Viking it up in Stockholm

From Gothenburg we continued on to Stockholm (4-8 Sep). After so much rushing around in Gothenburg I was a bit museum’d out and content to spend time just catching up on the kind of general admin that accumulates while you’re travelling (email, photos, etc), but Alex was keen to get out there and devour as much as possible, so we took time to do the things that interested each of us the most at our own pace.

Stockholm is not as expensive as Oslo and probably more on par with Denmark, but you get more SEK than DKK for your £ (at the moment, anyway). I was particularly impressed by how easy it was to get around the city: the public transport system is frequent, fast and efficient. We didn’t find quite so much evidence of cutting edge Scandinavian design in Stockholm as we did in Copenhagen (but perhaps we didn’t look in the right places), so it was more about the Vikings this time: from history and artefacts to, best of all, food (see Eats below). :D

Gamla Stan, seen from City Hall tower

10 top things to see and do in Stockholm

  1. Cycling tour. As usual, something like this is a great introduction to a new city and you can’t get much more Scandinavian than riding around on bikes that require back pedalling to brake.
  2. Gamla Stan. Wander around aimlessly and just enjoy the beautiful streets. This is particularly nice in the evening when there’s still some life around but it’s much quieter.
  3. Stockholm City Hall tower. Climb up to the top to take your postcard perfect photos of Gamla Stan.
  4. Monteliusvägen. If you visit Stockholm during a month when the City Hall tower is closed, you want to save some money, or you just fancy a walk and another nice view, get off the T-bana at Slussen and head to the left to climb up the hill for a very picturesque stroll.
  5. Vasa Museum. If you only go to one museum in Stockholm make it this one. Catch one of the guided tours and watch out the amazing documentary film about the ship’s reconstruction, then you can spend an hour or two pouring over the detailed exhibits and trying to take a photo that does the Vasa justice (good luck!).
  6. Fotografiska. When we visited Stockholm’s museum of photography we caught two excellent exhibitions of works by Christer Strömholm and Sally Mann. It’s open until 9pm every day (except Midsummer’s Eve and Christmas Eve), which is a bonus.
  7. National Historical Museum of Stockholm. This is where you can go to get your historical Viking fix: weapons, glassware, jewellery and coin hoards, even a skeleton. The museum has lots of other exhibits too, and it’s free on Fridays between 13:00-17:00!
  8. Nobel Museum. Alex did this one by himself and he raved about it and said it was inspirational.
  9. Thorildsplan T-bana station. Check it out if you’re a fan of retro gaming. :)
  10. Östermalm’s Saluhall. A very fancy market hall that I don’t recommend buying anything from, but it is nice to wander around and some of the stalls give out free samples.

Thorildsplan T-bana

If we hadn’t already been to the Norsk Folk Museum in Oslo and Old Bergen we probably also would have visited Stockholm’s famous open air museum, Skansen. And if we weren’t a bit roller-coastered-out from doing three other Scandinavian theme parks in the previous two weeks we probably would have gone to Gröna Lund too. (Although I’m not sure if I would have been brave enough to ride on Insane!)

Gröna Lund at night

Eats & drinks

  • Nystekt Strömming. A fried herring stand out the front of Slussen station that may look no more appealing than a miscellaneous kebab stand but is well worth it for a cheap, tasty and very Scandinavian meal.
  • There’s another takeaway-with-picnic-tables stand roughly in front of Ringvägen 4 that does cheap and tasty Thai food.
  • Örtagården. An all-you-can-eat, mostly vegetarian buffet overlooking Östermalm’s Saluhall. 99SEK for lunch and you probably won’t need dinner.
  • Cafe Art. A nice underground cafe in the middle of Gamla Stan. Recommended by Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet it was nonetheless very quiet when we were there. Excellent service.
  • Drop Coffee. A lovely and bright cafe next to Mariatorget T-bana station. Great tea and cardamom buns  (I’m sure the coffee is excellent too) and free wifi.
  • Airfur. Sweden’s first and only restaurant dedicated to Viking food! We went despite expecting it to be cheesy but it’s not at all: the staff are great and seemed like they were really enjoying their roles, the food is excellent and the extensive list of different meads is as impressive as the drinks are strong and delicious. The decor is fantastic – we saw originals of the authentic glassware at the National Historical Museum. It was one of the priciest meals we’ve had on this journey but it’s well worth it if you want to treat yourself.

Deer on a fork, Aifur

[more photos]

Sightseeing in Gothenburg

We didn’t have any big plans for Gothenburg, it just seemed like a good place to stop off for a few days (1-4 Sep) between Oslo and Stockholm. Because we didn’t have anything specific in mind we, for the first time, invested in a couple of those 48 hour city cards that give you free public transport and museum entry.

As a result, we ended up going a little crazy with the sightseeing! Since everything was now “free” and it didn’t cost us anything extra to get around, we packed in an awful lot more than we normally would. This is kind of why we’d never done one of these cards before: if we’re based somewhere for 5 days we don’t really want to cram everything into 1 or 2, we’d rather space it out at a more relaxed pace. On this occasion however, it worked out quite well and we ended up visiting some rather cool places that we otherwise never would have considered!

Maritiman

A floating maritime museum comprised of 13 retired vessels that you can climb all over and explore inside, including a submarine and a destroyer. I’m not really into military stuff or boats but I did find the whole thing pretty cool!

Exploring a destroyer at Maritiman

Aeroseum

An underground bunker from the Cold War era that now houses a museum of aircraft. Maybe it’s because it was Father’s Day back in Australia that we were subliminally driven to visit these first two places as this normally wouldn’t be at the top of my list, but it was pretty cool too. Some of the craft are still airworthy and you can climb inside some of the others, including fighter jets and helicopters.

SAAB 91A Safir from 1945 (still airworthy!), Aeroseum

Universeum

The Universeum is a science museum slash aquarium slash zoo, with everything from live animals (including piranhas and free-roaming monkeys) to exhibits about what it’s like to live in space (you can try out a space hammock), fight crime (with interactive forensic exhibits) or have super powers borrowed from nature (don a Velcro suit and you can climb a wall like a gecko). Cool for adults and particularly fun for kids, it can be kind of pricey on its own but very good value with the city card.

Iguana, Universeum

(I love the Gothenburgian trend of adding “seum” on the end of words to create museum names. ;)

Liseberg Amusement Park

The third (and biggest) Scandinavian theme park we visited in the space of two weeks. I think we’re somewhat roller-coastered-out now (for the time being) but if you like big rides then you’d have an awful lot of fun here. The city card gives you free entry to the park but you still have to pay for rides. Since we were only there for 2 hours we opted for a book of tickets which was enough for the both of us to go on three rides. We chose Balder, a massive (and actually quite scary!) wooden roller coaster; Lisebergbanan, a very fun roller coaster built on the side of a small mountain; and the Ferris Wheel for some good old fashioned romance and views.

View from the ferris wheel at Liseberg

Trädgårdsföreningen (Garden Society of Gothenburg)

I’m not sure what the city card entitles you to here because entry to the gardens seemed to be free either way, but we might not have gone if we hadn’t seen it mentioned in the leaflet. The gardens are lovely, particularly on a sunny day, and if you go then visiting the greenhouse is a must.

Greenhouse, Trädgårdsföreningen

Paddan canal boat tour

Again not something we would have done if it hadn’t been included with the city card but I’m really glad we did, it was great! We had a fantastic guide who said everything with the same enthusiasm in both Swedish and English, and probably does the same thing several times a day, several times a week, but it never once got dry or boring.

Paddan canal boat tour

Stinsen sightseeing tour

We tried to do this first of all to get an overview of the city, but timing didn’t work out and it ended up being one of the last things we did. It was cute but not essential.

We also wanted to:

  • Get two shrimp boxes for the price of one at Kajskjul 8 but were gutted to find out the offer is only available in summer.
  • Visit the Volvo museum, which was supposed to be near the Aeroseum, but it turns out it’s not, which is why we couldn’t find it. :P
  • Check out the photography exhibitions at the Hasselblad Center, but we didn’t time the opening hours correctly.
  • See Gothenburg from the top of “the lipstick“, but in the end we prioritised other things.

[more photos]