Stockholm: Islands of Splendour | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Stockholm: Islands of Splendour

Travel Editor Ally Head explores the wonders of the traditional and yet up-and-coming Swedish capital.

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the heart of Scandinavia. Stereotypically, it’s renowned for three things; it’s 60’s music sensations Abba, it’s traditional delicacy of meatballs and it’s bargain homeware store/gift from the gods, Ikea. More culturally, tourists visit the islands for a peek at its winding bridges connecting its infamous archipelago, its cobbled backstreets and an insight into its fascinating Viking heritage. Although perhaps it is arguably overlooked in favour of some of Europe’s more frequent city break destinations, it is by no means less brilliant. Described as ‘the world’s most beautiful capital’, it’s fair to say that the prospect of visiting was exciting; and it certainly lived up to all expectations.

SodermalmStockholm is undoubtedly a city defined by its islands; each with its own character and individuality. Take Sodermalm, the Swedish equivalent of London’s Shoreditch; brimming with trendy second hand shops and immaculate vintage stores. Spend the day rummaging and you’re sure to find some absolute gems for a complete bargain. With a vast array of independent food stores and cafes, be sure to stop by Drop Coffee on Wollmar Yxkullsgatan 10. Stealing first place at Sweden’s Coffee Roasting Championship for the last two years, the relaxed ambiance and delicious muffins provide a coffee with a difference. Browse their intriguing range of literature whilst you enjoy your break.

Another “happening” island is Ostermalm with streets of glitzy, glistening designer outlets and innovative, interesting food halls. Even the Urban Outfitters is located in an old 1920’s cinema complete with retro light up banner and projectors. For a mouth-watering burger, head to Vigarda Burger on Norrlandsgaten 13. Expensive but exquisite, it offers a range of high-end burger options, from salmon to lamb to chickpea. With a comfy, chic interior, you can relax comfortably and admire the passers-by for hours.

An island across, you have Djurgen, home to the Moderna Museet, or Modern Art Museum. Full of classical works from all genres, the museum was the first to hold an Andy Warhol exhibition back in 1969. It’s chronological order and impeccable organisation makes the museum a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting experience. With traditional works from Matisse, abstract works from Picasso and Duchamp and contemporary masterpiwinding streets H-vQK8Ceces from Warhol and Lozano, there truly is something for everyone. Alternatively, if modern art is not your thing, be sure to pay a visit to the Vasa Museum, a 17th century warship brought up from the depths of the Stockholm harbour 300 years ago.

One of the most unforgettable islands is Gamla Stan, the infamous old town. Walking along the winding old streets
and peering into the shop windows, you feel transported back in time. During the day, you can visit the Royal Palace and gaze in awe at the hand painted ceiling of the Royal Chapel. The 18th century baroque, rococo interior offers an unforgettable insight into the history of the Palace, including the great fire in 1697. To take a break from the culture overload, enjoy the twinkling fairy lights illuminating the old streets and visit one of the raucous Irish Pubs, offering delicious portions of traditional Swedish meatballs and a wide range of independent Swedish ales.

Walk along the water edge from Gamla Stan for five minutes and you reach the Fotografiskia, or Photography Museum, looming high above the river. In the evening, you get a glimpse of the best view of the city twinkling beneath you. With the most recent exhibition coming from the renowned photographers Inez & Vinoodh, “Pretty Much Everything” showcases a range of stunning images and offers an alternate form of art than most contemporary museums. The restaurant on the top floor also offers a dining experience of it’s own kind, sourcing fresh, seasonal produce and serving vegetables as their main dishes with the aim of offering meat as purely a side option.

In the Museum district, alongside the Vasa mentioned above, you have an array of museums for any kind of weather; The Abba museum, for the Super Trooper fanatic amongst you; The Nobel Museet, for those interested in the history of Stockholms infamous Alfred Nobel, and his invention of the Nobel prize; Skansen, the worlds first open air museum; and many, many more.

bikeEverything is accessible by foot if you are willing to walk and explore the sights. However there are also many free or predominantly inexpensive bike tours, which help you to get a grip of the city. Perhaps not for everyone, but there is also a running service available where you are paired with a friendly sporty local who will take you on a running tour of the surrounding area. This overwhelming willingness to help others is evident throughout Stockholm in many different forms and it truly makes it a wonderful, happy, friendly place to visit.

Even the main commercial square in Norrmalm is stunning in itself; towering buildings filled with every retail store imaginable. It stands as a strong reminder that despite the quaint cobbled backstreets of Gamla Stan and the quirky, European feel of Sodermalm, Stockholm is a fast growing capital with plenty of potential to become a go to tourist destination over the coming years. Stockholm, intoxicatingly, is the delicious mixture of being small enough to feel as if you’re still discovering, rather than merely being shown. For tourists and travellers alike, it is discovered enough to make the beautiful spots accessible, yet not quite transformed into full blown, overwhelming tourist attractions.

For a night out, join the Stockholm Bar Crawl for a tour of the best bars and pubs in the Old Town. With a 30% discount off all drinks with the crawl wristband, it’s really the cheapest option for a night out in the capital. If you just fancy clubbing, hit up the Café Opera, located behind the famous Opera house. Open until 3am, this is the place to go if you fancy dancing the night away to pop anthems and chart bangers. Alternatively, the Pet Sounds Bar is great for cocktails and live music if that’s more of your thing. Don’t expect to be ablcafee to do a night cheaply though – beers average around £7 for a pint and as with most things in Stockholm, you can spend an awful lot of money (or kroner, as is their currency) very easily.

Brimming full of individual artists, quirky stores and independent cafes, there is something for everyone in the stunning Scandinavian centre. The freethinking, individualistic attitude of its inhabitants hangs in the air, inspiring your attitude and your aspects. A country independent enough to have it’s own language and it’s own currency should truly be an inspiration for all.

Travel Print Editor and Third year English Language student. (@AllyHead)


24th November 2015 at 6:18 pm

Images from

Andrew, Elf-8, Tim Adams, Alexander Kolosov and xjy