This was the first trip outside Turkey I planned, and the last place I plan to travel to before the end of the semester (90% positive). It was also my favorite city, out of the nine or so places I have visited so far. I had heard a lot about Scandinavia and its culture, and I wanted to see for myself what the differences were between it and the rest of Europe- and Sweden didn’t disappoint.
Getting to Stockholm is easy enough. Land at Arlanda, take the express train to the Central Station. I happened to be staying in a hotel right on the next floor above the platform, but the station is within 10 minutes walking distance to the rest of the central city. City hall and the Royal Palace are just down the street. The city was much smaller than I expected- under a million people in the city area, which is less than my neighborhood in Istanbul, which means it was a very walkable weekend, and walk I did.
I had no intention of visiting most of the city’s museums or major sites. Stockholm has a reputation of being clean and environmentally friendly, with a third of its land in the form of parks. My goal was to take full advantage of the fresh air and trees (and 70 degree weather!) and walk all over the place. Since I arrived mid-day, I used the first afternoon to walk down to the old city and around it, and along the waterfront. I was beyond thrilled to see that ice cream and hot dogs are the common street food here and had no problem accepting that lunch would be served in scoops. My choice: strawberry, which had REAL FRUIT embedded in it (not sugary, frozen stuff).
Old Town, located on a small island in the middle of the river, features the Palace, the Nobel Museum, and lots of tourist shops (and tourists themselves). I didn’t spend much time here, merely passing by the Nobel Museum and stopping briefly to watch the changing of the guard at the Palace. I crossed the bridge back to my side of the river and spent the rest of the day wandering by the harbor and then into the northern part of the city (zero tourists but many fantastic parks).
Friday was the big exploration day (and my only full one of the trip). After an early breakfast, I made my way over to Djurgarden, an island that’s essentially a giant park with some museums and houses. The first stop was the Vasa Museum, which features the ship Vasa also known as the worst ship to ever sail. It made it about ¾ of a mile out of port before sinking on its maiden voyage. 300 years after the sinking, they dug it up and put it in a museum (apparently it still floated when the water was drained) and now it sits, 98% preserved. It was cool to see an old sailing ship with your own eyes- and you can imagine what harbors looked like back in the day!
Second (of two) stops was to the Skansen Open Air Museum just across the street. Skansen is unique, as far as I can tell. It’s part zoo, with animals native to Sweden, and part living history, as the museum relocated eight or nine farms dating back hundreds of years into one central place. There was a house from the north, a farm from the south, and others from different parts of the country. Staff members dressed in period costume and taught visitors how to weave clothes, make flatbread, and more. It was a very cool place, and very family-friendly. Some people brought lunch and picnicked in the meadows!
After I was finished, I continued around Djurgarden to see the island’s flowers, trees, farms, and views of the rest of the city. I must have spent about six hours total on that one island- and I cut the visit short intentionally to visit Stockholm’s west end afterwards! It was nice to be back in nature again and away from crowded streets.
I loved the fact that many people chose to bike around the city. It had designated bike lanes everywhere and really cut down on the amount of cars and pollution. I also LOVED the amount of parks and green space (even flower beds in the middle of streets). And of course, I have to mention the wide sidewalks, and cars that let you cross the street no matter where you were without trying to kill you.
Overall, Stockholm was the nicest city I have been to on this trip. It was clean, the weather was good, and it was family friendly (note to self when I want to travel with kids in the future!). It was a great way to end my semester of independent travel (maybe).