It would be irresistible, if only for its visual appeal, like the set of a period movie — Stockholm has backdrops for nearly any era you like, since its buildings go back to the 13th Century. We settled in at the Grand Hotel (1874). That’s the one with the flags in the panorama below — the Royal Palace is on our right hand just out of frame.
Another way to think about architecture is to mosey down to ArkDes, Sweden’s National Center for Architecture and Design, to the left of that three-masted ship, where we found a big exhibit of architectural models, in an inventive space. Skeppsholmen, the island it’s on, is littered with museums, so we looked at some other art as well.
It’s not just the waterfront that has these staid edifices. We walked up to the observatory atop Vasastan and, though we saw some modern commercial buildings along the way, it was obvious that plenty of charm remains. Here’s a view to the southeast, I think:
Sometimes our wanderings were food-directed. We ate at two places on tourist-dense old-town Gamla Stan, first a cozy little bar and then at Under Kastanjen (shown below), named for that big chestnut tree, basically a bakery with extra seating — though less seating than befits its popularity with locals and visitors combined. There’s a sort of a bar downstairs, and, on its optional gluten-free menu, both the traditional meatballs (with the traditional lingonberries) and the fika-worthy oat-and-cocoa balls.
Other wonderful meals depended more on chance. We stumbled upon a sweet little neighborhood creperie in Sodermalm when the one we were planning on decided to change its opening time. We ended up at Oaxen Krog on Djurgården because that’s where we also ran out of steam while exploring that fabled island.
Djurgården earned its name as the royal game preserve, and today is a kind of in-city destination resort, with a couple of marinas, half a dozen museums, an amusement park, a school, and big wooded or open spaces with a web of footpaths popular among joggers. Private residences! A riding academy! It was close enough to walk from our hotel — but not so close as to walk back, so we took the water taxi that leaves from the dock right next to the ABBA museum.
A bonus! Right after our arrival on the island, I was inspired to film this three-minute-long fable of resoluteness, redemption, and the perils of modern living, “The Commons.”
We did not limit ourselves to strolling and dining. We went paddling out in the islands, a trip described in our kayak blog, Sea Creatures. We took the tour of the Royal Apartments, like any good tourists, and the Treasury. It had not occurred to me that the first time any noble is welcomed at Court, a new batch of splendid insignia and regalia needs to be created, which, over the centuries, can really accumulate.
Back when we first started traveling, I would send postcards to my colleagues in the States to share with them various visions of municipal employment in other parts of the world. While laboring in a refurbished department store or a future car dealership, they might be treated to a picture of the Hôtel de Ville in Paris or the Mirabell Palace in Salzburg, or Seville’s Ayuntamiento.
Here in that same spirit is a look at Stockholm’s Town Hall. It’s basically a big brick building, like the old offices above the fire station in Spokane. But on a somewhat grander scale. And a little closer to the water. Oh, and, the Nobel Banquet is given here annually, after presentation of the awards for literature and the sciences.
When we finally left Stockholm, it was only to to join a cruise that would take us around the Baltic Sea, with stops for daily bicycling. A farewell to the Grand Hotel! (Where, by the way, the Nobel Banquet was held until 1930.)