We said our farewells to Switzerland and headed to our fifth and final destination: Stockholm, Sweden. You may be thinking, wow, that’s a bit out of the way, and yes, it did entail a long day of travel getting there – Spiez to Zurich via train and then Zurich to Stockholm via plane – but oh so worth it.
My aunt let us in on a little secret of just how cheap tickets from Stockholm to California are, so we couldn’t pass up the killer deal via Norwegian Air. We scored $300 tickets for a very comfortable non-stop flight back to the U.S. Regardless of the extra travel required to visit northern Europe, my mom and I were both excited to visit Scandinavia (I have Swedish heritage.).
While two nights (one full day) in the city wasn’t nearly long enough, we got a favorable taste for the Scandinavian gem that is Stockholm.
One of the highlights of our visit was that we had booked a room at af Chapman, “a full-rigged steel ship moored on the western shore of the islet Skeppsholmen in central Stockholm, Sweden, now serving as a youth hostel” (Wikipedia). This was my first time staying in a hostel, nonetheless a floating one! It was a priceless experience. My mom and I shared a room with bunkbeds, a small table and pair of chairs, and a single sink. The communal showers and toilets were down the hall; you picked up clean sheets from the office/host and made your own bed — simple lodging. On land, the main hostel building had additional rooms for guests as well as cooking facilities and a main dining area. You could purchase tickets for the daily hostel breakfast which was the best “
hotel hostel breakfast” I’ve had. Slice and toast your own freshly baked artisan bread, thick, creamy yogurt, muesli, jars of hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds, dried fruit… and cold cuts of meat, cheese and crackers as we had also seen in Switzerland.
Staying aboard af Chapman was the icing on the cake during our brief visit, but we didn’t spend much time on the old ship as we filled our one and only day to it’s fullest capacity sightseeing around the city.
Backing up to the evening of our arrival: after a lengthy day traveling, we were dropped off in the heart of Stockholm, luggage in hand, to crowds of Syrian refuges being corralled by police. It was a bit startling to us tourists at first, but we avoided said scene and hopped onto a city bus to the hostel. Once we had settled into our quaint/claustrophobic room, we asked the kind hostel host for dinner recommendations. It was late, but he gave us a recommendation for a restaurant nearby. Having no sense of direction yet of our new surroundings, we walked under the dark sky, 10 minutes more or less, until we came to this farm-to-table restaurant.
Embarrassingly underdressed and without a reservation, the host agreed to sit us for a short while until they needed our table for a reservation. We agreed and sat down at a table for two in a dimly lit, presumably modern yet classy Scandinavian restaurant. The menu had slim pickings for two pescetarians, but our waiter was accommodating to our preferences. He brought us green salads followed by a shrimp toast that tasted more of mayonnaise than anything else. I could hardly stomach the rich dish, but enjoyed my surroundings. The large round table adjacent to ours sat 6 to 8 young adults, dressed in uniform of some sort. They ate and drank in merriment, and several times throughout our meal, they would sing out in unison — in Swedish of course. We never did figure out who they were, or rather what they were celebrating, but their joy was contagious.
Sooner than later, we were scurried from our table to allow for the previously reserved party. We asked for a box of their homemade cookies to go and ate the half-dozen assortment of miniature cookies on our cool walk back to the ship.
We covered quite a bit of ground the following day, crossing off items on our impromptu Stockholm bucket list, including walking the cobblestone streets of old town (Gamla Stan), touring the impeccable Royal Palace, and witnessing the changing of the guards.
We spent most of the day sauntering through the streets of Gamla Stan, window shopping and eating our way through the day. We took a self-guided tour through The Royal Palace mid-morning, including the underground treasury with historic bedazzled crowns and swords and regal attire.
Not far from the palace, we had the loveliest warm espresso drinks at Chokladkoppen, a cozy café in the heart of Gamla Stan; it was written up somewhere as one of Stockholm’s best coffee shops, and we can see why. Complete with an outdoor patio, furnished with fuzzy blankets, it is an ideal place to curl up with a hot beverage and people watch in the old square on a crisp, fall day.
We didn’t figure out the Swedish currency in 24 hours, so we laughed when we realized I had left our waiter a 50 percent tip — when in Stockholm!
We found lunch at another happening spot across the square from Chokladkoppen: soup, salad, and Swedish treats before (or after, I can’t recall) watching the changing of the guard ceremony around one in the afternoon.
Galma Stan Skyline
The Royal Palace
Mom outside the palace
Inside the palace
Marching band during the changing of the guards ceremony at The Royal Palace
In the evening, after spending most of our day in Gamla Stan, we took a long walk in the opposite direction towards the Nordic Museum; unfortunately, it was just closing for the night so we could only admire the architecture from the outside.
By the time we made it back our hostel, we were pooped. We used one of the kitchen’s inside the hostel to whip up some oatmeal (how’s that for our final dinner in Europe!?). The next morning, we packed our suitcases, took a quick stroll to Chokladkoppen for one more memorable coffee and then made our way to airport.
We left the Scandinavian city with our trip souvenirs (sterling silver rings from Drakenberg Sjölin), camera cards full of memories, and all the gratitude for this time spent traveling together in new, beautiful places. I hold this adventure with my mom near and dear to my heart. Until next time, Europe!
My adorable mama in front of our floating ship hostel, af Chapman
So long, Stockholm!