Leaving Italy by airplane. Falling into a deep sleep. Waking up two hours later and wondering if I have arrived in Swedish airspace. Glimpsing and observing the sky and the land below me
Noticing few lights and an immense expanse of uninhabited land. Realizing that the sparsely populated country over which I am flying must be the Kingdom of Sweden forasmuch as it counts on a population of only 9 and a half million people and 20 inhabitants per square kilometre, and not Italy where the population density is 201 inhabitants per square kilometre.
The warm, welcoming Sweden, rich in lakes, rivers, islands and fiords , with its 450.295 km² is one of the vastest European counties after France (675 417 km²) and Spain (504.645km²).
The parliamentary monarchy has been part of the European Union since 1995 and is connected to its cornerstone by the Øresund bridge-tunnel, which allows cars and trains to reach nearby Denmark.
Stockholm, the capital, is an effervescent and delightful patchwork of cultures and architectural styles surrounded by water and small islands where modernity meets both calmness and a vibrant nightlife, enlivened thanks to the high presence of national and international students who, during the night, turn out to the outdoor bars and discos dotting the riverside of the ventilated so-called Venice of the North.
A 60 hour-visit of Stockholm is not enough to plunge into the magnificent history of the ancient Empire and explore the charming alleys and ancient neighbourhoods. Never mind, this means that the city is worth a second tour and I am sure that it will not disappoint you.
Friday – A panoramic breakfast and the landscape of dreams
Mix with citizens having a coffee in Gamla Stan, the historic medieval city centre. Stortoget, the oldest city square, is a perfect and fascinating frame for a generous Swedish delicacy-based breakfast. Taste Kanelbullar, a pastry with cardamom and cinnamon, a real joy to both the eyes and palate. Kaffeekoppen Bar, in the main square, is an interesting break point for visitors to enjoy the peacefulness of silence, with its coloured blankets over wicker chairs on the open-air terrace offered to fearless customers unconcerned by the cold wind rushing over the heads of pedestrians.
On the right side of the square, the Nobel museum awaits you for a guided tour of the history of the célèbre renowned prize. Did you know that more than 800 Laureats have been awarded the Prize? And did you know that Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite had two passions in life in addition to his deep interest in science and literature? If not, take a break and make the most of your free time getting to know more about his life.
Don’t stop your walk through the most beautiful area of the city. Having a hot dog for 3,00 euro at a stall is a good idea to save time and use the afternoon to visit the City Hall made up of eight million bricks and take a picture of the 106 metre tall tower. Have a look at the assembly room and Gyllene salen where the annual dance of the Nobel banquet is held. Before leaving, have a sit in the Golden Hall and admire the eighteen gold mosaic tiles.
A beer and a hamburger and you will understand why TGI Fridays Kungsträdgården is so popular and so busy. Informal, furnished in a sixties fashion, the restaurant has an ample availability of places in its outdoor covered terrace. An intimate place to eat and to rest after a day of visiting which transforms in the late evening into an eventful bar attended by an international clientele.
Enjoy your budget accommodation on the boat in the Anedin hostel located in Södermalm on the sea (25,00 euro per person per night for a double room). Cabins are spartan but clean and fully equipped. Seeing the world through a round window will give your holiday added value.
Saturday – Man and the Sea
It wouldn’t be a trip to Stockholm without a sightseeing boat tour of the capital. The archipelago tour is a unique way to fully experience the Scandinavian contrast between freezing water and untouched land. Book a ticket at the port and invest your morning on the prow of a boat. Don’t forget to bring with you a coat and a camera before braving the Baltic sea. Lastly, have a sandwich and a coffee in the boat bar; it will warm up your spirit and your chilled body. Walk alongside the sea to reach the Vasa Museum, a ship-shaped museum, which conserves a surprisingly well- preserved 17th century boat sunk on 10th August 1628 and exhumed from the sea in 1956 thanks to the engineering and endeavour of the private researcher Anders Franzén.
Don’t waste a minute. You only have one hour to visit the Abba Museum, the pop group mausoleum which collects costumes and pictures and retraces the steps of success of the famous group.
Relax by strolling around Djurgarden, a lovely area, and visit Junibacken, a fabulous paradise for both children and parents dedicated to the children’s writer Astrid Lindgren, best known for her romance Pippi Longstocking. As an alternative, search for the Gustaf Dalén lighthouse which lies just off the coast and reminds us of the Nobel Prize Dalén’s invention: the sun valve whose experiments caused him total blindness.
When you are returning and before lying down on your bed, have a salmon sandwich and a rosé wine on the buzzing bar platform in front of the bridge which connects Djurgarden to Östermalm. If you are patient, you will get a place, sooner or later.
Sunday – Ride and bike
Rent a bike and drop it off at the Royal Palace. Check the English guided tour timetable and book a visit for both the baroque palace and the treasury collection.
Did you know that the current king has never been crowned? And do you know why? Have you ever heard about the royal family’s secrets? If not, this place will be worth a visit and will allow you to immerge yourself in an authentic regal atmosphere especially if you do not miss the changing of the guard (1.15 p.m.)
Taste fried chips while walking alongside canals and get to the swarming district of Sofo to have a beer and enjoy your last hours before leaving.
Don’t forget to get a bus at least 4 hours before your airplane departure if you reserved a flight with Ryanair as the journey to Skavsta airport is quiet long. Otherwise, if you will leave from Arlanda airport, you will not need to stress so early as it is closer than the other.
Photos © by Alessia Bottone