My trip to Stockholm
by jipp05 on December 24, 2010
We found the museum of Medieval Stockholm by chance on our last day in Stockholm whilst we were wandering by the water waiting for the time to go get the bus to the airport. I am glad we found this hidden little gem as it turned out to be one of my favourite places we visited in our time in Stockholm. I didn't even know there was a medieval museum as it wasn't mentioned in the guidebook I had or in the book I had received from the tourist information centre. You can find it under the Norrbro Bridge that is one of the main bridges next to the parliment building on the way to Gamla Stan. It isn't particularly well signposted and we only stumbled on it by chance as we took the steps down the bridge to sit by the water and saw the entrance. Why it is hidden away with so little publicity is beyond me as it may be small but it was more interesting than the other museums we visited. If you are a history buff like me then it is a must but as it was free to enter (summer 2010) then you really have nothing to lose by visiting it. The whole museum is located underground as when the city were building an underground parking garage they came across some fascinating remains and with good sense abandoned the parking garage and turned it into a museum. Now it houses the remains of the old town wall which the rest of the museum is built around. The artifacts which they found are also prominently displayed and there is some history on the founding of Stockholm as a city which I found particularly interesting. One of the best features of the museum for families and big kids like me is that they have a recreation of all the medieval buildings that you would have found in Stockholm at that time. These were absolutely brilliant and made all the more interesting in that they were lifesize replicas and you were able to actually go inside and explore the buildings and rooms. There was also an exhibit of Birger Jarl who was the founder of Stockholm and is a name you will see and hear all over the city. After seeing so much about him it was interesting to find out more about the man who founded this beautiful city. The whole museum was such a breathe of fresh air. Although medieval history is not to everyones taste it is presented in such a way that makes it accessible to everyone and the curators have done a fabulous job in making it interesting but not crowded or boring. As it seemed to be so well hidden the museum had hardly any visitors when we were there which is a real shame but the blame lies solely with the city tourism board for not advertising it better and making sure that people know it is there. If you are visiting Stockholm then this is a museum that I can highly recommend and one that I enjoyed far more than the more famous Vasa museum. Just look for the little old fashioned boat that looks like it has been abandoned in the water and you will know you are at the right bridge.
by jipp05 on November 18, 2010
Stockholm may seem like a strange choice for a summer holiday destination but it is somewhere that I have wanted to visit for a long time. After reading and loving the novels of Stieg Larsson I became interested in Swedish culture and the more I read about the country the more I was sure I wanted to visit. When I first broached the subject of visiting Stockholm for our summer holidays it was met with some resistance as I think my partner had been envisaging a beach somewhere but slowely I managed to turn him into my way of thinking. When we arrived in Sweden I was immediately struck by just how green and lush everything looked on the journey into the city from the airport. Even though I had read that Sweden has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world the people all looked healthy and happy. As it was summer this might have had something to do with it as the sun was shining everyone was making the most of the warm weather. I was looking forward to getting out and exploring the city so as soon as we dropped off our bags we went to have a look around. The first thing I noticed was just how clean everything was and the lack of graffiti everywhere. The architecture was stunning and could easily rival any other major European city and although there were tourists everywhere it never felt crowded or too 'touristy'. We decided to visit Gamla Stan the old medieval quarter of the city first and I was immediately charmed by the cobbled streets and old medieval squares. It was lovely to just wander around getting a feel for the place and having ice cream from one of the many shops selling it. Gamls Stan is located next to the harbour where the boats leave to the many islands so we decided to hop on a boat and go and explore the main island of Djurgarden and spent the rest of the afternoon getting a feel for the city. The next day bright and early with our Stockholm cards in hand we did all the major tourist sites such as the palace and the Vasa museum. Again these were busy but we never had to queue for long unlike sites in other European cities and because Stockholm is so compact it never took us long to get to the next attraction on our list. All the facilities were top notch and everyone spoke perfect English so if we even got lost or encountered any problems we could always find someone to help. Stockholm has such a cool atmosphere to it and everyone seemed to be fashionable from young to old and all the bars and restaurants we visited had an amazing vibe to them. This was probably my favourite part of Stockholm just soaking up the atmosphere of the city whilst sitting having a beer. The people were amazing and incredibly polite. We never encountered any surly shop assistants or bar staff and everyone always had a smile which is getting rarer these days when travelling on a city break. At night my favourite area was the Gamla stan as all the restaurants and bars had outsde seating and there was an amazing vibe of people spilling onto the streets enjoying their weekend. I never once felt threatened or nervous about walking the streets at night and whereever we went was always well lit and it felt safe and secure. One of my favourite things that we did in Stockholm that I can't imagine being able to do in any other major city is go swimming. In the centre there are some small beaches and when we visited it felt as though the whole of Stockholm was there. With no room at the small beach we had to walk quite a distance until we came upon some room on the rocks and spent an enjoyable afternoon sunbathing and swimming. Yep that's right we went swimming in the centre of the city. The water was lovely and clean and perfectly safe for swimming in as the hundreds of people who were there would testify to. I thought this was fantastic and I only wish the water was clean enough in my city centre to be able to go swimming. For me Stockholm made a perfect summer holiday and it is a great city break destination. It is absolutely beautiful and easily as stunning as any other European city but without the hordes of tourists and the dirt and grafitti. It is a real city where people live and not just somewhere for tourists to visit but the people were wonderful and welcomed the tourists and didn't resent them like the locals in some other popular cities do. I would highly recommend visiting Stockholm if you haven't aleady as there is so much to see and do and I am sure you will have a wonderful time there.
If you are planning on visiting the Swedish capital then getting a Stockholm card is a must and it comes with so many added benefits that it soon pays for itself. It is basically a card you buy that gives you free or discounted entry into more than 80 museums and attraction in the greater Stockholm area. It also gives you free use of public transport including the subway and local buses. It comes with a handy little guidebook which tells you what is free and where the site is situated and a little discription. I found this really handy when trying to decide what attractions to visit. It currently costs 395 SEK for a 24 hour card, 525 SEK for a 48 one and 625 SEK for the 72 hour card. As it gets progressively cheaper if you are going to be there for three days then definately plump for the 72 hour card as if you visit just a few attractions and sights it can end up saving you a small fortune in entry fee's. For a comparison on price 395 SEK is currently around £35. To buy the card you can either purchase it online and they will post it out to you but make sure to leave plenty of time before your trip before ordering as it takes around two weeks to be delivered outside of Sweden. The easiest way to get one is just to buy it on arrival in Stockholm. You can buy it at the airport or at the main tourist office in the centre of town. A tip is that if you are arriving in the morning then get it at the airport but if you arrive later on in the afternoon or night then wait before buying as the card is stamped the first time you use it and this is when the time limit on it starts. So if you buy at the airport in late afternoon and use it for free entry into the subway then it is unlikely you will be visiting anything else that day so will have wasted 12 hours or so of use when all the attractions are closed. All the main attractions of Stockholm are free with the card such as the Royal Palace, Skansen and the Vasamuseet. This was great as I have been stung buying these discount cards before in other cities where the most popular sites were excluded from the card.Because there were so many sites that had free entry with the Stockholm card it meant that I was more willing to explore and visit smaller attractions that I may otherwise not have visited due to the cost involved in going there. As stockholm is a city made up of islands one of the best things about the card was that it meant trips on the hop on hop off boats to all the islands was free. All you had to do was show your card whilst boarding and we used this form of transport quite a lot. Our hotel was quite far from the centre of the city so we ended up using the subway a lot. Most people will probably not so this as Stockholm is quite a compact city but it is definately worth going on a couple of journeys as a lot of the subway tunnels have odern art in them are were as interesting as some of the museums. For the price of the card it was definately worth buying for my partner and I as we made good use out of it.We got the 2 day card and it paid for itself on the first day. We did all the major sites which would have ended up costing us nearly double what the card did and we used the subway extensively. I also enjoyed visiting sites that I would probably never have visited without having the card and I would highly recommend getting one if you decide to visit Stockholm.
by jipp05 on November 8, 2010
The Absolut ice bar in Stockholm was the world’s first permanent ice bar when it opened in 2002. Although now synonymous with Vodka company Absolut is originally had nothing to do with them and they only took over the sponsorship after realising what a good branding opportunity it was.The ice bar is made from ice that is shipped in from the Torne river in frozen Lapland and is so clean that it is graded by the Swedish government as safe to drink when melted and this is because when the ice freezes it squeezes out all the dirt and bacteria making it purer than the surrounding water.To keep the ice frozen and ensure that it doesn’t melt with the amount of people who are traipsing around the bar it is kept to a constant temperature of minus 5 degrees and this is controlled by a computerized system. To visit the ice bar you can either book in advance through the website or just show up and hope that it is quiet or wait around for your turn to enter it. We chose to just show up as I didn’t want to be forced into a set time to visit.The ice bar is located in the lobby of the Nordic sea hotel and the hotel is really easy to find as it is located in the centre of town near the main train station.When we entered I was a little disappointed to be faced with a rather plain boring hotel lobby and wasn’t even sure that we were in the right place to begin with. I’m not sure what I was expecting but it was something more dramatic than what we experienced.The lobby is quite large and there were no signs to say that we were in the right place but we spotted a line of people queuing so assumed that this must be the right spot.We took out place in the queue and waited to get to the front. It didn’t take long for the queue to go down and we were soon at the front where we paid our money to enter the bar. The price was SEK 190 per person which is around £18 but it is a little cheaper if you book in advance.We were told that the bar was full and we were looking at a half hour wait. This wasn’t really a problem as it was a Saturday night and to be honest we were actually expecting a longer wait. They gave us a little stick that would change colour when they were ready for us and we went and got a drink in the hotel lobby bar.When the stick told us it was our time to enter the bar we went back over to the queue and handed our tickets over to the lady behind the counter who was extremely friendly and she took us and a few other people into a changing room and told us what to expect.In the changing room we were given large oversized parkas with fur trimmed hoods. These parkas didn’t have buttons and instead they go over the head and are extremely heavy and snug. They also have gloves attached to them and these are nice and large but you will definitely need to remove them if you want to be able to use your hands for taking pictures etc.Once we were dressed in our arctic gear we went to a door that is attached to the changing room and had to press a button which took us into a corridor and when the whole group was in the corridor the door then sealed shut and we were able to press the button to open the door to the bar.Once we entered the bar it was like entering a different world. Gone was the boring interior of the hotel and before us was a cool, modern interior that was made entirely of ice. Although I knew it was all made of ice it still came as a little bit of a shock to see it in the flesh. There were ice columns, the bar was made of ice and there were sculptures everywhere.Music was being pumped into the bar and this added to the atmosphere as I think without it the bar may have been eerie instead of funky as it was also a lot darker than I expected with only some low level lighting to illuminate the large room.The cost of entry also included one free cocktail and being the Absolut ice bar all the drinks were made with a variation of vodka. The choice was quite extensive and they all sounded delicious. I forget the name of the cocktail I ordered but it was something to do with archipelagos and was really really good. There are also plenty of non-alcoholic cocktails for the under agers and the teetotallers. Even the glasses the drinks came in were made out of solid blocks of ice that had been hollowed out.Once we had our cocktails we went to look round the bar.Although the room is large it is not exactly cavernous so it didn’t take long to look around but there is some fun to be had taking pictures with the sculptures and everyone else had the same idea if the amount of camera flashes going off is any indication.Apparently every year the ice bar changes the theme and in the summer when I was there the theme was aquatic and I think this really suited the ice bar and I could definitely get the aquatic references when looking around.There are no seats to be found anywhere in the bar and I can only assume this is to stop peoples body heat from melting the ice but it was still a little annoying as it meant we had to stand the whole time and I would have quite like to have had a seat to just soak up the atmosphere.When we first entered the bar I was pleasantly surprised to notice the temperature was cold but not uncomfortable but after about 20 minutes it did start feeling colder and although when you pay your entry it gives you access to the bar for 45 minutes I found that half an hour was more than enough time to drink my drink and experience the bar and just as important it was enough time to make sure I took plenty of pictures to document my experience.Once we were ready to leave we just repeated the steps as when we entered and found ourselves back in the changing room and we removed our parkas and went to leave. On the way out you pass by a small and by small I mean tiny area where you can buy some souvenirs of your trip to the ice bar. I had a look and was going to buy something but it was just the usual souvenir items but they were extremely over-priced so I decided that my pictures would be enough to remember my visit by.Once we left the hotel and stepped outside into the warm summer evening it really hit home just how cold the actual bar was.I loved the Absolut ice bar and have no hesitation in recommending it as a must see to others as it is such a unique experience. If I wanted to be awkward then I could find plenty of things to complain about such as the slow service at the bar or the expense to enter but as this was something special that I probably won’t ever experience again I can overlook these things. I have really fond memories of my trip to Stockholm and the ice bar was definitely a high light for me.I look at the pictures I took there and smile and I am glad I did it even though now I have experienced it I probably wouldn’t go again but that’s only because it is not really something that needs to be experienced twice.For those people who are thinking of visiting the Absolut ice bar the opening times are from 12:45pm to 1:00am in summer and from 15:00pm to 1:00am in winter but be warned that the last time for just showing up is 21:45 and after this time it is only for people who have pre booked.The website address where you can book is: www.nordicseahotel.se.
by jipp05 on November 12, 2010
When visiting Stockholm I was looking for a nice but reasonably priced hotel. Now as anyone who has visited Stockholm before will know reasonably priced is not really an expression that you would use with the Swedish capital. Looking through Booking.com there were a few hotels that looked nice and were reasonably priced but when I clicked on them to check the room they would have available would be the size of a cupboard and contain bunkbeds and have no windows. This wasn't really the type of holiday that I was hoping to have. Just when I was about to give up and raise my budget I stumbled across the Birger Jarl hotel which looked nice, had outside windows and a double bed all for a decent (well for Stockholm) price. Obviously there had to be something wrong with it or so I thought but from reading the comments it seemed the previous people who had stayed at the hotel all thought quite highly of it. The only problem I could see was that it was a little further from the city centre than some of the other hotels but as I am a young relatively fit young man I didn't really see this as a problem and booked the room. When we arrived off the airport bus at the central station I was clutching my map of the directions I had downloaded from booking.com and set off to find the hotel. It was quite a hike from the central station but it seemed relatively straight forward and only involved walking a very long street and taking a turn off. We walked for about 15 minutes and soon found where we needed to turn off. The hotel is situated on a quiet side street and would be easy to pass if you weren't looking for it. The only reason we found it straight away was because it has a small terrace outside and as it was a lovely sunny day there were guests sitting out drinking coffee. The entrance to the hotel was quite inviting with big vases either side of a revolving door with a canopy above it. The terrace next to the doors was small but full of people and had some really nice wooden furniture. I have to say first impressions were good. Upon entering the hotel my first impressions improved even more. There is a large front desk directly facing the entrance where there were three smarty dressed receptionists who were extremely friendly and very efficient and had us checked in, in less than a couple of minutes. There were a couple of computers for guest use and there were also lots of maps and leaflets on things to see and do. Also in the reception area was a large bar and some tables with comfy seating. The decoration was minimal and stylish and made a really good impression. Off the bar is the hotel restaurant where they serve dinners and lunches and this is also where breakfast was served. To use the lifts you had to use your room key which I liked as I always feel more secure in a hotel when they do this. After being so impressed with the lobby of the hotel I was excited to see the room. On the website they had made a big deal about how some of their rooms were individually decorated and on some of the pictures they looked really modern and indevidual. Unfortunately we had a plain old boring room that looked like 99% of hotel rooms the world over. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it but after the rest of the hotel being so good I had expected something a little nicer. The room had those single beds that are pushed together to make a double which I hate but I am used to hotels doing this and at least I can say they were extremely comfortable. The rest of the room was as expected with a small desk, TV, reading lamps etc. There was absolutely nothing to distinguish it from every other hotel room. One nice touch about the room was that in the mini bar there was free bottles of water and chocolates which I did appreciate. The windows overlooked the front of the hotel and they actually opened for a change and I was pleased that I had found a room with external windows which I had no idea previously was considered a luxury in Swedish hotels of the budget variety. The bathroom was a little shabby to be honest and in desperate need of an overhaul. It had a shower, bath, sink and toilet and there is not really a lot to say about them. They worked. Towels were plentyful and the maid service replaced them every day of our stay. Breakfast was included in our room rate and this was a highlight for me. I like my food and there was plenty to choose from. There was plenty of bread, pastries, fruit etc and also hot food like bacon and sausages. There was machines for coffee and juice where you could help yourself so you didn't need to rely on the waitress which was good as it was busy with a constant stream of people coming and going. The waitresses were really good with coming and clearing up the dishes so you could go back and have another plate without being embarrassed about the amount of plates piling up on the side of the table. I really cannot fault the breakfast or the service of the waitresses who also were very friendly and smiled everytime they took away a dish. The hotel has a small gym which I didn't use but did have a peek in and it looked well stocked and perfectly fine for a short break for the gym bunnies. It also has a sauna which I did make use of and this was a lovely bonus of the hotel. I'm afraid I didn't eat at the restaurant but from the menu it looked like set menus and the prices were very high for what they served. The best thing about the hotel was the feeling of it. I have never before stayed in a hotel where I actually wanted to sit in the lobby bar and have a drink but the atmosphere here was so good that I actually enjoyed having a drink in it before I went out in the evening. The ouside terrace was also lovely and always busy and it was nice to sit here in the early evening sunshine and enjoy a drink. The atmosphere seemed to have extended to the other guests as it was always a nice social experience. A lovely touch that they hotel did was they would fill jug of water filled with strawberries and cucumber and leave them at the front entrance for guests to take onto the terrace. It was onyl a small thing but it was this attention to detail that made me enjoy my stay so much. If I went to Stockholm again I wouldn't hesitate to stay at the Birger Jarl hotel again. Yes it is a little far from the centre but there is a metro near the hotel and the walk into the centre was a nice one that allowed us to see pars of Stockholm we probably wouldn't have seen without staying there. The rooms are basic but adequate and besides you won't be spending a lot of time in them and the rest of the hotel more than makes up for this. We paid SEK 2970.00 for three nights in summer which is approx £274 and frankly for Stockholm this is a steal.
The Vasa museum in Stockholm was one of the sights that I was most looking forward to visiting on my trip to the city. Unfortunately it was one of the sights that left me feeling the most disspointed and underwhelmed. The Vasa museum contains the only intact 17th century Swedish warship in existence. the museum itself is an extension of the Swedish maritime museum but with the ship being so huge it is housed in it's very own building which is located on the island of Djurgarden. According to the museum it is the most visited museum in the whole of Scandanavia and judging from the lines of people who were waiting to enter it when we visited I can easily believe this. I advise you arrive early as it took us almost an hour in the queue before we got to the front and that hour could have been better spent exploring some more of this wonderful city. We had purchased Stockholm cards which allowed us free entry to the museum and were well worth the money as entry to the museum is normally 110 Swedish Kroner for adults and 80 Swedish Kroner for students. Children under the age of 18 are also entitled to free entry. When we had shown our cards we had to enter through a dark passageway to gain entry to where the ship is and once we entered the main museum the sight was pretty breathtaking. The building where the ship is housed is absolutely cavernous and easily one of the largest spaces I have ever been in. The space is kept quite dark which is to protect the ship from sunlight and once your eyes adjust you see the huge ship hanging from the ceiling and it is absolutely magnificent to look at. I spent quite a bit of time just staring at the ship trying to soak in all the details. However there were huge groups of tourists and children running around everywhere and not to sound like a grumpy old man it was almost impossible to fully appreciate everything with so many distractions. I would love to be able to see the ship with no other people around as I can imagine it would be spectacular. After craning my neck looking up it was time to explore the museum which as I mentioned is vast. There are a few different floors to explore all looking out over the huge warship which takes up the entire middle space of the museum. Signposting was not great so it was difficult to find where things were so we decided to just wander and see what we would come across. We found some cinema rooms which were showing some documentaries on the discovery of the Vasa and it's ongoing conservation. These were all in Swedish obviously but they were subtitles in English so we watched these for a little while but to be honest they were all a little boring so we soon moved on. Whilst wandering around the bottom of the ship we came across a rather macabre part of the exibition. They have used the skulls of the actual sailors to recreate life like recreations of what they actually would have looked like. I personally found this a little creepy but absolutely fascinating as the faces were incredibly detailed and life like and I found it strange to think I ws looking at the actual face of someone who had died onboard. On the upper levels were exhibitions showing what life would have been like on the ship and a selection of artifacts that were recovered from it. I particularaly enjoyed finding out about the history of the Vasa and found it fascinating to learn that this huge ship set sail on it's maiden voyage from the Stockholm harbour on the 10th of August 1628 only to sink less than a mile into it's journey. The ship then lay forgotton about at the bottom of the harbour until the 1950's when it was found again and a project to restore it started. This project is still continuing today and there are signs work going on all around the ship. Of course entry to the actual ship is not allowed because it is so delecate after being submerged for so many years and the closest you can actually come to it is probably on the top floor of the museum which is next to where it suspends from the ceiling. Here you get the best view of the decks and masts. The mast head is especially beautiful and there are also artists renderings of all the beautiful carvings that are on the ship showing you how they would have looked in their prime. We spent a couple of hours exploring the museum and it was a pleasant experience but it's not one I would rush to repeat. The space where the ship is housed is amazing and it's clear that a lot of thought and effort has went into building the museum but it was just far too crowded when we visited to be able to fully appreciate and enjoy the ship and museum.
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