Stroll down the Klarabergsgatan main street, and the bright Christmas lights of malls and office blocks exude a warm and cosy ambience. Venture into any shopping centre, and you’ll find an array of stylish coffee shops offering a wide variety of warm beverages with unique flavours to tickle the taste buds.
During the short daylight hours, a walk along the riverside offers views of Helgeandsholmen Island and Sweden’s Parliament building, with the Tre Kronor (Royal Palace of Stockholm) beyond on the island of Gamla Stan – the ‘old town’.
The narrow streets and quaint squares of Gamla Stan don’t fail to delight – but take a 20-minute walk east to the island of Djurgarden and the Vasamuseet. This is the real treasure of Stockholm: a museum containing the wonderfully preserved 17th century wooden warship ‘Vasa’, offering a wonderful insight into a period when the Swedish empire was at the height of its power.
On 10 August 1628, the ship sank due to insufficient ballast during its maiden voyage – just 1300m downriver from the shipyard where it was built. As Vasa’s sails caught the light winds she heeled over too far, allowing water to pour into the open gunports and capsize her.
In Stockholm there’s an international flavour to the cuisine, with everything from sushi and Italian to Thai and tapas on offer. There are long queues for restaurants, but beat the rush and you’ll find that while prices are similar to London, the food and service are far superior. Not so grey after all, then.