About a month we took a little trip to Stockholm to celebrate my birthday and we had the loveliest of times. Jumping on a plane and navigating my way around a new destination has always been my absolute favourite things to do, but our travelling adventures have taken a bit of a back seat since our little Miss came along and the pins on our travel map haven’t been multiplying as quickly as they might otherwise have been. So after an 18 month hiatus, we were back on a plane, travel book in hand and off to explore the city of Stockholm in Sweden and I’m so glad we chose Scandinavia to make our travel come back. You can read all about the first half of our trip below and I’ll publish the remainder of our weekend after Christmas.
We decided to take an evening flight thinking would be better for Ettie as she could sleep on route, however we were very wrong! I think she picked up on our excitement or was simply giddy at the fact that we were going on a plane, because she bounced around the whole journey, saying ‘Hello’ to anyone who walked past our seats and popping her head over the seats to talk to the people behind. It was ridiculously cute, but also hard work having a giddy toddler jumping about on your knee for 2.5 hours!
We arrived into Stockholm around 9pm and decided to get the airport bus to the hotel. Everyone in the airport was super friendly and they all spoke English which was a relief after such an ‘exciting’ flight – although I always get a little embarrassed when I can only muster pigeon German while the rest of Europe seem to be fluent in our mother tongue. The airport bus was easy to locate and the driver helped us load our luggage, unfortunately we were a little too eager to get to the hotel and managed to jump off a few stops too early. Even thought it was dark and well into Friday night in a strange place, what struck me was how safe everything felt. You know you can sometimes get that feeling of unease in a new place when it’s dark and you don’t know your way around? Well there was none of that in Stockholm. Everywhere was so clean, big and fresh and even though people were already out in the bars enjoying their evening, they were all very respectfully of Ettie being asleep in the buggy and hushed their voices as we walked past.
We stayed at the Stallmästaregården Hotel, in the Vasastan neighbourhood of the city and were really impressed with it. The hotel itself dates back to the 1660’s and was really eclectic in style with many of the original features intertwined beautifully with modern Swedish style. The rooms were quiet overlooking Brunnsviken Bay which is a beautiful lake located in Haga Park and the breakfasts (most important bit!!) were superb! It was perfect for a family getaway. The hotel also added a little cot to our room complete with mini duvet and pillow which was very cute.
The restaurant, designed in 2012 had a particular emphasis on traditional Swedish cuisine. There was the typical cheese and meat selection for breakfast but there was also a wonderful variety of breads, with Ettie and I taking a particular liking to the liquorice bread. It rounds revolting – to those who don’t like liquorice, but it was so soft and fluffy, particularly a bit of butter and homemade jam, it was delicious.
Travel into the city was pretty simple, which two bus stops really close by, although we opted to use the Metro as Odenplan station was only a 10 minute walk away and from there you could get anywhere.
On Saturday morning we woke up bright and early ready to explore the city. There was so much to choose from in terms of things to do and we didn’t really know where to begin. This was a last minute birthday break so I hadn’t really had any time to make a plan of action. Usually I’d peruse the guidebook casually on the plane on the way over, but our little giddy jumping jack has put a stop to that on this trip so being a sucker for a bit of history, I thought the ‘Old Town’ on Gamla Stan was a good place to start.
As you might have guessed Galma Stan (or ‘The Old Town’) is the oldest part of Stockholm with some of the buildings dating back to the 17th Century. It was the original city centre and has a beautiful labyrinth of rust coloured buildings and cobbled streets. Its also home to the impressive Royal Palace which can be found in the north eastern corner. Had we been on our own, we would have ventured inside, but we didn’t think Ettie would appreciate the history, so we opted to wander around the pretty streets and get lost in amongst the hustle and bustle of Swedish life instead, plus it was fun watching her run around outside.
The Old Town was full of amazing little food spots and market stalls. Being early October, we visited Stockholm right at the end of the season meaning the streets weren’t overly busy and we were able to get a table at most of the lovely cafes, but being a major tourist destination, I can imagine this being very different in the height of summer.
FOOD TIP: Most of the restaurants in the Old Town are located in the cellars of the buildings – we found a great Mexican place called Geronimos FGT where we tucked into two huge Burritos and a Bundaberg ginger beer. I’d highly recommend it if you do pay Stockholm a visit. Also another point to note, we were scared stiff of the prices in Sweden after hearing reports that it was one of the most expensive places in Europe, but it actually wasn’t that bad – no more expensive than London prices, but perhaps we’re the mugs for thinking they are normal in the first place!
Stockholm is made up of a series of fourteen islands all interconnected by road and metro link so the best way to get around is using public transport (boars are as commonplace as busses in Stockholm!) Similar to the London Tube, Metro passes were available for 1 day, 3 days or per journey. We opted to buy a Stockholm City Pass which included all public transport for 72 hours, a journey on the hop-on hop-off boat tour and entry into some attractions too. It worked out around £84 for three days which seems priced but when compared to London prices we thought it was pretty reasonable so just took the hit! One word of warning this pass isn’t to be confused with the Stockholm Pass which is a lot more expensive but includes entry into lots more attractions and more routes on the open top bus. We did get confused and wondered why we still had to pay for many of the attractions (to be fair they do look very similar) It was wasn’t until the last day that we worked out there were two cards (Doh!!). But it all worked out well. I think had Ettie been a little older, the Stockholm Pass could have been an option, but she was happy enough playing in the falling leaves for free so we’re glad we opted for the card we got.
At 4.00pm it was time to board the ferry, which was included in the price of the Stockholm City Pass. We hopped on at the pier just outside the Royal Palace and had a lovely cruise between the islands, taking in the sights of Djurggarden and Sodermalm along the way. Ettie a b s o l u t e l y loved it!! I actually think it could have been her first time on a boat and she beamed a big cheeky grin the whole way round munching on a chocolate ice cream!
After the boat ride we had about an hour before the sun went down so I had quick check over the guide book and found a 45 minute walk around Sodermalm island which suited us perfectly. We discovered some beautiful sights along the way including a viewing point at Monteliusvagen which had some incredible panoramic views of the city. We spent ages in there just taking in the sights and admiring the beautiful colours of the old town. It really was stunning.
So there you have it, our first couple of days in Stockholm. I really hope you enjoyed it. Stockholm is such a great city and so child friendly, I have so much to share, that I could probably write four blog posts about it, but I’ll stick to the highlights. Part two will include our adventures on the Sunday and Monday, including my birthday so I look forward to sharing that with you early into the new year……
You can check out the second instalment of our break here: Birthday Break to Stockholm: Part Two