Archive | November, 2011

72 Hours In Stockholm

19 Nov

As someone’s who’s covered quite a bit of ground traversing a good swath of European terrain, it’s a wonder why up until only recently, I hadn’t veered north on previous jaunts. The reason’s perhaps not entirely shrouded in mystery as I’m certain accounts of how ‘incredibly expensive’ it is (as one observer put it) and/or the images of persistent gray skies that tend to blanket the landscape, was certainly enough of a deterrence for me to have avoided the area for so long (I do rather miserably in suboptimal temps). Well, whatever the reason, that was then and it came to pass a couple months ago that I boarded a plane and headed north.

From the NY area, there are at least a couple direct flights to ARN (Stockholm-Arlanda) airport: SAS out of Newark and Delta’s recently launched service out of JFK. Of course myriad connections are available via most European hubs. Having adopted Kennedy airport as my second home away from home, my choice was Delta–though with much reservation (pardon the pun) as their jet service is on a narrow-body 757-200. It is odd for a roughly 9hr transcontinental flight (albeit with retrofitted engines that can accommodate the extended range for this model aircraft). And indeed it was quite cramped with absolutely no air of glamour whatsoever. On the plus side, however, it was one of the lowest fares around, so I guess a factor that softens the tight fit a little bit.

As previously mentioned, arrival is at Stockholm-Arlanda (ARN) airport which is roughly around 45 mins to 1hr to the city center via taxi and a steep cost at roughly 80 USD (450-500 SEK) or roughly half that amount for train service, on Arlanda Express.

This is a city where the prices soar easily, so budget conscious travelers may have a harder time stretching their dollars as it relates to just about everything. Nevertheless, there are certainly ways to have a pleasant trip without having to empty your savings. And, if you’ve come fully loaded, you wouldn’t have any trouble stimulating the Swedish economy.

Being a major metropolitan area, finding a place to stay should be fairly easy. Indeed there are several options to choose from. Finding one that’s in your price range, however, may be more the challenge. Radisson Blu on the Strand is a decent choice and is centrally located–a short leisurely walk to Gamla stan (old town) and many other sites. Rooms are on the smaller side and perhaps need a bit of updating. For a very good and less pricey alternative, check out Parlan Hotell on Skeppargatan St which is also centrally located, right off the Strand. See my review here: Review: Parlan Hotell Stockholm

There are tons to do and see in Stockholm. I’d advice mapping out your sightseeing itinerary before delving in full force, so as to ensure you don’t miss points of interest along the way. One of the most popular and not to be missed sites in Stockholm is the Vasa Museum, which features a painstakingly reassembled centuries old shipwreck discovered at the bottom of the Baltic Sea only a handful of decades ago. It’s quite a sight to see and one could easily spend hours there navigating the many sections of the museum setup to retell the story. Travel back in time and relive the history of the doomed ship. If you particularly enjoy museums, you’re in for a treat as many others abound. Another one to put on the list is the Fotografiska museum which features contemporary works from artists the world over. And, Skansen, the open-air museum which houses a very impressive zoo where you can see some of the best collections of Nordic wild animals and those local to Scandinavia is certainly worth checking out, too, on a leisure afternoon. Give yourself enough time to cover the expansive grounds; it’s well worth it.

Stockholm comes alive at night. Not that it is in any way sleepy during the day; it just seems to take on an energy that pulsates when the sun goes down. Let’s just say that I was pretty impressed (and I’ve experienced the lot). Start out the evening with scrumptious fare at Restaurateur Mathias Dahlgren’s absolutely delightful Matbaren, nestled inside the Grand Hotel Stockholm. To note, a reservation is necessary, so make sure you try to book ahead. Dubbed the ‘natural cuisine’, Executive Chef Martin Berg whips up cleverly crafted fusion of Scandinavian and pan European specialties with hints of Asian delicacies which are nothing short of mouthwatering. To be sure, it’ll cost you (relatively speaking), so have the AMEX handy. It is however an experience that would be relished for a while to come, so treat yourself. Alternatively, check out Pa & Co on Riddargatan St. where the food is just as tasty in a less formal setting. Move on over to the bar after dinner where Stockholm’s trendy set toss back cocktails and bubbly and cap off the night there. Or, If you’re in the mood for a scene change however, head over to the bar at Lydmar Hotel. The drinks are good, the crowd enthusiastic and the ambiance amiable. The adjoining terrace also offers a great vantage point to people watch. If your appetite’s just getting whet and you’re thirsting for more thump, head on over to nightlife staple, Berns Nightclub. There’s a steep cover (but you’re likely not to care–being on holiday). Make no mistake, this crowd is ready to party and it does get rowdy, so be prepared to join in or go home.

So, the next time you’re pondering a short city break getaway, add Stockholm to the list. You’d be happy you did…

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