Stockholm is laid-back, sexy, impeccably well-dressed and always atmospheric.
Stockholm, Sweden's beautiful pastel-coloured capital, home to two million people and known colloquially as the "Venice of the North", is fast becoming one of the hottest destinations in the world. Tourist numbers are rising faster and faster every year, as this city of 14 islands becomes increasingly established as the Scandinavian Capital of Cool.
While the main tourist draws, such as the Old Town, the Palace and of course the canal tours, are experiences that cannot be missed, experiencing Stockholm as a resident is the real attraction. Stockholm is laid-back, sexy, impeccably well-dressed and always atmospheric. The locals have a penchant for sustainable, locally sourced food, good design and relaxing nights out, and getting into the local way of life will change your perspective. Here are some top tips on doing Stockholm like a true local.
Just because you're trying to avoid the tourist draws doesn't mean you should shy away from a classic Swedish smorgasbord, typically consisting of heaps of herring, salmon, eel and cheeses, as well as some pickled cabbage. While the smorgasbord is most commonly a celebratory buffet that is cooked at home, if you can't get invited to a Swede's birthday party, then there are plenty of options in the city for experiencing the full spectrum of Sweden's greatest culinary hits. The best smorgasbord can be found in the posh hotels, which Swedish families will often patronise for a special occasion or during the holiday season. Book yourself a space for the legendary smorgasbord brunch at the Hotel Rival, just make sure to reserve well in advance.
For something a little more low-key, Swedes value locally-sourced produce and are keener to support small establishments over larger chains. Although a little pricier than average, a casual lunch in the well-heeled district of Ostermalm is not to be missed. Head here to people-watch with prosaic locals lazing in the afternoon sun alongside a berry cider and a bowl of moose meatballs. You're spoilt for choice in this bustling neighbourhood, but some top picks for cafes include Karla, Foam, Tidemans and Speceriet.
Stockholm once had a reputation for being something of a nightlife dead zone, and the locals have long shouldered an unfair reputation as people who are adverse to a good time. This couldn't be further from the truth, as in recent years Stockholm has carefully cultivated a reputation as one of the most lively and edgy party capitals in Europe, complete with the grittiness and all-night culture one would usually just expect to find in Berlin or London. The public transport system recently started running 24 hours a day on weekends, meaning people are much more prone to staying out late, and the bars and clubs have followed suit by extending their opening hours.
Get yourself started with a cocktail in the grungy hipster enclave of Sodermalm, which is just about the only place left in town where you can order a real drink that won't require you to remortgage your house. Pro-tip: locals are just as adverse to the OTT drinks prices as tourists, and are inclined to carry around a reliable hip flask to save those precious Krona. Besides a flask full of Absolut, the other substance that keeps locals moving is Snus, a tobacco product that has to be tasted to be believed. If you're coming from the US, you probably haven't had the real deal, as the quality of American snus does not match the Swedish variant, so stock up while you're in town. Once you've got a good buzz going, head to one of the post-industrial rave warehouses in the Southern edge of the city centre, with the best bets being Side Track, Under Bron and Patricia.
Besides boozing and gorging your way around town, there's plenty of quintessentially Stockholm daytime activities which will give you an authentic feel for the city. If there's one thing local treasure, it's their access to nature. There's no shortage of amazing spots where you can do some wild swimming right in the centre of the city, with the Smedsuddsbadet beach and lake being a prime example of a modern urban oasis. There are also dozens of beautiful parks to while away an afternoon in this famously outdoors city (in the summer at least), as well as dozens of small islands and inlets you can explore via boat.
Stockholmites are also a highly educated bunch, and are just as likely to be exploring the latest exhibitions and gallery openings as the most eager tourist or student. Cop yourself a Stockholm Museum Pass so that you can visit all of them whenever you want, and you'll soon have a thirst for knowledge on par with even the most seasoned local.
If you have any insider tips for those heading to Stockholm, comment below to let them know.