Talking travel with the mayor of Stockholm

I think everyone pretty much has a crush on the Swedes. It’s been towards the top of my must-see destinations for a long time. Here to talk about his favorite city–and his homeland–is the mayor of Stockholm, Sten Nordin.

Why Stockholm now?

Stockholm is at its most beautiful in the summer, when the sun stays up for most of the day and night, it’s warm and the city is alive with people and activities.

Stockholm has more cultural offerings per capita than any other city in the world but there is also plenty of history, nature, sports activities and gastronomic delights to indulge in. Stockholm has something to offer for every type of visitor.

With the low dollar, can Americans afford Stockholm?

Absolutely! Stockholm is definitely an affordable tourist destination. The city is small enough to walk across so there’s little need for transportations. Lunch – even in the most luxurious restaurants – rarely exceeds $25, and entrance fees to museums etc. are considerably less than in other European cities. So, yes, Americans can definitely afford Stockholm!
What’s your favorite pub in Stockholm?

There are some great watering holes in Stockholm – from the medieaval pubs and cafés of Gamla Stan, to the plush bars and clubs of Stureplan. A recent addition to the Stockholm bar scene is the skybar at the top of the former tax office “Skrapan” on Södermalm. The Och Himlen Därtill bar and restaurant, located 84m above ground, offers amazing views over the Stockholm skyline. It’s a great place to start an evening out with some tasty cocktails.

Hotel? Restaurant?

Stockholm offers a wide range of hotel options, from the luxurious Grand Hotel in Blasieholmskajen, boutique hotels such as Rival in Södermalm (owned by ABBA’s Benny Andersson) to more humble hotels and hostels. There are plenty of stylish hotel offerings available, so whatever your budget is you will find good alternatives.

Among the more quirky accommodation options is the af Chapman ship, now refurbished into a hostel, and Långholmen, a former prison, where hotel guests have replaced inmates in the prison cells.

As for restaurants, it’s almost impossible to pick out Stockholm’s best eating establishments as there are so many! A recent addition to the Stockholm restaurant scene is Mathias Dahlgren at Grand Hôtel. The restaurant has received rave reviews from food critics everywhere and its interior design and food creates a distinctly Swedish atmosphere.

Another favorite is 1900 which offers modern versions of traditional Swedish food, and classic Stockholm institution Berns which offers everything from traditional fayre to sushi. Fredsgatan 12 is another example of innovative Swedish cooking, while people eat at Prinsen to sample good old traditional food, like your mother used to make it.

Sturehof is a classic brasserie in the heart of Stockholm, offering a great array of choices, mostly with a Swedish and/or French twist. And not to forget, Operakällaren is one of Stockholm’s best and most popular restaurants, offering everything from luxurious dining to quick lunch options.

These examples are all in central Stockholm, but there are many more restaurant options to be explored if you venture out to the other islands making up inner-city Stockholm. I particularly like eating in one of Stockholm’s many waterside restaurants!

A great invention, which you should always look for when you’re getting hungry, is ‘dagens lunch’ (‘lunch of the day’). Usually served between 11-3pm, ‘dagens lunch’ always good value and normally includes salad, a hot main course, coffee and drinks for about $10 to $25 depending on where you go. It’s a great opportunity to discover high-end restaurants, such as Operakällaren, where lunch is offered at about a tenth of the price of dinner.

Then, in the afternoon, opt for a ‘fika’, coffee and cake, in a cosy café. That’s what the Stockholmers do!

Your top five favorite attractions in Stockholm?

The green, leafy island of Djurgården hosts some of the best attractions in Stockholm, and really does offer something for everyone. This is where you’ll find the Vasa museum, home to the huge Vasa ship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. On Djurgården, you will also find the Rosendals Trädgård working garden and restaurant, the Skansen open-air folk museum and zoo, Gröna Lund’s amusement park, the Waldemarsudde estate and gardens of the ‘painting Prince’ Eugen, and the Nordic Museum, which focuses on Sweden’s cultural history. It is also a great location for a stroll along some of the most stunning sceneries of Stockholm.

Your ideal weeklong itinerary in Sweden?

Spend a day or two going out on a boat exploring the amazing scenery of the Stockholm archipelago, and make a daytrip to the beautiful island of Drottningholm, where the Swedish royal family lives. You can easily spend a day in Djurgården with all its museums and activity offerings, finishing off with dinner and drinks at Josephina or Villa Källhagen in the sunset.

If you want to explore further afield, the university town of Uppsala is just an hour away by train, and the 1,000-year-old city of Sigtuna, which plays an important part in Sweden’s early history, is also a perfect distance away for a daytrip.

Any advice to passing off oneself as a Swede?

Stand on the right on subway escalators – this is something all Stockholmers do. The left “line” is for those who are walking up or down the stairs!

You have one of the cleanest and most educated cities in the world. So what’s the top challenge Stockholm faces in the next five years?

Our aim is to develop Stockholm further, to facilitate everyday life for its citizens and to make Stockholm Northern Europe’s most attractive location for people and businesses looking for quality of life, growth and a vibrating knowledge-based society.

What are your favorite weekend getaways from Stockholm?

The Stockholm archipelago is a must! It consists of some 30,000 islands and stretches all along the coastline north and south of Stockholm, and 60km out in the Baltic Sea waters. Many of the larger islands, such as Vaxholm, are built-up with permanent residents but there are also many islands that are no more than a few metres wide.

Sandhamn, Grinda, Vaxholm, Möja, Furusund and Utö are some of the most well-known and visited islands in the Stockholm archipelago, and are all perfect get-away locations for a summer picnic and swimming. The closest archipelago island, Fjäderholmarna, are only 20 minutes by boat away from central Stockholm, and boats run from quays at Slussen and Strömkajen in the middle of the city.

Your favorite vacation destination in Europe?

Apart from Stockholm and the rest of Sweden, of course, I must say that France is one of my favourite European destinations.

Welcome to Stockholm!