I have decided to start a series of travel posts after my latest rendezvous with the travel bug. I’m hoping this is only the beginning of my adventures and that there is many more to come. This was my first trip away completely on my own. Before I left I was intimidated to an extent about doing everything on my own. I was half convinced I wouldn’t even make it out of Dublin Airport, never mind to Stockholm and back! On my way home I was trying to figure out what the big deal, it was just like travelling to any other city where their accents were slightly different – like Cork 😀 But in Stockholm, absolutely everybody speaks English, unlike in Cork!
Like any anxious, novice traveller, I brought way too much shit with me. A terrible idea – no space for all the clothes I wanted to buy!! In my defence, I was going for a weekend to -8 degrees celsius and I had to pack clothes suitable for a yoga class – yoga mat and block included! Not normally what you think of packing when going on a weekend away. Now for anyone travelling to Sweden in winter, wear black! No, it’s not because I think you will look fat from all the gorging you engaged in during the festive season. It’s because Swedes wear nothing but dark colours. This means I stood out like a sore thumb in my blue jeans, white ski jacket and brown hiking boots. And trust me, you really do look like a tourist, so maybe try to avoid such a fashion faux pas.
Stockholm is one of the top 20 safest cities in the world making it very reassuring for anyone travelling alone. Although after getting very lost on my first night, in my quest to find a Christmas market, I heard loads of sirens. I learned on the way back to the airport that two people had been shot dead in a cafe just around the block from where I was. I’m glad I learnt that on my last day, at that time it happened I was actually looking for somewhere to eat. But hey! it makes for a good story.
Keep in mind that it gets dark in Stockholm a lot earlier than it does in Ireland, so do your sightseeing earlier in the day, finding places in the dark is certainly more difficult. Top Tip: Don’t use a H&M store as a landmark – there’s easily a million of them in Stockholm! I did a lot of walking in circles! Use Google Maps offline. Once you mark the places you want to go to as saved, then turn on your location and simply follow the streets as shown on Google Maps. But if you do get lost like myself there is plenty of places offering free wifi. Look out for places such as; Espresso House, Wayne’s Coffee & Juice, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King, the train station, plus tonnes of other places.
Go to a museum! I didn’t because I am not a big museum person, but I totally regret it. There are museums in Stockholm to literally suit everyone. Whether history is your thing or fashion. They have it all in a museum. Something like 18 out of the 80 museums in Stockholm are completely free to enter. If I ever return, I’d definitely visit The Royal Armoury (Livrustkammaren), which has a collection of royal clothing from the centuries. The Royal Palace, purely because it is so impressive from the outside ABBA: the museum, because who doesn’t love ABBA! On the walking tour, you got a real idea of how close all these places were to each other. Plus a favourite of mine was what was nicknamed the ‘Hot Lady’. Even though the statue looks like a man, it’s meant to depict a once very beautiful actress. Apparently, she didn’t want a statue of herself that was out in the cold, so after she died her friends put up a statue of her which, is in fact, hot! A delightful surprise when your fingers are almost frostbitten from the Scandinavian winter.
Stockholm does have a very colourful history, brought to life by the many beautiful buildings and statues. The fact that many of their buildings are very old and perfectly intact is due to their good fortune of having escaped being bombed in the World Wars. Not to mention, their architecture is influenced by literally everywhere so no two buildings are alike. The best way to experience this is by doing a walking tour. I am all about the free – so I did a free walking tour. I did the morning one which starts at 10 o’clock and brings you around the modern city. There is also other free tours ran by the same company. They do ask for an optional donation so make sure you have change. I got stuck giving 100 krone (€10), which to be honest wasn’t too bad. Bring good shoes, I wore my hiking boots, because my runners were no match for the ancient cobbled streets.
Eating in Stockholm is probably the most expensive thing I encountered. I would recommend you really research some quality cheap and cheerful places to eat. My first night I passed a little Italian place, typically I couldn’t find it again in the dark, so I returned in the daylight. It was called Pizzeria Al Forno, they were reasonably priced and gave you a massive feed.
For all your shopping needs head to Queen Street (Drottninggatan). It’s the longest pedestrian street in Stockholm and has an array of design, clothes and tourist shops. Not to mention H&M is fab in Sweden. Obviously being Swedish they are everywhere and really nice, unlike the majority of H&M branches in Ireland.
Hotels are expensive, so I stayed in an Airbnb. Although you can stay in a hostel which is actually a huge yacht, if that’s what you’re into! My host Anita was absolutely lovely and the place was so bright and clean, plus the bed was so comfy. I was literally in the most central place, I couldn’t have had a better location. I was only a five-minute walk from the central train station and the Arlanda Express. If you travel with SAS, their planes from Ireland to Stockholm are tiny, so try to be up at the top of the queue or your carry on may end up at your feet. So glad I didn’t have to endure that! It is like a Ryanair plane only more squished. But you do get free tea or coffee to sweeten you a little.
I had intended to go to a Christmas market in Old Town (Gamla Stan), which unfortunately was not on and I let myself give up the search when really I should have gone to another market. From a conversation I overheard on the plane home I’d recommend going to the Christmas market in Skansen. It’s meant to be beautiful. So go get yourself some Glogg and listen to the carol singing.
I went to Stockholm for a yoga class, I wrote a post on it outlining what an amazing experience it was that attracted me to Stockholm. So I wasn’t just a complete looper who went for the weekend, or maybe I was!