I didn't know much about Stockholm to be honest. Meatballs, hockey, blondes and Ikea was my only knowledge of Sweden prior to last weekend, so I was intrigued in what I would find once I got to her capital city, oh yeah - I heard it's pricey too. After getting dirt cheap flights for an overnight stay and finding central accommodation via the excellent Airbnb website, we were very much looking forward to this. Once I found out where Skanska airport was though, in truth, I thought this may be more of a chore than a fun foreign foray - it's an hour-and-a-half drive outside Stockholm! Although in fairness, the Flygbussarna coaches are an effective way of getting you there at around £25 return. So armed with exactly £160, roughly 1600SEK, we arrived in Stockholm's main station, T-centralen, for our 24-hour whistle stop break. Luckily enough, we could pick up a 24-hour metro ticket, which cost around 200SEK for my partner and I.
We only travelled one stop north before it was time to get off. It had been an early start at now it was lunchtime. We stopped off at Östermalmstorg to check out the food market at Östermalms Saluhall. I had researched this was the best place to find authentic Swedish food, and with my partner being more health conscious than me, she was encouraged to find the many varieties of fresh national fare on offer. After pulling ourselves up to a bar next to the counter, I had some meatballs with a cream sauce and potatoes, while she had a beef stroganoff with rice. The food was incredibly hearty and we picked a lovely stall where to eat. The prices were very fair indeed, around 100SEK each which I thought was excellent. Some of the stalls in Östermalms Saluhallare aimed at the high-end market, and on our budget, we didn't want to spend everything in one gluttonous feast. After leaving there, we dropped off our things at our accommodation one stop up at Karlaplan before heading back on the train to see Stockholm's undisputed heart stealer, Gamla Stan.
Gamla Stan is a lovely area to walk around with hundreds of inviting cafes, amazing boutique craft shops, bars and alleyways to explore. As with many major cities, this was crawling with tourists and the same items were in souvenir shops as you would find in London, New York and Paris, but just draped in yellow and blue. As we walked around, we saw the Palace and got some lovely views out towards the north of the city over the impressive Riddarfjärden bay. Very charming indeed. Time to move on, and this time north through the imposing island of Helgeandsholmen which houses the Swedish parliamentary buildings into the main shopping precinct area. This was a very clean area and many options in where to shop, so we carried on walking, trying to pronounce some of the signs we read (including Kvarteret Rosenbad, Utbildningsdepartementet and Akademibokhandeln Drottninggatan) before finding first a coffee shop then an hour or so later, a bar near Rådmansgatan station. Now I do like my beers, but paying 75SEK, was eye-wateringly expensive. The Swedes must come to London and think it's their birthday due to the 'cheapness' of the ale in the UK! At this point, I was getting quite worried about running out of money, as even a bottle of water was setting us back double the price it would have in London.
After heading back to the accommodation to get changed, I wanted to go to a lively area for a night out and importantly, somewhere new where we hadn't seen as of yet. So after delving into my guidebook, we decided that we would give the island to the south a try; Södermalm. Södermalm is apparently where many of the students inhabit and it has a strong blue-collar background. We were told by our host that the prices here wouldn't hit you as hard as they would in the Gamla Stan or the central areas. So we got off at Medborgarplatsen, which literally means 'Citizen Square' and went hunting for our evening meal. Now after looking at the prices in restaurants most of the day as we were passing, we noticed that you needed around 200SEK for a feed - again, expensive even by central London prices. We after exhausting many options, we found a Pizza Hut where two pizzas, a glass of wine and a beer came to 400SEK. This was a fine meal, although still, around £10 more than what you would pay in London. I wanted to try out the local nightlife though, and despite the extortionate prices, we found a fabulous vibrant drinking hole called Jameson's Bar, where I enjoyed a few lovely big bottles of Swedish beer was a more palatable 39SEK, which is in keeping with local suburban London prices, let alone those from the West End. We noticed that Swedes were a really calm bunch and welcoming while we were on our night out and everyone seemed to be having a great time. One amazing fact compared to London is that on Friday and Saturday nights, the trains run 24 hours. Alas, a night out in London can be ruined when it gets to 1230 as you have to scurry back to the underground to get home.
Our second day involved much more walking, but this time, it was to see the gorgeous area of Djurgården, the royal island to the west of the centre and accessible by local bus and tram services. Djurgården is absolutely beautiful - nestled on the bay with trees and lovely statues, and it made us think how lovelier it would have been in the snow or in the height of summer. We were free to roam the park as we wished, seeing squirrels foraging and occasional joggers before wandering past all the amazing museums in a small area which was just as touristy as Gamla Stan which we had seen the day previously. A quick check of the funds and it didn't look good - we only had around 300SEK left, we needed to find a cheap eat near the T-centralen before we got on the bus back to the airport. We eventually found a Mexican fast food joint which hit the spot quite nicely before saying our farewells to Stockholm after a thoroughly enjoyable trip. We loved it here and definitely worth seeing in a quick trip if you don't want to go to the museums. Stockholm struck me as a extremely liveable city as the people were so friendly and the transport so efficient. We knew it was going to be expensive before we came, but in my experience of travelling, the best places usually are!