It goes without saying, you can’t visit Stockholm without going to the ABBA The Museum (Djurgårdsvägen 68; +46 8 121 328 60) and The Swedish Music Hall of Fame (+46(0)8 12 13 28 60; SMHOF.se/in-english) at Djurgården. It’s a must for music, Broadway buffs and movie goers with the music hall of fame right next door.
Visitors will be greeted by the life-size cut-outs of members of the Swedish pop sensation ABBA – Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad – at the museum’s entrance to the 5,000 square meter building. The building houses both ABBA The Museum and The Swedish Music Hall of Fame, as well as the Pop House Hotel & Restaurant.
The museums, hotel and restaurant are set to re-open January 13 after undergoing a brief renovation January 7-12. Both museums can be done in one day, but it’s highly advised that visitors must arrive early. Tickets are extremely limited and once the museum reaches capacity, it gets shut it down for the day.
This will be especially important May 10-14 when Stockholm hosts the 61st annual Eurovision Song Contest. Last year’s winner, Måns Zelmerlöw of Sweden, will host the show as tradition. Måns win turned controversial due to his anti-gay statements following grabbing the title in Vienna, Austria in 2015. His win followed famed Austrian drag star Conchita Wurst 2014 win. Måns later apologized to his gay fans.
As you wander throughout ABBA The Museum, keep your entrance ticket handy. There are numerous points throughout the trip where you can insert your ticket in order to record a song or video to be downloaded later at the hotel. Come on! You have to sing along, it’s ABBA!
What to Do
Music might draw you to Stockholm, Sweden, but there’s much, much more to experience. The Swedes have a history of being cutting edge in their art, architecture, home design, and fashion, but green and outdoor adventure travelers will find Stockholm to be a dream destination.
Sweden is also known for its minimalist and pop design and architecture and design. I mean, think IKEA. This year the Center for Architecture, Design & Form (Exercisplan 4; 08-520235-00) on the island of Skeppsholmen in Stockholm is hosting a major retrospective of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. “The Infinity” exhibit will feature works from the 1950s to present from June 10–September 11, in Scandinavia. Yayoi is known for her “blend of surrealism, minimalism, pop and psychedelia,” and her ability to traverse East and West navigating between cultural identities using various media depicting art and popular culture.
This is also the final year of a seven-year exhibit of Swedish function, design and aesthetics with the “Architecture in Sweden.” The exhibit focuses on the last century of Swedish design among 10 desks that portray 1,000 years of construction through models, photographs and texts. Its final day is December 31.
The museum offers an active platform for architecture, sustainable urban development as well as fashion and design year round with new art forms being displayed all the time.
This is just the beginning of what Stockholm offers travelers who are interested in art, architecture and history.
For a full perspective of Swedish art from the days of Queen Christina and Gustav III to today’s King Carl XVI Gustaf, visit the historic Royal Palace (111 30; +46 8 402 61 30), also known as the Stockholm Palace. The royal family currently lives at the palace, but they open it up to visitors so that they may enjoy Sweden’s art and history.
Photographer lovers will enjoy Fotografiska (Stadsgårdshamnen 22; +46 8 509 005 00). We hopped onto the archipelago ferry from Vaxholm to Stockholm City to visit the Fotografiska – one of the world’s largest meeting places for contemporary photography. The museum presents four unique major exhibitions and about 20 smaller exhibitions per year.
Currently, acclaimed portraiture photographer Martin Schoeller is displaying select portraits of notable people exhibiting until February 7 and groundbreaking fashion photographer Guy Bourdin’s is displaying his exhibit, Avant-Garde, through February 21. Also on display are three other photographer exhibits: Magnus Wennman/Aftonbladet, “Where the Children Sleep,” which ends January 24; Pieter ten Hoopen, “Hungry Horse,” which ends January 31; and the Thomas Wagstrom exhibit “On Earth,” which ends March 16. In February, independent photographer Monika Macdonald will display works in a yet named exhibit starting February 25–April 10.
Movie and architecture aficionados will want to definitely stop and pay homage to Hollywood legend Greta Garbo at her gravesite, located at the UNESCO World Heritage Woodland Cemetery also known as the Skogskyrkogården (Sockenvägen, 122 33; +46 8 508 317 30) located in the Enskededalen district south of central Stockholm. The Skogskyrkogården became the resting place for the Tinseltown actress after her niece spent several years searching for the proper burial spot for her aunt. The cemetery, designed by Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz, is a splendid display of architecture from Nordic Classicism to mature functionalism. This strangely romantic and oddly mesmerizing cemetery, a short ride south of the city, is a perfect pilgrimage for anyone interested in a walk through the park.
Seriously, any visitor will almost forget they are in a cemetery because of the sheer beauty surrounding them. The Skogskyrkogården expands out over heavily-planted pine forest, green hills and grassy slopes. Pathways wind through the trees and benches are conveniently placed for a little peace of mind and a quiet heart.
Garden and art lovers will also enjoy another great park, the sculpture park, Millesgården. Millesgården is the former home and sculpture garden of Carl Milles, Sweden’s foremost sculptor. Here his most breathtaking works are on display. Romantics will love the vibe of this hip hideaway. Even if you’re not particularly excited by art or sculptures, there is something for everyone on the grounds of Millesgården.
Stockholm is a green city. It’s hard not to be green when water surrounds a city providing ample resources for vegetation to thrive. With that said, locals and visitors are never far away from nature. The archipelago, with its 30,000 islands, is the main attraction for outdoor enthusiasts.
Boaters and sailors will enjoy a private tour of the Vasa Museum, a maritime museum of a 17th century war ship. The architecture of the 17th century ship will leave visitors tingling to the core with its restorative properties and multi-faceted posterior. The Vasa Museum is a one of a kind “must see” that leaves no one indifferent, from it’s extremely short maiden voyage in Stockholm harbor 1628 to the wacky, but successful salvage attempt in 1961. This warship is a piece of Swedish history, and the world’s only perfectly preserved 17th century ship. An easy “come in and get out” kind of exhibit with a “stay as much as you like and take a million pictures” feel is perfect for any itinerary.
Stockholm’s version of Bloomingdale’s is Nordiska Kompaniet (Hamngatan 18-20; +46 8 762 80 00). The high-end shopping center was founded by Josef Sachs in 1902. Josef’s vision was to create a commercial and cultural theater. Today, the department store is a six-level house with one-hundred separate departments each with its own distinct personality. International brands such as Hermès and Mulberry share space with well-known Swedish brands, including: J Lindeberg, Filippa K, Acne, and Anna Holtblad. Legendary crystal manufacturers Orrefors and Kosta Boda display their complete collections at NK and visitors can sample the best Sweden has to offer in culinary delights. Rosenrummet is a private lounge that offers assistance with personal style and shopping.
After a day of seeing art, walking through gardens and shopping, the last stop is to have a drink at the original Icebar Stockholm (Vasaplan 4; +46 (0)8-50 56 35 20) in Stockholm. The first permanent Icebar (Jukkasjärvi) opened in the lobby of the hotel Nordic Sea in 2002. Since then, this toe-tapping meeting place has been hosting events, parties and even same-sex weddings! Talk about progressive…progressively cold, that is! Before entering the Icebar, guests must cloak themselves in warm winter gear (supplied by the venue) and optional gloves. Drinks are served entirely in ice glasses and you’re only allowed in the room for a limited amount of time because the demand is so high and the temperature is so low.
Where to Sleep
One of the most unique places to stay in Stockholm isn’t necessarily in the city. Imagine a remote island with high-end tents with wood-burning fireplaces and luxurious bedding suitable for almost anyone’s comforts and you’ve checked into the otherwise uninhabited Island Lodge (+46735168090) located in the Stockholm archipelago Bergholmen. You can escape the wonders of central Stockholm for the desires of nature in a mere 20 or 40-minute boat ride aboard a RIB boat, ferry ride or private yacht excursion. Once you row, paddle or speed your way to shore, light your lanterns and collect your wood for the evening before jumping into the Baltic Sea – an absolute must for anyone tenacious enough to try it! The locals do it…no pressure.
Depending on the day, there will be either a dry sauna or hot tub readily available to excite the senses before the all-inclusive dinner held near the dock. If it is still light out post crayfish dinner (we call it crawfish in the U.S.), take a whirl at discovering the Swedish military’s former mine and torpedo depot – ask for a guided tour. (Word of note, there is a minimum required reservation at this property, so you will want to consult directly with the staff to plan your adventure, but it’s certainly worth the quick chat for an experience of a lifetime with your family and friends!)
Travelers who aren’t into the luxury camping experience can find a number of options within Stockholm to suite their taste. Stockholm’s largest hotel, the Clarion Sign (Östra Järnvägsgatan 35; +46 8 676 98 00), combines the best of Scandinavian architecture and design. Designed by the well-known Swedish architect Gert Wingårdh, the walls are adorned by delicately placed beautiful black and white portraits by well known Scandinavian photographers throughout the hotel. The Clarion Sign is located in the heart of Stockholm city adjacent to the Central Station and Arlanda Express, as well as near all the best of Stockholm’s favorite spots.
However, hands down, Ett Hem (Sköldungagatan 2; +46 8 20 05 90) left us wishing we could unpack our bags and move in for a week. Ett Hem is a magical place to get away from it all. Built in 1910, Ett Hem is a serene private residence and garden in the center of Stockholm. It was created for people looking for something more personal than the luxury hotel and numerous celebrities have both dined and stayed at Ett Hem. The 12 rooms are generously displayed with all the amenities available to modern society. Looking for a quiet place to read, nap, enjoy the day alone or with new friends? Ett Hem has a garden terrace, a luxury spa and a place at the kitchen table to make you feel as down home or far away from home as you prefer. The food is spectacular and cooked in-house for guests who would prefer a little low-key affair during their stay.
In Stockholm proper, we were guests of the Sheraton (Tegelbacken 6; +46 8 412 34 00). The five-star hotel was conveniently located in the very heart of Stockholm’s central business district with shopping areas within walking distance.
Green travelers looking for an eco-friendly hotel don’t have to look any further than the Hotel Skeppsholmen, a modern and eco-friendly hot spot situated on the waterfront, is more than 300 years old. The hotel has 81 rooms to offer and a popular restaurant, Långa Raden, which serves the very freshest seafood.
Where to Eat
Stockholm offers foodies excellent dining options. Some of the best restaurants we dined in were in Stockholm’s hotels, from the fresh seafood filled plates where we lunched at Långa Raden at Hotel Skeppsholmen to the American style breakfast at the American Table Brasserie and Bar by Marcus Samuelsson at the Clarion Sign.
On the streets of Stockholm, chefs serve up dishes to die for and unique experiences at funky to sophisticated hotels. Zink Grill (Biblioteksgatan 5; +46 8 611 42 22) is a local breakfast, lunch, “Swedish fika,” and dinner spot and bar nestled in the city center Bibliotekstan District. Clean digs with delicious bites and a full menu, Zink Grill is sure to please even the most ardent food connoisseur.
It was almost as if Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor could’ve popped out of the chandeliers overhead at any second – extremely reminiscent of Moulin Rouge, in other words, at Brasserie Le Rouge (Brunnsgränd 2-4; +46 8 505 244 30). Le Rouge is best described as a lovely romantic hideaway in the Old Town with great French gastronomy made of the best of Swedish products. Le Rouge was of another world entirely.
Getting to and Around Stockholm
Fly into the heart of Scandinavia on Scandinavian Airlines. The overnight flight could not have been more quaint and comfortable. Time seemed to float by effortlessly while my wife and I caught up on movies we had been meaning to see – right from the comfort of our own seats on a flight from Seattle to Stockholm. A thick blanket was available to every passenger in Business Class – not the thin kind you get on domestic flights in the U.S. – and the food was unexpected in the most pleasant way. At one point in the evening when the other passengers were far away in Dreamland, I noticed a shooting star over Reykjavik, Iceland. Seriously, you can’t make this up! This is the stuff that dreams are made of…literally, in this case. And all of this happened before we had even landed at our destination at Stockholm Arlanda Airport.
A speedy trip via Arlanda Express, a speedtrain between the airport and Stockholm Central Station, makes an otherwise lengthy adventure 20 minutes of bliss (if travel can ever be called such).
Once at Stockholm Central Station, travelers can transfer to the Stockholm Public Transport, the city’s highly efficient underground system and other public transportation that includes buses and ferries to get around Stockholm.
Of course if you prefer private transportation, hail an Uber via your smartphone.