Within minutes of getting into our hostel in Stockholm, we immediately realised that this was far more social than the other hostels we had been in. We were invited to a bar crawl in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town, and after a speedy dinner in Burger King (cultural, I know), we headed straight out into town. Memories may be hazy of this night, but I do know that they actually played ABBA’s Mamma Mia, in Sweden, which blew my drunken mind.
Hungover the next morning, we thought we’d take it easy by just wandering down to the train station to reserve our seats on our next train – or so we thought. Upon arriving at the station, we were told that no such train exists, despite the Interrail app telling us otherwise, and we needed to buy tickets for a ferry. PSA: double check your Interrail plans – even if a journey has a train symbol, it may not actually be a train. Helpful.
After finally sorting out our travel issues, we headed out again to return to Gamla Stan in the daytime. Unsurprisingly, we got a much better sense of what was there. Narrow cobbled streets filled with shops and restaurants were the theme of the door, often breaking out into wide squares.
We were lucky enough to be in Stockholm during their culture festival, which we only realised when we accidentally stumbled upon a huge area of people skate-boarding. We couldn’t quite work out what it was in aid of, although it was something to do with Mountain Dew, judging by the huge Mountain Dew signs, and there seemed to be a panel of judges, but the skaters themselves ranged from young kids to men in their late twenties, with a massive variety of ability and technique. We got massively distracted by their skills, only heading back to the hostel out of pure hunger.
The next day was a momentous day. We discovered our love of Expresso House. Expresso House is not just a coffee house that serves amazing coffee and has fast Wifi; their aesthetic is amazing, with walls spiralled with vines and unique objects. Filament bulbs and old books somehow worked together to make it feel like you were chilling in an old friend’s living room rather than a coffee chain.
After this, we headed across the city to Djurgarden for the Open-Air Museum, the first museum that we were prepared to pay more than a tenner for. The museum is huge, being part-zoo, part-town. The first half is made up of traditional Swedish buildings and shops, run by Swedes in traditional clothes to add to the authentic feel.
The second half is a zoo of native animals, including reindeer, brown bears, wolves, wolverines, elks, otters, seals, and boars, along with a host of other animals.
Returning to the city for lunch brought the rain with us. and we took refuge in potentially the fanciest shopping centre in the world. Wearing muddy trainers and lugging a ripped backpack with me, I felt the most out of place I have ever been, but the pretty, unique shops gave a relaxed end to the day.
Our last day in Stockholm was meant to begin with a guided tour of Northern Stockholm, but it turned out to be so massive that we couldn’t hear anything the guide was saying, so we wandered off to Sodermalm, where you were supposed to get amazing views of the city. However, we then (obviously) got lost and couldn’t find the right spot – or if we did, it was a building site that would one day be a car park. I blame outdated information.
After a morning of disappointments, we walked back to Gamla Stan for another free tour, one that we actually stuck around for this time. This one was for Old Town specifically, and we learnt an astonishing amount in a short period of time about a fascinating city. I had virtually zero prior knowledge about Stockholm, and the wealth of information from our guide was fascinating.
After a quick bite to eat in a Mexican close by our hotel, we headed across the city to the ferry terminal. After some confusion about bus tickets (they need to be bought from tobacco shops for some reason), we found our way onto a coach with the right ticket somehow, and made it to the terminal in time for our ferry. In contrast to our last overnight trip, our room was pretty luxurious, with an en-suite shower and toilet and plug sockets. Our peaceful snooze to Helsinki was only interrupted by cleaners knocking on the day – we were blissfully unaware of the time difference that took us forwards another hour and meant that our alarm was set an hour late. An abrupt transition from Stockholm to Helsinki as we hurriedly packed our things and stumbled off the boat.