I have been to Stockholm several times for conferences of one kind or another. Before I went the first time I had never considered it as short-break city. It was somehow too far north. But, as Sunvil began to understand the potential of Scandinavia as the last wilderness area in Europe and started to develop a summer and winter programme to the region, Stockholm grew on me and is now one of my favourite cities. I never miss an opportunity to visit.

Berzelli Park Berzelli Park

Anyway, on this occasion I bid for a four-night stay at the historic Berns Hotel in a charity auction and duly arrived with my wife, who is equally enamoured of Sweden’s capital, in mid June. Berns is far more than just a hotel but a part of Stockholm’s history and its Asiastica restaurant one of the places to eat in the city.

First, a few basic rules to bear in mind when taking a short break. Do some research first because, when you only have three and a half days, you don’t want to waste time deciding what your priorities are once you arrive. Unfortunately, I never follow my own advice and the research is done on the plane, which is far too late.

Stockholm water view Stockholm water view

Buy a Stockholm card for 48 or 72 hours for £72.00-£88.00 because then you don’t have to worry about buying tickets for the buses, trams and underground as the card gives unlimited use of city transport and also affords entrance to most museums and use of some canal boats. Entry to many museums and attractions is not cheap – £15 plus per person is not unusual – so the card is excellent value for money. The Stockholm card also gives you a discount on the hop on hop off tourist buses and ferries which then cost in the region of £25 each for two days.

Stay in a centrally-located hotel because then you can walk everywhere and Stockholm, criss-crossed with waterways, delightful parks and wonderful shops, has to be walked. It’s not a big city, but is somewhat confusing to navigate; thankfully, distances are always shorter than you first think.

Never, ever take a taxi! On this occasion we forgot and did because we were late in getting to our canal boat cruise. A two-mile, 10-minute journey cost us £60, even with the Swedish Krona now 10% weaker against sterling than it was a year ago. I have never seen a taxi meter whiz round so fast. In Stockholm, taxis are not regulated and you just never know when you get into one exactly how fast that meter will go round as it is at the whim of the taxi company. Getting in a Stockholm taxi leaves a nasty taste in your mouth – so don’t!

Berns Bistro flowers Berns Bistro flowers

The weather in Stockholm can be changeable, no different from the UK. Remember, as a general rule it’s not cold in the summer in southern and central Sweden and temperatures in the mid-twenties are quite normal. However, on this visit it was changeable, with sunshine and showers.

We were here, by chance, for the midsummer celebrations on the 21st and 22nd June. The Swedes take midsummer very seriously, with the hair of girls (and often boys) garlanded with flowers. There is an enormous and wonderful park on one of Stockholm’s islands (the city is built on 14 islands) called Skansen. It is, in fact, an open-air museum tracing Sweden’s history and showcasing the best of the country. Most Stockholmers leave the capital to spend midsummer with their families in the country but those that remain go to Skansen to dance (maypoles feature everywhere), listen to music and to eat. It’s a great social occasion. Be warned though, that over the midsummer holiday Stockholm is like Paris in August, full of tourists and not many locals and many shops and restaurants are closed.

So, is it expensive? If you are used to living in London then you won’t find any difference at all. A traditional fish restaurant like Wedholms Fisk at 1, Arsenalsgatan will cost £100 each – no different from a high-end London restaurant – but it is top notch. You will not eat badly anywhere in Stockholm. Whether it’s a snack, a sandwich or a burger it has to be good otherwise the locals would not tolerate it. In fact, you could say I visit Sweden to eat! One of the best places of all is the food market at Ostermalmstorg, a 10 minute walk from the waterfront at Nybroplan. You will never see a food market as smart and clean as this anywhere else, so have lunch there, in one of the stalls. I always go to Lisa Elmqvist’s, for fish, but there are many options to tempt.

Stockholm food market Stockholm food market

Shops In Stockholm are stylish, as you would expect, and Swedish design is legendary. Window shopping is one of the pleasures here and everyone is willing to help and advise. Don’t be surprised if a Stockholmer sees you looking at a map to be approached and asked if you need help. Everyone seems ready to talk and everyone speaks English.

Stockholm’s extensive waterfront, with its royal palaces, majestic buildings, cafes and restaurants with views across the water to watch the many boats coming and going are the chief attractions of this city. This is a cafe society to match anything in the Mediterranean.

Stockholm water view 2 Stockholm water view 2

Every time I come to Stockholm I have to visit the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was the flagship of Gustav II Adolf and the pride of his fleet. Top heavy, with two gun decks rather than the usual one, the ship sank in the harbour having been hit by a gust of wind within minutes of its maiden voyage in 1628. The reconstructed vessel is 98% original, having been preserved in the brackish waters around Stockholm, and is splendidly adorned with hundreds of carved sculptures. The ship is stunning – it takes your breath away. The Vasa museum is by far my most favourite museum and I could go there every day and look at this magnificent ship and read about her short life! There is an excellent short film well worth watching, too.

We visited the brand-new ABBA museum. For ABBA fans this is a must and, if you are here with children, then take them because they will love the interactivity and the ability to sing along with the songs which make ABBA the third most popular group in the world after the Beatles and Elvis.

So what did we miss because we ran out of time? Every time we visit Stockholm we say we should take a day cruise around the 30,000 islands of the Stockholm archipelago, where many Stockholmers have their summer houses. Once more we never got round to it. From the waterfront opposite the Grand Hotel! the Waxholmsbolaget ferries leave summer and winter for the islands and are a vital part of maintaining the small communities living there. It’s island hopping a la Grec. Something for the next visit…

Stockholm Park Stockholm Park
Noel Josephides

By Noel Josephides

28th July 2014



Noel Josephides
Noel Josephides

Noel is Sunvil’s Chairman. Born in Cyprus in 1948, he joined John der Parthog at Sunvil in 1973. Before that and following university, he spent 3 years as a trainee buyer at C&A Modes and then worked for a large Cypriot builder and property developer for whom he set up a London Office buying electrical components for the Middle East and importing lemons from orchards in Cyprus. He still researches new destinations for Sunvil and is heavily involved in matters relating to the travel industry. He is the current ABTA Chairman, a long standing director and previous chairman of The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) and the current chairman of The Travel Foundation - the travel industry’s sustainability charity.

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