For this post I will elaborate on what I think of Stockholm and I will offer a detailed itinerary for your first five days here. I will be truthful. There are a plethora of aspects to rejoice in, but there are also some drawbacks. For instance, I chose this cover photo to show this duality. Pictured is the Nordic Museum, one of Stockholm’s most prized possessions. One’s jaw drops for its beauty. One’s time wastes by its exhibit. Or at least, that’s how I felt. You see, I am only giving you my opinion. This is not a ‘take it or leave it.’ This is what I think of my own experiences. If you don’t agree, then so be it. No hard feelings here nor there—I digress. First, let’s talk about this city and compare it to my hometown: New York, NY.
In short, Stockholm is a beautiful European city with a modern twist. It is easily walkable and very engaging. You will find an activity and a great meal and a new article of clothing you now need and anything else no matter where you are. Södermalm, Östermalm, Norrmalm, and all the other neighborhoods are incredible and unique in their own respect. You really can’t go wrong with wherever you decide to go—except for the Nordic Museum, of course.
When compared to NYC, Stockholm stands its ground. While no city will ever compete with my home, Stockholm may give it a run for its money. First of all, it’s clean, clean, clean. The metro is not filled with rats nor is it a biohazard. Luckily, there are no signs of nuclear waste (whereas that is always a possibility on the subway back home). The city is safe. There is no reason to squeeze your phone a little firmer in your hand as you walk alone in the dark late at night as there are no dark nights. The two hours of darkness really come in handy in terms of safety. The people are nice. You won’t get scoffed at nor will you hear anyone scream, “I’m walkin’ here,” when you accidentally brush past them on the street. People are easy to talk to. People are friendly. They are more than willing to point you in the right direction and they take pride in doing so. I love my city, but boy does it need to take heed of Stockholm’s way of life.
A Familiar Tour Guide
Would you look at that! What do you see in the photo above? Is it directional confidence? I think yes. I have come a long way since my first expedition in Gamla Stan. No longer will I run astray. No longer will my feet blister from leather shoes traveled too far. No longer will I get lost in what I now call my new city. In this post, I will lay out a plan of what to do in Stockholm for your first five ‘touristy’ days.
To clarify, this is not a “Top Ten” list that you’d find on Tripadvisor. No one has time for that tomfoolery. This is a rundown of what you must do in Stockholm. Take it from me, an experienced Stockholmer. I know my way around the city (more or less). So, let’s get to it:
First Day: Hop on the Arlanda Express from ARN and enjoy a 20 minute, 183 km/hr ride to Stockholm Centralstation. Drop your bags off at your hotel and get ready for the day. You’ll go to Gamla Stan (Old Town) to view the Royal Palace, Parliament, and City Hall. It is the rustic side of Stockholm that is jam-packed with history. After walking roughly thirty thousand steps—tracked by your health app—around the very-European-feeling streets, head over to The Hairy Pig Restaurant located near the train station. What a name! I promise the food is much more appetizing than the name leads you to believe. This place is a must because it serves my favorite Swedish meatball dish in all of Stockholm. You’ll be presented with a large bowl with wild boar meatballs, lingonberries, mashed potatoes, and pickled cucumbers all topped with a gravy-esque sauce. It is absolutely delicious. You cannot miss out on this place. Afterward, I would recommend taking it easy to digest this monstrous meal and to fight off jet-lag. No dinner will be needed. Go to bed early.
The Hairy Pig’s Swedish Meatballs
Second Day: It’s time for more culture! After having gone to bed nice and early, you’ll be ready to wake up at the crack of dawn! Head to Drottningholm Palace for an early morning trip. This is the private residence of the Swedish royal family. Between you and me, Buckingham Palace has nothing on this place. It is absolutely beautiful. Next, it’s time to visit two museums. The first is the Vasa. I have written about this in the past, so please refer to Wow, That’s A Big Boat! for more information. The Nationalmuseum will follow. This museum is filled with statues and artwork that you can’t find anywhere else. You’ll end the day with a bit of a surprise: Gröna Lund. Roller coasters! Be sure not to eat a heavy meal beforehand—no meatballs!—for obvious reasons. Take a ride on the Monster to see the city upside-down! For another much-needed relaxing night, go back to your hotel and order chicken pad thai from Thongwiset Thai. Trust me, the Swedes know their Thai.
The Swings At Gröna Lund
(I Don’t Have a Picture of The Roller Coasters)
Third Day: Today, you’ll visit Norrmalm and Östermalm, two of my favorite neighborhoods. They are filled with the best restaurants, shops, and nightlife. One could say that they make up the modern side of Stockholm. Before your day begins, you’ll go to Tössebageriet for breakfast. This is my favorite café by far. The latte is served hot, foamy, and inviting and the chocolate croissant is a delicacy. Activities! And by activities, I mean shopping. Because who doesn’t love shopping on vacation?! Åhléns and NK are two great malls, but I would recommend walking around Östermalm for more of an ‘in and out’ walking and shopping experience. To integrate some culture, you’ll then go to the Avicii Experience Museum. As a huge fan of Avicii’s music, I can’t recommend it enough. Finally, you’ll end up at my favorite restaurant in all of Stockholm: Hillenberg. Get the truffle pasta. Please, indulge. Or, if for some reason you are not a fan of truffle, order anything on the menu. You really can’t go wrong. Oh, and don’t forget the cookies for dessert—with a side of ice cream, of course.
The Magnificent Truffle Pasta At Hillenberg
Fourth Day: You’ll go back to Gamla Stan to visit the Nobel Prize Museum. I went there as a twelve year old and stood in awe below the circling faces of those accredited with one of the most prestigious awards in history. Make sure to read and absorb all of the information offered there in hopes of one day winning the award yourself! Afterward, you’ll go to Panem for the best chicken caesar salad out there. Wow, is it good! As a matter of fact, take a nap after. Yes, it’s that good. That night, you’ll go to Tak to eat dinner on a rooftop with incredible views of the city. This is a shorter day so you can rest your exhausted legs.
Fifth Day: Södermalm! It’s time to go to IlCafe for breakfast. This place is a Stockholm chain but it surely doesn’t disappoint. Get the prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich for breakfast because who cares what time it is? It’s always that time! The Fotografiska museum will follow. There you find contemporary photography unlike any I have ever seen. I use an iPhone for all my pictures. But, no matter how many filters I apply, I could never match anything there. For dinner, it’s time to please those Shake Shack lovers looking for an upgraded burger. Hornstull Burgers & Grill! The burgers are better here than at Shake Shack. But, here’s my hot take: the fries are better at Shake Shack. There’s no beating crinkle fries! Sorry not sorry!
Again, get the truffle burger. Just because.
And with that, it’s time to catch a flight the next day! Wow, has this been quite the vacation! But, we’re not done yet. Here’s what not to do:
As I mentioned earlier, there are a few things to avoid in Stockholm: the Nordic Museum, IceBar, Avicii Arena Skyview, and MAX. Why would I tell you what not to do? How is that selling the city? Well, why wouldn’t I? I want you to have the full picture. I don’t sugar-coat. This is my rundown of the city and I strongly believe that it is a good one. Let’s go further into detail: The Nordic museum is boring. Sorry to say that—well, not really. There is only one exhibit at a time and it takes hours to get through. Or at least that’s what my thirty minutes there felt like. Save yourself, trust me.
IceBar is overrated. It is the size of my childhood bedroom just with the thermostat on FREEZE mode. It costs $25 to look at four small ice sculptures. Below is the only notable one and it’s just for its 20th birthday. However, the ponchos are cool. I’ll give them that. But, it’s not that cold. Take that from a former hockey player. I know the cold, and that wasn’t cold. A penguin would be disappointed. It wouldn’t be able to slide. How sad.
The view from the Avicii Arena Skyview resembles an Android’s camera image quality: not too good. That’s about all I have to say. Finally, avoid MAX at all costs. Unless you like salty, undercooked burgers with a sandy coleslaw texture, it won’t be for you. In fact, you can hear the sizzle on the beef I have with MAX. Not a fan.
To wrap it up, I truly love it here. Stockholm is not a perfect city, but it is definitely close to being one. Students, come to DIS Stockholm for a remarkable, unforgettable experience. And parents, come visit your kids. It is a trip for the ages and I can’t recommend it enough! Stick to my script and have a blast!