I learned that Stockholm was often described as the ‘Venice of the North’ on my flight over to this beautiful city thanks to the friendly Swedish-American woman seated next to me on the plane. It was a phrase that I heard several times during my very brief stay in the city. I had to travel to Sweden for work and even though I was only there for a one-day meeting, I was able to spend most of Sunday afternoon exploring the city thanks to the inconvenient flight options. Business travel rarely affords this kind of opportunity for sightseeing so I tried to take full advantage of the opportunity despite considerable jet lag.
I stayed at the Sheraton Hotel Stockholm, which is perfectly located for exploring the city. It is a short walk from Stockholm Central train station and Old City is easily reachable on foot by crossing one of the many city bridges. The hotel has a modern Scandinavia feel and seems to attract a mix of business and leisure travelers. My only small complaint is the hotel is somewhat loud during the day because of all of the foot traffic and rolling suitcases on the hardwood floors. The location, friendly staff, and large rooms (by European standards) more than made up for the day-time noise and I would happily stay at the Sheraton Stockholm hotel again on my next visit to the city.
I was in Stockholm in late October so it wasn’t the ideal time of the year to visit, but the weather was still crisp and pleasant – not as cold as the forecast would have led me to believe. More than one Swede said their winters are not nearly as bad as the biting winters of Chicago. I don’t know if that’s true and I won’t be rushing to book a winter time vacation to find out. A visit in July or August would be ideal, but late October turned out to be a decent time to visit as well.
Stockholm is undeniably beautiful and the Old City, also known as Gamla Stan, is completely charming even with all of the touristy kitsch shops. I spent a few hours walking around the Old City, including veering off to some quieter spots and generally getting lost from time to time. The buildings, streets, people, and even the garbage cans are photogenic.
After having lunch at one of the many restaurants in Gamla Stan, I checked out the Royal Palace, which is so massive that it’s difficult to photograph. Here is an aerial image from Wikipedia to give a sense of scale and layout.
It is guarded by soldiers as well as jungle creatures, but is still generally accessible by royal palace standards.
My next stop after Gamla Stan was the island of Djurgården, another one of the 14 islands in central Stockholm. Djurgården is home to many museums and a beautiful footpath along the water that is perfect for walking or running. It is the best place that I found to run during my short visit to the city and you will have plenty of company on the trails, which is always reassuring in a foreign city.
You could stay in Stockholm for two weeks and still not have enough time to visit all of the major museums in this city, many of which are located on Djurgården. Being there on a Sunday was unfortunate since many of the museums were either closed or had shortened hours. I had every intention of visiting the Vasa Museum, but ran out of time and energy before jet lag really kicked in. It will be at the top of my list for my next trip to Sweden, which will hopefully include the entire family. I would also love to take the boys to Junibacken, which is located near the Vasa Museum, to play and learn about Swedish storybook characters like Pippi Longstocking.
I finished my day of sightseeing with dinner at the hotel. I was too tired to venture out again and didn’t feel like bundling up to brave the cold wind. My trip was far too short, but I gained an appreciation of the city and a desire to return again soon.