If you follow the blog, you know that back in May I got to visit the UK. On that same trip, I was also lucky enough to travel to Sweden for the first time. I spent around 7 days in the beautiful city of Stockholm and fell so madly in love with it that I can’t wait to go back.
In this first installment of my guide to Stockholm, I talk a bit about Swedish culture and where to stay and eat. Don’t forget to check back next Saturday for the second part of this guide where I talk about where to drink and about what to do and pack.
Let’s Talk About Swedish Culture
I did a lot of research before this trip and even tried to teach myself some Swedish so that I could order food at a restaurant (priorities!). The information you find online usually mentions that most Swedes speak perfect English in addition to several other languages. This is true. I don’t regret taking the time to learn some Swedish because I feel that it’s a great way to better understand the culture, but I never really needed it. I guess this was a good thing given that my Swedish pronunciation is atrocious.
The second thing that pops up a lot is that Swedes are very formal. By formal, most people mean reserved and cold. This I found to be completely untrue. Sure, they are the most polite people I’ve ever met, but they are also hands down the friendliest. For example, while I was there, several restaurant owners and managers took the time to not only chat with me and learn more about why I was in Stockholm, but also to hand write me a list of places to visit and restaurants to check out. I was completely blown away by the kindness of most of the people I met and this, more than anything else, is why I want to go back.
Swedes view dining out as a way to relax, spend time with friends and family, and take time to savor the food that they are being served. In other words, they enjoy having long meals. So please don’t walk into a restaurant and expect to have dinner in 45 mins. That’s just not how it works. I unfortunately overheard several Americans being incredibly rude to staff members at different restaurants because they wanted their beer NOW or because they wanted something that wasn’t on the menu. Don’t be one of those Americans.
Where to Stay
Like London, Stockholm is an expensive city. Since we were going to be there for a while, we opted for an Airbnb to keep costs down. We wanted a neighborhood that had great restaurants, stores, and nightlife but was also quiet, so we ended up choosing a cute little apartment in Norrmalm, the northern part of the city. It turned out to be a great decision because we were walking distance from some of the best restaurants in Stockholm, the subway station, and the public library.
Something that you should keep in mind when you are choosing a place to stay is that Stockholm has a state-of-the art subway system that is extremely easy to navigate and takes you pretty much anywhere in the city. It’s also a great place for walking because it’s very flat and pedestrian friendly.
The city is also divided into easy-to-research neighborhoods, so I would recommend that you take some time to familiarize yourself with what each one has to offer before making a decision. As in any big city, the furthest you are from the trendiest spots, Södermalm in Stockholm’s case, the cheaper your accommodations will be.
Where to Eat
Let me preface this by saying that I have never had better food than in Sweden. EVER. My husband and I literally never had a bad meal, not even when we walked into a “chain” restaurant. I think that it is because Swedes really value fresh, seasonal ingredients and they take a lot of pride in preparing them well. So don’t restrict yourself to my recommendations. Explore and try out all the food!
Most restaurants, particularly fixed-menu, trendy ones, require that you make a reservation. I figured out really quickly, however, that if you show up at 5.00-5.30 which is around the time they open for dinner, you will always find an empty table or get to sit at the bar. My recommendation would be to go for the latter since you will often get to chat with the owner or manager and get awesome recommendations for other places to visit.
Agrikultur. This is the place that I absolutely wanted to visit because it consistently makes it to the top of the “best new restaurants in Stockholm” list. And boy did it deliver. It’s a beautiful, intimate space with an open kitchen, and we were lucky enough to sit at the bar and see how our food was being prepared. More importantly, the owner was there and he was kind enough to personally walk us through many of the dishes.
And let me tell you about those dishes. The bread you see pictured above was unlike any bread I’ve had anywhere else. It was rich and sweet and wonderful. The owner explained that is made with a type of wheat that can only be found in Sweden, the name of which I unfortunately can’t remember.
We also had a chicken heart “taco” that is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. It was served on a crispy collard-leaf-type thing instead of a tortilla. I was a bit concerned about this at first, but I would eat that leaf tortilla for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I could.
All in all, this was one of the funnest, most delicious, and most memorable meals that I’ve had in my life, so I strongly recommend that you try to visit Agrikultur if you are in Stockholm. They also make their own gin, and it is incredible.
Something to keep in mind is that their menu changes daily and is fixed price.
Jim & Jacob. If you would like something a bit more casual but equally inventive, you should visit Jim & Jacob. When I went there I wasn’t too hungry, so I ended up only having a salad and dessert. The salad was essentially a deconstructed panzanella, with a tomato puree instead of whole tomatoes. It was delicious.
For dessert I had the craziest dessert I’ve ever had: a sangria lollipop covered in pop rocks. All I can say is that it tasted like sangria and that it was so much fun to eat!
Babette. If you happen to be more in the mood for a beer or a glass of wine and some delicious pizza, you should visit Babette. It’s primarily known as a pizza place, and their pizza was indeed very tasty, but they also make some great quail. Bonus: their cocktails are also really good.
Fika. Fika is an important part of Swedish culture. It essentially means to have a break to chat, more specifically a coffee break. Being the wonderful people that they are, Swedes don’t just have coffee during these breaks but also an assortment of delicious pastries, pies, and cakes. As you can probably tell from my overly-enthusiastic review of Agrikultur’s bread, Swedish baked goods are unbelievably delicious.
My husband and I tried to have fika every day, in fact, just so that we could walk into some random bakery and enjoy a sweet treat in the middle of the day. I really encourage you to embrace this Swedish tradition; you won’t regret it.