My first thoughts seeing Stockholm’s boat-filled harbor framed by stunning architecture, was that this is a city I would really like to get to know. Wow! It is spectacular! It comes as no surprise that I recently read Stockholm currently is Europe’s Cultural Capital and first Green Capital since sophistication and style exude from this metropolitan gem. One fifth of Sweden’s population is located here.
For our cruise day in Stockholm, my friend and I chose to do the “Ice Bar and Old Town”, 3-hour excursion with the NCL cruise line, as well as take a taxi to go see the touristy ABBA museum. We left the ship and hailed a cab to the ABBA Museum, located on the island of Djurgarden, commonly referred to as “the animal garden”. It is one of Stockholm’s fourteen islands. Due to the language barrier and dialect, we ended up at the VASA which is the most popular museum in Stockholm, rather than the ABBA museum. We did not know it was the wrong place until a Viking ship was the first exhibit. The staff was kind enough to refund our money and then we set out on foot to the correct museum, a short walking distance away.
The ABBA museum first opened in 2013 and is a savvy fan museum for the over forty crowd. Its displays are fun, informative, and plentiful. Museum admission is 230 SEK. At this interactive museum, feel free to dance and sing in a hologram alongside ABBA, see their Polar Studio where their music was mixed, view funky stage costumes and gold records, plus dance on the flashing floor. We only had about an hour to explore so we quickly breezed through, bought a souvenir, then headed back to the ship. NOTE: Make sure you know the exact location of your cruise ship port because there are two ports. Ours was the Frihamnen port, used for larger ships, and located fifteen minutes or so from downtown.
Our tour brought us by bus to the bustling downtown, Gamla Stan or Old Town, and parked near the Svenska Academy (the Nobel Museum) to start our walking tour. Fashioned after a Mediterranean village, Old Town is etched with winding corridors, arm-width alleys, and cobblestone walks. Jo and I stayed with the group for a short time but were unable to hear due to the size of the group, congestion of people, and the guide’s lack of microphone or other audio equipment. We split off on our own, browsed in some boutiques, and had lunch at the Under-Kastanien restaurant.
Our delicious meal consisted of Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and tart lingonberries. Before leaving Old Town, be sure to drop some coins or candies off at “Iron Boy’, the city’s smallest statue standing 5.9 inches, and rub his head for good luck. The secluded location is hard to find but look for the Finnish Church.
On the hilltop in Old Town, is the Swedish Royal Family’s 18th-century, 600-room palace and private residence. If there at noon, you can see the changing of the guard, sometimes on horseback. If shopping is your desire, numerous interesting shops and boutiques are throughout the streets of Old Town. Vasterlanggatan is the main tourist shopping street, but may not offer the best quality items.
To conclude our tour, we stopped at the Nordic C Hotel, which is home to the first permanent ice structure, IceBay by IceHotel. We were split into groups, fitted with heavy capes and mittens, and brought into the minus five-degree Celsius ice experience. The relatively small bar contained ice sculptures, ice benches & tables for sitting, and we were entertained by the colorful flashing lights to loud techno music. This extremely popular tour included either a free Absolut Vodka drink or a non-alcoholic version, served in an ice glass. The charge was 80 SEK for refills.
Our tour allowed twenty minutes to hang out and take pictures, which was an ample amount of time to do so. At the exit of the Icebar is a small, but pricey souvenir shop. The Nordic C offers free WIFI, just ask one of the front desk workers to log you in. The experience is definitely touristy but I am glad I got to do it once.
Stockholm, founded in 1252, is now a trendy metropolitan city. Stockholm’s busy waterfront, filled with sailboats, yachts, and ships, has the most photogenic architecture, both new and old. Being a “green” city, an Eco-park runs six miles runs along the downtown business district. I found Stortorget Square to be the greatest view for old, beautiful buildings. The Grand Hotel Stockholm is famous for their spa’s Swedish massage, as well as its royal and celebrity guests.
FYI: In 1628, the VASA warship set sail on its maiden voyage and sank in the Stockholm harbor.
FYI: Sweden’s currency is the Swedish krona, SEK. We brought kronas with us and used them to purchase souvenirs and lunch. Some establishments did not take cash or Euros.
TIP: There is free WIFI in the cruise ship terminal and the shopping area right off the boat.
Tip: If going into Old Town, wear appropriate shoes due to the cobblestone streets.