Stockholm trip connects genealogical dots

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T0719SWEDENSKEPPSBRON_C_HR [credit: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se]
Boats along the Skeppsbron, Stockholm's oldest quay, which runs from Slussen past the Royal Castle. Photo Credit: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

Before the pandemic, our kids gave my husband a 23andMe kit -- a personal DNA testing and analysis service -- and the results confirmed what we already long suspected: He's a Viking.

With that in mind, we joined an increasing number of people planning family travel based, at least partly, on their DNA.

We knew we wanted to focus on Sweden, where his ancestors emigrated from three generations ago, and we briefly considered an ocean cruise, partly for ease of travel and partly because cruises offer a level of flexibility that we knew from experience would work with our family group, which comprises two adults and three young-adult children.

But because we wanted extensive time on shore, in the end we compromised on a land-based vacation punctuated with local ferries. We were also keen to choose our own restaurants and activities but didn't care which hotels we stayed in as long as they met certain criteria -- inner city, boutique and four star.

In the end, the trip was even more fun than we expected and offered surprisingly few hassles.

We cruised into Stockholm from Estonia by ferry, armed with an old diary my husband had recently unearthed from a basement trunk recounting his own father's trip to Sweden when he was 14 to visit relatives. We traced his footsteps whenever we could, including visits to Grona Lund, Stockholm's amusement park on Djurgarden Island, one of the city's many tiny islands, and accessible by footbridge or ferry. The park, built in the 1880s, is the country's oldest amusement park and was still going as strong during our visit as it has for generations.

T0719SWEDENVASAMUSEUM_C [credit:Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se]
The Vasa Museum in Stockholm houses the world's only preserved 17th century ship. Photo Credit: Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se

We explored Skansen, an open-air museum and zoo, the Abba Museum and the hands-down No. 1 on my husband's list, the Vasa Museum, a structure basically built around a massive, astonishingly well-preserved 17th-century wooden ship that capsized and sank in Stockholm harbor within hours of its inaugural sailing.

Other highlights included the Nobel Prize Museum; the winding streets and shops in Old Town, or Gamla Stan; and the Fotografiska photography museum.

T0621EUROPEMAP_SS_HR [Credit: Janis Abolins/Shutterstock.com]
Photo Credit: Janis Abolins/Shutterstock.com

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We also followed the old family diary to the Versailles-like Drottningholm Palace, a Unesco World Heritage site just outside the city that is accessible via ferry, car or public transportation.

Our hotel, the 203-room Elite Hotel Adlon, was both upscale and comfortable and was within easy walking distance from Gamla Stan and just about everywhere we wanted to see and eat.

Our favorite restaurants included Nomad, with its meatball menu and bar scene; the cozy, underground Cafe Sten Sture near the Nobel Museum; and the Flying Elk for burgers and craft beer. 

Because we had very early morning flights home, we took the Arlanda Express train from Stockholm Central Station to Arlanda Airport on our last afternoon in the city -- the train makes the trip in less than 20 minutes and runs every 15 minutes or so -- and overnighted at the Radisson Blu Airport Terminal Hotel, roughly a five-minute stroll to our departure gate.

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