When asked if I was venturing anywhere this summer, I was often faced with an amusing reaction when I’d reply ‘Sweden’. Stockholm is apparently hardly the kind of destination that on first impression screams ‘holiday’, but it was there that I found myself – and it didn’t fail to impress.
Stockholm manages to balance the laid-back attitude of its citizens with the hustle and bustle of the modern day cosmopolitan metropolis. Describing Stockholm to someone who has never been there is arguably relatively easy: Stockholm is somewhere between Paris and London. Someone who knows the city better than I told me that Stockholm isn’t like Paris, where a select many will look down upon you because you don’t speak French; nor is it like London, where one wrong turn can leave you feeling lost in a maze of unrecognisable streets. No, Stockholm is a ‘happy medium’, stretching across a series of islands in seemingly effortless elegance.
Travelling to Stockholm is simple: Ryanair fly to Skavsta Airport, located about 60 miles south of the city (you know, typical Ryanair). Getting into Stockholm itself is cheapest by Flygbussarna (coach), about €12 each way, getting you to the city in around 90 minutes. If you feel like flashing the cash in favour of comfort, SAS fly direct to Arlanda Airport.
You’ll find an abundance of bars and a vibrant nightlife in the city, most notably around the T-Bahn station at Slussen, while hopping off at T-Centralen will land you in the city centre for a spot of shopping.
The big brands are all here, and as the home ground of H&M, Stockholm boasts an array of the famous chain stores.
You won’t find yourself lost in translation at all. Don’t bank on practicing your Swedish in Stockholm, as a taxi driver informed me on day one, almost everyone jumps at the chance to practice their English. In most shops a simple ‘hej hej’ (pronounced hey hey) provides a warm greeting, whilst ‘tack’ serves to express polite thanks. The Swedish themselves are warm, friendly and polite, and there’s something very welcoming about the people in Stockholm that leaves you feeling as though you’ve just strolled through your own hometown. There are no ‘dodgy areas’ in this city – in fact, even the underground T-Bahn stations fail to prove in any way intimidating or menacing.
The one thing that still resonates with me about Stockholm is not the sight of the stereotypical blonde, tanned individuals roaming the streets; nor is it the fabulous summer weather that a city so often equated with dark sunless winters seemed to be experiencing. No: the one thing I vividly remember about Stockholm is the sheer volume of pregnant women I came across. Coming a close second, the memories of a phenomenal array of lingerie stores. Whether there’s any correlation between the two, I’ll leave it to you to decide.