JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH TOMMY NILSSON FROM STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN!
Tommy is a 50 year old Stockholm-er, teacher, administrator, traveler and writer, all rolled into one. He moved to the city two decades back for work and since then has seen it change quite a bit. Though on and off he feels he is up to date with the happenings of Stockholm but like all big cities it is an ever-changing organism. His love for travel has taken him to many places but his mission in life is to visit and write about countries that aren’t the most popular but still have a lot to offer. Pakistan, Iran and Uruguay are among his favorites. Read more about him and his travels on his blog BusyGoingNowhere.
Sweden officially called the Kingdom of Sweden is a Scandinavian nation in Northern Europe. It is a country of thousands of coastal islands, inland lakes, lingonberries, fika tradition, IKEA stores and punctuality. Stockholm, the capital, is built on 14 islands and is also the country’s largest city, with more than 950,000 inhabitants. Other large cities include Gothenburg, in western Sweden and Malmö in the south.
When is the best time to visit Stockholm?
It all depends on why you are coming to visit. Peak season for Swedish tourists to Stockholm is during summer and December. Peak season for foreign tourists is summer.
I have to say that I believe visiting in the winter is underrated. Dark and cold, yes, but the lights turn the city into something completely different than the rest of the year. If you are a skater, you can rent skates and join thousands of locals on the waters in and around the city. You can also do alpine skiing only minutes from the city center.
Most people would claim that visiting in the summer is the best. The light, even in Stockholm we’re talking eighteen to nineteen hours of sun, makes people happy and more outgoing than other times of the year. Summer also means outdoor clubs and outdoor movie theatres. Most pubs will have outdoor patios. June can get a bit cold – July and August are a safer bet for outdoor activities and archipelago visits. But keep in mind that locals also take vacation and leave the city in July. Therefore, a number of places are closed or see less visitors. If you want to visit Stockholm and see it with locals, summer is the season to avoid coming here.
Spring and fall are appreciated by all. Spring can last a week or a month, fall can come in September or in October. It is almost impossible to plan ahead in order to match those seasons.
Which is the most convenient and favoured transport of Stockholm?
Public transport is the best way by far. One ticket gets you on buses, trams, metro, commuter trains and boats. Tickets are bought from www.sl.se and you can buy for tickets for a number of days or put a curtain amount of cash on it. The latter is the best if you won’t be using it a lot. And it saves you from buying single tickets every time. One family can have one card, you just have to tell the person at the gate how many people you are paying for.
There are two airports serving Stockholm, Skavsta and Arlanda.
Skavsta is a small airport south of Stockholm, served by budget airlines. There are buses to and from Stockholm which takes about 80 minutes.
Arlanda is the major international airport. It’s located north of Stockholm. An airport shuttle bus into the city costs around 140 SEK and takes 45 – 60 minutes. It serves all terminals. There are also commuter trains which takes you to central station in 40 minutes. But to use them you have to pay a platform fee of 120 SEK plus the price of a single ticket. Arlanda Express is the fastest and also the most expensive way: 20 minutes for about 300SEK. (2 people traveling pay 350SEK for both (one way)).
The cheapest way, and the local way, is to take bus number 583 to Märsta, a northern suburb. There you change to the commuter train. It is the cost of one public transport ticket and it takes just over an hour. The walk from the bus to the train is no more than 100 meters.
Beware of taxis from Arlanda. It has been a menace for years. If you do take a taxi, make sure that the price is fixed. Most cars will display a sign showing the fixed price. Unfortunately, there have been too many tourists getting ripped off throughout the years. Government and local authorities haven’t taken the issue seriously. I believe it is – finally – getting better.
What are the must visit places in Stockholm?
The Old Town. It might be touristy but it is an every day part in the lives of the locals as well. Good restaurants, good pubs and clubs. In December the the Christmas market is a popular place to visit in the Old Town. This part of the city also have excellent museums. I personally find the Old Town a great place year around. Check out this guide to know about the things to do in Gamla Stan.
The Vasa Museum. It is all about the great ship Vasa that sank on its maiden voyage before leaving Stockholm in 1628. The Vasa is the only preserved seventeenth-century ship in the world and a unique art treasure. It is today the most visited museum in the country, only rivaled by Skansen. Skansen museum is the open- air outdoor museum which is only ten minutes’ walk from the Vasa museum. It showcases the whole of Sweden with houses from every part of the country and a zoo with Nordic animals.
Mariaberget. A waterside observation area and one of the best view point of the city. It is an easy ten-minute walk from the metro station Slussen. It is a bit tucked away but with a good map you won’t have any problems. Locals and tourists alike hang around here for sunset, and for a good reason.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Stockholm?
The Archipelago. Jump on a boat and work your way out as long as you want to because the Stockholm archipelago is a cluster of thirty thousand islands and is the largest in the country. Explore fishing villages and centuries-old towns, learn the history of fortresses, stop at inviting coves, cliffs and soft sandy beaches. Do camping, kayaking, paddling, bike riding, bird watching or just relax before you retire back into the city life.
Uppsala. A city near Stockholm which is also a popular tourist destination. Uppsala is known for the oldest university in the country with some 40 plus thousand students, the seat of the arch bishop and a lot of its local history intertwined with the national history. If you are a history buff you might want to plan for more than one day in Uppsala. But it is an easy train ride of one hour.
What is the most celebrated holiday/event of the year in Stockholm?
Christmas. We celebrate on December 24th and usually people leave for wherever they’re going a few days before. Central station in Stockholm is packed from Dec 21st until Christmas morning, all trains fully booked. Christmas holiday is a three-day holiday. Usually people take a few extra days off, giving them a week or two off during Christmas and New Year’s.
What is the most loved local food, savoury and sweet of your city? Is your city a vegetarian friendly city?
I honestly don’t know what would be considered the most popular food. In a city like Stockholm with people coming from all parts of the world, we have the luxury to be able to choose. And people take advantage of that possibility. But we do like our lingonberries.
There is one sweet local desert that people feast on, much due to it being sold only in January and February: “Semla”. It is made up of a bun, cut in two pieces with whipped cream and marzipan in between. It nowadays comes in different forms and shapes but the original is still very popular. If you visit early in the year you’ll see it on display in the windows of every café and bakery.
I’m not a vegetarian myself, but I believe that Stockholm has turned into a really good place for vegetarians and vegans alike.
Where to head for shopping in Stockholm?
I’m not a market going person. But I have noticed that a lot of people are very proud of their local market, so be a little wary when someone tells you that their local market is the best. The easiest way to find what you are looking for is to see what’s on when you visit. Just look online or ask at the tourist information offices. Usually, www.thelocal.se is a great web site for visitors. Also www.visitstockholm.se (official) is a good place to start.
There are specialized markets but some, music for instance, seem to change venues every so often.
The classics are the flea market on Hötorget on weekends and the Christmas market in the Old Town. Be aware that most of the flea markets take place in the suburbs. If you want to beat the crowds, you have to make an early start from your hotel.
The biggest mall in Scandinavia is Mall Scandinavia in Solna, just ten minutes north of Stockholm city (just by the commuter train station “Solna”). It’s a mall but it has everything – and more. If you like malls, you’ll like this.
The more upmarket stores are traditional located around Biblioteksgatan and Stureplan in the city. If you are more into book stores and music, Södermalm is the part of the city you want to go to. But all this is only true to some extent; there are excellent music stores around Sankt Eriksplan in the city and major upmarket stores on Södermalm. In other words, be prepared to move around the city if you’re looking for something particular.
Which is the local craft or souvenir of your city?
We don’t really have a souvenir that will scream out “Stockholm” (unless it is printed on the item you buy, of course). Regional crafts, like the Dala horse or handmade crystal, are widely sold but they are not from Stockholm.
That said, I think that one thing that everyone should buy as a souvenir is a cheese cutter. We have a long lasting love affair with hard cheese. I read statistics on www.sweden.se that the average person in the country consume about 20 kg of cheese a year. You’ll find special stores or big counters in grocery stores that have hard cheese. With this addiction come the necessity to have at least one good cheese cutter at home. It will be a unique feature in your kitchen that your friends won’t have.
What is better in Stockholm than anywhere else in rest of the country is the food. And along with that: great local beer. Stockholm has a number of pubs that will only serve craft beer. And I have to say that the local breweries are doing a good job keeping up with the competition. You can also try Stockholms Bränneri Dry Gin. It is a handmade gin made on the island of Södermalm in Stockholm.
Which are the best streets of Stockholm worthy of taking a stroll on?
Brännkyrkagatan. A walk along this rather long street will have you experience old parts of Stockholm (used in many movies, but maybe most famously so in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”), as well as newer parts (50s and 60s). You’ll also pass by restaurants and small cafes if you want to sit down for a while.
Fjällgatan. One simple reason: for the view.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of the city?
Skinnarviksberget or Mariaberget. Both on Södermalm, facing north and overlooking the city.
If you don’t mind the traffic, Västerbron also offers great views. It’s a long bridge within city limits and the views are great no matter which direction you’re looking. But beware of traffic, bikes in particular!
Would you suggest any shows in your city to drama, music or art lovers? Where can one spot street art in Stockholm?
There are several theatres and art galleries around the city. What’s on is always subject to change, so go online before coming or talk to the people at the tourist centers. They are usually very well updated on what’s going on. Drottningholm Court Theatre, Royal Dramatic Theatre and Royal Swedish Opera would be your best bet for theatre and opera in Stockholm.
Sadly, there are fewer and fewer venues for concerts in the city. These venues seem to move out to other parts of Stockholm. It is good that not all venues are in one place but at the same time the concerts become less accessible.
The longest art exhibition in the world is the Stockholm metro art. All 100 stations have at least one piece of art, and you can join tours that will take you around and visit some of these metro stations.
Would you recommend any local apps for food or transport in Stockholm?
Transport : There are a few apps for the public transport system. The one most people use is called “STHLM Traveling”.
Food : Restaurants in Stockholm are on the expensive side, you can also use Streetkäk, to follow Swedish food trucks in real time and find out their menus, prices and serving times.
Do you want to give any suggestion to tourists coming to Stockholm?
An increasing trend is that small stores and cafes don’t accept cash. You will need to pay using your phone or a credit card. Before coming, make sure you can use your card to pay even smaller amounts without your bank charging unnecessary fees.