I first visited Stockholm as a young woman and loved it so much, I moved there. It is one of the most beautiful and prosperous cities in the world, not to mention a top European design and fashion centre.
Situated on 14 islands and the banks to the archipelago where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea, it’s often called “The Venice of the north”, due to its inner-city canals.
And now that the long-awaited ABBA the Museum has opened, there’s even more reason to discover Stockholm. My friend Edward and I checked out the new attraction in its first month. The opening room features a curved, ceiling-high screen that transports you back to the 70s, with band members Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid.
The real attractions are the interactive exhibits. Scanning the ticket barcode saves your experiences for later home-viewing, which involves a “dancing queen-you” in a mock studio audition (dressed in some of those wild costumes), a larger-than-life “be the fifth member” stage audition, and a music video. The recordings stay online for one month, to be shared with friends via Twitter and Facebook.
The disco was a real blast from the past and I could have stayed longer, but Edward was most impressed by the great clothing and record display.
The museum might have a pricey entrance fee ($40), but it’s a real blast, as the experience leaves you carrying ABBA with you long after you leave.
But Stockholm isn’t just about a Eurovision Song Contest-winning super-group. If it’s galleries and museums you like, the city offers a reasonable range, specialising in fashion, design and contemporary art and sculpture.
At the huge outdoor museum, Skansen, check out native reindeer, lynx, wolves and bears, and learn how the sturdy Swedes survived cold, dark winters. A boat cruise around the archipelago is another must-do in summer.
The city is also a mecca for homeware fans, and there is a free bus from the centre to the world’s largest IKEA homeware and furniture store. Here you will find cheap food – $1 hot dogs or $10 lunches. Also look out for the famous Swedish meatballs.
Visit gorgeous “bobo” (bourgeois bohemian) shopping areas like Sofo, on the island of Södermalm (the southern island), or the more upmarket Östermalm (the eastern part of the inner city), for amazing shopping. Look out for tax-free purchases and knock-off some hefty GST (17.5% can make a big difference).
There’s no shortage of luxury accommodation, such as the Grand Hotel, but the budget-conscious can try Vandrarhem hostels, which are always spotlessly clean. Private rooms come equipped with great kitchen facilities. Or check out the boat hostels on Lake Mälaren, in the shadows of Stadshuset City Hall.
Timing your visit is important in the often chilly north. If walking is your thing, aim for mid-May at the earliest, the second week of September at the latest.
Travel in winter if you love the snow, but don’t forget to pack some seriously warm clothing. However, it’s definitely worth it.