I have the very good fortune of having the most wonderful cousins known to man or woman. Toby, whose closest to me in age, and I bonded over the fact that we looked like Flower Fairies when we were toddlers.
He moved to Stockholm just over three years ago to do his Masters, and after talking endlessly about coming to visit, Loums and I were finally able to take advantage of his hospitality and come to for a long weekend.
Loums and I arrived in T-centralem at around about 11pm on a Thursday, we then met up with Toby and his girlfriend Carro at the station, and headed on home for some much needed sleep. The holiday truly felt like it began the moment we woke up the next day. Toby and Carro left us some maps and pointed out good areas to check out before they headed to work, and Loums and I promptly heeded their advice and set off to Slussen in Södermalm.
A bookshop-café-combo called Wayne’s Coffee was our first port of call, and there we sat, people-watching and enjoying our prospective slices of quiche and mugs of coffee before heading down the hill towards Gamla Stan (the Old Town). As we were walking, a huge building with a walkway connected to an elevator shaft caught our eye, which we later found out is called Katarinahissen. We asked a couple passersby how to get up and take a look and after weaving through some construction work, we entered out onto the roof of the building which offered a breathtaking, panoramic view of the city. After nearly getting blown away and taking a few pictures, we headed back down to carry on our original route.
Gamla stan is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe, and it’s filled with cobbled streets, buildings which look like pieces of cake, restaurants, cafés, hidden alleyways, murals, a Viking bar, the Swedish Royal Court, churches such as the Riddarholmen, museums, and we could have quite happily spent the whole day there. After exploring every street, visiting little gardens, taking pictures and sampling yet another delicious coffee and a spot of lunch, we headed to the island of Skeppsholmen. It was such a beautiful day that we didn’t really stop for too long in any one particular place, and also without our hosts, it seemed like a good time to get our bearings of the city.
After meeting back up with Toby and Carro in a café back in Slussen, we then headed to Systembolaget to grab a couple of beers (which were more than 3.5%). Alcohol is not stocked in privately owned liquor stores, it cannot be purchased in grocery stores, so Systembolaget is the place to go if you want a good beer, spirits or wine. The selection they have is enormous, and I, of course, picked the beers which had the most entertaining names. We then came home, played board games, Carro cooked roast pork with rosemary, home-made loganberry sauce, and a buttery, swede mash.
Saturday was the day of greatness. In the morning we went to an adorable place just down the road from Toby and Carro’s place (for which I cannot find the link for love nor money), I chose to have granola with greek yogurt and fresh fruits, a spinach and ginger smoothie and a piece of rye bread with pickled red cabbage and some sort of cured meet which was ridiculously good. We then set off to Fotografiska, Stockholm’s photography museum. I really didn’t know what to expect upon entering, but we were lucky enough to arrive to see four, very different but all brilliant exhibitions.
The main event was Anton Corbijn’s ‘1-2-3-4’. Corbijn was also known as ‘the musician’s photographer’, and photographed The Rolling Stones, Depeche Mode, U2, Rod Stewart, Johnny Cash, Nirvana, Kate Bush, Kim Wilde and Metallica (just to name a few), having grown up with these artists and owning some of their albums with Corbijn’s photograph as the album cover, was really pretty cool.
The following expo was very small, but very important. It was a small exhibit of photographs created by Moustafa Jano called Every Person Has Lost Something. Jano is a Syrian photographer who left Damascus for Stockholm with his wife and three children, and they currently live in a refugee camp in Karlshamn. There where he creates montages of war-torn Syria, which he obtains from journalist he knows who are still working in the depths of the city, and he overlaps these photographs with images that are safe and familiar to his audience, for example a Pikachu toy, or a rubix cube. Projected onto a wall was this film below, in which Jano explains his craft and his motivations behind his commitment to his art:
The next floor up from Jano and Corbijn’s work was an exhibit called The Autumn Salon is an annual event where the work of young artists are submitted anonymously to a jury who pick the best of the best to be featured in the museum. The work was extraordinarily varied, some pieces made me uncomfortable as it tapped into areas of my psyche or memories which I don’t like to dwell too much, others were more gentle. For example, one artist showed a series of images which when stood ten feet away, looked like planets or stars, but when up close, you realised that it was fact a cup of coffee, a view from a porthole, or a rusty can lid. Photographers from all around the world submitted their work and we all left with different pieces stuck in our minds more than others.
We then moved to the top floor which was a gorgeous restaurant, and it was quite clear to see that many people came for the food and the view rather than the work below, and it wasn’t hard to see why. Black hardwood floors, black beams in the ceiling, white walls, black tables and chairs were all interjected by huge windows which let in the sunlight and the crisp, blue sea outside. Not a bad place to stop for a coffee.
Next stop: The ABBA Museum. I grew up with ABBA, my mum had many of their albums on vinyl, cassette tape and CD, we had ABBA Gold on VHS which is, if you’re not familiar, all of the music videos from their greatest hits album of the same name. They were so important, they were tongue-in-cheek, although most of the time they were just down right cheeky. Their melodies were unique and their harmonies were tight, their clothes were inspiring, their shoes could be seen from space, and I will love them forever. Agnetha was, and will always be my homegirl. When I was little I was the girl with golden hair, and despite being too young to say ‘Thank You For The Music’, I improvised and sang instead: ‘Tankoo Moosic’, because I was just that darn adorable. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) has always been my solid, number one favourite ABBA song, quickly followed by Eagle, Chiquitita, SOS and Dancing Queen (ovbiously).
The museum showed the band’s formation, each member’s life before ABBA, their greatest achievements, their most famous outfits, The Polar Studio, you could become a fifth member of the band, it was ridiculously interactive and I might have cried a little bit. Childhood dream achieved.
As if we (I), couldn’t contain my joy enough, the next section of the museum called the Swedish Music Hall of Fame, was currently holding an exhibition about the history of the Eurovision Song Contest. The Eurovision is also a very big deal in our family, we have Eurovision parties. Everyone comes over, we make Moscow Mules and we sit back and bask in its glorious fabulousness. Also, seeing Conchita Wurst’s fierce dresses was too good to be true.
We then went to a gin bar to meet Toby’s friends, and then we grabbed burgers and headed to Melt, a burlesque cocktail bar based in Norrmalm. Melt is a 1920s New York inspired cocktail bar and restaurant which often holds shows on its red velvet-covered stage and everyone working there looks like pieces of cake. After heading to another place to grab a glass of something delicious, we headed home.
The next day after breakfast we went to Fabriken in Liljeholmen, which was holding the most stylish jumble sale I’ve ever seen. Fashion in Stockholm is full of understated, simple, oversized, dark pieces with flashes of white, paired with flawless make-up and brilliant hair. It’s frustratingly effortless and everyone looks fantastic. I was looking for a new coat, but oddly enough, people seemed to want to hold onto their warmer items of clothing. The whole set up made me feel like we could have been in Shoreditch, and I loved it.
Next stop was Emmaus in Slussen which was funky and reminded me more of Portobello Road Market. It had a ceiling worthy of the most avid Instagram followers. Also, I feel like Paris should keep up and down the charity shop family, for there are painfully few and far between.
Toby then wanted to show us one of his favourite districts in Stockholm called Katarina-Sofia, which is full of boutique stores full of kitsch brilliance, beautiful buildings (see feature photo), and of course, unique coffee shops such as Il Caffè Söder.
Toby then took us to the area of Stockholm we had still left to explore, Östermalm, which is undoubtedly the poshest district of the capital. As it was the final day of our trip, we made the most of the clear autumnal weather and walked from Slussen all the way round to Djurgården, walking along the promenade of Östermalm where we happened to discover Swedish Hogwarts. We then got the ferry back for a chilled evening at home filled with Swedish board games, delicious food and packing.
The next day we woke up early to say goodbye to Toby and Carro, made sure we hadn’t forgotten anything and set off to the airport to catch a plane back to reality.
My feeling after leaving Stockholm was that it is a wonderful city. It’s almost too stylish and cool for its own good, the food is great, the city itself is stunning, the people are welcoming, but having the chance to spend time with Toby was priceless.