Not many countries make me feel ashamed of old Britain, but the way Sweden demonstrates practicality, punctuality and organisation while still maintaining an element of cool leaves a lot to be desired.
Free wifi in the airport, on the Flygbussarna bus into the capital, and all around the city – it shouldn’t be a backpacker’s priority but it sure is useful! Along with efficient public transport, friendly (and very beautiful) multilingual natives, and clean, safe streets, Stockholm is a fine capital city. If you can afford to pay that little bit extra (or eat that little bit less!), that is.
I tend to orientate myself around Drottningsgatan, the city’s pedestrianised backbone that leads all the way down to Gamla Stan, the old town. Avoid dragging a suitcase down the cobbled streets of this island (as I have learnt from previous visits), and try to overlook the coach-loads of elderly tourists, but keep an eye out for the blue guards and the beautiful royal buildings; the residency of the Swedish monarchy in Stockholm is one of the city’s big selling points (as you’ll see from the postcards).
Stortorget is along this road too; home to T-Centralen and the Kulturhuset, it’s a great spot for people-watching in the sun (but you’ll get pestered for money over and over). The Kulturhuset’s free to enter and has some exhibitions by Swedish artists, fancy gift shops and cafes, and a great view of the square. Lovely to see groups of old men playing chess and drinking coffee too.
A new discovery was Kungstrådgården, the King’s garden, a beautiful park by the water where I sat eating a nectarine and reading my book, avoiding the temptation to buy an ice cream.
Stockholm ‘to see’ list;
– Gamla Stan for historical, royal Stockholm and elderly Asians
– Stortorget for people-watching
– Kulturhuset for rainy days
– Kungstrådgården for sunny days
– Drottningsgatan for more H&Ms than you’ll ever need
– Hörtörget for the market
– The archipelago (skärgård) for a complete contrast!