I've been wanting to take my wife to Stockholm since we met, but because we typically spend a majority of our time visiting family in Malmö, Stockholm always gets bumped. But this time around, we managed to carve out a couple of days to explore Stockholm.
The last time I was in Stockholm I was 22 and staying in hostels with fellow study abroad friends. The city still looks the same, but a lot has changed in the last 10 years! It almost has me feeling like I'm in a new place.
We took a direct flight from LAX to Stockholm and landed at 10am. We only slept about 3-4 hours on our flight and despite being really tired, landing in the morning forces you to stay up all day and get yourself used to the time change. We try our best to strategize against jet lag because we've found that the older we get, the more intense and unrelenting jet lag can be.
We took the Arlanda Express from the airport and were dropped off just minutes from our hotel: The Clarion Hotel Sign (weird name, I know). We were pleasantly surprised at how nice the hotel was...we had expected a 3 star but it's definitely a 4 star hotel. Choice Hotels are not known for being the fanciest in States, but have a fantastic reputation in Scandinavia. This hotel can be had a 10,000 Choice Privileges points a night which is a great value in a city with expensive hotels. American Express Membership Rewards conveniently transfers to Choice Privileges.
The downstairs dining area of the Clarion Hotel is gorgeous.
The hotel was fully booked and unable to check us in early, so they held our bags and asked us to come back at 3pm. I could see the look on Michaela's face when they told us that and I didn't blame her... We both would have loved a shower after the 12+ hours of travel... but it was a blessing in disguise because instead of being tempted to nap and make the jet lag worse, we set out and explored like the heros we are.
(Stortorget: the oldest square in Stockholm)
(bikes, bikes, and more bikes! It's engrained in Swedish culture to ride bikes)
We wandered through the city streets until the first sign of a hunger pang. We don't need much of an excuse to eat, especially when we're in Europe. Deciding to be spontaneous, we walked until we stumbled upon a place that looked "cute," (per Michaela). It look all of 5 minutes and we saw Matgatan 22, a ridiculously cozy cafe. As a Swede, I must advise you to please eat at as many small cafes as possible when you travel to Scandanavia. Sweden is full of small cafes with only 3-5 menu items, everything fresh and homemade. The focus on quality over quantity is different than what we experience back home!
( The tiny coffee/wine counter at Matgatan. They had delicious complimentary salads, bread, butter, and elderflower juice).
(I somehow managed to get my hands on this pulled pork slider. It was AH-mazin
Michaela loved her cauliflower soup.
After lunch, we continued to meander around the city - popping our heads into old churches, palaces, shops and squares. We don't like doing a ton of touristy stuff when we travel. We honestly just enjoy walking around and getting lost.
We started to hit a major wall just as 3pm was approaching, so we made the trek back to our hotel to check in. Our room is perfect. Modern, bright and clean - with plenty of storage space for luggage.
We relaxed in the room for a bit and then headed with no plan and let Stockholm give us a tour. We took in the sights without a care in the world. Our tanks were pretty empty at this point from our big trip, so kept things relatively simple and settled for a Thai Restaurant for dinner. The Swedes love to holiday in Stockholm, so there was no shortage of Thai massage spas, and restaurants.
I think we made it out till about 8 pm, before finally calling it a day. It was a big adjustment for our brains as it was still light out and the sun wasn't setting for another hour, but we were just happy to have stayed up for so many hours that we didn't care. Our heads hit the pillows and were were done with Day 1! Stay tuned for Day 2!