Friday, August 15, 2008

Adventure #32: Stockholm

Our fascination with Stockholm stems from the fact that the city is comprised of 14 islands and roughly 50 bridges. There are actually 24,000 islands and inlets in the entire Stockholm archipelago, which extends from the city about 60 kilometers east. When Damon told me this last fall, we decided to book our August bank holiday getaway to Sweden.

We assumed that August would be the best time to go, considering the country's Nordic location. What we didn't know is that Stockholm receives most of its rainfall during summer.

Flying to Stockholm direct from Dublin on Ryanair (arrival at Skavsta airport, about 100 km from Stockholm) actually took longer than we expected (about 2 hours, 45 minutes). Most flights to anywhere in we've been in Europe are around 2 hours. Sweden is really far north. :)

The bus service from Skavsta to the main train/bus station in downtown Stockholm is very convenient, like most buses that operate their schedules in conjunction with Ryanair schedules. We got a great deal through (third night free) at the Mornington Hotel, located in the Ostermalm district. This hotel was about a 25-minute walk from the main bus terminal and only 10 minutes walk down to the water. We were very pleased with the location, service and complimentary breakfast.

Stockholm is an easy city to navigate. We walked everywhere. One piece of advice on transportation in Stockholm: taxis are VERY expensive. During a very rainy Saturday, we decided to take a taxi 3 km (about 5 minutes) -- it cost us about $30. So, walk or bus or metro are highly recommended. Although it did rain during our trip some days, it was quite warm in early August. We wore shorts our first day and were very comfortable (and thrilled considering the Irish weather). There were lots of tourists in town due to EuroPride 2008 -- what fun to explore the city during Europe's biggest gay festival. Lots of great people-watching.

Some of the highlights of our trip included:

Day 1:
- Walking down to Skeppsholmen island and Gamla Stan island (the Old Town district)
- Having drinks at an outdoor cafe near Berzelii Park

Day 2:
- Touring the Vasa Museum to see the 64-gun warship Vasa that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628

- Walking around the island of Djurgarden

- Taking the Hop-On Hop-Off ferry through the city

- Touring the National Museum, which had a very cool clock exhibit and houses Sweden's largest art collection, including some great French Impressionist pieces

- Visiting the Noble Museum in Gamla Stan, then enjoying a great Italian lunch al fresco on the Stortorget square

- Strolling along the Strandvagen boardwalk and buying Swedish lakrits from street vendors (the word translates as "liquorice," but it is sugary-sweet, stringy and tastes -- and looks -- like gummy worms)

- Playing games and watching a Swedish band perform at Grona Lund amusement park

- Having drinks at the Radisson hotel lounge (sadly the Sky Lounge at the Radisson Viking was closed when we went -- but it's highly recommended for the views)

Day 3:
- Walking about 50 minutes outside the city to the Kaknas Tower to see the views (not recommended -- the views at the top are obstructed by fence wire and views inside the cafe just below the top are obstructed by a wooden railing that surrounds the 360-degree windowed room)

- Walking through Kungstradgarden, Gamla Stan again (we loved the Old Town)

- Touring the Stockholm Palace, neighboring church and watching the changing of the guard

- Climbing to the top of the Stockholm City Hall tower, where we enjoyed great, unobstructed views and even caught a rainbow on film (lines are long for the tower because they limit the number of people; be prepared but the views are great)

- Dining at Marten Trotzigs restaurant next to the famously skinny Marten Trotzigs street where we ate some local cuisine (such as lingonberries, reindeer and Swedish elk meatballs)

It was a very relaxing vacation. Stockholm isn't great for budget travelers -- it's an extremely expensive city, on par with cities we visited in Switzerland. We knew that going in. Swedish women fit the stereotype: almost all women we passed on the street were tall, blonde, thin and chesty. Lots of model types! They were also extremely tan, which we found bizarre. Overall, it was another enlightening destination. We probably wouldn't come back, but we're glad we can say we've seen Stockholm.

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