Images and text by Gabrielle.
We packed a ton into our Day Two Stockholm itinerary (see Day One here). And we loved it! There’s just so much to see. We started by meeting a tour guide, found via Visit Stockholm, at the hotel first thing in the morning. Her name is Elisabeth Daude and she’s a total Stockholm expert.
The first stop on our tour was a visit to the lake front to see the old palaces, and the building where the noble families historically met. We had a fun discussion about the roles royalty and nobility play in current Swedish political and social life.
Which reminds me, my favorite thing about tour guides is getting to ask a local all the million questions I have about the country’s culture and customs. With Elisabeth, we discussed two aspects of Swedish culture that I’ve been thinking about like crazy since our conversation — I’ll mention them at the bottom of the post so that I don’t get too distracted before I write up our itinerary.
We used the Stockholm Card to get around on the city buses — it includes access to all public transportation and most museums and attractions. A super good deal for tourists.
Since we had seen some of the town center the day before, Elisabeth took us to the South Island — it’s a residential area that we probably wouldn’t have visited on our own, and it’s super cool! It has that in-the-process-of-being-regenetrified hipster feel, with lots of second hand stores and vintage furniture shops and restaurants that celebrate local producers — old school Swedish food made new and fresh again. It’s called the SOFO neighborhood. Our favorite stops:
Grandpa. A terrific collection of artifacts, vintage goods and new Swedish-made products — old leather chairs, a giant antique Danish flag, a vintage Swedish school map of the North America.
There was a wall of classic canvas backpacks by Sandqvist. They are stunning. Leather details, super sturdy and well made. Plus, they are designed and built in Stockholm! We bought one for a souvenir — and are using it to hold the other souvenirs we pick up. : )
Meatballs for the People. There’s nothing more iconic than meatballs as far as Swedish food goes. They have a cart for deliveries, family style eating in the restaurant, and take home options as well. The meatballs are made simply, using local ingredients, and there’s a map that shows where in Sweden the different meats come from. (And yes, they have veggie meatball options as well!)
Swedish Hasbeens. These gorgeous wooden+leather clogs and sandals have been on my wishlist for ages. But the high quality and high design means they’re quite pricey. So when we happened on a store in SOFO having a 50% off sale, you can imagine I couldn’t resist. I bought a red pair and can’t wait to show you!
Acne Studios. A modern, sometimes experimental/edgy Swedish style brand. This Swedish line has grown and there are now stores across Europe and even two in the U.S.. Definitely peek in if you ever get a chance.
Pärlans Caramels. Handmade the old fashioned way in a little shop using the recipe of the founder’s grandmother. The shop is charming as can be — decorated with furniture and wallpaper inspired by her grandmother’s home. We tried 9 different kinds — peppermint & polka, vanilla & sea salt, and pistachio & sea salt were my favorites.
Of course, for every shop we stopped into, there were another 5 we didn’t have time for. So this is just a tiny sampling of the SOFO area. It’s a place to shop, to walk, to fill your inspiration well, to see what’s new and cool in Swedish wares.
After exploring SOFO, we made a visit to Svenskt Tenn. We met their creative director for lunch (taking tea in the Svenskt Tenn tearoom is high on my recommend list!), and spent a couple of hours learning about this amazing Swedish store/cultural institution.
This was a life changer for me. I can’t stop thinking about the founder and her vision. I’m quite obsessed! And I came away with two books — one about the founder, and one about the lead designer. I’m going to mention our visit here, but not tell you much about it because I have too much to share. But I will definitely be writing up a separate post about this place!
During the afternoon, we made our way to the Vasa Museum. (Our Stockholm Card gave us free entry.) We’ve heard it’s the number one tourist attraction in Sweden. It’s a massive wooden ship with an infamous history. It was commissioned by a Swedish king centuries ago as a way to intimidate on the sea. But against the ship builder’s advice, the king demanded the ship be built higher and higher — 4 stories high. The day it set sail, it sunk almost immediately, never even making it out of the Stockholm harbor. The king was so embarrassed, he wouldn’t let anyone talk about it and tried to erase the incident from history.
But the secret was passed along, and 300 years later, the ship was discovered and brought up from the ocean floor. It was in remarkable condition, and you can see the whole restored ship (98% original!) at the Vasa Museum.
By the way, next door to the Vasa is the Pippi Longstocking museum. If we’d had our kids with us, we would have gone for sure! Which reminds me, I was struck at how family friendly Stockholm is. Lots of parks. Tons of strollers. Babies in restaurants. Every museum has a kid program or kid section. Even the airport has awesome spaces for kids to play.
That evening, we took a boat ride out into the archipelago and ate at Fjäderholmarnas Krog. Truly amazing! It’s just a 25 minute boat ride away from the city. The views were stunning. The meal was excellent — I practically licked my plate clean.
The restaurant is found on a small island that takes maybe 10 or 15 minutes to walk around. So beautiful! After dinner we explored the island a bit and happened upon a small outdoor theater where an Abba singalong happening! And then we watched the sun set while we waited for the boat back to Stockholm.
A magical end to a magical day.
That covers our day two itinerary, but I still want to mention two of the things we discussed with our tour guide. First, Elisabeth mentioned that at some point in the last century — maybe 50 years ago — the country of Sweden decided they would stop using the formal version of their language. Like many world languages, they had a formal and informal mode of speech, and they knew that by getting rid of the formal version, they would be taking a big step forward to equalizing citizens and breaking down class separations.
I thought that was amazing! We’re talking about a major cultural change. Language develops over centuries and affects the way we think and act. To officially ask (require?) citizens to stop using certain words or ways of speaking all of a sudden is a BIG deal. And the idea that the whole country simply accepted it for the sake of the greater good is remarkable to me. Elisabeth said that as a result of the change, she would address any other Swede she met — including the Prime Minister — by first name.
A second topic that came up and that I keep thinking about, is that Elisabeth mentioned having a housekeeper or house cleaner is generally frowned upon, even if you are wealthy enough to hire someone. She said the idea is that Swedes are expected to clean up their own messes. She also mentioned this cultural guideline has become more lax in the last few years. There has been a wave of immigrants who don’t speak the language, but are in need of work, and housekeeping jobs make sense while they integrate into the culture.
So now I’m dying to know: What’s your response to their no-hired housekeeping approach? And what do you think it would be like if your country made significant changes to your language? (I was trying to imagine what it would be like if American kids called all adults by their first names — even their school teachers.) Also, have you ever visited Stockholm? What were your favorite parts? Did you get a chance to have any cultural discussions while you were there? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
P.S. — For a full list of shopping recommendations, I loved this guide — with categories for fashion, design, vintage and food.
35 thoughts on “Visit Sweden: Stockholm, Day Two”
I am leery of any culture where there is 100% conformity. I realize Sweden is fairly homogenous, but to say everyone doesn’t do something or everyone does do something is concerning to me. I am sure that is the rugged individualism ingrained in me as an American citizen speaking!
On the other hand, the language thing is interesting. I too feel that everyone is equal – no one should feel they are in a superior situation to another citizen. I am especially leery of children being required to accord adults respect those adults have not had to earn. I think it makes children vulnerable in the power disparity between adults and children. I am especially thinking of school. Wouldn’t it be nice if in elementary school there was no Mr. or Ms. where teachers were concerned? Just caring adults introducing kids to the joy of learning? In middle school “teams of friends” (students and teachers) learning together? In high school, a feeling of mentorship happening rather than the continuing structure of “us” and “them?”
You packed a lot into your second day! Sweden has just moved even higher on my list of places to visit now :)
I love languages and how wrapped up with culture they are, so the change you mention is really interesting to me. Language influences many more things than most people realize. (Although it sounds like the Swedes do!)
I personally like the respect that comes with referring to someone by their title/last name, so I while I would totally shift my way of speaking if the entire country decided to, I certainly wouldn’t fight for the change!
I’ve never loved the idea of housekeepers myself (granted I’m a 24 year old that lives on my own, so I don’t make a large mess) but the families I nanny for both have housekeepers and I know how much they appreciate it. I think I’m for it as long as the housekeepers are valued, respected employees. As a nanny I am often treated as “the help” and I can imagine this is much worse amongst housekeepers. Especially those who don’t speak the language of their employers!
On the no housekeepers thing: as a two parent two kid family where both parents work full time outside the home, a house cleaner is essential to us in preserving what free time we have to spend as a family.
That said, if the US had the progressive family friendly policies that Sweden has, especially for parental leave and daycare help, I would easily have time to clean our house!
The more I learn about Sweden, the more intrigued I am! The no-outside help concept is interesting. I was a personal chef for a short time and initially I was happy to be helping working families eat better. But after a while, it bothered me that so many of us don’t value the skill of learning to cook for ourselves – and carving out the time to do so on a regular basis.
Just like taking the time to clean up after ourselves (I love the phrasing of ‘cleaning up our own messes’!), making the time to nourish ourselves has real value – and much deeper meaning.
Hopefully we’ll be going to Sweden and Norway in 2 years for a big trip. I wish we could go tomorrow! :) My niece and former brother in law (my sister passed away) moved to Stockholm 18 months ago, and love it. I can’t wait to visit them there.
I forget, does Sweden have a shorter work week? I’d like to think if I only worked 32 hours a week, I could dedicate some of that freed up time on housework…
Stockholm is our family’s special city and we aren’t getting to visit this summer. So nice to see it in your pictures, through your eyes. There are so many lovely places to stroll — Södermalm’s SOFO is the. I do hope your guide takes you to Rosendals Tädgård, which is a very magical green place in the city — a plant nursery with the loveliest café, a very beautiful and classically stockholm place to fika. Also the Modena Museet.
I’m not usually a jealous person but I was dying of envy throughout this entire post :)
I’ve been to Sweden twice, including one weekend in Stockholm and I loved the place. I’m fascinated by the whole Scandinavian thing – their beauty, design skills, mythology and how, in a part of the world that is dark for half the year, they consistently top every chart that ranks nations on good things. They get a LOT right, and I think we can learn a lot from them. And they gave us Abba :)
Have a wonderful time, keep sharing your photos. They’re making me so happy.
I’ll second what Blair said about the house cleaning. I used to feel embarrassed by the very thought about having help with the cleaning until having kids. Now, having two more-than-full-time demanding jobs, three young kids, and two big dogs, our cleaning help every other week saves our sanity. We still pick up after ourselves every day, wipe counters, sweep, etc., but the major tasks (cleaning the stove, mopping all the floors, deep cleaning bathrooms, etc.) are taken care of by our house cleaner, and it takes her almost a full day to do it! I simply don’t have a full day to devote to that stuff (whether in one chunk or broken up in parts), so I am really and truly grateful for the help.
I also love the informal addresses. I went to a middle school where teachers were called by their first names, and it was a wonderful place. The teachers there certainly gave and got more respect than the teachers at the strict Catholic school I had attended previously. I have trouble now calling people by Mr./Ms./Mrs./Dr. Last Name–it feels so stiff, cold, and unfriendly. I also buck at the idea that someone should be accorded more respect (even by children) simply because they are older. If someone insists on being addressed by their last name, I’m inclined not to call them anything at all. I believe everyone should treat each other with great respect, regardless of age!
We enjoyed visiting the Nobel museum in the old town. It’s a beautiful area and if you eat in the Nobel cafe, the chairs are signed by Nobel winners on the bottom. My kids got a kick out of it.
So interesting to get a picture of Sweden from another perspective.
Both phenomena you are mentioning, I think is the result of the desire for equality, which, if you ask me, is a good thing.
One exception though: the royal family is not to be called by first name only. But we might get there soon… ;)
That is so interesting about the no-housecleaner norm. After having 3 kids and a major health scare for me this past winter, we hired a housecleaner for the first time to come every other week for a few hours. It has been a real game-changer for me and significantly dropped my stress levels. I love not having to worry about the deep-cleaning on the weekends and being able to spend that time doing things together as a family or taking care of myself somehow (going to yoga, taking a nap, etc.). We try really hard to pay our house cleaner well and always say thank-you and express our gratitude to her. She’s wonderful and hiring her was the best decision I’ve made in a while. I find it interesting that attitudes are changing in Sweden with the influx of immigrants. I also wonder how the attitude towards housecleaners varies regionally or by city/area in the U.S.
Growing up in Sweden I didn’t even realize one could have help cleaning, but I do know several Swedish families who now have the extra help. And while I now live in the US, I don’t know what I would do without the cleaning help. A big difference, and perhaps a reason why, is all the activities we do outside the home here in the US. We go to sport practices, parks, out to dinner etc. and thus spend a lot less time at home. Less time at home leads to less time to take care of the messes.
If we were lucky enough to win the lottery, I would love to hire a housekeeper but I would never, ever expect him or her to clear up my children’s mess or mine and, as others have mentioned, I would treat them as a valued and respected member of my household – because I would indeed truly and deeply value and respect them for taking that job off my hands! I love my home being clean but with two small boys, jobs for both me and my husband and just general family life, it’s hard for us to keep on top of things and it does really bother me. I have some friends who admit to not caring what state their houses are in, but that’s not me, unfortunately (?).
My brother-in-law is Swedish and when we visit him in Stockholm, he always laughs at us when we say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ so often to the waiters and waitresses and, in general. He says people just aren’t so polite to each other – or use the nicities of language – that we British do. Don’t think it’s a customer / waiter thing, just a general thing between everyone.
Have a good rest of your trip.
My father’s side of the family is also Swedish, in my last trip I asked my Swedish grandmother what the Swedish word for “excuse me” was, she said that there isn’t one!
Of course there is – it is called
Until reading your posts and seeing your pictures, it had never occurred to me to visit Sweden. But now it is on my list of places to visit in my lifetime!
I’m an elementary school teacher and in all of the schools I have worked at, the children called the teachers by their first names.
I love that people are addressed by their first names! Side note: I’ve been taught to use first names often when working with kids with disabilities. I remind myself to do it with my own children as well and think it’s a lovely habit (much like a light touch on the arm is a nice addition to most conversation).
I also love the idea of taking care of oneself (cleaning up, cooking, washing, etc); but of course here in the States I get a babysitter or hire a house cleaner whenever finances allow. I’ve decided I’m a working mom trapped in a SAHM’s life, but I’m not ready to break out and get a job just yet because I love being home!
Wow, Sweden is now on my list of someday-vacations! Beautiful!
I’m intrigued by the idea of no-hired-housework-help… I’m a SAHM and I often tell my husband that if I ever go back to work full-time I’d need to make enough to pay for a house cleaner. I don’t mind doing laundry, but cleaning house is a chore I always put-off as long as I can!
You are living my dream right now! I’m dying to go to Scandinavia! I also just got my first pair of Swedish Hasbeens (on sale) and I can’t wait to see yours :) Have fun!
I am loving these posts! I am headed back to Stockholm next summer and am excited to check out some new places that you mentioned. I also bought some red Swedish Hasbeens last time I was there; good choice! Hope you’re enjoying the rest of your trip – Sweden is such a magical place!
I love the deference and respect our formal addresses connote. To me, it is a way of saying, “I value you and your experience,” and for my children I think it is important for them to understand that adults have wisdom that they don’t, and should be addressed as such.
Of course, they may address and asshole as “sir,” someday, but that is fine with me. Better that than assuming they are on equal footing, at six, as their fifty-something year old teachers.
Yes! Totally agree.
Bring home some fabric so I can make you a quilt!
I have had a housekeepervfor 7 years. My husband works 60 hours a week and wbith 5 kids i could spend all day cleaning. I do some cleaning, but the big stuff like moping, toilets, and changing sheets is done for me every other week. This frees up time for me to be actively engaged with them and i am happier because i avm not as stressed. Our housekeeper is from Chili. We pay her a fair salery. She goes to school at night because she wants to becomen a chef. As for formal languagei think our children generation is less formal than when we are kis though I live in the south and Miss or Mr than first name is epected hen children are greeting adults.
As a Swede I can reply some of the questions in the comments ;)
-We work at least 40 hours per week + 1 hour lunch every day. That makes 9 hour workdays.
-The cleaning help is actually quite common now. If both parents work full time plus travel time, the time with your kids is more valuable than cleaning. Keep in mind that Swedish households needs two incomes… Taxes and the low wages is the reason for that. You can get a tax reduction for this kind of help as well.
-There are actually older people in Sweden that gets angry if you call them by the last name :)
Stockholm is one of my favorite places to visit. I could spend several weeks there and enjoy it as much on the last day as I would on the first day. The Dalarna region is my next favorite places (especially during midsommar).
Did you visit the Royal Palace? If the flag is up, it means the king is in residence at that time. A visit to Uppsala (where my family is from) is only a short distance north (and another great place to visit).
Last time I was in Stockholm the Vasa ship was still being cleaned up and restored. I heard that ABBA: The Museum is definitely worth seeing (if you are an ABBA fan). They say you have to get your tickets in advance and your ticket shows the time you are allowed to be admitted (so there are no lines).
Gamla Stan is great to just take an afternoon and leisurely walk around. There was somewhere that had a huge life-sized chess board (I think it was in Gamla Stan). We love to play chess so playing it that day was certainly an experience.
One time I took a ferry to Helsinki and spent the day there. It was another great day trip.
I’d love to take another trip back!!
My dad is Swedish and he wouldn’t dream of hiring a housekeeper-and now I finally know why! My husband and I have a woman who comes to clean our house twice a month and I love it (but don’t tell my dad)! I’m also loving all of your Sweden posts and instagrams, they’re making me homesick!
The only thing I want to say is that I want to move to Sweden. When I read about their culture, about their family friendly policies and their commitment to plurality and community, I feel ever more strongly that there is something perhaps rotten at the core of American “individualism,” and that we are seeing the rot happen, albeit slowly, even as our own country matures.
Okay, I am totally giddy now! We are heading to Stockholm on Friday with our kids, and I am so excited! Your blog posts are helping me out a ton in our plans and the pictures are making me so excited! As always, thanks for such wonderful posts with such interesting information. Can’t wait to go!
I live in a country where it is very affordable (and normal) to have housekeeper. As an American who grew up without one I am sometimes appalled by my local friends and how spoiled they are and how little they clean up after themselves. But, they are one extreme and it sounds like the Swedes are the other. I appreciate the middle ground so very much. It is such a gift not to have to do all of the cleaning in my house, and also to remove housekeeping friction from my marriage, a friction that inevitably comes with any two people who are busy and also like to keep some semblance of order and tidiness in the house. I will make sure my kids grow up doing chores and helping around the house – taking responsibility for cleaning up after yourself is an essential life skill. But I have no problem outsourcing some of the work to a housekeeper. Furthermore, the economy here is not strong and so many people are uneducated and have no other employment options, so I really do see it as a benefit both for me and for the woman we employ to clean once per week. It took me about a year after moving here from the USA to get used to having someone in my space and adjusting to the dynamics of being an employer of a housekeeper, but once I adjusted I now see it as a great perk of living where I do and I’m grateful for it.
As an American who lived in Sweden for two years, I can tell you unequivocally: the Swedes are a smarter, more intentional, more mature culture and society than we are, and the benefits of that wisdom and intentionality seem to permeate to every level of society. And the “levels” are much harder to discern there than they are here, for that very reason. You have to experience it to be able to comprehend and compare. Americans’ individuality is great and important and revolutionary I guess, but it also helps us rationalize the limitless and ever widening gap between the corporate superwealthy and the hardworking average men and women – and all the resulting inequalities that are more difficult to overcome with each new generation. What would you do differently if you didn’t have college loans? If your job was AUTOMATICALLY protected and you were paid most of your salary for a year if you had a child, if you didn’t have to structure your adult life choices on the availability of safe and affordable daycare? If you had a MINIMUM of 5 weeks vacation every year, and you were not penalized for actually taking it? If you didn’t have to make job and career choices based on whether or not you could get healthcare? What if the taxes you did pay did not go towards “wars” and a military whose veterans get varying quality benefits and care if they manage to return? Your life would be different in ways you can’t imagine.
For two years my husband and I had more free time and more disposable income than we have ever had before or since then. We cannot live here like we did there. Say what you will about the tax rate – Americans pay the same in taxes and costs – it just comes out in different increments, to so many different entities… we think we somehow have more control and more freedom over our choices and our income, but its a complete hoax.
Sweden has its own problems, sure. If I EVER get a chance to move back, I’m taking it in an instant though.
It’s unfair and untrue to make such wild declarations about two completely different cultures and countries. Swedes are not any more or less smarter, they still have student loans because while there isn’t a tuition fee, they don’t have any other expenses paid – housing, food, books, clothing, etc. and do not work so they must take out student loans to live. No grants or scholarships like we have in the US (where a university education truly can be free). If they are smarter, why do we have the top universities in the entire world? Why are we the only superpower? Why do we have so many freedom, less racism and health care that people travel from all over the world to receive? Sweden is a nice country, but it’s not perfect. Sadly, things are changing very quickly there, and not for good :( The social programs, vacations, etc. will be gone when the economy collapses due to high unemployment and high immigration. I miss my beloved Sweden, my home country. But I must speak up when people talk about it like a dream utopia, that’s just not true and that makes change in Sweden more difficult.
Thanks for taking us along on your trips this summer. Sweden looks fascinating! I think it is interesting that there is cultural importance on cleaning up after yourself. I think I would love to have someone clean my house but I would feel weird about it. It is good exercise too.
Oh, it’s too late at night for me to expand on this but yes: no cleaners and no baby sitters. A nanny, can be the exception but is not the norm! She was right and this is changing but, Swedes do things themselves — right down to some serious handwork. Although there are foreigns who have come to both clean and to work as builders…. oh so much more to say and too tired. My mother always says when she visits that you”Sweden is for the strong and robust.” People just do it.