Nestled on a chain of fourteen islands in the middle of glittering blue waters dotted with sailboats and RIBs (rigid inflatable boats), Stockholm is a feast for the senses. A mosaic of architectural styles and European aesthetics, this seaside metropolis harmoniously commingles medieval and modern buildings, bohemian and chic designer clothing, traditional Nordic cooking and Scandinavian fusion. Easy to navigate, it is best to walk through the neighborhoods using the water and steeples to find the way--after all, getting a bit lost adds to the magic of this island wonderland.
A private walking guide is well worth the pennies and a good one will weave history, humor, and some places for locals only recommendations into an organized get-your-bearings tour. In three hours, it is possible to meet a guide at the uber sophisticated gourmet food hall Östermalms Saluhall Market, stop at a candy store for a striped polkagris or a handful of salted lakritsfariken--aka licorice-- (pace yourself, the selection is mind blowing), meander through the medieval cobblestone streets of Gamla Stan, peek in the Nobel Museum, visit the Riddarholm Church (tombs of dead monarchs) and Stockholm Cathedral, admire the iconic German architecture of Stortorget Square, pass by for a glimpse of the Royal Palace (hopefully during a changing of the guard), decipher an ancient Viking rune stone, and take in the breathtaking panorama of historic and modern buildings along the intersection of Lake Mälaran and the Baltic Sea. Request a quick detour to the Kungsträdgården Metro Station and see a section of environmental, women's rights, and peace inspired graffiti art in this underground subway station that looks like an archaeological excavation with 17th and 18th century remains of the old Stockholm Makalös Palace protruding from the walls.
In 980, Sigtuna was founded as Sweden's first capital. For centuries this lakeside small town bustled with Swedish dignitaries, merchants, and artisans. Swedish coins were first stamped in this village that today maintains a 1,000 year old quaint medieval charm. A half day walk that begins early in the morning with a stroll down the boardwalk, an exploration of the ruins of the 11th century St. Olaf's Church, and a quick peek inside the 17th century Mariakyrkan Church, provides plenty to do in the morning. Top off the excursion with a leisurely early lunch in the light filled modern dining room of the Sigtuna Stads Hotell with gorgeous views of the lake. The Swedish pancakes with lingonberry butter deliver a delightful taste of the classic Nordic pannkakor that may cause you to overeat. No worries! After lunch, a quick jaunt over to the Wenngarn Castle (a baroque palace historically restored) and a brisk walk through the beautifully maintained gardens offer a chance to recover from culinary hedonism.
The Swedish pancakes with lingonberry butter deliver a delightful taste of the classic Nordic pannkakor that may cause you to overeat. No worries! After lunch, a quick jaunt over to the Wenngarn Castle (a baroque palace historically restored) and a brisk walk through the beautifully maintained gardens offer a chance to recover from culinary hedonism.
Return to Stockholm on a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) with Captain Bengt Kull. Weather being often chilly even in the summer months, his provisions include drysuits to keep passengers warm and a trip through the loch that connects Lake Malaren with the Baltic Sea is a door-to-door experience that leaves sea travelers on the docks in the city's center and directly across the street from The Hotel Diplomat.
BREAD AND TABLE (FOR BREAKFAST) Birger Jarlsgatan 53, 111 45 Stockholm, Sweden
Mosebacke torg 9, 116 46 Stockholm, Sweden
CAFE SATURNUS (FOR THEIR CINNAMON ROLLS) Eriksbergsgatan 6, 114 30 Stockholm, Sweden
MATBAREN Grand Hôtel, Södra Blasieholmshamnen 8 Box 164 24, 103 27 Stockholm, Sweden
Humlegårdsgatan 1, 114 46 Stockholm, Sweden
ULLA WINDBLADH Rosengalvägen 8, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden
ÖSTERMALMS SALUHALL MARKET Östermalmstorg, 114 42 Stockholm, Sweden
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