Interlocked islands, rambling streets, sloping hills, Vikings history, lapping waves—welcome to Stockholm. This is a city on the water. A city composed of islands. One of Europe’s cleanest, greenest cities. Bright and colourful, upbeat and happy, lively and hard at work, Sweden is a sparsely-populated yet very advanced nation. It has a long history, yet is one of the most modern and progressive country in Europe. Perhaps it’s the cold—it make you work faster?—perhaps it’s the language—structured and to the point—or the just the culture—they are known for their directness—but it is hard to beat the Swedes for a nicer, greener, more progressive or harder-working nation where every piece of information is given so directly and every person has the right to walk anywhere they want (even on private property). Well—except perhaps for Norway. Or Denmark. But don’t tell that to the Swedes! 😉
The setting sun over the Swedish capital shines off the facades of the buildings on this neighboring island in Stockholm’s massive archipelago. As the largest city in Sweden, it is also the most populous city in the Nordic region with nearly 1.5 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area. As Stockholm also happens to be one of the most expensive European cities, the best way to spend a quiet evening is to sit out on the quay with a beer in hand and watch the sun set over the Swedish skyline before ambling back into the center of the old town (Gamla Stan) in search of a cozy cafe. If, like so many others, you’ve been watching the recent outburst of Nordic noir series and films (such as The Bridge, The Killing, Borgen, or any one of the many films), explore the city after dark to get a new perspective on Stockholm. But don’t worry; despite the dark nature of these series and films, Scandinavia is a relatively safe place. Just don’t forget to bring a jacket and scarf; the combination of its northern location as well as its proximity to the water makes for chilly air !
Stockholm, capital of Sweden. What do you really know about Sweden? A place where you find beautiful blonde women and extremely high prices, right? The Swedes are a unique brand of people–resilient, fun, brilliant, hard-working, multilingual, as well as a little bit crazy and even a tad dangerous. Nordic noir films and TV series paint a bleak picture of Sweden while Pippi Longstocking (or Langstrumpf) paints Sweden as an ideal world. And then there are many people who think of Sweden as a frozen tundra, and still others who think it’s more expensive than life itself. But how about visiting this little country to make your assumptions? Stockholm–Sweden’s metropolis–is as cosmopolitan as other ‘major’ European cities–perhaps more so! The Gamla Stan (or old town) on one of the many islands making up the massive archipelago, is populated by a vast array of tourists from every part of the world–starkly contrasted with the countries on the other side of the Baltics. You will hear a dozen languages in a matter of minutes. Restaurants from every country are easy to find–as well as unique raw ingredients often difficult to find in other European cities. Even the shopping feels international! And besides, as Stockholm is made up of many islands, no matter where you go, you will always have a view of the water!
Sweet ride? Europe is sort of big on bikes. The Tour de France is probably the first thing that comes to mind after hearing the words “bike” and “Europe.” Of course, there are plenty of other bike races here, but to most Europeans, the bike is first and foremost a means of transportation. It’s quick (quicker than walking anyway, and sometimes quicker than driving if there’s traffic), it’s cheap, it’s good for the environment and it’s a good way to get in shape. Baskets attached to the front allow the user to carry groceries, purses and other larger items, and seats attached to the back allow the bike to become the family car. “Old fashioned” or “vintage” bikes (as Americans call them) are actually quite common here, and sure make for some stereotypical photos. This bike was in Stockholm, Sweden–an ironic place to find a bike as the city is an archipelago made up of 14 islands (with more than 30,000 in the Stockholm archipelago!). And yet, the bike remains a popular method of transport. Me, I prefer the trams and the buses (dryer and warmer!) but I have to admit, it’s a great way to get around while staying slim enough to merit eating copious amounts of chocolate!