Come spring, when the darkness of the Swedish winter recedes, the good people of Stockholm are more than ready to live it up. Low-lying buildings and watery passageways linking island neighborhoods give the city its nickname, the “Nordic Venice.” And from now until summer, it’s all about maximizing daylight hours by the water. This inevitably means biking and boating, feasting on experimental seafood dishes and partying as much as possible.
DESIGN AND DINE
From the moment you land at Stockholm Arlanda Airport, you’ll appreciate the design details that fuse practicality with a modern yet organic elegance. This holds true at Miss Clara, a year-old offshoot of the Nobis Hotel in the evolving city district. Rooms feature huge windows and retractable workspaces, and the smart public areas include a round-the-clock sauna and a buzzy dining room.
Start the day at Snickarbacken 7, where you’ll have the first of many coffees and kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon buns). You’re in the land of the fika, the somewhat untranslatable but oh-so-relatable word that means drinking coffee, eating pastries and taking it easy for hours on end. This could also be your first encounter with superior Scandinavian illumination. Everybody looks good in this light.
Now that you’re well caffeinated, hoof it to nearby Hudiksvallsgatan, a burgeoning gallery district centered on the Industricentralen complex. The galleries can be hard to find at first, as few are on street level. So let your curiosity be your guide and explore the various floors and interior parking lot to discover installations, including those at Brändström & Stene. If you’re feeling really artsy, you can boat it over to Artipelag, a collection of galleries, exhibition spaces and design shops among pine trees on Värmdö, which is part of the Stockholm archipelago.
You owe yourself a visit to the island district of Södermalm, a.k.a. the Brooklyn (sorry) of Stockholm. The coolest address is that of Kollaps, a record shop that stocks electronic music, kraut rock, noise and obscure Swedish stuff you can’t find anywhere else. It’s a hidden gem situated behind a small gallery on a side street populated with low-key design shops and cafés.
The day is young. Ride the tram to Djurgården island—past the Abba museum—and be on the lookout for a crumbling shipyard on the water. There you’ll find Oaxen Krog & Slip, a marine-inspired restaurant in a soaring space made of corrugated steel, with rowboats suspended from the ceiling and a wall of glass overlooking the archipelago. Excellent locally sourced seasonal Nordic cooking is the name of the game; it’s easy to let an hour or two pass as you drink beer and snack on dried pork neck, steamed crayfish and venison tartare.
In keeping with the nautical theme, head to see Vasa, the world’s only surviving 17th century ship. It sank on its maiden voyage, never even getting out of Stockholm harbor. The Swedes fished it out of the sea 333 years later and incorporated it into an eponymous museum. The ill-fated warship is nearly intact and a crazy sight to behold.
Hotshot chef Mathias Dahlgren is the man behind the experimental dining adventures at the new Matbordet restaurant; he’s also responsible for the natural tasting menu at Matsalen and for the chill à la carte joint next door, Matbaren. Fully energized by king crab dumplings and a riff on fish and chips, make your way to Under Bron—a dive bar–dance club that morphs into a sprawling indoor-outdoor spot beneath a bridge in Södermalm. Lucky for you, everyone looks good in this light too.