I have been to Stockholm before, many many moons ago. In fact, exactly 19.
I was born in Northern China. When I was little, I had a brief stop in Stockholm while my parents were on their way to the United States. We settled in New York City eventually, but Stockholm left a lasting impression on my younger self and I always felt that I had a little bit of Scandinavian influence in me.
Perhaps it was the minimalist, unobstructed, straightforward outlook from the people I met and the places I visited; or maybe it was the underlying urban design evident throughout the entire city, to which the local people thrived in its various neighbourhoods, I loved everything about it, especially its efficiency. (20 minutes to the airport? Yes please!)
19 years later, I returned with my entire family. Since they were coming for my wedding to Mr. New Yorker (stay tuned for this post coming soon!), my parents decided to add on another city to their itinerary. We were in Stockholm to see the changes for past two decades as well as pay homage to our favourite places.
Life here is slower. Coming from cultures such as the hectic NYC, popular tourist grounds of London, and crowded Beijing, Stockholm is definitely a shock to the system. I welcomed the walking pace on the streets. People here leave work at exactly 4:30pm and work-life balance is actually in practice.
It’s city full of creative and entrepreneurial spirits. Established as a hub of wildly successful startups such as Spotify, Skype and Minecraft (video game), it is often called the Silicon Valley of Scandinavia.
Aside from its panoramic water front view and dashing good looks, Stockholm is also one of the greenest city in the world. Recycling is not just a word here, it’s a religion. Not only taking care of the environment, its people takes care of themselves as well. Runners were seen throughout the city, with the average life expectancy for men estimated at 77 years old and 82 years old for women. I want to know their secret, could it be all that fresh fish in the menu?!
Speaking of food, I couldn’t believe the number of dining choices I had at my finger tips and door step. In central Stockholm, we stayed at a beautifully restored 17th century building, which once upon time was the home of aristocrats in the area, complete with modern appliances and Swedish design concepts. It was a seamless converge of the old and new, working in perfect harmony with each other. The street in front of us were packed with restaurants that weren’t listed in my favourite Lonely Planet guide, but yet each dish was cooked to perfection.
In one of our meals, natural flavours of my cod was lifted with a delicate lemon butter sauce, I couldn’t believe how little condiment the Swedish people use on this island. Drinks were homemade with lingonberries, a tangy yet sweet red nectar, a key part of the Swedish diet. It was a refreshing choice for the sunny September, and can also be made into a natural jams for the winter.
My favourite building was the City Hall, which is also the venue of choice for the Nobel Prize dinner and gala each year. 19 years ago, I sat on this very spot. 19 years later, I was here yet again in nostalgia with my Mum.
If you have time, make sure to take the Stromma boat tour into the Archipelago islands. The tour, lasting 2.5 hours, will help you discover the natural beauty among this group of the second largest archipelago in the Baltic sea. Or if you have more time, the other option would be to do some island hopping as the ferry system can take you across most of the major islands. Get lost on an island and then get back on the ferry to another. Spending at least a day doing this to explore some of secret Stockholm comes highly recommended!