What would you eat if you have 24 hours in Sweden's laidback capital city?
10am: Coffee and kardemummabullar
Forget about Cinnabon... cardamom buns are the ones to try in Sweden! These moist rolls of cardamom-filled and crystallised sugar-dusted goodness are the only way to start your day in Stockholm. Perfect for breakfast or when it's time to indulge in that most-Swedish of institutions - fika. Try them at Fabrique, Bakery & Spice or baked fresh in an authentic old-fashioned Swedish bakery on the open-air museum island of Skansen.
2pm: Island picnic lunch
Catch one of the many ferries that head off from the city to explore the islands in the archipelago stretching out from the capital city. Just an hour and a half's ride will take you to the pretty little island of Grinda, where you can spend the afternoon walking through trails under fragrant pine trees, swimming in the tiny coves that ring the island, and munching on farm fresh bread, cheese and strawberry juice right by the water's edge.
7pm: Bar hopping in Sodermalm
Once back in the centre, head to Sodermalm, the once seedy underbelly of Stockholm, but today one of the city's most hip and happening districts. With numerous restaurants and bars lining street after street, you shouldn't find it hard to pick one that you are in the mood for.
9pm: Minced moose of reindeer steak?
Stockholmers seem to dine early, so if you head out a bit later in the evening, you can often score a table in one of the city's many top-notch restaurants, or more wallet-friendly but still excellent local haunts.
Feel like trying some of the traditional meats? Knut Bar and Restaurant in the genteel Upplandsgatan area of the city is a cosy spot to taste some Scandinavian treats like minced moose with lingonberries or reindeer steak.
A few streets away, the excellent Rolfs Kok is a great choice for a late-night meal with perfectly executed dishes... we had escargot in butter, a sublime asparagus dish bathed in hollandaise sauce (words I'd never thought I'd utter!) and an utterly moreish calamari with black rice and chorizo.
Nook is a top pick if you wish to stay in Sodermalm all night long. Although classed as a Modern European restuarant, the dishes have quite substantial Asian influences in both flavour and presentation and feature multi-layered ingredients and unusual combinations of flavours (lamb tartar, fermented kohlrabi, Oviken cheese... or lightly smoked mackerel, trout roe, pickled potatoes, apple, green chilli....) The dishes are available a la carte (great for the single diners who Sweden seems to embrace whole-heartedly, as is evident from the many sharing table concepts strewn all across the city) or as a couple of multi-course tasting menus that change every few weeks... it's one of the few restaurants I've been to in which every single dish was a winner.
Stockholm, like much of Scandinavia has a reputation for being ridiculously expensive, and while dining (and particularly drinking) out is pretty pricey, picking inventive local restaurants allow you to savour some exceptional flavours all at a price not much more than what you'd pay for some pretty average bistro fare in Dubai. So no complaints there.
From hearing mixed reviews about Stockholm prior to turning up, I am happy to say the city charmed me with its easy vibe, calm, quiet and green streets and long, summer evenings.
And of course, those cardamom buns! I think I'll be back just for that breakfast fix!
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