The Cool-Kids' Guide to Stockholm
Ah Sweden. The name conjures up visions of well-dressed blondes frolicking in snowy chalets. Just me? Ok, my bad. But having never visited Stockholm, I nevertheless felt a certain affinity for the Swedes. I had spent a solid part of my 20s assembling IKEA furniture, was an avid Robyn fan, and strongly support gender-neutral bathrooms. Also, big fan of Vikings.
And while we had anticipated Stockholm would be high in cool-factor and filled with "the beautiful people", the city still contained some surprises. For starters, we didn't expect to eat so well. Maybe this was a personal bias - my knowledge of local cuisine was limited to Ikea meatballs. Also, people were much nicer than we thought they would be. Stockholm is funny that way, upon first glance everything seems beautiful but slightly uninviting - this goes for both people and places. But once you scratch the surface just the opposite is true, everyone we interacted with ended up being very helpful and chatty. Just be aware that Stockholm is shy - you need to initiate and break the ice. So read on for our insider tips on where to eat, sleep and shop in Stockholm.
Finding a hotel that's "on-brand" with your personal taste, as well as your budget, is half the struggle when traveling. For our money we chose Miss Clara by Nobis, a trendy boutique hotel centrally situated in Stockholm's Norrmalm neighbourhood, and favoured by the city's artsy crowd. Housed in a charming Art Nouveau building, the hotel is designed in keeping with its history as a former girls school. The only downside to the rooms was a lack of closets, which we were informed was by design (as Carrie Bradshaw once said "where do the shoes go?"). But Miss Clara gets bonus points for the hotel's restaurant, which is so good that locals frequently dine there. During our stay, it was buzzing with the Stockholm Fashion Week crowd. Lucky us.
So this restaurant is a "thing". We were told that every visit to Stockholm needs to start at Sturehof, and its not hard to see why. Centrally located and great for people watching, it serves some of the city's best seafood in a chic but casual setting. You can tell how good it is by how mean the waiters are. Not super mean, just the perfect amount of mean. We recommend the traditional Toast Skagen paired with an Aperol spritz. Raise a toast (skål!) to the last days of summer.
Riche is a bit of an institution in Stockholm (read: this is where they keep the pretty people). Expect an upscale contemporary restaurant which boasts some traditional Swedish classics as well. The vibe in both the dining room and the bar is very social, particularly on weekends - rich kids and tourists alike create an interesting crowd. Apparently a lot of recently divorced locals come here in hopes of meeting someone new. No objections from us. We thought we spotted Orlando Bloom, but also there was champagne involved (note: champagne is scientifically proven to make people appear 60% more like Orlando Bloom). We recommend you order the Swedish meatballs with all the trimmings, then hang out in the bar after dinner and play a game called "try not to stare".
Chatting up locals while traveling can be rewarding for many reasons, particularly if they give you a great insider tip. Himlen is definitely a hidden gem that we didn't see on any tourist / concierge list. It's located away from the centre of Stockholm, in a hip part of town called Sodermalm (think Brooklyn before it became "eyeroll, Brooklyn"). This French / Swedish restaurant and lounge sits 26th floors up and boasts spectacular panoramic views of Stockholm. Very much worth the visit, even if just for the view.
Arguable the "poshest" place we visited on our trip, Nosh and Chow is a relative newcomer to Stockholm's nightlife scene, but has quickly become a favorite with local celebrities. The beautiful interiors, which have a gentlemen's club feel, play host to a restaurant on the ground floor and several bars upstairs surrounding an internal courtyard. The menu is eclectic, sporting traditional dishes and some interesting attempts at asian-fusion. Head upstairs after dinner and do some mingling as this place is a preferred pick-up spot for singles. Also don't forget to checkout the incredibly designed (unisex) bathrooms which could double as a set from "Eyes Wide Shut". Very sexy.
Ok so you're probably not gonna buy anything here, but regardless, you can't go to Stockholm and not check out Acne's headquarters. The Swedish fashion powerhouse, which started out as a savvy ad agency, is a purveyor of too-cool-for-you casual wear and accessories which attracts streetwear connoisseurs world wide. For additional tourist points, the flagship store is in the building that once housed the bank where the famous "Stockholm Syndrome" heist took place. If you poke around, you can still find the vaults.
Sneakersnstuff, located in Sodermalm (just "Soder" for the locals), promotes itself as Sweden's best sneaker store and it's hard to disagree. The store is an OG on the global sneaker scene in terms of collaborations with brands and general influence on the "culture". They stock an extensive collection of the newest and hardest to come by kicks for those in the know, as well as a respectable collection of streetwear. This is not your dad's sneaker store - know your shit before you get here because chances are everyone working is younger and much cooler than you. #millennial-life
Everyone occasionally feels the need to purchase something truly decadent. Something special, pricey and that you definitely don't need. This phenomenon is called "Treat Yo Self" and Swedish parfumerie Byredo is the perfect place to indulge. Founded in 2006 by a native Swede (who grew up in Toronto amongst other places), the brand has quickly risen in prominence. All the fragrances are unisex and range from the super floral to the musk / leather heavy. With names like "Gypsy Water" and "Rose of No Man's Land" the perfumes strive to create a sensory experience rather than just a scent. (Was that possibly the most pretentious sentence ever written?) Very hard to resist.
Did we miss anything? Leave your comments below for any additional "must do" places in Stockholm, and have fun exploring.