!
This is an art museum which used to be the home of an eccentric Swedish countess named Wilhelmina, who had a penchant for collecting a wide variety of art work. She traveled the world and collected art upon her journeys before eventually bringing back and housed the pieces in her palace. It’s not the most obvious Art Museum choice in Stockholm, but it’s a worthy must-see!
So this place houses 3 different establishments -- a restaurant is called Linje Tio, a wine bar is Hornstulls Bodega, and a barber shop called Roy & Son (in the case you’re feeling a bit disheveled and grungy). Apparently it’s one of the top 100 bars in the world, so if the atmosphere isn’t convincing enough, maybe its global notoriety is. This place gets really crowded on the weekends, but it may be worth it if you’re interested in people-watching.
This place is where to go if you are keen on contemporary photography. They have a rotation of exhibits, and the views here are hard to beat! The admission is a bit pricey, but well worth it. I’ve also been told that the café there is quite good, but I have yet to try it!