First things first – this is a post about a trip I took in 2018 (pre-Covid) and the pictures reflect that. It’s also worth pointing out that some of the info below may not be current and/or the attractions mentioned may be closed or operating under restrictions. Please visit their websites for the latest info.
I don’t fear getting old (it is after all, a privilege denied to many) but I do worry about growing old without living a full life. I think that may be why I have developed a bit of a habit of taking mini-breaks around my birthday. In 2014 I spent my birthday in Rome, in 2015 I went to Scotland and in 2017 I went to America. Ok, ok… that one wasn’t a mini break, but then again it was my 30th birthday!
In 2018 I chose to spend my birthday weekend in Stockholm.
We landed mid morning and headed straight for the Gamla Stan district where we checked into the Scandic Gamla Stan Hotel. I chose it mainly for the blue gingham armchairs. (Anyone know where I can get one of those?!)
The first stop on our minibreak was the Fotografiska gallery. I’m not much of a photographer, but I’ve always loved the art form. In this gallery I found myself immersed in a feminist body of work by Ellen von Unwerth whose work presented “a compelling journey through a world of emotions, from a feeling of strength and power to high-spirited games and play, then from the great moment of drama to profound passion, leading us into the sugar-sweet valley of love, taking a detour via the question of gender roles and concluding in the intimate space of desire and lust.”
After a wonderful afternoon spent admiring her work, we took a stroll through the Gamla Stan neighbourhood. I was craving Swedish meatballs for dinner yet somehow, we ended up in the Ardbeg pub & bar (and if you know anything about Whiskey, you’ll know that Ardbeg is Scottish). I will say this though – the meatballs were as good as any others I had on the trip.
Slightly tired from our flight and afternoon excursion, we opted for an early night, determined to pack as much in as possible the next day.
I was travelling with a scientist in tow (with her very own PhD) so our first stop of the day was the Nobel Prize Museum.
This plaque detailed the discovery of plastic in 1963 – how strange to think that something society is now working to eradicate was once considered such a wonderous discovery.
Nobel Prizes are awarded every year on the date of Alfred Nobel’s death (10th December). While the peace prize is presented at a ceremony in Oslo, the other prizes are presented in Stockholm. There are 5 prizes in total (including the peace prize) and a 6th prize sponsored in memory of Alfred Nobel. The 6 prizes are for Peace, Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Economic Sciences.
During our visit, the museum was holding an exhibition titled “Literary Rebellion” which profiled 12 Literary Laureates who had used their writing to “question, create change and offer resistance.” The exhibition profiled writers of both prose and poetry and opened my eyes to a host of new writers.
The museum also profiled the life and discoveries of Alfred Nobel himself – as well as the recipients of his prizes. These days knowledge of Alfred Nobel’s legacy revolves around the Nobel prizes themselves, but I made some discoveries of my own during my visit (did you know he is also the chemist who invented Dynamite?)
While my sister might have a PhD, I can’t claim to be much of a scientist. I enjoyed learning about Alfred Nobel and the literary laureates though and came away with many new books added to my Amazon wishlist. (Incidentally, if you ever want to feel inspired by humanity or have your faith in it restored, I would also highly recommend a visit to the Nobel Peace Prize museum in Oslo.)
Before lunch I found an hour to explore the Royal Palace – which could rival the Louvre for opulence.
And to watch the changing of the guard.
After a lunch which mainly consisted of Gelato, we hopped on a boat…
Taking in the sights from the water, we travelled to an unusual museum away from the hustle and bustle of the central districts of Stockholm.
The Vasa Museum is home to just one exhibit – a 17th Century war ship. This spectacular vessel (which has got to be the largest and most ornate ship I’ve ever seen up close) sailed just 1300 metres on its maiden voyage before sinking. It never even left Sweden. Several hundred years later, and miraculously preserved by the sea bed, it was recovered, restored and moved to the museum where it has been on display ever since. In order to preserve it, the cavernous room which now holds the Vasa is kept cold all year round – be warned, you’ll need an extra layer to visit it.
After our excursion to the Vasa Museum we were in need of something to warm us up again. I was determined to find a more Swedish dining experience, which led us to a Viking restaurant back in the Gamla Stan neighbourhood. While obviously more touristy and less authentic than other restaurants we could have chosen, what this place lacked in sophistication it made up for in interesting conversation. Dining here is done communally at long wooden benches. We could have met a whole variety of travellers – but instead we got seated next to some fellow Mancunians. At least we had something in common!
Our last day was just like the others before it – gloriously sunny. So after leaving our bags with the concierge, we headed out on foot to soak in the sights before our flight home.
Having now ticked all of the main tourist attractions off my list, I’d love to go back to Stockholm one day and take it in at a slightly slower pace. The Swedes have a word for this: Fika. It means to make time for the important things in life – good friends and good food. A concept I could totally get on board with.