10 things you will love about Stockholm

10 things you will love about Stockholm

Be it the royal palaces, the lovely islands or the Nobel Banquet, the Scandinavian city is a sight for sore eyes



By Satish V

Published: Fri 9 Jun 2017, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 16 Jun 2017, 9:52 AM

Soft rays of sun glistening on crystal clear lakes. Flowers in full bloom. Days that never seem to end. Think of summer in Scandinavia and a myriad images come to mind instantly. A typical Scandinavian summer can be a three-month-long non-stop party after the harsh winters, and where else can you enjoy this to the fullest but the stately capital of Sweden - Stockholm. One of the most populated cities in Nordic countries, Stockholm is actually a ring of interconnected islands. Steeped in history, the land of the prestigious Nobel Prize has a laidback vibe that makes it an ideal holiday destination. Having been there recently, here's a list of top 10 things you could explore when in Stockholm this summer.
Gamla Stan
This sleepy old town is remarkably well-preserved and was definitely one of my favourite tourist destinations in Stockholm. Narrow, cobblestoned streets with buildings that date back to 14th and 15th centuries, every corner of Gamla Stan offers a slice of history. Geographically, it is an island connected by bridges to the other three major islands that form the bulk of the city. Once here, I was enamoured by the big ticket attractions such as the Royal Palace that houses the royal court and the offices of the Swedish royal family, the Nobel Museum and the Swedish Parliament. As we explored these iconic landmarks, a beeline of tourists could be spotted outside most historical attractions. We were told the best time to walk on the otherwise crowded streets of Gamla Stan is at night, when the ancient streets - lit by yellow gas lamps - feel surreal, as though you have travelled back several centuries.
The Royal Palace
Royalty is a much revered institution in Sweden. This becomes more evident as you visit the two royal palaces in Stockholm. The one in Gamla Stan, however, is reserved for ceremonial purposes, while the stunning Drottningholm Palace, built on the Lovon island, is where the royals actually reside. The palace in Gamla Stan houses a humongous collection of rare jewellery and ceremonial dresses dating back several centuries. The Royal Hall, where the King usually receives his guests, is magnificent, as are the royal stables and armoury. Surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, Drottningholm Palace is an hour's drive from Stockholm - you could even take the metro. King Gustaf and Queen Silvia, the reigning monarchs of Sweden, are even known to make occasional appearances.
Djurgården
Djurgården, as a few fellow travellers helpfully informed me, is where most people go to unwind. A stone's throw away from Gamla Stan, Djurgården has some key tourist attractions in Stockholm, such as the Vasa Museum, ABBA: The Museum, the Gröna Lund amusement park and the Skansen Open-Air Museum. It also has some incredible views of Gamla Stan and the rest of Stockholm from across the water. An ideal way to soak in the views is to take a leisurely three-hour walk along the lakeside promenade.

Vasa Museum
A tribute to Sweden's maritime tradition, the Vasa Museum houses the only fully restored warship from the 17th century. Designed to be one of Sweden's largest warships, Vasa sank in the Stockholm harbour in 1628. In 1961, the 226-foot, 64-cannon ship was restored from the bottom of the sea. The museum documents the painstaking effort of salvaging the warship.
ABBA: The Museum
For children of the '70s and '80s, ABBA: The Museum is a befitting ode to the Swedish pop group. It is primarily an exhibition that engages with the works of the legendary group in an interactive way. Some priceless memorabilia and rare insights into the lives of the band members make it an experience that you will truly cherish.
The Nobel Museum
A visit to the Nobel Museum is non-negotiable, and for obvious reasons. The museum has some rare artefacts belonging to Nobel laureates such as Albert Einstein, Madame Curie, Ernest Hemingway and Martin Luther King. There is also rare trivia on the lives and times of these Nobel laureates. I was particularly intrigued seeing the actual will made by Alfred Nobel. Scrawled on a single piece of paper, it is a will that changed the course of human endeavour. However, it was a visit to the Nobel Bistro that turned out to be particularly interesting. As I sipped my cappuccino, a fellow tourist asked me to look underneath my chair, as each chair in the café is personally autographed by a Nobel laureate. So you cannot help but think twice before sitting on one.
Stockholm City Hall
A short and scenic walk from Gamla Stan, Stockholm City Hall is the awe-inspiring venue for the annual Nobel Banquet. Looking at its majestic scale, I wasn't really surprised. With parquet floors in classical central European style and ceilings 70 metres high, everything about the Banquet Hall is exquisite. The grand staircase, through which the King and Queen arrive, is an incredible piece of architecture, wholly made of white marble. The winners attend the banquet, where a multi-course dinner is served, right after the ceremony. It is the singularly most important event in Sweden's social calendar. Once the magnificence of the architecture settles in, you can see the Swedish bureaucracy hard at work here, as it is also a working City Hall building; in summers, the average work day is only six hours.
Shopping
Sweden being home to IKEA, we couldn't help but have a look at some interior design and home design stores. What ended up coming as a pleasant surprise was Nordiska Kompaniet, or NK! One of the widely known departmental stores in Stockholm, NK has a well-stocked food hall in the basement and five levels of stores each floor dedicated to different segments like women's men's, kids and home décor. Even though the prices seem steep (yes, even for Dubai residents), the home décor section is absolutely worth visiting to know the latest trends in interior design. This is the epitome of Swedish design skills with an incredible variety of modern, minimalistic furniture, lighting, and other home décor items at equally incredible prices!
Stockholm Metro
Though Stockholm is a city best enjoyed on foot, the metro is an
absolute delight! In most European cities, the metro is dark, dingy, and, at times, dirty. Not so in Stockholm! At 110 kilometres, the Stockholm Metro houses what is the world's longest art gallery. The idea behind building a gallery in the subway system throws light on the Scandinavian culture of making art accessible to public. From paintings and carvings to sculptures and mosaics, the artworks encapsulate both art and political movements that have shaped the Sweden of the 21st century.
Island Hopping in the Archipelago
The Stockholm archipelago has several islands, and some of them are relatively deserted. With breathtaking beaches and gorgeous views, they are perfect summer retreats. There are regular ferry services to the islands throughout the year; in the summer months, the services are extended. I opted for a day pass that allowed me to visit seven or eight islands over a 24-hour period. By the end of it, I could manage to go to Sandhamn, Vaxholm, Utö and Svartsö. Each has a different character and vibe, captivating enough for you to want to spend a whole day there. However, take care of the return timings of your ferry, because if you miss it, you will be stuck on a deserted island on the Baltic Sea - although, to some, that may not exactly sound like such a terrible idea!
wknd@khaleejtimes.com


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