Weekend in Stockholm

Get your New Nordic on for some avant-garde bites and cutting-edge sights

Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 01:00

If Stockholm’s residents seem particularly smug these days, it’s for good reason. The Swedish capital has long ranked among the loveliest in Europe, with an inner-city beauty characterised by stately architecture and graceful waterways. But openings in outlying neighbourhoods – galleries in the north, boutiques in the south, a craft brewery in the suburbs, art in the archipelago – are expanding the limits of the city worth exploring. Add to that Stockholm’s exciting restaurant scene, born from the popular New Nordic food movement, and the hometown pride is perfectly understandable.

Sip and shop

Cafes abound in Stockholm, but none are as interesting as Snickarbacken 7. In a former stable down a dead-end lane, the multifaceted cafe features an adjoining concept store and revolving exhibitions from area artists. Sip a fresh-pressed juice – the apple with ginger and mint is spicy yet refreshing – and then browse the spacious shop in the rear, where vintage Balenciaga blazers hang beside Swedish labels like Tuss (soft children’s T-shirts) and Stutterheim (supremely stylish raincoats). Among the ever-changing wares might be cute animal masks, antique Arne Jacobsen chairs or records from the independent Pet Sounds music shop.

Gallery hop

With the sun still high in the sky, spend the afternoon hopping among art galleries northwest of the city centre, an area rarely explored by visitors. Begin around the former industrial complex on Hudiksvallsgatan, where a cluster of cutting-edge galleries has taken root. The contemporary Christian Larsen gallery has recently shown new works from the hometown artist Charlotte Gyllenhammar and the nearby Elastic Gallery has featured a range of emerging artists since opening in February. Then continue south to the new Sven-Harrys Konstmuseum, a five-level structure with a gleaming brass exterior with galleries that host thought-provoking temporary exhibitions, like a recent show of haunting photographs from Astrid Kruse Jensen (admission, 100 Swedish kronor €10.78.

Ego eating

Last year, two of Stockholm’s top chefs, Daniel Rams and Tom Sjostedt, teamed up to open Lilla Ego, a small restaurant serving modern Swedish cuisine in residential Vasastan. The unusual name references a song by the popular Swedish rock band Kent, whose melancholy melodies fill the casual space. Daily specials are scribbled on paper and taped slapdash to the wall, but the artful plates are prepared with care. Recent offerings included fried rooster thigh with kohlrabi (235 kronor/€25.30) and a spectacular reindeer steak with roasted hazelnuts and frozen butter (295 kronor/€31.77).

North to south

Sprinkled with laid-back bars and unpretentious clubs, Sodermalm is the inner-city island with the best night life. Start on the north end of the island at Vanster, a discreet speakeasy beside the restaurant Haktet. The shabby-chic bar serves cocktails like Rocco’s Valentine (bourbon, Campari, honey, lime and rosewater – 138 kronor/€14.86), but only to those who can find their way inside. Hint: look for an unmarked brown door and ring the buzzer; knowing that the bar’s name means “left” also helps. Then continue to Skanstullsbron, the bridge over Sodermalm’s southern tip. At midnight, the party will just be getting underway at Tradgarden, an open-air summertime club under the bridge where you can play ping-pong, sip beers on wooden risers and dance til dawn.

Archipelago art

Most visitors never experience the bountiful nature that surrounds the city. But Artipelag, a new art hall amid 54 acres of fields and forests in the archipelago, is helping change that. Conceived by Bjorn Jakobson, the founder of BabyBjorn, this modern art complex opened in 2012 with genre-busting exhibitions in a gorgeous waterfront location that’s only a 20-minute bus ride from the city centre. One scenic approach to the artworks follows a wooden footpath along the water’s edge, past mallards and moss-covered rocks. Inside the bright galleries, large picture windows frame the treetops outside, creating an apt milieu for the current exhibition, which runs until September 28th, of archipelago-inspired art, from fin-de-siècle paintings by Anders Zorn to contemporary depictions from Marcus Eek.

Fika fun

Most of the restaurants worth eating at aren’t open for lunch on Saturdays. So instead embrace the tradition of fika, a sociable coffee break typically accompanied by something sweet to eat. This pillar of Swedish culture is best experienced at Johan & Nystrom, an eco-minded coffee shop on Sodermalm that has no shortage of nooks in which to enjoy a steaming mug of the daily brew.

The baked goods are as carefully sourced as the fair-trade, single-origin beans and the fresh kardemummabullar (cardamom-flavored buns) are provided by Dessert & Choklad Stockholm, a local bakery that also supplied sweets for last year’s Nobel Prize banquet.

SoFo shopping

Much of central Stockholm looks like a Photoshopped postcard, but the trendy Sodermalm neighbourhood south of Folkungagatan – branded SoFo – is a refreshing exception. Explore the unpolished area via its creative boutiques, tucked among vintage stores and independent cafes. Start at the bookshop Konst-ig, filled with indie magazines and rare design and art tomes. Then head to the year-old boutique Hipp! to shop for colourful jewellery and printed trays designed by its owner, graphic designer Julia Nielsen. Make your final stop Parlans Konfektyr, a candy shop with a jazz-era style as irresistible as the caramels, made in the adjacent kitchen, in flavours like sea salt, cardamom and liquorice.

Gastro chicken

The chefs Jacob Holmstrom and Anton Bjuhr earned their first Michelin star last year for their elegant New Nordic restaurant, Gastrologik. But it’s next door at the casual annex Speceriet where locals regularly queue for a seat at one of three communal tables. The restaurants share a kitchen that embraces a seasonal cooking philosophy and scrupulously sourced local products, but Speceriet’s simpler preparations (and a la carte menus) mean prices are more budget-friendly. One outstanding mainstay is the rotisserie chicken – maybe the most succulent you’ll ever taste – served with a green salad, mayonnaise and lemon (165 kronor/€17.77).

Complex choices

The islet of Gamla Stan is better known for quaint cobblestone streets than quality places to drink and eat. But that began to change last year when the two-Michelin-starred chef Bjorn Frantzén opened an interconnected complex with a decadent gastro pub (called the Flying Elk) and three tipple-specific bars on one block. Start the night at Corner Club, the stylish street-level cocktail bar serving concoctions like the Northern Navy (Swedish Herno gin, lime and grapefruit cordial – 129 kronor/€13.89).

Then sneak downstairs to Alg Hjartat, a semi-secret, underground beer hall serving numerous Scandinavian craft beers and bar snacks such as oozy cheese-stuffed gougères drizzled with honey. End the night at Gaston, an intimate wine bar where the young sommeliers are as friendly as they are knowledgeable about the eclectic daily selections.

Morning market

The formerly rough neighbourhood of Hornstull, on the western edge of Sodermalm, boasts new restaurants and cafes, a sparkling shopping complex and two newly constructed plazas that anchor the revitalised area. The latest draw, which debuted in 2013, is Hornstulls Marknad, a weekly summertime market that stretches along a waterfront promenade.

Stalls sell everything from vintage Acne boots to hand-embroidered tote bags, but don’t leave without also visiting the food vendors for picnic supplies – a fresh loaf of sourdough, tangy Vasterbotten cheese and some Swedish strawberries should do the trick.

Picturesque picnic

The central, two-mile-long island of Djurgarden has vast expanses of forests and verdant meadows where you’re more likely to encounter a grazing bull than a speeding Volvo. To get there quickly, rent a bike from Sjocafeet and ride east along the gravel paths hugging the northern shore. Pedal until you find the perfect patch of grass, then break out the picnic.

Pier to beer

From the Djurgarden pier, hop on the ferry bound for the suburb of Hammarby Sjostad (50 kronor/€5.38). After a 20-minute ride with views of the receding city, alight at Lumabryggan, the dock right outside Nya Carnegiebryggeriet, a new microbrewery in an old factory, born from a partnership between Brooklyn Brewery and Carlsberg. In April, the brewery opened its much-anticipated restaurant and bar there. Find a seat on the sunny waterfront terrace and savour a glass of Lumen in Tenebris, a spicy saison available only at the brewery.

© 2014 The New York Times


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