This summer I travelled to Stockholm alone for the first time. In my first year of university, I set myself a goal to visit one Scandinavian country before I graduated, but due to mental illness and a general lack of confidence, I never made it. I never even got so far as researching it – self-directed travel felt so insurmountable, and so unlike me. This year as I approach my 30th birthday, I decided to complete my original goal, as a gift to my past self, and as a celebration of how far I’ve come in the last 10 years. I had such little faith in myself back then that I never even considered that I could travel pretty much anywhere in Europe in a long weekend, and I could do it alone, if push came to shove. 20 year old me would be so fucking proud!
After checking into the hostel and dropping off my bags, I took a tour of some of the city metro art (first pic is of the central metro station), explored the main area of Norrmalm, took a boat trip along the canal/getty, then visited the theme park Gröna Lund! Gröna Lund was surprisingly good – small but packed with lots of scary rides, definitely in my top 5 list of theme parks visited. Every night over the summer, they host open air concerts in the park; when I was there I saw @missliofficial so that was fun. Also the park was open until 11pm so I got to ride the coasters in the dark. It was a bit weird being in a theme park alone, but I settled into it and tried not to feel too self-conscious.
AM: Abba Museum. This was fun but probably my least favourite activity of the visit (I expected it to be my favourite, and it’s not that I was disappointed, more that other things were surprisingly more fun!). It reminded me a lot of the London Design Museum in a way – very focused on design and aesthetic rather than albums and the stories behind the songs.
PM: Vasa Museum and surrounding area. I had authentic Swedish meatballs for lunch (I wasn’t super fussed but I’m glad I tried them), then spent the afternoon at the impressive Vasa Museum, which showcases an intact shipwreck from the 17th century, and has displays and exhibitions on Nordic maritime history.
I spent the evening in the Gamla Stan (old town area), where I stumbled into the Swedish Cultural Festival, had some street food and wine, and spent some time in a feminist karaoke protest pop-up event! So cool.
I spent the morning at the Skansen open air museum, which turned out to be an unexpected highlight of the trip. Most places online recommended Skansen as a must-see, so I decided to dedicate a few hours to it mainly for the cultural historical value of it, but honestly I wasn’t expecting much. As it turns out, it’s enormous, packed with historical displays, but also an aquarium, a sealife centre, a zoo (!), shops, cafes, parks, and views overlooking the city. The highlight for me was the zoo, where I saw bears, reindeer, bison, and lynx, among other things. It was brilliant – I highly recommend checking this out if you ever visit Stockholm.
PM: Cycling around the city centre, including visiting the site of Stockholm Syndrome. This was slightly scary because the city’s cycle paths are on the roads, and cyclists have to observe the rules of the road just as drivers do – this involved cycling alongside cars (always an “eek” moment for me), and on the other side of the road to what I’m used to, as well as trying to navigate without knowing where I was going. It was scary but I’m soooo glad I did it – I felt super proud of myself afterwards.
Things I missed this time round that I definitely want to visit next time:
- The Devil’s Bible in the National Library of Sweden
- Stockholm Public Library
- City Hall and the surrounding city views
- Spirits Museum