Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in Stockholm! I’ve traveled in over 50 European towns and cities, and I have to say that Stockholm, Sweden was one of the loveliest surprises. Its fourteen islands are perfect for idle strolling. Its rivers are ideal for photographing.
Finally, its beers are ideal for drinking, and its meats are perfect for eating. Spend 24 hours in Stockholm, and you’ll see why Sweden is one of the happiest countries on Earth!
24 Hours in Stockholm
Where to Stay?
Stockholm is a tricky city to visit on a budget. Like its neighbors, Finland and Norway, it is really, really pricey. And I say that as someone from New York City, which is one of the most expensive cities in the world. I didn’t want to blow all my money on a hotel room. I wanted to blow all my money on New Nordic cuisine and the admission to the Vasa Museum.
So if you’re on a budget, but don’t want to share a room with strangers, I suggest the impossible to spell STF af Chapman & Skeppsholmen. There are private rooms, and though I did share a bathroom, the bathrooms were kept very clean and in great condition. Also the location is perhaps for exploring Stockholm’s gorgeous islands and old town. Don’t miss out!
24 Hours in Stockholm
What to Pack?
Sweden can be on the rainy side. So the two most important things you’ll need to bring are an umbrella and some rain boots. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of Sweden.
For rain boots, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out and about without feeling like some gauche American with gross feet.
Finally, if you’re not from Europe, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with either American or British plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
24 Hours in Stockholm
Morning: Nordic Food Walk
Swedish food is so much more than Swedish meatballs from Ikea. And Stockholm is a perfect city to explore on food because of its charming architecture and millions of adorable Swedish boats. So I strongly recommend beginning your 24 hours in Stockholm with a food tour of Sweden’s capital. (I recommend Foodtours.eu, which is a company that specializes in Scandinavian food tours.) You’ll learn what makes the food culture in Stockholm so special. Plus you’ll get at least four desserts! What other food tour can promise as much? Let’s get this party started with…
approximately top 5: stockholm food tour
1) Ostermalms Saluhall
The food tour begins near Ostermalms Saluhall, which is a food hall that dates back to 1888. According to their website, they are the 7th best food hall in the world, which is an oddly specific thing to brag about. The historic food hall has been under renovation since 2016, and it won’t reopen until 2020. But that won’t stop us from chomping all the goods at its temporary location!
We began by sampling different kinds of cheese. The first was a mild breakfast cheese. Our guide (whom I will call Pippi) said that this cheese only comes from the western part of Sweden, just like Champagne can only come from the Champagne region. I personally think people should start pairing Champagne with breakfast cheese because that sounds that an amazing way to start any workday. The next cheese was a spicy one flavored with cumin that tasted a bit like Christmas. Finally, we snacked on grain crackers with tart cloudberry jam. If this is a Swedish breakfast, sign me up!
24 Hour Treat: Breakfast Beer
Pippi said that she wasn’t allowed to serve us a strong beer because it was too early in the morning, so we each got a mug of light Swedish beer. I think Swedish tourism would be even more popular if people knew that you can get beer and cheese for breakfast in Stockholm, no matter how light the beer is.
For us carnivores, there was a giant platter of varied meats. But don’t think that Ostermalms was going to bore us with turkey and ham. We nibbled on cured reindeer meat, cured moose meat, and moose salami. As a Jewish girl from New York City, I tend to think of salami as a classic delicatessen food. But I’m pretty sure that even back in Minsk, my family never used moose meat for their salami. I enjoyed the rich, gamey flavor of these meats. If you’re partial to venison, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the taste of Rudolph and Bullwinkle here.
2) Swedish Meatballs
Of course, you didn’t think we could leave Stockholm without eating Swedish meatballs, did you? That would be a crime against the high laws of the great Swedish empire! But there is a twist because we got our SMs at a place called Ingelsta Kalkon. Pippi told us that this translates to Turkey Heaven. So our Swedish meatballs were made from turkey meat.
The turkey meat was the only nontraditional way about these treats, as they were classically served with gravy, potatoes, and lingonberry jam. Lingonberries are a sweet-tart, red fruit that everyone in Nordic countries is obsessed with. They are kind of like Sweetarts if Sweetarts were a delicious fruit instead of a terrible candy.
3) Swedish Fish
I hope you don’t think that we would spend 24 hours in Stockholm and only visit one food hall! That would be sick and wrong. Our second food hall, The Old Haymarket, had a much more fishy feeling. Pippi presented us with three different fishy snacks: Tomato-Fish soup, bread fried in butter with Baltic shrimp, and fried herring. These are all traditional Swedish dishes. The comforting fish soup dates back to the Middle Ages. (Though I think this version was prepared a bit more recently, as eating five hundred year old fish soup seems like a good way to get fish poisoning.)
I wondered how Swedes were able to eat things like fried bread and fried herring and stay in such good shape. I assume the answer is lots of sex and cycling, though hopefully not at the same time. Pippi also said that many Swedes, including herself, are vegetarian. In fact, her tour company also does a vegetarian food tour to showcase the many vegetarian restaurants in the city.
4) Licorice Chocolate
Now it is time for the first of four desserts! Of course, the first might be the least exciting to non-Swedes because it involves licorice. Licorice is insanely popular in Sweden, but not always so popular with foreigners. Many Swedes even adore something called salted licorice, which tastes vaguely reminiscent of bathtub cleaner. (I personally like it, but I like weird things, and I’d still rather eat regular licorice.)
For the licorice novice, Swedes also like to combine licorice and chocolate, which certainly makes the licorice go down more smoothly. Or for the cowardly lions in the group, you can just go to town on some salted caramel, licorice-free chocolates. No one on this tour is going to make you eat anything you don’t like. But I suggest living a little and giving the salted licorice a try. We’ve already had fried herring, moose salami, and breakfast beer! A little bathtub cleaner won’t kill you.
5) Chocolate Ice Cream
Just in case people weren’t so excited about the salty licorice, we cleansed our palettes with some freshly made chocolate ice cream. Sweden is one of the top ten ice cream eating countries in the world. This surprised me because I thought Sweden was below freezing for ten out of twelve months every year. But perhaps I am just trafficking in stereotypes here. As we found out earlier on the tour, Sweden is one of the happiest countries in the world, and I imagine eating lots of ice cream is part of that.
6) Polkagris Kokeri
Swedes don’t just love their ice cream and fried bread and breakfast beer. They also love their candy. Swedes consume more candy per capita than any other country in the world. HOW DO THEY STAY IN SUCH GOOD SHAPE? Please teach us your ways, Sweden. We sampled some traditional Swedish toffees at Polkagris Kokeri. It was founded by a woman named Amalia Eriksson. Pippi told us that she was the first Swedish female entrepreneur. I’m always excited when I can support women’s rights and eat candy at the same time.
Our final stop was for a fika, which is a Swedish coffee break. Typically during fika, you pair the coffee with a fresh cinnamon bun like the one pictured above. Pippi said that Swedes believe it’s healthy to have two fika a day. Certainly no one would need to twist my arm to get me to eat two of these fluffy beauties on a daily basis. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to write my new Swedish Diet book which explains how you can eat enormous amounts of pastry, candy, and ice cream and still stay impossibly fit and attractive.
24 Hours in Stockholm
Afternoon: Medieval Museum
Now that we’ve become experts on Sweden’s delicious and apparently secretly healthy food culture, it’s time to learn about its past. Our next stop is The Medieval Museum, which will teach us all about the weird and wacky facts about life in Sweden during the Middle Ages. The Museum is centered around the actual medieval wall of Stockholm, which was unearthed fairly recently during a random construction project. The Medieval Museum is a perfect choice after the food tour because the food tour is a little pricey, and the Medieval Museum is completely free. Also free are the following….
three fun facts about medieval stockholm
1) Is God angry with Sweden?
The Parhelion painting dates back to 1535, and it is one of the oldest paintings of Stockholm in existence. (The copy at the Medieval Museum isn’t the original. The original was sadly lost forever in the sands of time. A 400 year old copy of the painting is also in Stockholm, but in the Church of St. Nicholas.) You can see how cute and tiny Stockholm used to be with all of its little houses bunched together. I wonder why medieval Stockholm didn’t have any streets between the houses? But then perhaps this painting wasn’t entirely scientifically accurate.
This painting is also famous because of its depiction of sun dogs. Sun dogs are the bright spots you can see being made by the halos around the sun. Apparently in the 1530s, some people considered the sun dogs a sign that God was angry with Sweden for turning away from Catholicism, so depicting the sun dogs became controversial. I personally think Sun Dogs would be a good title for a buddy comedy about Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman taking a boat trip around the Caribbean together before they die.
2) How do they execute people in Medieval Sweden?
The Medieval Museum contains several replicas of medieval homes, churches, and public squares. But my favorite replica was of the place of execution, Gallows Hill. Apparently theft was considered to be a more serious crime than murder in medieval Stockholm. I guess that’s because so many expensive goods came through the ports in Stockholm because it was a center of the fur trade. Also medieval Stockholm didn’t have a safe prison to keep people, so I suppose the death penalty was the only deterrent. Nowadays Stockholm is a much more welcoming place for criminals. If you’re a foreigner and you commit a crime in Sweden, the standard penalty is that they feed you salted licorice until you cry.
One way in which medieval Stockholm was less strict than modern times is that everyone except for craftspeople and prostitutes were allowed to make their own beer and sell it. That seems very unfair to sex workers, but maybe it’s the only punishment medieval Swedes could think of, since they didn’t have prisons.
3) No seriously, is God angry at Sweden?
Contemporary Sweden is not especially religious. However, it was originally a Catholic country, like most of the countries in Europe. Pilgrims came from all over Europe to visit the Blackfriars’ Monastery in Stockholm. This monastery was the home of an altar picture of the Crucifixion that many people considered to have healing properties. However, in the 1520s, Sweden converted to Lutheranism and the monasteries were abolished. (God may or may not have responded by siccing his sun dogs upon the city. Answering this question is beyond the scope of both the Medieval Museum and this blog.)
24 Hours in Stockholm
Evening: Dinner at The Hairy Pig
After a morning full of candy and ice cream, we’re going to want to walk a bit before ending our 24 hours in Stockholm with dinner. Head to Gamla Stan, which is Stockholm’s Old Town, and take a stroll around its bridges. Stockholm is made of 14 different islands, so you’ll want to see as many as possible before you have to move on.
My two favorite types of restaurant in Scandavia are the high-class New Nordic gastronomic palaces and the down-home comfort-food dispensing nooks. The Hairy Pig definitely falls into the latter category. This restaurant, located right in the pork belly of Gamla Stan, serves rich, home made sausages served on decadent brioche buns. I suggest getting the sausage with a side of one of their tapas, like the house made potato salad with dill, capers, and lemon juice. It’s not a proper Swedish dinner without potatoes!
Also, don’t let the name of the restaurant upset you. I guarantee there won’t be any hair in your sausage. Only ground up pig parts and love.
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Stockholm!
What would you do with 24 hours in Stockholm? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Stockholm? How do the Swedes stay so fit and eat so much candy? And would you rather eat a hairy sausage or salted licorice? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Stockholm, with or without the Vasa Museum. If you have another 24 hours in Stockholm, try this itinerary.