A very rewarding few days in Stockholm with long-term friend Mark Batchelor, as we took the opportunity to visit the ‘Venice of the North.’ I initially travelled over to Heathrow on Wednesday evening and stayed over to be in place for an early start on Thursday. Typically, I arrived at Terminal 5 in the morning and ran straight into PPL CEO Peter Leathem on his way to the Wide Days event in Glasgow!
Having hooked up with Mark, a pleasant British Airways two-hour flight followed, courtesy of a BA voucher from our much-postponed trip to Nice, and it was certainly eye-opening to arrive at a very quiet Arlanda Airport. A significant change from a bustling Heathrow.
As expected, the temperature was a bracing 4 degrees C and I wondered if I had brought sufficient outer clothing and whether a purchase in a store was in the offing. However, such concerns were to prove unfounded, and we caught the Arlanda Express into the centre of the city from a deserted station and marched through the streets and the copious grit on the ground to our hotel for the next days, Blique by Nobis, in Gavlegatan.
The hotel turned out to be an excellent base, sited close to Odenplan underground station, and offering highly-efficient staff, contemporary surroundings, comfortable yet functional rooms, unmatched breakfasts and a superbly stocked bar. Everything we needed.
We were keen to sample the range of cuisine Stockholm could deliver and on this first evening we dined at the ‘Cliff Barnes’ restaurant and bar, which was an excellent choice with its classic diner menu and variety of beers. Subsequent nights saw us at local restaurants, such as Muskot where we enjoyed delicious curry. I should add we passed many a late hour at the modern hotel bar, especially when understandably weary from the daily sight-seeing walks. Many thanks to Andrea and colleagues for the excellent food, drinks and hosting throughout!
On Friday, our first full day, we caught the train to the old town and noting the grey skies, first visited the Royal Palace on the island of Gamla stan, the official residence and primary royal palace of the Swedish monarch. Our timing was ideal to take in the changing of the guard in the main yard outside which, whilst relatively low key in comparison with the affairs in London, was relaxed and enjoyable. Just the one drummer and bugler!
The old town also boasts numerous cafes and colourful buildings in its historic narrow streets. We dropped into one of these for a cinnamon bun and coffee, where Mark was asked by a single man on a neighbouring table – totally out of the blue – whether he was my husband. When Mark denied this, the man then asked me if I was married. I replied in the affirmative, but he was clearly still confused by our being together, as his next question – in astonished tones – consisted of ‘What, to a woman?’ Some nerve.
Anyway, we had been heartily recommended to visit Fasching, a famous live music club, and so on Friday night we booked a taxi from the hotel to see what the venue had lined up. The scheduled gig had been cancelled (shame), but the in-house DJ served up contemporary hip-hop, R&B and jazz, which appealed to the local crowd. I have developed a taste for single malt whiskey and several of these – on top of a few lagers – meant a somewhat challenging walk back in the early hours.
Saturday morning saw a complete change in the weather and spring sunshine greeted our journey to the harbour to catch an SL local ferry to Djurgarden. This is a tranquil island, known for the Vasamuseet (aka Vasa Museum) featuring a hugely impressive, recovered 17th-century warship, and the Skansen open-air museum, which has craftspeople and reconstructed homes depicting Swedish life through the decades. Also on the island is the ABBA museum; a statue to opera singer Jenny Lind (the ‘Swedish Nightingale’); the Gröna Lund amusement park known for its rides and summer concerts; plus several miles of walkways through relaxing parklands and unique houses. (Some of the latter seemed particularly Adams Family in style!)
On Sunday we took the train south to Globen in Johanneshov, having booked tickets for the SkyView and a pod ride to the top of the Avicii arena. This is the largest spherical building in the world, with a seating capacity of 16,000 spectators for concerts and over 13,000 for ice hockey. We then travelled back to the harbour bars on Strandvagen and enjoyed a few drinks in the afternoon sun, watching the passing locals promenading in the rare warmth.
We were set to return on Monday evening and a little reluctant to venture too far across town, knowing we would have to set off for Arlanda later in the day. So we found a sun-bathed spot outside the Espresso House at the corner of the Vanadisplan roundabout – with its featured art – and Sankt Eriksgaten. Postively balmy.
In fact, a swift afternoon train journey found us back at the airport and on our way home on the 6pm flight. We had particularly enjoyed our long weekend break and found Stockholm to be a fascinating city giving a warm welcome to visitors. Heartily recommended.