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Stockholm: the city that loves kids

Children love Stockholm because Stockholm loves children. It almost seems that the city had children in mind as it evolved over the centuries. There are parks and play areas among the many green areas; walkways are wide, pedestrian crossings are not only at every corner but wherever people are likely to cross the street. And the city is clean.

Stockholm is kid-friendly any way you slice it. Beyond the long list of destinations geared at stimulating and capturing the imagination of young people, one of the greatest kid-friendly elements is its infrastructure – it’s incredibly easy to get around with children in tow.

There are ramps at nearly every public set of stairs, elevators in all public buildings and public transportation even caters to prams. Kneeling buses are designed to allow pushchairs to be roll on and off and any parent traveling with a child in a baby carriage rides for free. Those same buses have specially reserved areas for strollers. Better still, people almost always respect the rules, making way as you roll aboard. The ride can become part of the adventure (see Ferry and Djurgården tram below).

Slaves to the automobile are well catered for too. There is readily available parking close to nearly all attractions including those in downtown Stockholm, though the parking fees can be steep and you might need to be able to parallel park that Volvo V70. As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for” –in this case a parking spot conveniently located smack dab in the middle of a European capital.

Feeding the critters is also part of the child-friendly package. Nearly all restaurants or cafés offer child menus, high chairs and food/bottle warming options, many which offer self-serve microwaves and nappy changing stations.

The largest and most obvious concentration of places where children scream with glee is on Djurgården where Skansen, Junibacken and Gröna Lund are located. And getting there is part of the fun. If you are coming from the southern side of the city you can take the ferry from the Gamla Stan dock (very close to Slussen.) The 30-day SL transport card is valid, otherwise you have to buy a ticket, but it’s the fastest, most fun way over to the island.

If you’re more central a ride back in time on the Djurgården tram number 7. A veritable rolling museum, it runs most of the year. On weekends, these rail enthusiasts also roll out the Rolling Café. Not a bad choice considering you get a hot drink and cake while enjoying the moving views.

The absolutely top spot for kids is Skansen. Actually more devoted to its open-air museum purpose, it is better known by local parents and children alike as a zoo. At some later date someone can remind them that there is a wealth of history and cultural preservation oozing out of each of the preserved structures and period-clad historians sauntering about.

Beyond the Nordic animal sightings complete with moose, bear, wolves and reindeer among others there is the aquarium with a more exotic offering of creatures, including the chance to enter the lemur cage. (My toddler son successfully scolded one which tried to rummage through my backpack). Also fun for kids at Skansen is a small amusement park with lots of rides suitable for young children.

If amusement parks are the draw for your kiddies, then Gröna Lund is place to be. It’s a bit of a concrete jungle with a water-front setting and is a far cry from Disneyland, but if you’re kids aren’t spoiled by Disney and the like they’ll have a fun day out.

Junibacken is a Pippi Longstocking fan’s dream come true. Kids can play in Pippi’s house or meet a range of other Astrid Lindren characters. There’s a story train ride which is wonderfully done, but be warned that it can be rather frightening for children under 5. There are also regular performances to delight those children who understand Swedish.

For slightly older children, discovering and learning about the world around us, places like the Technical Museum, The Natural History Museum and Tom Tits (Södertälje) are hits. Exhibits explain the wonders of physics, biology and other sciences. There’s a new cinema called Cino4 at the Technical Museum. It’s a touted as multi-sensory experience (their words) where they shake, rattle and roll the audience. Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive – apparently the kids liked it too.

The Natural History Museum sounds like it could be snoozeville among dusty stuffed animals, but many of the exhibits are well designed with children in mind. Speaking of which, kids can even climb up into the brain cavity of a large human head in the human body exhibit or walk with dino bones on the ground floor.

Tom Tits requires effort to get to from Stockholm (it’s located in Södertälje, a suburb about 40 minutes south of Stockholm). Still, the trip is well worth it if you have enquiring youths. Over the years they have continually expanded the vast expanse of their discovery halls with 600 experiments.

Not quite as far out as Tom Tits, The Butterfly House just north of central Stockholm in the Haga Park is also worth the effort to get to. It’s an enormous enclosure that recreates a rainforest environment. As well as the many butterflies fluttering about there are a host of other exotic species. The restaurant/café, with its scrumptious cakes, is a big selling point.

All the spots mentioned so far require an entrance fee, but some of the best things in the child’s life in Stockholm are free.

Room for Child (Rum för Barn) on the fourth floor of the Culture house (Kulturhuset) is a library-like room divided into sections which accommodate children from 0-11 with books, toys and parlor games. In the workshop activity, which costs 20 kronor, children can choose to paint on an easel or try their hand at the activity du jour. There is even a picnic area for snacks or packed lunches.

The place is extremely popular and the lines to get in during peak hours can resemble the queues at a hot night spot. Often the wait is linked to baby buggy parking. So if you have baby wheels and you can lock them on the bottom floor you could swish past the line.

Many of the traditional museums also offer some sort of child-friendly program or specialized area devoted to the young visitor. During school holidays nearly every museum will arrange some special event to attract families. Check directly with the museums for special events.

Stockholm is one of those cities which appeal to the explorer of any age, enough so that it can satisfy the city pulse needs of a sophisticated adult while entertaining and hosting the restless child.

Top destinations

1. Skansen.

2. Junibacken .

3. Gröna Lund.

4. Technical Museum .

5. Tom Tits Experiment.

6. Natural History Museum .

7. The Butterfly House .

8. Kidzone.

9. <a href=" http://www.sparvagssallskapet.se/djurgardslinjen/english.php

“target=”_blank”>Djurgården Line tram including the Rolling Café.

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How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules

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