Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a perfect Stockholm itinerary. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect during my Stockholm itinerary. Part of me thought Sweden was a place where perfect blond people just lounge around naked all day and have affordable healthcare. The other part of me was hoping to meet Pippi Longstocking.
But while I met neither live nude Swedes nor Pippi, the world’s strongest girl, I did see many other wonders. There’s the Vasa Museum, dedicated to the worst ship that ever sailed.
We have an open-air museum where you can follow an obscure religion. Finally, we will eat a dish so strange and beautiful it will move me to tears. It’s all here for you with a perfect Stockholm Itinerary!
24 Hours: Stockholm Itinerary
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 for your Stockholm itinerary, 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: Stockholm Itinerary
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: Stockholm Itinerary
Morning: Vasa Museum
The Vasa Museum is one of the strangest ideas for a museum I’ve ever heard of. I’ve heard of museums dedicated to art, medical oddities, Mardi Gras costumes, and ladies handbags. But I’ve never heard of a museum dedicated to the world’s least successful ship before.
(In case you’re wondering if there will be enough to do to spend a morning of our Stockholm Itinerary at the Vasa Museum, fear not, Internet Stranger! Both the Vasa Museum and ship are many stories tall.) If you’ve ever been dying to see a gargantuan, incompetently constructed, 17th century Swedish boat, now is definitely your best chance. Allow me to explain with…
three fun facts: vasa museum
1) what is this?
Why, it’s the warship of Gustavus Adolphus! The whole Vasa Museum is built around it. Gustavus Adolphus II became King of Sweden in 1611. I mostly think of Sweden as being a neutral country, especially when it comes to Nazi Germany. But back then, Sweden was simultaneously at war with Russia, Denmark, and Poland. I’d back out of a war with Russia if I were you, 17th century Sweden. That never ends well.
It’s crazy to think of Sweden and Denmark being at war when the Scandinavian countries have been so peaceful and prosperous during my lifetime. But just a mere 400 years ago, they were launching massive warships at each other. Which brings me to my next fun fact…
2) why is it a disaster?
Gustavus Adolphus II was itching to show the three other countries he was at war with who was boss. After all, he was the mighty King of Sweden! His symbol was the lion because he was supposed to be protecting all of Sweden from Catholics. Are Catholics especially scared of lions? I thought they were mostly scared of nuns.
To demonstrate his might, GAII ordered the construction of his massive warship, the Vasa. It would have 64 cannons and 300 men on board. Every Swede who was any Swede came to see the Vasa set sail on August 10, 1628. Tragically, no sooner had the Vasa set sail, it immediately began to sank. That’s right, it didn’t even make it out of the harbor. The ship was too top heavy because of the elaborate pieces on top of the ship.
The Swedish courts went looking for someone to punish, but the master shipbuilder who had designed the Vasa died before they could bring him to trial. So one ended up being punished for creating a ship so incompetent that it makes the Titanic look like a raging success story. And now there’s a Vasa Museum dedicated to this incompetence.
3) who is this guy?
Though there were 300 crew members on the Vasa, only 30 died when the ship sank. That’s either really impressive or really disturbing considering that the ship sank in the harbor. I can’t tell which. Vasa Museum Scientists have studied the bones and artifacts left behind by those on the ship to learn more about 17th century Swedish life.
Apparently 2 of the people on board the ship were women. One of them died when the ship sank. Because they found her bones next to the bones of a sailor, they assume that she was the wife of said sailor who came to see him off.
I bet that wife’s ghost is really angry with that sailor for making her come to wish him a bon voyage. What are the odds that the ship would sink while she was saying goodbye to her hubby? Although I definitely think they should set the next Die Hard on a 17th century Swedish warship and put in a subplot about a sailor’s wife being angry about being stuck on this ship that’s been hijacked by a group of angry Russians, Danes, and Poles.
24 Hour Tip
Guided tours are included with the price of admission at the Vasa Museum. They are an excellent way to learn even more fun Vasa Museum facts during your Stockholm Itinerary. In the summer, English guided tours leave every half hour, so you truly have no excuse for passing up this opportunity. NO EXCUSE!
24 Hour Treasure: Vasa Museum Restaurant
After all that wandering around a multi-story disastrous battleship, you’re going to be getting a little hungry. So we need lunch before continuing our Stockholm Itinerary. And there’s no better way to satisfy your hunger than by drowning in the belly of the Vasa as it sinks into the harbor on its maiden voyage. Can’t be hungry if you’re dead! That’s just science.
But if that method sounds too drastic, try the Swedish meatballs at the Vasa Museum restaurant. The Vasa Museum restaurant is one of the better museum cafes I have visited. They use fresh Swedish ingredients and keep the menu simple. Even on a warm Swedish summer day, nothing is cozier than some meatballs, mashed potatoes, and little cucumber slices. BORK, BORK, BORK!
24 Hours: Stockholm Itinerary
Afternoon: Skansen Open Air Museum
“Urgh,” I can hear some of you saying in my mind’s ear, “Another museum, Stella Jane? We did one of those this morning. Why two museums in one Stockholm Itinerary?” Well, let me remind you that the Vasa Museum this morning was no ordinary museum. It was a museum dedicated to the world’s biggest and dumbest ship. (The Jean Claude van Damme of ships, perhaps.)
And Skansen isn’t your traditional art museum. It’s the world’s oldest open air museum. In one afternoon at Skansen, you can watch traditional glassblowing, eat a pipe, and meet some adorable furry friends. I’ll get you started with…
approximately top 5: skansen
1) Snus and Match Museum
Stockholm is apparently the capital of strange museums. On this Stockholm Itinerary we’ve already been to the one dedicated to The Towering Inferno. Now we have a museum dedicated to snuffboxes and matches. I guess there’s a connection in that both are related to tobaccy. But I certainly wasn’t expecting to find a tobacco paraphernalia museum in Sweden. After all, the Swedes are so healthy.
What I didn’t know was that the Swedes were famous for manufacturing safety matches in the 19th century. Before Swedish safety matches, matches had a funny habit of lighting whenever they felt like it. This is a bad quality for a match to have, especially if you live in a wooden hut. (I presume all 19th century Swedes lived in wooden huts.) So the popularity of the Swedish safety match created many magical jobs for the Swedes.
As for the snuffboxes, they were apparently status symbols. I don’t really understand why having a porcelain snuff boxes shaped like an elf in a top hat makes you cool. But it isn’t any sillier than being cool because you posted a picture of a rainbow-unicorn doughnut on Instagram.
Like any museum nowadays, Skansen has an excellent gift shop. But shoppers don’t need an official gift shop to have a blowout at Skansen. There are tiny period stores all around the open-air museum selling everything from blown glass to ice cream from the 1930s. (The machine is from the 1930s. I hope the ice cream is of a more recent vintage.)
I think the most authentic souvenir is this candy pipe. It’s made with licorice because the Swedes are obsessed with licorice. Also it goes perfectly with the Snuff and Match Museum. I don’t recommend trying to light this licorice pipe, even with a world renowned Sweden safety match.
3) Swedenborg’s Summer Home
For non-philosophy nerds out there, Emanuel Swedenborg was an esteemed Swedish philosopher/wig wearer. He believed that God had given him the power to travel between Earth, Heaven, and Hell. I think even if God gave me the power to travel to Hell, I wouldn’t want to use it. Unless He allowed me to visit my friends and relatives while I was there.
Some people consider Swedenborg a mystic and a prophet. In fact, I did see a man silently praying in the garden of Swedenborg’s summer home. I wanted to ask him if he was a Swedenborgist, but I was worried it might be rude. However, I regret not asking him because it’s probably the only time in my life I’ll be able to ask a stranger if they are a devotee of Swedenborg. (BORG, BORG, BORG!)
4) Sami Camp
Before visiting Sweden, I had thought it was an entirely ethnically homogeneous country. Thank goodness for Skansen! It was here that I learned about the Sami, who are indigenous people of Scandinavia. There are about 40,000 of them in Sweden alone. Sami organizations helped Skansen assemble this replica of a Sami camp, to ensure authenticity.
The Sami were traditionally nomadic, though now many of them live in cities. Sami were nomadic so that they could follow the reindeer. (Kristoff from Frozen is meant to be a Sami, and we all know that he thinks reindeers are better than people.) Please don’t worry that the link here goes to “Let it Go”. I wouldn’t do you like that, Internet Stranger. You’ve heard that song enough.
5) Vala School
This is a traditional Swedish schoolhouse building. As a teacher, I was fascinated to learn that Swedish teachers in the 19th century often were not paid enough for their teaching to earn a living. So many of them needed to supplement their income…with beekeeping. I personally think it would be ideal to combine the two jobs. That way if your students were naughty, you could just yell, “UNLEASH THE BEES!” That would keep the little rascals in line.
6) Seglora Church
This wooden beaut dates back to the 1700s. It was scheduled to be demolished in the early 20th century, but fortunately it was rescued and relocated to Skansen. Who would want to demolish such a gorgeous and historically important treasure? Sometimes I think humans don’t deserve anything nice at all.
Nowadays religious ceremonies are still performed in the church. Apparently weddings are the most popular ceremony, which makes sense given how picturesque the church is. I wonder if Swedenborgian marriages ever take place here. “Darling, I’d say til death to us part, but I know that even after we die, our spirits will be able to travel between Earth, Heaven, and Hell. So this is a forever thing, baby.”
24 Hours: Stockholm Itinerary
Evening: Dinner at Volt
One of my favorite things about traveling in Nordic countries is the prevalence of restaurants that specialize in the New Nordic cuisine. I am but a humble American, so I cannot hope to truly comprehend the complexity that is 21st century Scandinavian cooking. Just remember that New Nordic cooking emphasizes local, seasonal products and traditional, sometimes surprising cooking methods.
For my Stockholm Itinerary I decided to experience New Nordic cuisine in Stockholm at Restaurang Volt. I almost emailed them to tell them they have a typo in their name, but apparently Restaurang is just restaurant in Swedish. Strange because I always thought restaurant in Swedish was BORK, BORK, BORK! But the Muppets have lied to me before…Allow me to immerse you further into the New Nordic cuisine with…
approximately top ten: restaurang volt
1) Amuse Bouche
Like all civilized restaurangs, Volt begins with an amuse bouche. The black currant oil set off the fresh tomatoes to perfection. Nothing is more seasonal in summer than a tomato! Unless it’s baseball, and that’s hard to turn into an amuse bouche.
2) Housemade Bread
All New Nordic restaurants serve their own housemade bread. The one at Volt was special because it came with homemade cream cheese instead of butter. I bet this didn’t come from a tin with PHILADELPHIA on the label. It was the one and only time I’ve had cream cheese on bread, but I believe this is a delicious habit that should become an international trend.
3) Smoked Mackerel
At any New Nordic restaurant, the emphasis is on local ingredients, and what is more local to Sweden than smoked fish? The flavor of the salty smoked mackerel was enhanced by some flowering quince. I had not previously known that there was more than just the regular type of quince. I was beginning to feel like a real quince expert–a quincess if you will.
4) Green Asparagus
This minimalist composition isn’t just any green asparagus. It’s green asparagus served with sour milk and lumpfish roe for saltiness. I mentioned that New Nordic restaurants often use traditional methods of preparation. Fermentation is definitely one of the traditional Swedish methods of preparing food. After all, before refrigerators you needed some way to preserve food through the nine months of Swedish winter.
I loved the sour flavors of this dish, but part of me did think it was funny that I headed to a fancy restaurant on another continent just to eat sour milk. Pretty sure I could prepare that in my kitchen back home!
5) Swedish Beef
This thinly marbled raw beef came from a magical 30-year old mountain cattle. Most cows don’t live past 22, so it’s pretty amazing that this one lived to its 30th decade. I like to imagine it lived a long, full life full of mooing and getting tipped over by young, drunk Swedes.
The beef came draped over an oat cake and sprinkled with sorrel and ramson for a little sweet and bitter contrast to the umami beef. But I’d be lying if I said I was really paying attention to anything but the meat. It was one of the most tender and flavorful pieces of anything that I’ve ever put in my mouth. From now on, I’m only eating geriatric cows!
6) Lettuce Stuffed With Chicken Liver
In a million years, I would never have thought to stuff lettuce with chicken liver and sprinkle it with chicken skin, but that is probably why I am not a Swedish chef. This was my favorite dish on the menu. One bite and I burst into tears. I grew up eating chopped liver, and for some reason having the taste of chicken liver in a glamorous setting like this made me feel completely verklempt. (Talk amongst yourself. I’ll give you a topic. The Swedish Chef is neither Swedish, nor a chef. Discuss.)
7) Pike Perch
I was surprised to have the fish course follow the poultry course, which followed the meat course. Usually in a tasting menu, that order is reversed. But I guess that’s just how they roll in Stockholm. Most of the dishes on the tasting menu featured contrasting flavors. But I found this dish to be quite umami (savory) overall. Largely this was due to the broth made with seaweed and mushrooms. Even though New Nordic cuisine emphasizes local ingredients, you can still see the influence of other cultures, and the Japanese influence was very apparent with this one.
A noticeably Swedish thing about this dish, though, was the pike perch. This fish, aka the Zander, is so popular that you can actually go on pike perch guided fishing tours in Sweden. I think I’m a little too active to want to go on a fishing tour. If I wanted to sit still and stare at the water all day, I’ll just sit in my bubble bath.
8) Goat Cheese
This was the most fun cheese course I have ever had. It was goat cheese served with a piece of raw honeycomb. You ate it by picking up pieces of the honeycomb and rolling it up in the goat cheese. Not only is the mild, salty goat cheese perfect with the fresh honey, but it is so delightful to eat a tasting menu dish with your hands. I felt like a bitty bear cub who had gotten all dressed up to go on the town.
9) Ice Cream
Our dessert course is black currant ice cream served with a hat made of fried parsnip. The dessert course is always the wackiest part of the New Nordic cuisine. Scandinavia isn’t famous for fresh fruit or chocolate, so keeping it local and authentic can be tricky. And you usually find non-dessert ingredients like parsnip in your dish. But the produce is always the star, and the rich black currant flavor came shining through in the ice cream beautifully.
For a petit four, I was served traditional Swedish cookies called krumkake filled with strawberries and cream. I imagine that any Swedish grandmother might tear up when presented with these cookies that are so reminiscent of her childhood, the way I did when I ate my Liver Lettuce.
I need to show you the way they made my coffee at this restaurant. Look at this Rube Goldberg contraption! Why can’t you just do anything normal, Restaurang Volt? (PS, the coffee was amazing. The proof is that I didn’t add milk, sour or otherwise.)
Then the restaurang had the audacity to tell me that I was going to have to eat more food because I had ordered the coffee. They plopped this whole cake down in front of me. I had just eaten ten courses, so I was only able to eat one slice of this cake, which tasted like Santa’s beard in that it was very fluffy and obvious made our of sugar. Also I don’t think I could eat all of Santa’s beard either.
That’s 24 Hours: Stockholm Itinerary
What would you do during your Stockholm itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Stockholm? What’s weirder, a match and snuff museum or a museum dedicated to a terrible ship? BORK, BORK, BORK? 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 a 24 hours in Stockholm itinerary, with or without the Vasa Museum. If you have time for another 24 hours in Stockholm itinerary, try this itinerary.