We’re excited to present a story from the new Fall issue of Sweet Paul! In the story Northern Delights, Will Taylor explores the architecture and design in Stockholm, Sweden. You can read more of the story in Sweet Paul’s Fall issue.
I’d heard the city described as the Venice of the North for many years, yet when I stepped off the Arlanda Express train from the airport, I was still taken aback by its beauty. The cool and crisp air and a light dusting of snow were the only reminders of the chilly season as the sun was shining in a deceptively bright manner across a vivid blue sky.
Stockholm has a distinctly maritime feel thanks to its largely waterside location, which affords the city a laidback, refreshing, and surprisingly calm vibe for such a cosmopolitan destination. Unlike many of its southern European counterparts, Stockholm offered a urban vacation that left me feeling both inspired and relaxed by the end of my trip: there’s a generous offering of museums, galleries, restaurants, bars, and shops to explore yet everything is relatively compact, making it easy to explore on foot. Another benefit? I didn’t have to recreate scenes of elbowing my way through tourists as I’ve done in places like London and Florence; Stockholm is quite the opposite, especially outside of the busier summer season. I was able to leisurely explore the quiet cobbled sidewalks of the Old Town (Gamla Stan) and climb the hills of the Sodermalm in order to take in the stunning views of the Stockholm skyline. And all this in relative peace and quiet.
On my first morning in the city I took a stroll from my hotel, Scandic Grand Central, across the water and into the Old Town. Although I live in Britain where there’s an abundance of history to devour, I was still excited to explore the original part of Stockholm—the part that was founded during the 13th century. As I walked the district’s narrow streets I found it hard not to imagine the footprints left by those who would’ve paced the very same streets in centuries gone by. Nowadays there are around 3,000 people living in the Old Town and most of the buildings date back to the 17th and 18th century—the dominant building is the King’s Castle. It was clear that this area of the city is popular with tourists, as one or two of the main thoroughfares were littered with tacky souvenir shops, but don’t let this deter you from the quaint discoveries that lie a little off the beaten bath.
Almost as if it’s the antithesis to the quiet and quaint moments offered by the Old Town, the Sodermalm district gifted me a trendy, hip, and unique experience. It’s the place to visit for an eclectic mix of unusual, contemporary boutiques for fashion, design, and interior décor. I found that the product assortment (and the clientele!) in the stores on the Sodermalm tended to be trendier, younger, and more bohemian than in the downtown part of the city. It’s well worth setting side a day or two to be able to make the most of the diverse district at leisure. I enjoyed dipping in and out of the small boutiques; both Gotgatan and SoFo—the area south of Folkungagatan—are now a varied scene for daring and unexpected designs, not to mention a strong offering of vintage merchandise. If you enjoy people watching then pull up a chair outside a café and watch the myriad of fashion and design mavens going about their daily business. I wiled away an hour or two doing just this in Café String in SoFo—a charming place that’s decorated with vintage ‘50s and ‘60s designs (all of which are for sale, so you can buy your teacup or chair as a souvenir).
Afterwards, I walked to Hornsgatspuckeln and spent the afternoon exploring the galleries in the area. One of the most noteworthy was The Glassery, which is completely devoted to glass as an art form and shows work by independent glass artists from across the world.
As I walked back to my hotel down the hills of the Sodermalm I basked in view of the sunset. The city had already proved itself to be sophisticated and stylish at every turn. I smiled to myself as I thought how even the Stolkholm sunsets appeared to be designed to aesthetic perfection.
Discover Will’s restaurant and hotel recommendations when you read the rest of the story in Sweet Paul!
Photography by Will Taylor