Travel Mondays: Stylish Sweden

swedenAs difficult as it is to pull myself out  from under the covers on a grey Monday morning, waking up to a fresh start and brand new week is satisfying, especially when I’m finally starting to feel better. Thank you all for your kind words last week regarding my sweet Grandma. I never ever expected to say goodbye to her so soon. In some ways, none of it feels fully set in…this week’s Travel Monday will honor my Grandma and a country she loved very much: Sweden.

Stockholm's Old Town

Stockholm’s Old Town

My Grandma was one hundred percent Swedish and, with her blonde hair and bright blue eyes, more than looked the part. Although she was raised on a small Minnesotan farm, she visited her Great-Grandparent’s home in Sweden, along with Stockholm, on a special trip with my Aunt Susan. I wish I could go back and ask my Grandma dozens of questions about this trip, but I do know it was momentous for her. Even if she did leave six days early because she missed my Grandpa so much. In some ways, being drawn to Sweden runs in both sides of my family. My Aunt Melissa and Uncle Dave moved from the States to Göteborg when their family was very young and were quickly smitten. My cousin, Leah, moved shortly thereafter to help nanny.

I’ve visited Sweden three times now and would jump at the chance to go back. My first visit was to Stockholm and the next two to Sweden’s second-largest city, dreamy Göteborg.

Stockholm's moody and dramatic bluffs along the Baltic Sea.

Stockholm’s moody and dramatic bluffs along the Baltic Sea.

I think Stockholm-and Sweden as a whole-is one of Europe’s most underrated destinations. Unlike Paris and London, it’s not ridiculously overpriced and with easy to navigate public transportation, getting around is easy. What struck me most about Sweden, however, is its class. My first (and thus lasting) impression of Paris is of crowds and the fume of cigarettes and exhaust, and in Stockholm I experienced none of that. In my experience, the Swedes were courteous and quiet and, true to European form, very well-dressed. Stockholm itself  seems to achieve that rare feat of balancing old architecture and traditions seamlessly with the new. And the shopping! Ask me for my idea of a perfect afternoon and it would have to be fika (afternoon coffee and cake) and shopping in Gamla Stan.  Göteborg, with its wind-swept views and sweep of tiny islands, could easily be among Europe’s most romantic cities.

A view of city center in Gothenburg

A view of city center in Gothenburg

Why else visit Sweden? Here’s my reasons:

The café culture. First off, Swedish coffee is rich and strong…what other country could create coffee as delicious as Gevalia’s? Stopping for a coffee and fikabrod (a sweet) is also central to Swedish culture. When visiting, I found this really comforting. Unlike a tiny cup of espresso or diminutive Italian cappuccino, a mug of coffee was substantial. I didn’t feel like I had to leave the cafe in ten minute’s time.

The museums. I didn’t visit Gothenburg’s museums, but visited as many as I could in Stockholm (about six) and the variety kept things interesting and worthwhile. After purchasing the Stockholm Card, I could get in free to over 80 museums and other attractions and in four day’s time I visited the Abba Museum (!!), the Vasa (amazing!), the National Museum,  the Stockholm Museum, the Skansen Museum and Zoo (where a lemur brushed up against my nose) and the Music Museum.  Many of these museums were interactive and very hands-on–I think Stockholm would be a great destination for those traveling with kids.

The design. By now, Swedish design has been lauded the world over, but it still felt special to stroll through boutiques and furniture shops firsthand…including the original Ikea! Anyone with an eye for design will feast here.

Window shopping. Both in Gothenburg and Stockholm, so many of the shops felt really special. Being on a tight budget on every trip, I really appreciated that I never felt pressured to make a purchase. I could just look and feel comfortable.  The birthplace of H&M, fashion boutiques really seemed to cater to what was practical and workable in day to day life. On my next trip, you can bet I’ll be doing some serious shopping (I have three visits to make up for!).

These are just a few reasons to visit this Scandinavian gem, but there are many others. Those looking for outdoor activities will find them in abundance (think dog sledding in Lapland and fishing in Malmö).

Have any of your visited Sweden? What did you enjoy most? Do you think Sweden is underrated?

 

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