With its frosty blue skies, pristine waterways, copper-fired yellow trees and neoclassical spires, Stockholm looks lifted straight from the pages of a fairytale. But the ‘Venice of the North’ is also home to a thoroughly modern milieu: gastronomic hotspots, glossy hotels and, of course, an Abba museum. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!
Villa Dagmar, which once housed a sweet factory and silversmith, is relatively new to Stockholm’s glittering hotel scene, but is already a hotspot at the heart of Östermalm, a centuries-old market neighbourhood. A soaring glass ceiling with lattice metalwork (influenced by the British Museum) arches over an indoor piazza, inspired by a Capri villa. A spa and sauna are reassuringly Swedish (hotelvilladagmar.com; doubles from £197). Meanwhile chefs Daniel Höglander and Niclas Jönsson, whose talents have produced two Michelin stars, run their restaurant, Salon, here from Wednesday to Saturday.
Walk next door into the historic Östermalms Saluhall, one of the city’s oldest food markets, to find a dozen or so fresh fish, meat and sweet stalls, as well as beautifully carved wooden food bars that have been doing business here since 1888. Help yourself to a smorgasbord of oysters and toast skagen (prawns on toast) topped with löjrom (bleak roe) at fish restaurant Lisa Elmqvist (lisaelmqvist.se; about £30pp).
if you’re the kind of person who likes distraction on a journey, the city metro (£8.35 for a 24-hour pass) is one of the most visually arresting in Europe – at stations cave walls hewn from rock are painted with vast murals by the likes of Finnish artist Per Olof Ultvedt. What’s more, the going is so smooth from the airport on the A-train that you hardly feel it (round trip £39.45pp based on two travelling). Arlanda airport to the city centre in 17 minutes beats railway rush hour on Southeastern.
Water, water, everywhere: endless islands where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea. Pick a skerry and hit the ferry: leafy, tranquil Djurgarden island is where you can be a Dancing Queen alongside holographs of Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-frid at Abba The Museum (abbathemuseum.com; from £17.45). The Vasa Museum (vasamuseet.se, from £14.45) houses a 17th-century galleon the size of a jumbo jet. But the real treat is just being out on the water. Lap it up.
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Gamla Stan, the Old Town, is one of the world’s best-preserved medieval city centres. Here the Royal Palace and Stockholm Cathedral are both well worth a peek. Then wet your beak with a hot chocolate at the delightful underground cellar café Kaffekoppen (cafekaffekoppen.se).
Stockholm’s museums are unmatched. Fotografiska, in Södermalm, is a photography lover’s dream (fotografiska.com/ sto; from £13.30, with pre-booking a must). The Nationalmuseum gallery is minutes from Östermalms Saluhall, with masterpieces from the 16th to the early 20th century, including Gainsborough, Rubens and baroque masterpieces (nationalmuseum.se; £12).
British Airways (britishairways.com) operates nonstop flights to Stockholm’s Arlanda airport from London Heathrow. Flying time is around 2hr 30mins, fares from £78.
The rumours are true: Stockholm is nothing if not expensive. Yet bargains do exist. Second-hand shopping in trendy Södermalm’s Sofo (short for ‘south of Folkungagatan’) and hiking up to the nearby viewpoint at Skinnarviksberget to see the city all before you. While in Södermalm, do not miss a quick lunchtime bite at the utterly delightful and reassuringly affordable Meatballs for the People (Nytorgsgatan 30; about £17pp).
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