Chillin’ in the Stockholm Archipelago

I had a little too much fun when I visited Stockholm at the end of last summer. After sampling more than my fair share of Swedish meatballs, downing some aquavit and partaking in the city’s surprisingly debaucherous nightlife, my liver and my body needed a break.

My salvation came in the form of a wonderful five-syllable word you might remember from grade school geography class – the archipelago. For those not familiar with the term, an archipelago is a word typically used to describe a small cluster of islands (extra points if you pronounce it correctly). The city of Stockholm sits on a string of 14 islands that form a small part of the vast archipelago that stretches out into the Baltic Sea. For no more than the price of a Swedish crayfish lunch, a fleet of ferries will transport you to one of the many sparsely populated, pine-tree covered islands that populate the chain outside the city center.

I decided the island of Vaxholm sounded interesting and hopped on a late morning ferry. The ferry trip is a pleasant one, offering a visual smorgasbord of the many sights that make Stockholm famous. As our ferry steamed out of Stockholm, I was treated to panoramic vistas of the harbor behind me, the city’s brightly-hued orange and yellow structures glowing against a luminous sky dotted with clouds. Along the way, we passed all manner of sailboats and cruise ships, each one flying the famous blue and gold cross of the Swedish flag. The views on the ferry trip alone made the journey worthwhile.

Less than an hour later, we arrived at Vaxholm. Vaxholm is one of the more populated islands in the archipelago, boasting its own fortress and a small city center. The visit proved to be the perfect antidote to busy Stockholm. I strolled around Vaxholm’s tiny downtown with a few friends, stopping to return some Swedish fish to their native habitat. After a leisurely lunch at a cafe along the island’s rocky shore, we were ready to head back to the city.

This non-event of a day trip is exactly why I liked Vaxholm so much. Just like my ferry trip, I found the island visually striking, dotted with colorful wooden cottages and scenic views of the sea beyond. And unlike Stockholm, there’s no must-see tourist site, making it the perfect spot to find a nice rock in the sun, grab a cold beer and watch as the sailboats pass you by. If you’re really looking to get away, you can even head farther to the north or south, where you’ll find plenty of wild, sparsely-inhabited islands where you can live out the Walden fantasies of your dreams.

If you find yourself in Stockholm this summer, set aside a day trip to visit the archipelago – you won’t be disappointed.