Stockholm is arguably Scandinavia's most regal, cutting-edge and intriguing city. Sitting astride 14 islands on the sparkling waters of Lake Mälaren, the Swedish capital is a cool Nordic beauty with a dramatic backyard. Sailing on a Baltic breeze to one of the archipelago's 24,000 isles, comparing functional design with the Old Town's cobbled heart, and toasting the bleak winters with grog and DJ beats, you'll discover that urban can be natural and historic can be hip.
Things to Do
Amid the woods of Djurgården you'll find the fabled 17th-century Vasa warship at the Vasa Museum and a petting zoo at the open-air Skansen park. On Skeppsholmen island, view works by Picasso and Dalí free of charge at the Museum of Modern Art. Further west, stroll toward the Royal Palace and into the narrow lanes of the medieval Old Town. The seasons rule in Stockholm, with ice-skaters pirouetting on Kungsträdgården in winter and swimming off the Fredhäll cliffs in summer.
Swedish fashion and design remain cutting edge. Artistic glass pieces by Orrefors and Kosta Boda can be found in the Old Town's twisting lanes, and up-and-coming interior design at Designtorget. Seek out one-off fashion and vintage wear in the SoFo district's little boutiques, and Swedish designer brands in the NK department store and luxurious Sturegallerian mall. Gourmets graze traditional food halls like Södermalmshallen and 19th-century Östermalmshallen for delicacies like pickled herrings and plump cloudberries.
Nightlife and Entertainment
In Stockholm you order beer in strengths, from lättöl (light) to starköl (strong). Save some strength to pay the bill -- this is an expensive city. The motherland of Abba does, however, party like a super trooper in Södermalm's trendy cocktail bars and music venues. For design-savvy lounges and celebrity-magnet clubs, head to Stureplan and Norrmalm. DJs spin house and hip-hop in the chandelier-lit opulence of Berns. Skansen hosts sing-along concerts in midsummer -- in Swedish.
Restaurants and Dining
Stockholm is a smorgasbord of fishy delights -- gravlax (dry-cured salmon), herring and trout star on menus in smart restaurants around Stureplan and Kungsträdgården. Or go for traditional meat dishes like meatballs, moose steak and creamy reindeer casserole. Late-night kebab houses and veggie restaurants cluster in upbeat Medborgarplatsen in Södermalm, and intimate tapas bars and trattorie abound on the tranquil island of Kungsholmen. Get more for your krona with fixed-price smorgasbord, or provision your picnic in grand food halls like Östermalmshallen.