Hej, y’all! Lily again. This week is the final installment of Swedish Sundays, covering Thursday through Saturday of my family’s visit. We’ll cover a Swedish take on Thanksgiving, a cool little hangout in a subway station, and a piece of nature in the middle of the city. I’ve had so much fun looking back thorugh our pictures and memories from this week, and I hope you’ve enjoyed them as well! – Lily
Thursday, November 28 – Thanksgiving!
Brandon and I went to the Nest for another morning of sauna and swim — did I mention that we really enjoyed this part?
Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Sweden, obviously, so it was business as usual for everyone else. Lily had class for a couple of hours in the morning. At breakfast, we decided that Max and Brandon would go check out Stockholms Spelmuseum, the Museum of Video Games. Lily and I wanted to check out some shops by the hotel and in Gamla Stan, so we planned to meet up in the hotel lobby after her class.
Lily and I walked around Norrmalm before heading to Gamla Stan. As we walked past the parliament buildings, we saw that there was an organized protest in progress — it was very orderly, and there were several police cars lining the streets. Lily pointed out the spot where Greta Thunberg used to sit in protest every Friday.
We stopped for fika at Grillska Huset, a cafe in the center of a beautiful Gamla Stan square. There is an amazing bakery next door where we also picked up some delicious raspberry shortbread thumbprint cookies to go. Both businesses benefit Stockholm’s City Mission, which serves to create a more humane society through various social programs.
We each found a pair of adorable Swedish clogs at Hasbeens Story, and got an amazing deal thanks to their Black Friday sale. Our souvenir shopping was done!
We went back to the hotel and took a nap before Brandon and Max returned.
I did a lot of research several months/weeks ahead of time on things to do/events that would be happening in Stockholm during our visit, while Lily noted many places to keep in mind as she discovered them. I was surprised to find a couple of restaurants that host a traditional-ish Thanksgiving dinner. One of them is the Hard Rock Cafe Stockholm. This event usually sells out, so Lily called a few months ahead to make reservations for us. Side note: every Thanksgiving, Brandon and Max follow the tradition of watching the Lions game at my Aunt and Uncle’s house. Unbeknownst to us, all of the TV screens would be tuned to the Lions v. Bear game — an amazing surprise!
Thanksgiving dinner at the Hard Rock consisted of a buffet with many familiar favorites: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies, cranberry sauce and rolls. The gravy was not a turkey gravy, but tasted like a tomato-based gravy, we think. We never figured it out. Dessert was a red-white-and blue Jell-O parfait and pumpkin pie. The pumpkin pie tasted a little different — we thought maybe the spices might be different. We didn’t figure that out either. We left while the Lions were ahead after the halftime show, but it was really fun to see everyone really get into the game and experience a Thanksgiving meal from a Swedish point of view. The crowd was a mix of expats and Swedish football enthusiasts.
Friday, November 29
While Lily was in class until 1 p.m., the three of us planned to go to Vikingaliv, the Viking Museum. After our dining experience at Aifur, we were ready for more historical context. There were only a handful of people in the museum while we were there, so we got lots of one-on-one attention from the guide, including a duel with Max!
There is a ride in the museum called Ragnfrid’s Saga, which is narrated by a Viking woman named Ragnfrid who talks about her life as you travel from scene to scene. There is also an exhibit about the television series Vikings, featuring the real stories behind the characters on the show. Before leaving to meet Lily, we stopped in Restaurang Glöd, the museum’s cafe, for a quick refreshment. It seemed like a popular place for locals to come for lunch. The view is so pretty, overlooking water and the Vasa museum.
We met up with Lily and she led us to Boulebar, where she had made reservations for their Ooh La La Lunch earlier in the week. There are several Boulebar locations in Sweden. We went to the one located in the Rådhuset metro station in the Kungsholmen section of Stockholm. Ooh La La Lunch included a half hour of boule, a full lunch and bonbons. In the boule room, it really did not feel like we were underground. The cafe was cozy and there were vines and twinkly lights strung above our heads.
One of the events I had read about ahead of time was Pepparkakhus, the Gingerbread House display at the ArkDes museum. Friday was the opening day, and the theme for 2019 was HOT. Everyone in Sweden is invited to submit a gingerbread house and interpret the theme as they wish. We loved walking through the exhibit and looking at all of the creative ideas — we saw a lot of saunas and Greta Thunberg/global warming references. ArkDes is located at the top of a hill on Skeppsholmen island, and by the time we left the museum it was dark. We walked down the hill and back across the bridge to Östermalm and a stroll down Strandvägen along the water’s edge. This was our last night in Stockholm, as we were moving to the airport hotel the following evening, so I soaked up every moment of that chilly, beautiful walk.
Saturday, November 30
After breakfast, we went back to our room to pack up. The hotel has a room where you can leave your luggage and come back to claim it later.
Since we missed getting into Skansen earlier in the week, Lily thought it would be a great idea to return Saturday morning as it was also the first day that their famous Christmas Market would be open. We arrived right around opening time, and it seemed like everyone else in Stockholm had the same idea! It was the busiest place we had been all week. The Swedes appreciate order, so everyone waited their turn to get in. Skansen is a hilly outdoor museum with different sections to explore. We headed up the hill to historical buildings — this reminded us of Greenfield Village back home in Michigan. People were dressed in period costumes and were simulating tasks that people from that era would have done.
Up to this point, we lucked out with fairly mild overcast weather, but this day was sunny and bitterly cold. Even though we bundled up, we were happy to stop indoors to warm up any chance we got. We meandered along the sidewalks until we got to the zoo section where we saw many Nordic animals and attended a reindeer feeding. Just past the animals, we found the Christmas Market and it was packed with food and craft stalls, glogg huts and people! There was a band playing Christmas music in Swedish in the central square. We stood in line for a paper cone full of munkar (little sugar donuts) and kolbullar, a tasty bread fried up in bacon fat over a wood fire and served with lingonberry jam — EVERYONE was waiting in line for this! It was warm and it was delicious.
We waited in line for glögg, too, and it was served in the cutest little red paper cups — this also helped to warm us up (Max got a hot chocolate). We found a booth where they were selling “secret” Christmas presents — basically you pay a flat fee, and then point to one of the wrapped gifts lined up along the back wall, without knowing what’s inside of it. The kids each picked one out to open later. We saw people carrying BAGS of these around — so it must be a popular thing to do. We were mesmerized. And cold. Very cold. After a few hours of milling about and finding more souvenirs, we wandered down the hill to the Skansen Aquarium where we could head inside and warm up for a bit.
One Swedish tradition we looked forward to was lördagsgodis, Saturday candy. Lily wrote a whole blog post about it, which you can read here. Basically, you can pop into any grocery store and find the candy aisle — a wall of bins stuffed with all kinds of sweets. We each picked out some treats to take with us on our return trip the next day.
When we had dinner with Lily’s host family, her host mom recommended a store near our hotel called Svenskt Tenn, a Swedish interior design store that also creates its own textiles and pewter pieces. It is a beautiful store – their textiles are lush and colorful. They use these textiles to make all kinds of things in the store, including fika trays. We picked out a few to bring home. The trays come in all sizes, but my favorite are the large trays that sit on stands to make a table — I am planning to bring an empty suitcase with me if I ever get to visit again just so we can bring one home (plus a few more paper stars!).
For our last meal together, we decided to walk across the city near Lily’s school to a place called KRUBB Burger, where they served, you guessed it, burgers. They were delicious!
We walked back to the hotel to collect our luggage and make our way to the Arlanda Express train stop. Before we left Downtown Camper, we squeezed into the photo booth in the lobby for one last souvenir. Earlier at the aquarium, the kids opened their surprise gifts from the Christmas Market. Lily opened a cute ice cream cone pillow, and Max opened a set of ceramic owls.
We said goodbye to Lily in the street and sadly parted ways so she could head off to the subway back to her host home. The three of us boarded the train and rolled right into the airport hotel for a good night’s sleep before our early wake up call and a long day of traveling back home.
I have been wanting to document our travels ever since we returned home. Even though I was under the weather for most of our trip (and brought it home with me), I am so happy we had the chance to be together and share so many new experiences as a family. It was a great privilege to do so, and I will forever cherish this time. In writing about our trip, I don’t think I could ever adequately describe everything we took in just walking around, much less all of the activities we did and people we met. I sincerely hope that if it is your wish, you will be able to spend some time in this loveliest of capital cities.
A few more thoughts about traveling to Stockholm in winter:
- Yes, the weather is cold, but not unlike anything we experience in the midwestern/northern U.S. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.
- Good, warm walking shoes are a must. The cooler air is invigorating and the holiday-festooned streets are so inviting, you will want to walk everywhere.
- Prices for museums, restaurants, etc. are much more reasonable than what we had expected. We spent less than what we planned to based on our per person/day estimate. A welcome surprise!
- Traveling in the off-season means that some travel expenses will be reduced (eg. hotels), and the city is generally less crowded.
- Learn some Swedish before you go! We were lucky to have Lily with us, and she did most of our ordering, but when we were not with her we found it very helpful to know a few phrases. Most of the signs in the museums have English translations, and some restaurant menus do too, but that was not always the case. Tak!
- Sweden is a pretty much cashless country, so you will want to be sure you have a credit card that works internationally — we had a card with no international fees. You can save your receipts to claim any VAT when you leave.
If you have any questions or want to know more about getting in and around Stockholm, please don’t hesitate to ask Lily – she has lots of great insight 🙂
Stay safe and be well so we can all get back to traveling again soon!