There are many destinations, which are popular among tourists. Whenever you ask for traveling advice regarding Europe, the most likely suggestions will be, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, and London. And while these cities do have their charm, and can be considered “bucket list” destinations, there is a city further up North, which seems like a hidden gem to the public.
My first experience with the diversity of the European capitals, came when I was a pre-teen, and my mother pushed all three of us siblings, into the back of her old Toyota Corolla at the beginning of the 2000s. We often drove South with Italy as our end destination, and with heading a bit off-road from time to time, we were discovering small countryside villages in France, and local mountain communities in Austria and Italy. Even back then, Prague and the Chez Republic had just opened its borders and were at the time considered an “alternative” European city, with quirky streets and offbeat tours.
Never the less, traveling to the neighboring countries, such as Sweden was never something that came up. Our quiet neighbor was a “dull” destination for old people without any imagination or passion for the new and exciting things in life.
After moving to Sweden in 2016 my interest in the country awoke. I had always considered the country to be like my own little Denmark. Yes, it was larger, but all in all, I never thought of it as any different. Scandinavia was “just” Scandinavia – How would Sweden’s Stockholm be much different from my own Capital, Copenhagen?
As I recently discovered, I could not have been more wrong.
For someone who has traveled a lot and visited all major cities in Europe (and a lot in Asia and the Middle East) Stockholm completely took me off guard. Driving from the Southern Parts of Sweden, where we live, all the way up to Stockholm, not only the merging nature, lakes, and waterfalls caught my attention. I can hand on heart, say that Stockholm punched me right in the face, and took a top 3 spot of my all-time favorite cities!
Stockholm is situated on X islands, each with their own signature. The Old Town (Gamal Stad), with its narrow streets, and nearby canals, has a vibe of a fusion of Amsterdam and Venice. The architecture of the city isn’t subtle either. Often, with large marble constructions assembles something from the Roman empire, and the towering churches with spires reaching above the city roof. As the city is determined by canals, you will experience the locals roaming around on the waters, while tourists are enjoying the breeze from the water on the canal tours from island to island.
During the summer month, where the rest of Europe can feel too hot in the cities, the canals seem to cool off the streets, which makes it comfortable to roam around all day. Compared the rest of the Scandinavian capitals, restaurants, and coffee shop is fairer in their pricing in comparison. As someone who is living in Sweden, I can clearly say, that even in the touristic spots, you wouldn’t find the prices different than from the rest of the country.
So why aren’t the Swedes talking more highly about their beautiful capital? I suspect that it is the clientele of tourists they are looking for. As Stockholm is not that easily accessible as many other capitals, it takes some effort to reach. All in all, Sweden has some of the most picturesque destination, most of them involving hiking and offbeat roads. In all honesty, I don’t think they are interested in becoming a tourist attraction, but prefer to keep everything natural, rural and hidden. The tourists you see in Sweden are willing to go the extra mile (literally) to experience and discover the country. It gives you another level of satisfaction, when you reach an oasis, after hiking for an hour. I suspect they feel the same way about their capital. Only those who are really adventurous, will find their way to Stockholm and discover the most underrated capital of Europe