48 hours in: Stockholm
With long, bright days and a royal wedding to celebrate, Sweden's water-laced capital is at its finest. Sophie Lam prescribes a perfect trip
Why go now?
Days are long and love is in the air in the self-styled capital of Scandinavia. A fortnight of Love Stockholm celebrations (lovestockholm 2010.se) is underway. Highlights include art tours for two, regal dressing-up for kids at the Skansen museum (1) and royal-themed walking tours. Events build up to today -- the royal marriage of Crown Princess Victoria and fitness trainer, Daniel Westling.
Arlanda Airport is served by SAS (01-844 5440; flysas.com) from Dublin. The fastest route into town is the Arlanda Express (arlanda express.com), which whizzes to Central Station (2) in 20 minutes for Sk460 (€47) return. The Flygbussarna (flygbussarna.se) bus takes 45 minutes to reach the same point for Sk219 (€22) return.
Ryanair (0818 303 030; ryanair.com) flies Dublin to Skavsta (88km south-east of the city). From Skavsta, Flygbussarna takes around 80 minutes to reach Central Station (2); Sk249 (€25) return.
Get your bearings
Composed of a jigsaw of 14 islands where the Baltic Sea meets brackish Lake Mälaren, Stockholm's geographical DNA is beguiling. The harbour city huddles around Gamla Stan, riddled with narrow medieval streets. South is Södermalm, or 'Soder', home to off-beat boutiques, bars and restaurants.
East is the tiny museum island of Skeppsholmen and beyond, leafy Djurgarden, once the royal game park. Further still is the constellation of islands of the Stockholm archipelago. To the west is increasingly hip Kungsholmen, and north on the main island are Norrmalm, Vasastaden and östermalm, the main shopping districts.
The tourist office (3) at 27 Hamngatan (0046 850 828 508; stockholmtown.com) dispenses Stockholm Cards. These give access to the underground, buses and trams, plus admission to 80 museums and attractions (Sk395/€41 for 24 hours, Sk525/€54 for 48 hours and Sk625/€65 for 72 hours).
The best place to be is by the water, and Stockholm's newest hotel offers just such an opportunity. Hotel Skeppsholmen (4), 1 Grona Gangen (0046 8407 2300; hotelskeppsholmen.com), is perched on the edge of leafy Skeppsholmen island. The design-driven rooms are housed in a pair of late 17th-century military buildings and start at Sk1,747 (€182), including breakfast.
Just along -- and on -- the water is the af Chapman (5) (0046 8463 2266; svenskaturistforeningen.se/ afchapman), a ship-turned-youth hostel. Dorm beds Sk280 (€30) per person, double cabins Sk580 (€60).
Across the water is the Lydmar Hotel (6), at 2 Blasieholmshamnen (0046 822 3160; lydmar.com) where stylish doubles start at Sk2,800 (€291), including breakfast.
Take a hike...
... through ancient Stockholm on Gamla Stan. The lofty buildings of the Old Town lean in to each other, creating an atmospheric web of narrow streets. Gamla Stan is the point where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea and is dominated by the Royal Palace (7) (0046 8402 6130; royalcourt.se; open daily 10am-5pm; adults Sk100/€10).
Start at the north face of the palace by Norbro bridge and admire the imposing Roman-baroque façade, then tuck right down pedestrianised Västerlanggatan, the main drag where defensive walls once stood but where 19th-century shop fronts now mostly frame packed-out cafés.
Glance at the tiny cobbled alleys that siphon off either side. Then slip left up Kakbrinken to Stortorget (8), the oldest square in the city, lined with merchants' houses and the former stock exchange. Continue across the square and head down Kopmangatan, the 'merchants' street' that brings you to Kopmantorget (9), a square with a St George and the Dragon statue.
Take either of the cobbled slopes that lead off either side on to österlanggatan then continue left up the quiet street past the shuttered, early 18th-century Den Gyldene Freden restaurant (10) (0046 824 9760; gyldenefreden.se) up to Slottsbacken and the Storkyrkan (11), the newly restored 14th-century brick cathedral that will host the royal wedding.
Cross Skeppsbron bridge to Södermalm. Forgo the branches of H&M and Levi's on Götgatan and dip into Weekday (12) at number 21 (0046 8642 1772; weekday.se), which sells its own line of clothing as well as independent labels.
There's also Design Torget (13) at number 31 (0046 8644 1678; design torget.se), a trove of innovative Scandinavian homeware and gifts. Things get cooler still in SoFo, eastern Södermalm, with Grandpa (14) at 21 Södermannagatan (0046 8643 6080; grandpa.se) for designer and vintage finds, and Coctail + Deluxe (15) at 43 Bondegatan (0046 8642 0741; coctail.nu) for kitsch paraphernalia.
Lunch on the run
There are now four branches of Vurma Café (0046 8669 0960; vurma.se) in Stockholm. Try the Söder outpost (16) at 31 Bergsunds Strand. Sandwiches are the order of the day, served in a vintage setting. Prices from Sk43 (€4) to Sk79 (€8).
Alternatively, check out the delicacies in the mouthwatering food hall at Östermalmshallen.
Travel through Sweden's history at Skansen (1) , an enjoyable open-air museum on Djurgarden laid out like a large village (0046 8442 8000; skansen.se). Repositioned examples of Swedish architecture, from 14th-century farmsteads to 1930s townhouses, are set amid gardens and interspersed with enclosures of Nordic animals.
The park is brought to life by costumed 'residents', who might be baking bread at home or working in the apothecary. Currently open 10am-5pm daily (times vary throughout the year); Sk100 (€10).
Be simultaneously dazzled by the views across the water of the imposing Royal Palace (7) and the chic, white interior of the Verandan Cocktail Bar at the Opera House (17), Karl XII's Torg (0046 8676 5800; eng.operakallaren.se). Cocktails such as apple-cider martinis start at a regal Sk130 (€13).
Dining in style
Skeppsholmen was once a naval base, and while most of its military buildings now house art museums, a former torpedo factory and naval laundry recently emerged as Hjerta Restaurant (18), 28 Slupskjulsvägen (0046 8611 4100; restauranghjerta.se). The bright warehouse interior opens on to a harbour-side terrace in summer.
Food is fresh and rustic. Start with the skipper's bread -- a pizza of sorts topped with cheese, walnuts, reindeer slices, mushrooms, goat's cheese and herbs or cod and chorizo (Sk135/€14). Mains include cod with a scallop and bouillabaisse reduction for Sk275 (€28), or poussin with asparagus and green beans for Sk215 (€22).
go to church
Take your pick. Stockholm is punctuated with spires, the grandest of which is that of Riddarholmskyrkan (19) on a little island annexe of Gamla Stan (0046 8402 6130; royalcourt.se). The burial place of Swedish monarchs is one of the city's oldest buildings, dating back to the 13th century. Services are no longer held here, but step inside and admire the plaques that adorn the walls. Open May 15 to September 15 daily, 10am-4pm (until 5pm June-September); Sk30 (€3).
Take a view...
... from the new SkyView (20), a glass gondola that ascends 130m up the spherical Globe Arena, at 2 Globentorget (globearenas. se). The journey takes around 20 minutes and offers a superior view of the water-laced city. Open 10am-7pm weekdays, until 5pm at weekends (later opening June-August); Sk130 (€13).
Take a ride
Stockholm is easily explored on foot, but with the sun sparkling on the harbour at this time of year, there's even more incentive to get on the water. The archipelago east of the city is some 24,000-islands strong, but boats ply the waters frequently to reach them all.
The most popular stop is Vaxholm, with wooden houses, nautical shops and a 16th-century castle. Boats depart from Strömkajen (21) and take around an hour; check outside the Grand Hotel for time-tables. Sk150 (€15) return.
Out to brunch
Admire the work of Picasso, Matisse, Tinguely and Dali at the Moderna Museet (22) on Skeppsholmen (0046 851 955 200; modernamuseet.se; Sk80/€8), then proceed to the restaurant for brunch with a harbour view. There are two sittings at weekends for a smörgasbord of fresh salads, cheese, breads, eggs, gravlax, herrings, cured meats, sausages, desserts, tea, coffee and juice; Sk265 (€27).
A walk in the park
East of Skansen (1), the museums and attractions on Djurgarden melt away into a section of Ekoparken (23), the world's first self-styled National City Park (ekoparken. com). The site extends well beyond the island, but stick to Djurgarden and you can meander along oak-lined trails past horses, villas and the summer residence of Karl XIV Johan, the 1820s Rosendals Palace (0046 8402 6000; royalcourt.se).
Icing on the cake
The Grand Hotel (21) at 8 Blasieholmshamnen, open since 1874, recently upped its grandeur with the opening of Raison d'Etre's flagship spa (0046 8679 3575; raisondetrespa.se). It features mosaics, saunas with plunge pools, a pool surrounded by fire pits, suites with views of the Royal Palace (7) and a gamut of treatments that start at Sk330 (€34).