STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- As a regular traveler across Europe, I make a
habit of jotting down observations and impressions in a personal
One of the latest entries in my newest scrapbook of experiences
was recorded here. For a change of pace, I've decided to share one
day of that stay in diary format:
Sunday, June 8, 7 a.m.: Arriving at Arlanda
Airport, I gather my bags and cab it to the Clarion Hotel Stockholm
on Sodermalm, one of the largest islands in this urban
Once a working-class district, Sodermalm is now a trendy
neighborhood, home to art studios and galleries, up-to-the-minute
shops and nightclubs.
One of the newest hip additions to the Sodermalm scene, it turns
out, is the Clarion, which opened May 27 on the island's southern
edge, next to the Eriksdalbadet public pool.
The hotel (see Room Key, below) sports a stark, hypermodern
design aesthetic that I assume would appeal most to business
travelers working in fashion or music.
However, several large tour groups, as well as a handful of
families, are checking in ahead of me.
9:30 a.m.: Unpacked, showered and with
guidebook in hand, I stroll two blocks, in 75-degree sunshine, to
the Skanstull subway station.
I'm in a bit of a hurry, as hotel staff informed me that today
is the second day of Pingst, or Pentecost, a three-day holiday in
Sweden; many museums and businesses will shorten their hours or
shut their doors both today and tomorrow.
(It always seems to be a holiday when I'm in Europe; agents
would do well to scope out the events calendar in advance for
Stockholm boasts over 100 museums, and I have a few must-sees on my
After a two-stop metro ride, I disembark amid growing weekend
crowds just across the Slussen lock from the medieval Gamla Stan,
or Old Town.
There, I use my discount Stockholm Card visitor's pass to board
a standing-room-only ferry to Djurgarden, a wooded island that's
home to several top draws, including the Grona Lunds Tivoli
amusement park; an aquarium; and Skansen, the city's famed
The Stockholm Card, valid for 24 hours (about $27 adults, $7.50
kids) or 48 hours ($47, $15) or 72 hours ($67, $22), offers free
admission or discounts at 70 museums and attractions, free public
transit, free boat sightseeing and other perks.
Alighting on Djurgarden, I make a beeline for the Vasa Museum;
this incredible institution houses the Vasa, a 17th century warship
that was raised nearly intact from the depths of Stockholm's harbor
in 1961 after 333 years under water.
Half a day could be devoted not only to the intricately carved
warship itself but also to all the artifacts, documents and
presentations on display.
Pressed for time, I limit myself to a generous two hours before
striking out for Skansen.
12:30 p.m.: I spend an hour or so -- far too
little time -- strolling through the open-air Skansen, which
showcases earlier Swedish cultures.
Here, more than 150 historical structures, some dating from the
1700s and moved part and parcel to Stockholm from around Sweden,
now house restaurants, shops and exhibits.
I pop into a 19th century-style bakery for a snack before
exiting via a zoo with 70 Nordic animals (including elk and brown
bears) and the Mountain Train funicular, for a ride back down to
the 21st century.
2:45 p.m.: Back on the Gamla Stan islet,
Vasterlanggatan -- a narrow street of souvenir shops and cafes --
is teeming with tourists; although it's Pingst, all the shops are
After angling through the crowds, I opt to branch off into the
Old Town's comparatively empty side streets, where I have
cobblestoned alleys and gorgeous older buildings, tinctured in
pastel hues, largely to myself.
Soon, I stumble on a ruddy, blond, all-Swedish choir performing
American gospel music on Stora Torget square, in front of the Nobel
Museum. Intrigued, I grab an outdoor table at the Chokladkoppen
cafe just across the way, order an espresso and enjoy the
5:30 p.m.: After a late lunch, I hurry to the
Royal Palace a few steps away, hoping it's open. It is, so I choose
quick tours of the Treasury and Armory.
Later, emerging from the subterranean collections of crown
jewels, horse-drawn carriages and suits of armor, I head north for
a stroll on Strandvagen, a chic boulevard of 19th century mansions.
However, encountering a downpour without an umbrella, I take
shelter in a conveniently docked Stockholm Sightseeing boat bobbing
near the Drama Theater.
Now I'm halfway through a two-hour harbor tour of Stockholm, a
city that's best viewed from its waterways, I believe.
Although scores of harbor cities north of the Alps claim to be
the "Venice of the North," only Stockholm -- along with Amsterdam,
perhaps -- can seriously stake a claim to the title.
We pass through two locks, ply five bodies of water and circle
seven islands. Then we sail past enormous cross-Baltic ferries just
as the sun breaks through the clouds and illuminates the spires of
the Old Town, to breathtaking effect.
8:30 p.m.: Tonight I'm dining at Kallaren
Aurora, an atmospheric restaurant in the vaulted cellars of the
17th century Petersen Palace, once a merchant's residence, a cadet
academy and -- some say -- a house of ill repute. According to
legend, the restaurant is named for Aurora von Konigsmarck,
mistress of Augustus II, King of Poland.
My appetite whetted for a taste of Sweden, I order the noisettes
of reindeer -- my first-ever encounter with the national dish. The
10:30 p.m.: I'm winding down from my day in the
Clarion's stylish sauna, amazed that the long summer day continues
to spill through the hotel's large windows.
Twilight won't arrive for another hour -- and then will last
only a few hours, before the sun reappears and a new day, Annandag
For more on Stockholm, contact Swedish Travel & Tourism at
(212) 885-9700 or visit www.visit-sweden.com.
Room Key: Clarion Hotel Stockholm
Address: Ringvagen 98, Box 20025, SE-104 60 Stockholm
Reservations: (800) 4-CHOICE; (800) 424-6423
Phone: (011) 46-8 462-1000
Director: Pelle Lindberg
Rates: $211, standard; $372, deluxe; $621
penthouse suite (with VAT, breakfast)
Commission: 7% to 9%
Facilities: 2 bars; lounge; breakfast room;
restaurant; health center with sauna, jacuzzi; roof gardens;
Review: Not your father's chain hotel; on the edge
of Stockholm's trendy Sodermalm district, the city's cutting-edge
Clarion -which opened May 27, 2003 -- fits right into its
avant-garde neighborhood. Hyper-trendy Scandinavian design may put
off traditionalists at first, but the plush modernist beds and
spacious, well-lit bathrooms will win them over. Hobnob in two
trendy bars, chill in the lobby's waterfall lounge to live music,
or hop the nearby, convenient subway to the Old Town. One drawback:
Some service kinks still needed ironing out two weeks after
• Contact local chapters of Swedish-American groups, such as the
Minneapolis-based umbrella group the Swedish American Council
(www.swedishcouncil.org), to inquire about group heritage-travel
planning and members' vacation plans.
• Host a smorgasbord-themed Swedish culinary evening -- with
aquavit, herring, crisp breads and lingonberry jam -- for your best
• Become an accredited Scandinavia specialist by joining the
Scandinavian Travel Agents' Reward (STAR) program, which supplies
leads from consumer inquiries to the tourist board; e-mail [email protected] or call (212) 885-9700.
To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].