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How to show your parents a good time in Stockholm

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How to show your parents a good time in Stockholm
Impress your parents with your tour guide skills using these detailed itinerary suggestions. Photo: Nora Lorek/TT
17:57 CET+01:00
Showing your parents around your adopted city is exciting, but can also be a stressful experience. Here are The Local's suggestions (for every budget) to help you show them the best the city has to offer.

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Cafes

First thing's first: it's essential to introduce your parents to the Swedish institution of fika. Sister cafes Kaffekoppen and Chokladkoppen are tourist favourites in the very heart of Gamla Stan, which specialize in hot chocolate and enormous cinnamon buns, and on the same island you'll find Under Kastanjen with its wide selection of cakes.

On Kungsgatan in the very centre of the city there's Vetekatten, an elegant cafe with even more elegant cakes and pastries, founded in the 1920s as one of the country's first patisseries run by a woman. The curious name comes from the phrase 'det vete katten'; literally 'the cat knows', used when you're not sure about something. Supposedly, this was the answer that founder Ester Nordhammar gave when asked what she'd call her cafe, and the name stuck. If your parents happen to be in town on a Tuesday, don't miss the Afternoon Tea buffet.

 

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Staff prepare delicious fika in Vetekatten.

Also on a feline theme is cosy Sturekatten, close to the swanky Stureplan district, where much of the furniture comes from the family home of the two sisters who set it up. There's an outdoor serving area in summer, and the cafe recently started serving wine as well as traditional fika so there's something for everyone. Gildas Rum on the Södermalm island is also laid out like a living room, with wine and beer as well as coffee, cakes, and a wide tea selection.

Further out of the centre, there's Winterviken close to Liljeholmen, where you can enjoy fika at the site of the old factory of Nobel from 1891.

READ ALSO: Ten places to get a perfect cup of coffee in Stockholm

Lunch

Two good options for lunch that will please everyone in your party are the Östermalms Saluhall and Teatern, close to the Skanstull metro station in Södermalm. Both offer a wide range of food stalls, from traditional Swedish fare to international cuisine, including dishes cooked up by some of Sweden's top culinary names, which you can eat in a communal dining area.


The Teatern food hall. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

On the leafy Djurgården island, Rosendals Trädgård offers organic soups, salads and sandwiches as well as fika, with many of the ingredients grown in the garden itself.

Dinner

For a traditional Swedish meal of meatballs, fish, or game, there are plenty of options across the city. Some of the best are Pelikan (close to Skanstull) and Kvarnen (close to Medborgarplatsen), two beer hall-style restaurants. The latter celebrates its 110-year anniversary in 2018, and is featured in Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. In the north of the city, try Prinsen (near Östermalmstorg) or Tranan (near Odenplan), which both have a slightly more upmarket feel. All four are institutions in Stockholm, and booking in advance is recommended.

Alternatively, show them a taste of the high life in one of Stockholm's restaurants with a view. Gondolen and Himlen, both located on Södermalm, have great panoramic views of the city.

 

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Drinks with a view at Gondolen.

Looking for something a bit different? Woodstockholm is a cosy Södermalm bistro where the menu regularly changes but always uses high quality and locally-sourced ingredients. You'll often find yourself sharing a communal table, so it's a chance for your parents to meet real Stockholmers! It's one of several Stockholm eateries included in the Michelin Guide: others we recommend include Nook, serving Scandinavian food with an Asian influence, and Operakällaren, which is extremely exclusive with a price tag to match, but also has a Bakfickan (side restaurant) where you can enjoy food from the same kitchen at a fraction of the price.

Drinks

As well as the classic beer halls, such as those mentioned above, Stockholm has plenty of options for catching up over a drink. Some of the best-stocked wine bars include FoliiDryck, and Tyge & Sessil.

If you're looking for beers, try Akkurat, which has a huge selection of beer and whiskeys, sometimes accompanied by live bands (it's a good idea to book beforehand) or Belgobaren near the central train station which, as the name suggests. Pressklubben and Öleriet are two spots tucked away in Vasastan that both offer lots of choice once you find them; or in Södermalm check out the Black & Brown Inn for an authentic Stockholm pub experience near Mariatorget or Katarina Ölkafé in the SoFo district.


The whiskey selection at Akkurat. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Museums

The Moderna Museet on Skeppsholmen is free to visit and has permanent and seasonal collections of modern and contemporary art. An added bonus is the restaurant, which has great views and offers a reasonably-priced brunch. Other recommendations for art fans are Prince Eugen's Waldemarsudde (150 kronor for adults, 130 kronor for seniors) and, a little further out, the Artipelag on the Gustavsberg island, reachable by bus or boat (admission fee varies depending on the current exhibit; typically around 150-175 kronor).

The Vasa Museum, Sweden's most visited in 2017, is a must for any first-time visitor to the city; adult tickets are 130 kronor, but if you're expecting several visitors through the year, you can invest in an annual pass. Silver passes (200 kronor) get you free admission for a year, while gold passes (300 kronor) get free admission, plus reduced admission for a guest, discounts at the restaurant and shop, and the chance in your second year to go on board the boat itself. And the Nordic Museum will tell them everything they need to know about Nordic culture and history – tickets are 120 kronor for adults, but it's free on Tuesday afternoons.


The Vasa warship. Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebanksweden.se

Activities

An easy way to explore Stockholm is on the water, in one of the many boat tours that depart from several points around the city. Two companies that offer these tours are Red Sightseeing, which offers tours in combination with its hop-on hop-off bus route, and Strömma, which runs a wide range of tours so you can pick one to suit your time constraints and budget. Their 'Under the Bridges' tour takes you around all the city's most famous sights.

For a break from the usual tourist trail, you can seek out one of the many free concerts that take place across Stockholm. Try the Royal College of Music, one of Sweden's most prestigious music schools where students often perform to the public (but make sure to book in advance), or one of the churches such as St Eugenia's Church or the German Church. These are a good alternative to the shows at the spectacular but pricey venues such as the Royal Opera House or Concert Hall.


A tourist sightseeing trip by boat. Photo: Leif R Jansson/Scanpix/TT

On sunny days, there are lots of options for a walk around Stockholm, from the Bergius Botanic Garden to the Haga Park just north of the city centre, to the Hellasgården nature reserve in Nacka, which you can get to in 15 minutes by bus from Slussen. All of these are free to visit and have a cafe on site to stop for snacks. In the city itself, two peaceful areas for a stroll are Långholmen island and Norr Mälarstrand on Kungsholmen.

And on clear days, climb (there is an elevator) the TV tower (Kaknästornet) in Djurgården for views over the city; tickets are 75 kronor for adults and 45 for pensioners. Or take the 500-metre walk along Monteliusvägen on the north side of Södermalm where you can take in some of the best views in the city for free.

 

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The view from Monteliusvägen.

Peculiar sights

One of the best parts of being a local in a new city is being able to show off your knowledge about your hometown. Stockholm has a fascinating history, and some of the best stories are tucked away in spots you would otherwise easily miss.

Make sure to point out the genuine runestone in the wall on the corner of Prästgatan and Kåkbrinken in Gamla Stan: this stone is 200 years older than the city of Stockholm itself. Also in Gamla Stan, you can squeeze down Mårten Trotzigs gränd, the narrowest street in the city, just 90 centimetres wide at its skinniest point.

 

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There are plenty of interesting statues dotted around the city, from the tiny litet lejon (little lion) in Kungsholmstorg to plenty of figures from Swedish history. The Rag and Bone statue, of a begging fox near the shopping street Drottninggatan, was erected as a reminder of the most vulnerable in society to those in the wealthy district.

If you're passing by Norrmalmstorg, between Hamngatan and Biblioteksgatan, you can let them know that this is the site where Stockholm Syndrome originated, after the robbery and hostage crisis at a bank which once stood there. It's also the most expensive spot in the Swedish version of Monopoly.

And Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan, was the site of the 1520 Stockholm Bloodbath, which saw around 90 people executed despite a promised amnesty by the Danish King, whose forces were invading Sweden.


Stortorget. Photo: Fredrik Sandbert/Scanpix/TT

Shopping

Don't let your parents leave the Swedish capital without finding a souvenir to take home.

Nordiska Kompaniet (NK) is an iconic department store located next to Kungsträdgården, home to plenty of designer brands, classy cafes and restaurants and, in the winter, some of the best festive decorations in the city.

Rönnells Antikvariat in Östermalm is a must for any second hand book lovers, with a wide selection including international books as well as other unusual finds.

You can also take them on a 'hipster tour' of the trendy SoFo district in the south of Södermalm, making sure to stop off at Konst-ig, the largest independent art bookshop in all of Scandinavia; the all-natural sweet shop Pärlans konfektyr; and the Scandinavian high quality grocery store Cajsa Warg for Swedish treats including lingonberry jam and pastries.

And don't forget to point out some of Sweden's world-famous fashion brands, from Swedish Hasbeens to Acne. "See how many different H&Ms you can hit in the course of an afternoon, starting at Central Station," suggests The Local's Head of Commercial Content, David Landes.

READ ALSO: Six essential shopping spots in Stockholm

On the outskirts

For longer stays or repeat visitors, it's useful to get outside the city centre and explore the outer edges of Stockholm.

Two of Stockholm's Unesco World Heritage sites are reachable in less than half an hour from the city centre. To the northwest is Drottningholm Palace, which you can either get to in a 1.5-hour boat trip from the City Hall (near the central train station), or simply by getting the green line of the tunnelbana to Bromma and a five-minute bus journey. Tickets cost 130 kronor to go inside the palace, but you can wander around its beautiful gardens for free.


Drottningholm Palace. Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebanksweden.se

To the south is Skogskyrkogården, Sweden's Woodland Cemetery, which you'll find by taking the green line to the station of the same name. Taking your parents to visit an enormous graveyard might not sound like an obvious tip, but it's a beautiful and peaceful place, particularly just before sunset, and you can also visit Greta Garbo's grave.

Day trips

If you've got even more time on your hands, you can use at least one day of the visit to show your parents some of the other things Sweden has to offer.

The archipelago is an obvious choice, with boats taking you from the city centre out into the thousands of islands that lie to the east of Stockholm. Less than half an hour from the city (leave from Slussen; return tickets are 150 kronor) are the Fjäderholmarna islands, where you can experience Swedish nature and relax at one of several cafes and restaurants.

 

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Vaxholm

Further afield, some of the best destinations to take visitors are Vaxholm, the classic archipelago town with its own fortress to explore, or Grinda, which has a beach, good walking routes, and an inn (Grinda Wärdshus) where you can eat lunch with a view. Waxholmsbolaget is one of several companies that travel there, and it's the cheapest one, with one-way tickets to Stockholm and Grinda priced at 79 kronor and 59 kronor respectively. Note: you can get back to the city centre from Vaxholm using the public buses, which are covered by the normal SL travel card.

You can also visit Sigtuna, a small town which is the oldest in Sweden, and where you can wander by the water or hunt down the many runestones that are still standing there.

READ ALSO: Nine perfect hiking spots on Stockholm's doorstep

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