A travel blog for the culturally-curious. Cultural insight, social critiques, and even the occasional travel tip.
To think that I worried my first Stockholm experience would be spoiled by too much hype from my friends.
The quiet Swedish capital exemplifies the notion that great cities are built near the water. Those clever Swedes must have figured that living on a cluster of islands would be good for their ships, but little did they know that their city would become a wonderland of idyllic waterfront properties.
In fact, it seemed I couldn’t make a wrong turn in this town. The medieval island of Gamla Stan (Old Town) felt like a journey back through time, while the high-end apartments on Östermalm impressed me with their Parisian elegance. Later on I explored the lush, forested island of Djurgården, and then headed south to Södermalm, once a slum but now a funky Bohemian neighborhood. Most cities eventually reveal their uglier parts after enough exploring, but Stockholm relentlessly found new ways to impress me around each corner.
Though I was fortunate to be visiting Stockholm during the height of summer, what really makes this city special lies beyond its physical beauty.
For all their thrill and vibrancy, cities also emit the prospect of danger that scares off people seeking a calmer livelihood. Stockholm somehow manages to eliminate this tradeoff by being be a place that is both exhilarating and cozy.
Don’t get me wrong. Stockholm–with its sights, smells, and sounds–is a true city to the senses. But its streets are clean, the crime rate is low, and the city feels blanketed by an aura of calmness that puts any pedestrian at ease. Even with the city instincts I acquired from growing up in San Francisco, not once here did I feel concerned for my safety.
How can it be that this place has all the things we enjoy about cities, without the bad? Swedes are agreeable people, no doubt, but I can’t imagine this micro-society could exist without Sweden’s dedication to keeping its citizens at a decent standard of living. As the world population grows and sends people flocking to cities, I hope our future urban centers emulate Stockholm, a city that seems to have done the impossible by combining exciting opportunities with peaceful living.
It might not host the popular monuments that other capitals boast to attract tourists, but Stockholm–ever modest about its own beauty–is not a city you would be content just taking pictures of and then leaving. It will make you want to stay longer–perhaps much longer–and inspires love-crazed tributes like this.
Ah yes, Stockholm is wonderful. Stockholm is sublime. Is there anything it isn’t? Lagom, perhaps. But hey, no one’s perfect.
Tip of the day: All-you-can-eat buffet at King Tan! Stuff yourself with Asian food, feel full for 24 hours, then eat there again the next day to refuel.
Next up: Budapest