Michelle Fong navigates around the Scandinavian capital known as the Venice of the North
To start an exploration of this city spread over 14 major islands and more than 20,000 islets and skerries, take the ferry for Djurgården, free with a Stockholm Card or SL-access card. Once there, you’ll see the unmissable Vasa Museet (Vasa Museum), through the end of Galärvarvsvägen. The entire seven-storey museum is built around the 10-metre-tall Vasa warship that sank in 1628. Built for King Gustav II Adolf, Vasa was constructed using more than 1,000 oak trees, and boasted 64 cannons, poles over 50 metres tall and hundreds of painted and gold-plated sculptures. Full adult entry fee is Kr 100 (US$14.2) or free with a Stockholm Card (Kr 450/US$64 for one day). Open 10am-5pm every day, and 10am-8pm on Wednesdays. Complimentary English guided tours are available. Visit www.vasamuseet.se
Within five minutes’ walk of the Vasa Museum stands Sweden’s largest museum of cultural history, Nordiska Museet, at the other end of Galärvarvsvägen right next to Djurgården Bridge. Established in 1907, this spacious museum puts together the bits and pieces of everyday life in Sweden, through displays ranging from the early modern era to contemporary period. Showcasing a wide range of exhibits including art, history, fashion, textiles, home décor, food, indigenous people, toys and more, Nordiska Museet provides everything you want to know about Swedish trends, culture and traditions. Open 10am-5pm every day, and 10am-8pm on Wednesdays. Full adult entry fee is Kr 90 (US$12.8), free on Wednesdays from 5pm-8pm and any day with a Stockholm Card. Visit www.nordiskamuseet.se
Right opposite Nordiska Museet there is a stop for the number 7 tram that takes you to Drottninggatan (Queen Street) where you can indulge in some retail therapy. After a five-minute ride you get off at the public square of Sergels Torg, near the street named in honour of Queen Christina who ruled Sweden from 1633 to 1654. Drottninggatan is the main pedestrianised shopping street in Stockholm – it can also be reached by T-Centralen metro station. At one end of the street, where the Ahléns City department store is located, you can find shops for high-street fashion, including perennial favourite H&M. Towards the other end of the street are the PUB department store and high-end shops. Restaurants offering international cuisine and authentic local food line the street as well – fika (coffee break) is an inalienable part of daily life in Sweden. Street performers provide entertainment for free. Shops normally open from 10am to 6pm Monday-Friday, and 10am-3pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Midway through the Drottninggatan shopping street and within 10 minutes’ walk of T-Centralen station, you can find the Hötorgshallen food mall at Hötorget by turning right at the intersecting Gamla Brogatan. In the basement of the mall is the famous Kajsas Fiskrestaurang (Kajsa’s fish restaurant), renowned both for its fisksoppa (fish soup) and the long queues outside. It does offer seafood pasta and other dishes, but nearly all customers go for the fish soup. The popular tomato-based fish soup is saturated with herring fish fillet, mussels, shrimps, special herbs and garlic cream, and served with complimentary bread and cabbage salad. Customers are entitled to refill their bowls once. The fish soup costs Kr 85 (US$12), which is good value for such huge portions. The restaurant opens Monday-Friday 10am-6pm and on Saturday 10am-3pm. Visit www.hotorgshallen.se/handlare/
Walk along Kungsgatan for a few minutes to reach the Hötorget metro, take the green line to Slussen, and then interchange to a number 3 bus to reach Stadshuset (City Hall) – the total trip takes about 20 minutes. The Stadshuset Tower is the tallest structure in Stockholm, rising 106 metres from the ground. Walking up the staircases and narrow brick wall passages to the top of the tower takes about 15 minutes. Midway, there is a Tower Museum displaying a collection of statues introducing the rulers of Stockholm. As you reach the tower’s top, look through the safety bars for a stunning 360-degree view of the city’s canals and exquisite architecture. You can stay at the top for 15 to 20 minutes. The tower only opens from May to September, in 40-minute intervals from 9.15am to 4pm daily, accommodating up to 30 people at a time. Back on the ground, the City Hall is surrounded by a beautiful garden by the seaside, with two fountains and a huge Dala Horse figure symbolic of Sweden’s handicraft. Full adult entry fee for the tower is Kr 40 (US$5.7), and Kr 90 (US$12.8) for City Hall, or free for both with a Stockholm Card or a Stockholm à la Carte Card (comes free with reservation in some hotels). Visit http://international.stockholm.se
To get to Gamla Stan (old town) from Stadshuset, take a 10-minute number 3 bus ride and alight at Mälartorget. Founded in 1300, Gamla Stan is the oldest region in Stockholm, where the majority of the area’s architecture exhibits an 18th-century style. Surrounded by colourful traditional houses and beautiful churches, strolling around the area’s well-preserved streets is like walking into Sweden’s past. The old town is home to the Nobel museum, which provides information about the Nobel Prize and Nobel laureates. The 600-room Royal Palace also stands in this district, and is the official residence of the King of Sweden. Beside historical attractions, the old town also offers a wide range of eateries, in particular cafés that serve freshly baked Swedish kanelbulle (cinnamon roll) the size of a person’s face. Dozens of souvenir shops surround you, making for a browsing bonanza. Visit www.old-town-stockholm.com