Last week, we visited Stockholm on our way to Finland and it was awesome! We packed in as many sights as possible in the time we had, but just covered the tip of the iceberg because there is just so much to see and do in the city! We arrived on a Friday at the Arlanda airport where we quickly picked up our Volvo wagon rental (of course you have to get a Volvo in Sweden!) and drove into Stockholm straight to our apartment we booked on Airbnb. This was our first time using Airbnb, lots of our friends use the site all the time and after using it for both of our places in Sweden and Finland, I have to say we loved it. Both houses were awesome and both owners were very nice and helpful. The owner in Stockholm even drove Frank around on a whirlwind tour of sights to see nearby. I can't wait to use Airbnb for all our vacations! Our apartment had three bedrooms and was situated in a wonderful part of the city, overlooking the sea, with several restaurants, an organic grocery and a truly amazing park right nearby. The apartment was in a building that is owned by the Nobel Foundation and has two Nobel Laureates living in it! We didn’t run in to them as far as we know but we did meet some interesting people coming and going from the building. The apartment itself was very well furnished in very Swedish seeming / Ikea style and had tons of toys for the kids (the owner had 2 daughters) and about everything you could want in a furnished apartment. Cooper especially loved the Wii…
After we got settled in the apartment, the first thing we want to check out was the park across the street with a beach and a playground and a bocci ball restaurant we had read great reviews about. It turned out to be an amazing park with about everything you could imagine in it. A beach, tons of running trails, bouldering, a skate park, an awesome restaurant and seriously, the best playground I have ever been to. This place was amazing. It was like a little village of a playground with the most interesting and unique structures and with loads of imaginative play, sandboxes, ziplines, climbing boulders, marble mazes, wading pools and more. We played for an hour to unwind from all the travel and then hiked along the pedestrian only sea front path all the way to the center of old town, Gamla Stan, passing by historical ships on the waterfront along the way.
|Zipline fun at the park in Stockholm|
|Lily loved the pretend play at the gas station and restaurant serving me up mud pies.|
After checking out the center of town and having some ice cream, we headed to the south island in the area known as SOFO to find a few restaurants I'd read about on other blogs as being tasty and kid friendly. One that was recommended to have excellent views and food was Gondolen. However, with two very tired kids and after having seen the prices and menu choices, we opted to go back to our apartment and find something a little easier. Honestly, the prices weren't all that bad for Stockholm, just crazy expensive compared to German and American prices. We'd been warned before coming that Sweden was super expensive, but somehow, I didn't really grasp just how expensive. We're talking 20-50 Euros for a dinner minimum and 7 to 10 euros for a small 33cl beer. Yikes! My plans for shopping and finding unique kids clothing and toys went down the drain quickly after checking out a few stores. However, it was really fun to look around and see all the neat Swedish stuff. They definitely have their own style compared to the rest of western Europe where we have visited. Stockholm is full of awesome design stores. Did you know that IKEA and H&M both originated in Sweden?
|A really nice restaurant on the waterfront walk from our apartment to Gamla Stan.|
|Historical boats and ships on the promenade.|
|Aren't those cork seats the cutest?|
|Cooper jumping stones on the promenade.|
For our second day, we started early to beat the incoming rainstorm and walked a very long way, passing a good portion of beautiful Stockholm, to the island Djurgarden. You could spend an entire weekend visiting this island alone! It is full of museums, amusement parks, an aquarium, a botanical garden, a zoo, and even a Children's Museum! First stop on the island was the famous Vasa Museum that houses the only 17th century ship in the world, a massive wooden ship with an infamous history. It was commissioned by a Swedish king centuries ago as a way to intimidate other ships at sea. But against the ship builder’s advice, the king demanded the ship be built higher and higher until it was 4 stores high! The day it set sail, it sunk almost immediately, never even making it out of the Stockholm harbor. The king was so embarrassed, he wouldn't let anyone talk about it and tried to erase the incident from history. In the 1950s, the exact location of the ship was discovered, and they spent years restoring the ship and placing it in a museum that gets millions of visitors each year.
After the Vasa Museum, our kids were ready to run, so we went right next door to the Junibacken children's museum. Our kids loved this part of the trip. They played in the imaginary village full of slides and toddler sized houses, and then rode on the train that takes you through a very grim magical fairy tale world of Astrid Lindgren. European kid stories are pretty much the opposite of Disney stories with crazy depressing themes! Frank and I couldn't help but laugh at the morbidity of the story being told on the ride (a young boy dies while jumping out of his house from a fire, another boy gets attacked by a dragon and becomes paralyzed so he and his brother jump off a cliff into the beautiful light)... Lily was terrified of a giant rat that wiggles with a tail about 6 feet long that looked surprisingly real, and Cooper woke up with nightmares the following night dreaming about that very same rat. Despite the morbid story, it was a fun ride and a great place to let the kids play. Plus, they have a nice cafe you can eat at overlooking the water.
|Junibacken - the Children's Museum on Djurgarden island.|
|Kottbullar! Anyone who has eaten at Ikea knows what these are like. Meatballs are served at every restaurant.|
Stockholm seemed very international. Much more so than other cities in Europe we have been to. You can find beers from all over the world, including specialty IPAs from the states. Restaurants serve international food and everyone speaks English so well, you can hardly tell if they are actually Swedish or American. I was complimenting a nice mother at the park and she told me they are required to learn English from age 10 on in school.
Another awesome thing we noted, perhaps because we stayed in the upscale end of town and were walking always along the boardwalk, the stereotype of beautiful blue eyed and blond headed people rang very true. I couldn't get over all the fit, good looking people in the city, and my kids stuck out at the park as the two darkest haired around! But we did love how healthy the city seemed, everyone running and biking at all hours of the day, plus boating, swimming, climbing, and more. Organic groceries and organic restaurants all over the place as well.
One thing that I cannot forget to mention that we really loved about Sweden and Finland was "Hej"! their typical greeting. This greeting really epitomizes the different feeling you get from Stockholm compared to other western European countries. Instead of a low and somber “Hallo” or “Bonjour” everyone would greet you with boisterous and friendly Hej Hej! Which pretty much sounds like “hey hey!” and invariably invokes a smile on the face of both parties. Awesome. No matter who it was; a little girl, an old man, a clerk in a store, "hey hey"! It was so incredibly friendly and nearly made us laugh each time we walked in a store or were greeted by anyone.
Loved Stockholm! Can’t wait to go back! Finland up next.