A July 2005 trip
to Stockholm by FSO_Michael
Quote: No words can do justice to the wonder, amazement, and sense of belonging we experienced when spending four beautiful summer days in Stockholm. The warmth of her people, the beauty of her landscapes and architecture - all of this awaited and unfolded to us. I know we will visit again.
Our first impressions of Stockholm were of the Arlanda International Airport and the ultra-modern and efficient Arlanda Express, which whisked us to Stockholm Central in just 20 minutes. Once we arrived at Stockholm Central, we took a taxi to our home away from home, Hotel Rival, located in Sodermalm.
The hotel was conveniently close to the Mariatorget T-bana, so we hopped on and continued to T-Centralen, which is connected to Stockholm Central. After a short walk, we arrived at Stadshuset or Stockholm’s City Hall. We spent a couple of hours exploring the grounds and the Tower. Next, we went on a Historical Canal Tour with Stockholm Sightseeing. The 1-hour trip was a great way to orient ourselves to the city. We then returned to our hotel, checked-in, and relaxed for a couple of hours before setting of to eat dinner at a local Sodermalm establishment.
After a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, our first stop was Djurgården, and more specifically, Skansen, an open-air living history museum of Swedish culture. It also houses many Scandinavian animals, as well those of the non-Scandinavian variety, located at Skansen Akvariet. After a few fun-filled hours, we walked over to Gröna Lunds Tivoli, a small but thrilling amusement park where we spent the remainder of our day.
This day was also very busy. We found ourselves back in Djurgården, this time for visits to Vasamuseet, home to a 17th century warship which was salvaged from Stockholm’s harbor after it sank disastrously on its maiden voyage. Next on our list was Junibacken, a kid-friendly tribute to Astrid Lindgren literary creations. We closed out the day with a Royal Canal Tour which embarked from Strömkajen, a short distance by bus from Djurgården.
Our last day was spent exploring Gamla Stan, the historical and lovely Old Town of Stockholm. Walking through the narrow streets and alleys was a real treat. Afterwards, we headed to Stockholm Central to catch our night train to Narvik, Norway.
Tip #2 - Eat ice cream every day. There is something fundamentally wonderful about the ice cream in Stockholm especially if combined with strawberries or cloudberries.
Tip #3 - Sample Swedish husmanskost, which is classic home-style cooking at its best. Menu items like meatballs with boiled potatoes and lingonberries, pyttipanna (a hash made out of potatoes, onions, and meat), or Beef Rydberg (diced sirloin with sweet onions and raw egg) are phenomenal and fit any budget.
Tip #4 - For summer travel, plan for the possibility of rain or slightly cooler weather, due to the northerly latitude. In general, pack a good mix of lighter and medium weight clothing and you should be fine. A waterproof windbreaker is always a good idea when traveling throughout Scandinavia.
An overview of Stockholm’s public transport system can be found here.
Gamla Stan in particular is made for walking. It is an extremely compact area, with narrow winding streets and alleys, contrasted with some wonderful open-air squares.
Upon our arrival at the hotel, I was immediately struck by the hip lobby, with its artistic use of color. It felt very much like the lobby of a W Hotel: warm, welcoming, comfortable, but also more light and airy. After passing through the main lobby, reception was to the right. Check-in was quick and courteous. Even though we arrived early in the morning (10:30am), a room on the 5th floor (room #525) was made available to us right away.
The Room - Upon entering the room, it was clear that we had been upgraded from the standard room I had booked (at a rate of 995SEK) to a superior room with balcony. The room itself was decorated in a very contemporary style, with walls of a deep, rich red, a flat-screen plasma TV hanging on the wall, and a modern bathroom with heated floors. The bed was extremely comfortable and contributed to wonderful nights’ sleeps for both me and my son. The drapes were more than adequate to shield us from the late-setting and early-rising sun (only about 3-4 hours of darkness per night in the summertime). Finally, one of the most convenient aspects of the room was WiFi access, at a reasonable cost of 99SEK per 24 hours.
The Bathroom - While small, the bathroom had great fixtures and a wonderful shower, which was unique in that it had a direct view to the bedroom through a window of its own (with blinds, thankfully, for much needed privacy). The shower had two showerheads, one of which could be handheld and the other, which came directly from above, like a rain shower. Temperature controls were intuitive.
The Balcony - The balcony was an unexpected surprise and a nice addition to the room. Each evening, my son and I sat out on the balcony and recapped our daily adventures. It was also a nice place for me to sit in the early morning before my son woke up, allowing me to see the city come to life for another glorious summer day.
The Breakfast - A full breakfast was included in the daily rate. The breakfast room itself was located on the 6th floor and the spread was fantastic. There were hard- and soft-boiled eggs, cold cuts, cereals, breads, jams, scrambled eggs, crackers, yogurt, granola, and cute little tubes of cod roe. We sat outside on a narrow balcony each morning, which overlooked Mariatorget Park.
The Service - The entire staff at Hotel Rival was wonderful. From check-in to breakfast service to housekeeping and check-out, the service experience was incomparable. You truly feel like a special guest, which is unusual for a property with nearly 100 rooms.
Official Hotel Website
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 18, 2005
Stockholm, Sweden 11891
One of the first reasons I chose this restaurant was because they had a child’s menu. My son tends to be a little picky about trying new foods and I knew he wouldn’t be adventurous enough to move beyond Swedish meatballs. We arrived at the restaurant at around 6:30pm and there were multiple tables outside, which is exactly what we wanted, given the fantastic weather.
Our waitress saw us soon after we sat down and came by to ask if we needed menus. When I said yes, she immediately advised she would bring the English version to me. Of course, I had long ago staked out this place on the Internet and had pretty much translated most of the Swedish, but I thought this was very nice of her. Before she left to retrieve the menu, she took our drink order. Nothing fancy here – just a Diet Coke for me and a Sprite for my son.
For our main dish, I ordered the Beef Rydberg, which is diced sirloin prepared with onion and raw egg. Accompanying the beef was pyttipanna, which is a hash of diced potatoes, onions, and bits of meat. My son ordered the grilled sausage and french fries. My son ate all of his food, so I guess he liked it well enough. My dish? Either I was very hungry or the dish was prepared well – the meat and potatoes had a nice sweet onion flavor and both were seasoned very well. I liked it so much that I was tempted to order another entrée. Instead, I saved room for dessert.
Andrew was tired after he finished eating, so he didn’t want any dessert. I knew what I wanted before I even sat down to order. When our waitress came back, I ordered the vanilla ice cream with cloudberry jam. It was easily one of the best tasting desserts I have had the pleasure of eating. The cloudberry jam was warm and had started to slightly melt the ice cream. The vanilla ice cream itself had a rich, creamy taste and the contrast in flavors between vanilla and cloudberry was awesome.
In terms of environment and atmosphere, I can’t speak to the interior of the restaurant since we sat outside. Sitting outside, in addition to providing an opportunity to enjoy the wonderful, sunny weather, was a good way to people watch.
The bill came to 367SEK, including a 15% tip. After conversion to US dollars and whatever fees Amex tacks on, the cost was around $48. Well worth it in my estimation.
Stora Vikingen Website
46/08-644 23 00
As with most restaurants, Agaton met an important criteria – it served food that my son would like – in this case, pizza. I also wanted to eat a decent meal before heading to Stockholm Centralstation for our 21-hour train ride to northern Norway. Agaton certainly fit the bill.
Upon entering the restaurant, we were seated immediately. Even though it was just the two of us, the owner (I believe) seated us at the one remaining window-side table. The location was perfect, as it allowed us to people watch, as well as enjoy the nice breeze from outside.
I ordered a beer for myself and an Orange Fanta for Andrew. For our main dishes, Andrew had a cheese pizza and I ordered salmon cooked on a wooden plank and served with potatoes au gratin and asparagus. The salmon was flaky and flavorful. The potatoes were fluffy on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside. The asparagus was tender and also full of flavor. Andrew ate his entire pizza, so he must have really liked it.
For dessert, I ordered the vanilla ice cream served with berries (strawberry, lingonberries, raspberries) and Frangelico cream. Yet another summer masterpiece which I tried to savor, but managed to finish faster than I would have liked. It was the perfect end to a perfect meal.
The atmosphere was decidedly Italian, and perhaps a little stereotypical, with the red and white checkered tablecloth and wax-covered candle-in-a-wine-bottle. Yet, the restaurant pulled it off by providing superior food and service.
The bill came to 317SEK, including a 15% tip. After conversion to U.S. dollars and the currency conversion fees that Amex charges, the cost was around $42 – very similar to New York and New Jersey prices.
Agaton Bar & Restaurant Website
Agaton Bar and Restaurant
46/08-20 72 99
We actually entered the restaurant from the internal guest entrance, as this is also the location for the morning breakfast. In the evening, with the lights dimmed and with candles on the table, it looked and felt entirely different. Unfortunately, all of the balcony tables were taken, so we sat inside, as close to the open windows as possible.
I ordered a beer for myself and a Sprite for Andrew. Now for the tricky part – what to order for Andrew? With the help of the waitress, we settled on a Rival Burger, completely plain, along with french fries. However, there was still one concern – the burger was made out of veal and I had no idea how Andrew would react. Thankfully, he ate the burger with relish and finished more than half of it, which I thought was decent, since it was an adult-sized portion to begin with. For myself, I ordered the Toast Skagen (shrimps in mayonnaise & dill on toast; with a small heap of cod roe), a seafood salad (mixed greens, scallops, shrimp, salmon, and a vinaigrette dressing), and for dessert, vanilla ice cream with various fruits and berries.
Both the presentation and the food itself were wonderful. It was pricier than any other meal on our Stockholm trip, topping out at 600SEK, including a 15% tip or roughly $80 U.S. Considering the convenience factor (we were back to our room in 2 minutes) as well as the overall quality of the food, it was money well spent.
Rival Bar & Café Website (scroll down for restaurant information)
Rival Bar and Bistro
46/08-545 789 15
Attraction | "Stadshuset [Stockholm City Hall]"
History and Background - Interestingly, in its current incarnation, Stadshuset is a relative youngster in Stockholm, having been constructed in the 1910s and 1920s. Not only is Stadshuset the most famous of Stockholm landmarks, it houses the Council Chamber used for regular meetings of Stockholm's City Council. It also is home to the Blue Hall (which is red, not blue) where the Nobel Prize Banquet is held each December. What a truly multi-functional building!
The Courtyard - After entering some massive double wooden doors, we found ourselves inside of a large courtyard, with arched entryways overlooking the water on one side and ivy-covered walls on the other. The impressive scale of the structure is even more evident from within the courtyard!
The Tower - Having a six-year-old in tow, I knew it would be challenging to see all that Stadshuset had to offer, so I opted to tour just the Tower and its accompanying Tornmuseet. The Tower itself is 106 meters or nearly 350 feet tall (equivalent to a 35-story building). The helpful Stockholm Card saved us 20SEK in admissions cost. Needless to say, we were not disappointed. When you first pass the entry desk, you have the option to take an elevator to the middle level, where the museum is, or take the stairs. We opted for the stairs, since the climb itself is half the fun. At the museum level, we saw some statuary and sculptures. We continued to the top of the Tower, which required us to circumnavigate the interior several times on a gently inclining ramp. Finally, at the top, we were rewarded with spectacular views of the city. A must-see attraction!
Official City Hall Website
Stadshuset (Stockholm City Hall)
Attraction | "Historical Canal Tour"
Getting tickets - The ticket window is on the other side of the food kiosk. Tickets normally cost 110SEK for adults and 55SEK for children. Using my Stockholm Card, it was free!
The Tour - Embarkation was smooth, despite a fairly full load of tourists. My son and I chose to sit near the middle of the boat. There is space for about 4-5 people to sit per row, each with their own set of headphones. You simply choose what language you want to hear the audio tour in and that's it. The tour lasted about 50 minutes and covered the main historical sights in and around Kungsholmen, Långholmen and Reimersholme.
Advice - If you go on a hot summer day, try to sit near an open window and in the shade. The boat is not air-conditioned, so it can get a little hot and stuffy inside.
Stockholm Sightseeing Offical Website
Stockholm Sightseeing Boat Tour
Attraction | "Skansen"
Getting there - Getting to Skansen was relatively easy. As I wanted to maximize my use of the Stockholm Card, I took the T-bana from Mariatorget to T-Centralen and changed to the #47 bus. It took a while for a bus to show up that wasn’t completely full. So, what normally may have been a 30-minute trip took about 50 minutes. Thankfully, my son had his Gameboy to keep him occupied.
Tickets - There was no line at the ticket window when we arrived. I presented my Stockholm Card and the 70SEK adult admission fee was covered. I paid 30SEK for my son’s admission.
First Impressions - Upon entering Skansen, it was immediately apparent that the place was very spread out and we would need to plan accordingly (I believe Skansen occupies over 70 acres). I found the architectural examples and styles to be quite fascinating. I also enjoyed how the attractions and sights are integrated into the natural environment – nothing feels out of place or "forced" if you will.
Areas we visited:
Skansen Akvariet - This is an attraction in its own right, with its own admission charges. I’ve covered this in its own section of the journal.
Old School - This charming little building really captured my son’s interest. We both imagined what it would have been like to attend a one-room schoolhouse, complete with wooden desks and inkwells. Of particular interest was the school teacher’s quarters, which were attached to the classroom. Outside, the gardens were beautiful and provided a remarkable contrast to today’s modern-day playgrounds.
The Town Quarters - What a fantastic collection of buildings of all types! We came across a glassworks, a furniture factory, a bakery (which had delicious pastries), a post office, and more! It really felt like an old-time Swedish town or village. It was also a peaceful place to stop and eat our donuts while drinking sodas purchased from a nearby café.
Children’s area - I was very thankful for the children’s playground we happened upon about midway through our tour of Skansen. My son was able to interact with other kids his own age. He really enjoyed climbing this rope contraption. In all, I think we spent about 90 minutes here.
Animals - This was another highlight for me and my son, since we both love animals. We saw elk, reindeer, brown bears, and seals. In Lill-Skansen, which is the children’s zoo, we saw kittens, chicks, ducks, rabbits, and guinea pigs.
A creek - There’s a creek that runs through part of Skansen, near where the Scandinavian animals are kept. My son had a blast walking through the water in his bare feet and watching leaves be carried from one end to another. It was a nice, relaxing way to get in touch with nature.
Official Skansen Website
Stockholm, Sweden 115 93
+46 8 442 8000
Attraction | "Skansen-Akvariet"
Tickets - There was no line at the ticket counter when we arrived. I presented my Stockholm Card, and the 65SEK adult and 35SEK child admission fees were covered.
Animals we particularly liked:
Pygmy marmoset - We easily spent the first 15-20 minutes admiring these tiny little creatures. They are among the smallest of all primates and are absolutely adorable. They seemed to be very curious of all the human spectators and would come right up to the glass at times to look at us. We joked around that they looked angry because we didn’t have any food. We were amazed at how fierce-looking their claws are. Before we left Skansen Akvariet, we made a return visit because they were just so darn cute.
Lemurs - The lemur exhibit was awesome. You walk right into the lemur habitat, where the animals roam and jump around freely. We arrived just as feeding time started and it was amazing to watch the lemurs eat and play together. We saw some precious baby lemurs, who do well in fending for themselves. For me, this was the best part of this attraction.
Meerkats - We also saw some meerkats (think Timon from "The Lion King"). These animals were playful as well and seemed to pose for the camera. I would have liked to pick one up and play with it.
Other animals - We saw toucans, degus (hamster-like), naked rats (totally hairless and pink), an African dormouse, fish, sponges, a crocodile, cockroaches, scorpions, tarantulas, and snakes. You can actually handle a snake, but neither my son or I had the desire to do so.
Overall Thoughts - It’s a great place for families and manageable in terms of size. On the plus side, you get to see some rather unique animals. Another plus is the gift shop, which has a nice selection of toys and stuffed animals for the kids, as well as some more decorative items for the adults. Definitely recommend visiting when at Skansen.
Official Skansen-Akvariet Website - Not in English
Getting there - Getting to Gröna Lund is a snap. By public transport, I took the T-bana from Mariatorget to T-Centralen and changed to the #47 bus. I combined this trip with a visit to Skansen, so we were able to visit two main attractions in the same day.
Tickets - Admission to Gröna Lund isn’t free, which is likely due to the plethora of dining and entertainment options available throughout the day. My Stockholm Card covered the normal admission fee of 90SEK (60SEK adult/30SEK child). Admission doesn’t allow you to go on any of the rides, however. Because we’re amusement park freaks, we opted for the åkband, a wristband that allows you unlimited rides for 235SEK per person.
Nykelpigan - My son loves roller coasters, so this was the first ride we went on. It’s geared towards the little ones, but he loved it anyway. We were especially pleased that you get to go around three times before you exit the ride.
Clowntrumman - This is a spinning ride themed as some type of musical instrument. I actually get quite dizzy on this kind of ride, which is a special treat for my son, as he tries to spin the capsule that much faster.
Vilda Musen - This is a mouse-style roller coaster which we went on about five times. The line was probably the longest of any we experienced (about 15-20 minutes). However, it was completely worth it. Very thrilling ride!
Veteranbilarna - Antique cars that my son drove a couple of times.
Lustiga Huset - As with roller coasters, fun houses are a family favorite. This was no exception.
Kärlekstunneln - I liken this to a "Tunnel of Love" kind of ride. It is very tame and has a Cupid-with-his-bow-and-arrow theme. I had fun teasing my son about this. What six-year old boy enjoys the topic of love?
Blå Tåget - I tried unsuccessfully several times to get my son on this ride. Admittedly, it did look spooky, what with the depictions of hell. But, I saw so many other families with small children going on that I thought it would be fine. I did take a picture nonetheless.
Food - What trip to Gröna Lund would be complete with food? We ate the requisite junk food and I took advantage of yet another chance to eat ice cream. For dinner, we ate at Krejsy’s, which serves a reasonable buffet dinner.
Overall - Gröna Lund has something for everyone and is the perfect setting for family fun.
Official Gröna Lund Website - Not in English
Allmänna gränd 9
+46 8 587 501 00
Attraction | "Vasa Museum"
Getting there - Getting to Vasamuseet is amazingly easy. By public transport, I took the T-bana from Mariatorget to T-Centralen and changed to the #47 bus. I combined this trip with a visit to Junibacken and a Royal Canal Tour, so we were able to get a lot of sightseeing accomplished.
Tickets - Admission to Vasamuseet normally costs 80SEK per adult, with children admitted free of charge. I presented my Stockholm Card and was once again good to go.
The Ship - The ship itself is massive. Although you can’t actually board the ship, you have excellent vantage points from all sides. The sculptural carvings on the ship are not to be missed and really convey how important it was to kings in those days to build an impressive and awesome navy. Also of note were the huge number of gun ports on this ship (two decks worth).
The Vasa Film - This short 25-minute film covered the ship-building efforts, as well as the inquisition into why the Vasa sank. Overall, the film leaves you with the impression that the sinking was caused by two main factors: not enough ballast and too top-heavy as a result of the double gun decks. You get the sense that in a rush to war, costly mistakes were both made and overlooked.
Dining - There is a nice café on-site which served wonderful köttbullar (Swedish meatballs) with boiled potatoes and lingonberry sauce. Both my son and I enjoyed this meal immensely.
Gift Shop - Also not to be missed is the gift shop. I bought a shot glass and for my son, I bought a story about the Vasa Piglet, as well as a little stuffed Vasa Piglet. All in all, it was a nice and well-rounded selection of merchandise.
Overall - A perfect introduction to some of the more historical aspects of Stockholm, wrapped in a kid-friendly context.
Official Vasamuseet website
Vasamuseet (Vasa Museum)
Island of Djurgården
46 8 519 54800
Getting there - Getting to Junibacken is simple. By public transport, I took the T-bana from Mariatorget to T-Centralen and changed to the #47 bus
Tickets - Admission to Junibacken normally costs 110SEK per adult and 95SEK per child (age 3-15). Once again, I handed the staff member my Stockholm Card, which covered the admissions cost.
Storybook Square - To get to the main attraction at Junibacken, the Story Train, people queue up and walk through Storybook Square. I didn’t recognize any of the structures, but that was okay – my son had fun exploring each of the buildings. I actually got some very candid shots of him wearing a funny stocking cap.
The Story Train - The Story Train is somewhat of a misnomer. While the narrator certainly reads many different children’s tales, the vehicle is not so much a train. In fact, it’s better than a train, because you don’t spend very much time on the ground. Rather, the car flies through different storybook sets and has an almost "Peter Pan" feel to it. We both enjoyed this attraction, especially since they translate the stories from the original Swedish into English, German, Russian, and Dutch. One note of caution: Astrid’s stories can be brutally realistic at times. My son was saddened by the story of the Lionheart brothers and kept asking me about death and heaven for the rest of the day.
Play Areas - There were a couple of play areas for kids immediately after disembarking from the Story Train. The first area included a cottage that kids were running delightfully through. There was a huge bowl of wooden blocks which kept my son happy for about 30 minutes. In another play area, fashioned after a farm, my son found a cool tree house with a TV in it and watched some educational program in Swedish for quite some time. Whatever it was showing, he was starting to pick up on some of it.
Café - There was a small café on-site where were able to get drinks and a popsicle for my son.
Overall - I was worried that Junibacken might be too "girlie" for my son, who has very definitive ideas of what types of activities are for boys and which are not. Thankfully, he just liked being around other kids and made his own fun wherever and whenever he could.
Official Junibacken Website
Stockholm, Sweden 11521
+46 8 587 230 00
Attraction | "Old Town (Gamla Stan) Stockholm"
Getting there: From either T-Centralen or Slussen, you can take the subway to the Gamla Stan T-bana. Alternatively, if the weather is beautiful, you can easily walk across the bridge and experience it from a different perspective, which is what we did.
What we saw:
Riddarholmskyrkan - While we didn’t go inside, the outside of this church is architecturally amazing. I was impressed by the open lattice-like feel of the tower.
Restaurants and shops - The breadth of dining and shopping opportunities was a little overwhelming. In walking the length of Västerlånggatan, there was literally something for everyone, whether from 7-11, The Body Shop, souvenir shops, hotels (the Lord Nelson), Sally’s Bar, and so much more. Some people may consider it very commercial, and perhaps in that regard, it impinges on the full authenticity of the area. However, it didn’t bother me in the least. It makes the area more lively than if it were simply a living museum.
Gamla Stan (Old Town)
At the airport: signage within the airport was visible and intuitive. After clearing customs and immigration in Terminal Five, we were able to quickly reach the Arlanda North station and use one of the self-service kiosks to buy a ticket.
Tickets: Adult tickets cost 190SEK, while children 7 and under are free. If you arrive on a weekend or a holiday, Arlanda Express offers the trip for 200SEK for two adults and up to four children.
The trip: As advertised, the trip takes just 20 minutes. The train ride itself was smooth. One note of caution: some seats face backwards and this may cause some discomfort to people prone to motion sickness. Also, if you have motion problems, don't sit next to a window, as you will experience just how quickly the train moves!
Arrival at Stockholm Centralstation: The Arlanda Express arrival location is designed with the traveler in mind. There is no need to navigate escalators or elevators to reach the taxi stands, which is nice. However, it is also connected to the main train station, with convenient connections to the T-bana and key bus routes.
Official Arlanda Express Website
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