Stockholm: The City That Floats on Water

As a native of Karlstad, Sweden, with dozens of extended stays in Stockholm under my belt, you’d think I may be “home blind” to the city’s many treasures, or “hemmablind,” as we say in Swedish. But, and perhaps because I have lived in the States for 24 years, Stockholm never ceases to captivate me. Built on 14 islands connected by 52 bridges, the Swedish capital—nicknamed “the city that floats on water”—rests right at the intersection of the Baltic Sea and Lake Mälaren. From the bustling waterfront, you can catch a ferry to discover countless attractions in the unforgettable, 24,000-island archipelago.

Still, you need not to venture far to discover some of the city’s best features. From its museums, restaurants and hotels to the cobblestone streets and church spires, Stockholm seamlessly fuses medieval architecture with chic Scandinavian design, making it an intriguing location to host a European convention. In fact, the International Congress & Convention Association rates Stockholm as a leading European MICE destination.

Here are a few favorite attractions, places to stay and not-to-miss experiences in the “Venice of the North.”

Gamla Stan
: “Old Town” is famous for its narrow, narrow, winding cobblestone streets that reveal historic buildings—the Royal Palace included—quaint piazzas and a fun mix of boutiques, craft shops, bars, cafés and restaurants.

The Royal Palace: One of Europe’s largest palaces, “Drottningholm” is the official residence of Sweden’s Royal Family. The palace, which is open to the public year-round, was built in the 17th and 18th centuries in Italian Baroque style. It houses more than 600 rooms, five museums, including the Treasury, and an armory featuring royal costumes, armor, coronation carriages and coaches from the Royal Stable. Don’t miss the parade of soldiers and daily changing of the royal guards.

stockholmsidebarGrand Hôtel: This iconic, waterfront destination overlooks the Royal Palace and Gamla Stan. The hotel keeps a contemporary profile with its new bar, Cadier, and first–rate spa, which offers hot saunas and cool plunge pools. Dining at Veranda Restaurant, renowned for its mouthwatering, traditional smorgasbord, is not to be missed, or savor tasty bites from Matbaren while taking in views of the harbor from its expensive terrace.

Nordiska Galleriet
: When it comes to contemporary classic furniture and design, Nordiska Galleriet rates among Europe’s top stores. Peruse a large selection of decor, lighting and gifts from well-known international designers.

Svenskt Tenn: This classic interior design company flaunts a flagship store on Strandvägen, one of Stockholm’s most prestigious, waterfront addresses. Here, you find exquisite brass- and glassware, pottery, furniture and botanical prints by Swedish-Austrian architect and designer Josef Frank.

Segway Stockholm: Adventurous souls can discover 30 of the city’s top spots during a six-mile, guided Segway Stockholm Airwheel tour. Tours depart daily at 10am, noon, 2pm and 4pm from Birger Jarls Torg (square).

Sturebadet: Built in the 18th century, this luxurious spa provides a welcome oasis right in the middle of the city. Enjoy the pools and spa treatments, or bring up to 20 people to enjoy Sturebadet’s private Turkish sauna, once a favorite retreat of Swedish actress Greta Garbo.

Moderna Museet: On Skeppsholmen Island, the Rafael Moneo–designed “Modern Museum” houses a world-renowned collection of modern and contemporary art by artists like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Ljubov Popova and Donald Judd. The museum is also a popular meeting venue.

Hotel Skeppsholmen: Here, while just a few minutes from the city, you’ll feel miles away from it all. Built in the 17th century, the hotel has been transformed into a gorgeous eco-retreat, complete with stunning sea-views, contemporary comfortable furnishings and heavenly home-cooked meals and to-die-for treats, like “bullar” (rolls made of cinnamon and cardamom). The hotel’s Skridskopaviljongen (“the ice-skating pavilion”) presents a quiet, versatile space for meetings and conventions.

Drottningholm: On the shores of Lake Mälaren, also a short boat ride from the city, rests the impressive royal palace, the permanent residence of Sweden’s king and queen and an UNESCO World Heritage site. As you discover acres of verdant parks, Baroque gardens inspired by Versailles, a perfectly preserved palace theatre and an exotic Chinese Pavilion, you may feel as if you have traveled back in time.

Rosendals Trädgård: Located on the island of Djurgården, home to great museums, cozy cafés, restaurants and an amusement park, Rosendals “gardens” is not only a peaceful place to spend an afternoon, but a hub for biodynamic farming practices. Local chefs buy their produce here and the harvested vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruits are incorporated into the menu at the garden’s charming café and bakery.

Nytorget Urban Deli: A restaurant, bar, deli and store in the middle of the city, this trendy spot serves up a variety of diverse dishes, including scrumptious vegetarian dishes, thanks to its partnership with Green Kitchen Stories.

Flying Elk: Stockholm’s first gastropub—and sister restaurant to Björn Frantzén’s Michelin-two-starred “Frantzén”—fuses Swedish culinary traditions and British pup culture in the heart of Old Town. Check out the extensive beer menu or step next door to explore the Gaston wine bar.

Taverna Brillo: Spaghetti with Sardinian pork and chili is one of the favorites at this new hot spot in Östermalm, where the food concept is “Italian with a Swedish interpretation.” Enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner here, savoring the unique specialties, including delicious pizza. (If you think that Italians have the Swedes beat when it comes to pizza, think again!) You can also relax with cocktail in one of the Taverna’s two bars.

Café Opera: Set in the magnificent, world-class Opera House, next to the equally famous Operakällaren restaurant, the recently renovated Café Opera promises a great time beneath its impressive crystal chandeliers. If you love happy hour, or “after work,” as much as the Swedes do, don’t miss Friday’s Soul Train from 5pm to 10pm.

Photo credits: Cover: Gamla Stan, Above, clockwise from left: Grand Hotel Terrace courtesy of Grand Hotel; courtesy of Sturebadet; Gamla Stan,; Drottningholm, Gomer Swahn.



Isabelle Gullo-Abitia

Isabelle Gullo-Abitia

Isabelle Gullo-Abitia has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2001, having contributed to publications such as Elite Weddings, Spa, Islands and Health. She also runs a Santa Barbara County nonprofit called C.A.R.E.4Paws, whose mission is to reduce pet overpopulation and keep animals out of shelters. When away from the computer, Isabelle enjoys running, salsa dancing, photography and playtime with her son, Julian, and the family’s many dogs and cats.

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