Why you must visit Sweden in the winter: part 2
And we're back, and it's on to the fun stuff!
A great thing about the food in Sweden is that you won't leave feeling like you packed on extra pounds while you were there. There's an abundance of fish (raw, smoked and cooked), vegetables and meatballs (don't even think about comparing them to the ones in IKEA!).
When I went to Stockholm it was around American Thanksgiving. Even though I didn't get to experience the classic turkey dinner I had the Swedish version in the form of a Smorgasbord at The Grand Hotel. A bonus of going to Sweden during the winter is you can experience the holiday version of Smorgasbord, Julebord; and there is a great one at the Elite Plaza Hotel.
Wherever you decide to go (it doesn't have to be at The Grand Hotel), I highly recommend just trying a Smorgasbord, as you will get exposed to numerous Swedish foods all in one sitting! If you do decide to go to a nicer hotel know that you'll splurge (about $100 USD), but you'll get 5 courses and a sampling of Aquavit (a flavored spirit that is a must when you are there).
In addition to these classic buffet meals, the Swedes also know how to make a great pastry! There is nothing better than warming up with a pastry fresh out of the oven while people watching. Stop into a local bakery and try a saffransbullar (saffron bun), kanelbullar (cinnamon bun), and my personal favorite prinsesstårta (princess cake). I won't judge you if you get all three.
Foodies will also love the covered food market Saluhall in the Östermalm neighborhood. Even though it's cold, you'll be bundled up, so pick up a few items and head to one of the many parks in Östermalm, or down to the waterfront for a winter picnic.
Definitely make sure you get a sampling of reindeer at any of the Christmas markets in the city!
Two holiday treats you will also see everywhere are marzipan pigs and pepparkakor (gingersnap cookies). They are a holiday tradition and although the pigs may be a tad pricey you must take one home for yourself!
What are the holidays without a beverage or two to warm you up? Another holiday/winter tradition is glögg - which is mulled wine that can either be bought alcoholic or without. Do as the Swedes do...head to a liquor store, pick up the non-alcoholic version and add your hard liquor of choice. You can also find it at all of the Christmas markets (non-alcoholic as it's illegal to drink on the streets), or at the bars and hotels. A great place to have a glass, while also checking out some holiday decorations, is at the Berns Hotel - which also turns into a nightclub.
And last but not least you need to try traditional Swedish cuisine, which typically includes smoked fish, meatballs, potatoes, reindeer and lingonberries. A fantastic restaurant that has all of the above, and has been around since the early 1700s, is Pelikan.
There is a reason Stockholm is referred to as the "Venice of the North". Fourteen islands make up the city, and are connected by 50 different bridges. Don't let that discourage you! Stockholm isn't as big as you may think, and there are only 7 boroughs within the main city, 6 of which you definitely should visit.
Wherever you go in the city there are going to be decorations and markets - I suggest stopping to just admire things (it gets you into the holiday spirit) and checking out every Julmarknad you walk by. You never know what the locals will be selling.
• Gamla Stan: The Old Town dating back to the 13th century. It's an easy place to make your home base for your stay, has those classic colored buildings you've seen in pictures, is the site of the most famous Christmas market (Julmarknad), the Nobel Museum (celebrating Alfred Nobel and yes, the Nobel Prize), and has plenty of mom-and-pop shops carrying the finest handmade goods.
• Norrmalm: The city center, across the bridge from the Gamla Stan. This is where you can immerse yourself in true city life, visit the square, walk down the pedestrian shopping street Drottninggatan, and shop in the Bloomingdale's of Sweden, NK.
• Södermalm: Hipster's rejoice, Södermalm is the neighborhood for you. It also happened to be where I stayed the first half of my visit in Stockholm. There are funky shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, music venues and Medborgarplatsen Square.
• Djurgården (Animal Park): The favorite recreational area of locals. Here you can visit the world's first open-air museum Skansen, see the oldest preserved Viking warship the Vasa, and the Nordic museum. Trust me if you do nothing else in Djurgården, you HAVE to see the Vasa.
• Kungsholmen: This is the more residential area of the city. The main attraction here is the city's City Hall which is a sight in itself. It is the most famous building in Stockholm, and is a true testament to how much the country values it's citizens and their opinions. This is also where the annual Nobel banquet is held honoring the new Nobel Prize winners.
• Östermalm: The most exclusive area of Stockholm. Even if you just walk through the high-end shops and gorgeous apartment buildings make it well worth a visit. This neighborhood focuses on it's parks and is where foodies can rejoice within Saluhall.
THINGS OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Millesgården: Located in the suburb of Herserud the Millesgården was one of the most beautiful places I saw on my trip. Celebrating the life and work of artist Carl Milles, you can experience a sculpture park with unreal views of the archipelago, indoor gallery and antique filled villa.
Directions: T13 to the Ropsten station, and transfer to the 201 bus towards Lidingö. Once you arrive at Lidingö Torsvikstorg you'll have about a 10 minute walk to the entrance.
Ericsson Globe: A ride to the top of the world's largest spherical building will provide you with unparalleled views of the city. Many of the city's events are held in the globe and is the national arena for the city's hockey team.
Directions: The globe is located in the Hammarby Sjöstad district. Coming from the central point of the Gamla Stan you can reach the globe by taking the T19 to the Globen station. From there it's about a 3 minute walk.
A FUN CHRISTMAS LEGEND
Wherever you go in Stockholm in the winter you are bound to see a funny little character in the shops or in people's apartment windows. These guys are called Tomtars (or Tomte). I brought one home for myself and my sister and he sits in my room watching over me.
According to legend, Tomtars are small creatures that live in and around the sheds on Swedish farms. If you are wise and show the Tomtar respect he will protect the household from accidents and disasters. But be careful not to annoy him! It was custom to leave a bowl of porridge out at Christmas time for the Tomtar, and if the bowl was empty the next morning all was well for another year.
Now that you have a ton of information, I hope you take the chance to experience the holidays in Stockholm!
For more logistical information check out part one!