Few places I’ve visited captivate my emotions as much as Stockholm, Sweden. This was my second visit to the city, a place so heartfelt that it is almost difficult to express in words. The people, the culture, the history and the scenery of Stockholm are truly remarkable and make the city a must-see destination.
We were whisked off to our first adventure, a lovely breakfast at a quaint 19th century apartment owned by the Stockholm City Museum. It was from there, which we began our first sightseeing excursion of the city. Although we were transported by bus, I recommend embarking on a walking tour of Stockholm to better observe the splendor of the city.
One landmark that must not be missed is the Vasa Museum. Its centerpiece is a 69-meter-long warship commissioned by King Gustav II Adolf in 1626. The ship, which measured 52.5 meters in height capsized in Stockholm harbor, just 1300 meters from its dock, during its maiden voyage in 1628.
What visitors to the Vasa discover is a remarkable display of beauty, as almost 95 percent of the ship has been reconstructed using original materials.
Later that evening, our group visited the Fotografiska Museet, which houses one of the most impressive collections of photographic art in Europe. Notable exhibitions include those of Robert Mapplethorpe, August Strindberg and Helena Blomqvist.
After a comfortable night’s sleep at the luxurious five-star Sheraton hotel, our second day began, which turned out to be one of the most magical and memorable days of my journey.
What many people don’t know is that Stockholm is made up of approximately 30,000 islands, some large and many uninhabited. A vast cry from Stockholm city center, one can reach almost any island in the archipelago in about two hour's time via boat.
Our first stop was the island of Sandhamn, a quaint island known in the past for being home to the Royal Swedish Sailing Association. After a brief stroll through the tiny village, we begin our kayaking adventure. Although physically draining, viewing some of the islands by kayak is a sight to be seen.
We then head to the island of Svartso, where we are greeted for dinner at the home of Chef Lena Salomonsson. The experience of dining in a private home in Sweden is one that I will never forget. The warmth and hospitality of Chef Lena made for timeless memories.
One highlight of our third day in Stockholm was our visit to Skansen, where we had the opportunity to partake in the traditional art of glassblowing. It was in the factory, where we also enjoyed a lovely dinner prepared by a renowned Swedish chef. Anders Lindstrom from SAS Airlines also joined us for the occasion.
The old town of Gamla Stan is the ideal spot to people watch or in my case, begin the ABBA walk. This unique experience walks tourists through the city and visits destinations that played a role in ABBA’s illustrious career, but this tour is not for the faint of heart. No, there isn’t an ABBA rollercoaster involved, but people must be prepared to be embarrassed as they walk through narrow cobblestone streets as “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo” blare from our guide’s mobile speaker system.
For history and culture buffs, head to the Royal Palace and Millesgarden, a park that was once home to Carl and Olga Milles. Carl was a renowned sculptor and many of his wondrous works can be seen throughout the venue, which boasts beautifully manicured terraces, lavish fountains and endless waterfront views of Stockholm.
Of course, one cannot visit this magnificent city without taking part in some extracurricular activities at some of Stockholm’s hottest bars and clubs. The city is home to dozens of LGBT establishments, but unfortunately, I only had time to visit three.
Torget is a friendly neighborhood gay bar, which I credit as one of the reasons why I fell in love with Stockholm during my first visit nearly two years ago. It was at Torget where I had the opportunity to interact with the locals and really get a feel for the vibe of the city.
For club goers, venture to Paradise, a large establishment with multiple rooms and DJs, spinning a wide variety of music from contemporary Swedish acts to Madonna. Throw in a remix of some ABBA classics, and Paradise sure knows how to throw a party.
Another interesting venue is Patricia, a ship originally built in the 1930s, which was converted to an entertainment complex and restaurant. Their website claims that musicians including Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Ace of Base have all performed here. On Sunday evenings, it is the hottest place to be in all of Stockholm.
So, as in life, all great things must end. I chose to end this visit to Stockholm in the same manner I ended my last visit, with a late-night stroll through Gamla Stan back to my hotel.
Sweden always finds a place in my heart because of the warmth of its people, the depth of its history and culture and its unparalleled beauty. It may seem like a far journey, but once you arrive, you will feel like you’re home.
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