A weekend in November, I totally recommend that to you. The Christmas feeling is all around, in combination with Black Friday it was a cosy ambiance.
On Thursday morning we arrived, a peaceful day. At the end of November there are few tourists in Stockholm, Sweden, you can really get to know the city and not be in a crowd with other tourists. A waiter in the restaurant confirmed November is not a touristic season, but Christmas and December certainly are again. Around the touristic attractions of course there are other tourists, but not as many as could have been. All in all, I would really recommend November as a perfect time to visit Stockholm.
Thursday afternoon we visited the Nordiska Museet. A museum in which all Swedish holidays are highlighted and explained. Beside the holiday stories there is a lot of attention for design. Many chairs, jewels and pieces of clothing from different eras are exhibited. On the top floor is a special exhibition about the ‘Sami people’, Swedish call them Sápmi.
The Sami are traditionally a nomadic group of people who live in Northern Scandinavia, even in Russia. In the image below, which I have copied the website of the Nordiska museum, you can clearly see the habitat of this indigenous tribe. Often discriminated and not recognized in the countries where they live because of who they are. Very interesting to read more about these indigenous people, especially because in at least The Netherlands there is not much known about any indigenous people living in Northern Europe. (You can read more about the Sami people later on at the part about Skansen.)
Another nice fact that we learnt while touring the museum, is that in Sweden all museums are free for refugees. To learn the culture better, they can get free guided tours in the museums. We saw a large group listening to an audio tour. Proudly they told us about their questionnaire about the museum given to them by their teacher.
On our way to the Vasa Museet we got sidetracked and spontaniously visited the Nordiska museum. After the Nordiska museum we went to the Vasa museum.
In the Vasa museum the ship Vasa is exhibited. In 1961 the ship was salvaged. Quite the interesting story about how it sank, let me tell you the juicy details. In March 1627 the launch of the Vasa took place after a building period under king Gustav II Adolf who kept pushing to finish new ships for the war. What a beauty of a ship, the bow and stern beautifully decorated with craftmanship and painted in bright colours. Little than a year later 10 August 1628 the Vasa went on its maiden voyage. Sadly, two nautical miles (± 1300 meter) from shore it happened. There was a gust of wind only 8 knots (14,8 kilometre/hour) which led to the sinking of the ship, the wind was hard enough to capsize the ship with its high mast. A few people found a seamen’s grave that day, gladly most of the persons on board were able to get to the shore safely. The captain and seaman who made it to shore were made prisoners and charged with sinking the ship. However, after research they were set free; a combination of circumstances turned out to be the reason of the sinking ship. The king put a lot of pressure on the project, the design was not clear in advance and was changed several times there were changes to meet the time limit. The ship was soon forgotten, until the salvage in 1961. – Just a funny note, as my father in law is reading this, he tells me to add what a special year it is, the year he was born – A few years later the Vasa museum was built specially for it. A nice extra on the exhibition is a space dedicated to the women and their role in the building of this ship and the economy in the 17th century.
We liked the public transport in Stockholm, it was on time and the network was quite easy to understand. It did take a moment to get used to the different platforms, sometimes you had to go down, walk all the way across the next platform and then you were able to go down to another platform. It is best to buy a card and be able to travel with public transport freely (like the Oyster card in London), in Sweden the card is called SL-Acces-kort. Next, we bought a 72-hours-ticket, so we could travel freely in Stockholm the whole weekend we were there. It is quite pricy to buy the 72-hours-ticket; however, single tickets were also expensive and this way you will just freely use the public transport and not consider every journey. The beauty about this card is you can take the metro, train, bus or ferry. Lastly, there is no expiration date on the card; so you can just reuse it on any next trip or lend out to your friends.
Friday, we went with the Tunnelbana (metro) and took off at the stop T-Centralen. This is a perfect area for shopping, you could kind of call it centrum. Difficult thing about Stockholm is it doesn’t have just one centre. All the islands make up the centre and they all have a different function. When you exit the T-Centralen metro you almost step into the department store Åhlens. Especially with Christmas on its way and Black Friday going on it is quite crowded. After walking through the Åhlens, which has a bigger design department than most department stores we know, we walked into other shopping streets. It was nice to experience walking from shopping street into another department store and then into another department store. Very nice when it is cold to be able to be inside so much.
14,000 steps further, long live my Fitbit, we were quitedone for the day. We spent the evening nicely in our hotel. We stayed in the Story Hotel near Sandbyberg. The space in the hotel room was small and theshower would wet the whole bathroom. Further the hotel was nice, simple tastybreakfast and a comfortable bed. We were on top of a hamburger place, Swedeslove their hamburgers, you can really buy them everywhere. Phil’s burger wasavailable as room service, however, I didn’t mind going down and save 75 SEK.
Another fun fact about Sweden, is that in supermarkets you can only buy drinks up to 3,5% alcohol otherwise you must go to the Systembolaget to buy alcohol. These shops are exploited by the government. It really looks like a supermarket; you can take a cart and fill it up. Nice detail are the price tags; you can read the country of origin of the drink. The shops are open from Monday until Friday between 10 am and 6 pm; on Saturday the shop opens only from 10 am until 1 pm. We went at 11 am to buy a drink to enjoy later in the hotel room. Alcohol in restaurants is according to our standards quite high. It was quite crowded for such an early time of the day.
For Saturday I had another great idea; online I saw an open-air museum which also has a Christmas market this time of the year – Skansen -. It sounded awesome, love Christmas, love culture. I love everything surrounding Christmas and anything that has to do with learning cultural things.
Due to the Christmas market many people had come to the park, ‘luckily for us’ they came when we were about to leave. We came at 10.30 in the morning; a perfect time and not too crowded. We were done with the park after half a day. However, you could very well spend the whole day there. Nice to know is that, there were more Swedish tourists than foreigners. In this period many houses in the park are ‘inhabited’. One of the houses we visited was a school from 1910. Nice to see old photos and materials used in teaching at the time. Besides that we were able to ask the ‘school teacher’ nice things about that time; the people in the houses were like guides and knew a lot about the history of old Sweden. Did you know for example in Sweden compulsory education has been introduced in 1920. It was compulsory for boys and girls between the age of 7 and 12. Next, we went into a house where they played music. There was a violin-kind-of-instrument, it originated from the 17th century and has been restored to be played again.
A small part of Skansen has been dedicated to the ‘Sami’. In this part different houses from the Sami were recreated and for everyone to see. One of the huts was on ground level, another was placed on posts to keep animals away from the inhabitants. The Sami move around during different seasons with the reindeers in ‘their’ area (the government doesn’t officially recognize their land). The travelling has always been needed to give the reindeers enough food. Every season brings with it other resources.
In the park they also have local animals. Nice to have been to Stockholm and be able to tell everyone you saw reindeers AND moose, while staying only a weekend, something you must have seen when being in Sweden.
A last word about the Christmas market, very touristic prices if you want to buy items. Just the usual in touristic areas, I guess. The market was nice to visit, a lot of local craftmanship and food. For example, you could buy reindeer meat prepared in a variety of ways. See here the menu.
Skansen is very kids-friendly. We saw a children’s farm beside the local larger animals. For Christmas there was a room arranged where Christmas decorations could be made. On the Christmas market; there a live band played, and parents and kids were dancing around a Christmas tree. As a childless couple we did not pay attention to all the details, but these things stood out.
Next to Skansen is the ABBA museum located with a pop café full of live music on the side. The museum looked nice. Unfortunately, due to the waiting line, we decided not to go. There was a shorter line with pre-ordered tickets, – a nice advice when you plan on going there -.
If you walk around building of the ABBA museum you will see a sign for the ferry. With our 72-hours-ticket we were able to cross to the next island freely. Nice detail is that the ferries work almost automatically, the part where the boat must moor, and the walking bridge goes down, are totally automated and saves a lot of time. No need to wait for someone to do it by hand.
Stockholm is one city of many islands. If you want to know the exact amount; Google is your best friend. We went with the ferry to Gamla Stan, however, we left very quickly, a bit too touristic to our taste. If you like these kind of places, you’re in the right place. We just didn’t give it a chance because it was a bit too touristy for our taste. To me it seems like a great idea to return once and visit the great pleasures the archipelago of Stockholm has to offer. You can take a bigger ferry and take off to one of the many islands. My advice would be to really plan such a trip in advance, there is a limited amount of ferries per day.
On Sunday our flight would be late afternoon. On our way to the hotel the first day we saw: Mall of Scandinavia, which sounded quite grand. It seemed a good idea to spend our last few hours in Stockholm there. The shopping mall is close to Solna Station and very easily accessible by public transport. When we arrived at the shopping mall, we experienced the perfect temperature inside. You could freely leave your jackets and luggage at the garderobe. Next, we really enjoyed roaming around the shopping mall. Lovely last hours in this beautiful city, Stockholm.