outdoor gym

Outdoor Gym in Sollentuna

I was staying with friends in Sollentuna earlier in the year and they’d installed this amazing outdoor gym at the north end of Edsviken, right next to Edsvik Konsthall which is a lovely gallery and cafe in its own right. I’ve tried many outdoor gyms, and they’ve become more popular in the UK in recent years as well, but this one stood out as it had many different types of equipment which are not normally seen. Of particular note and my personal favourite (as this is what I do when I go to a normal indoor gym myself) was Olympic barbell style free weights. Now they’re not actually free as you can see from the picture, but they are free enough for you to squat with, clean and press with or variations thereof. This is the only time I’ve ever seen such equipment and there were a few other interest pieces as well which are worth checking out.

Edsviken

looking south over Edsviken

More over, just look at the view! How much better does it get than that. This other photo is looking south from just below the gym, on the path round the edge of Edviken. Here’s a map of its exact location if you don’t know the area.

reindeer tent

Autumn Walking in Sweden

As we come to the end of summer in the UK, I’m aware that in many parts of Sweden Autumn is already well on it’s way (although I understand that Stockholm is having a nice late summer this year). It’s at this time of year that I always loved to go walking in Sweden, especially in the mountains up north, as although it’s much colder, most of the mosquitoes are long departed and there are some beautiful autumn colours to be seen. The pictures here are of a camping trip in Storasjöfallet which is an amazing national park in the north of country. It’s well worth a trip if you can find the time, although it is a fair way off the beaten trail. We took the train the Gällivare (which is a direct night train) and then we had to drive for about 2-3 hours from there. We went with a guide and a small group for the trip and it was utterly fantastic. We walked for 6 days without seeing another person, just reindeer, as you can see in the picture, and the most glorious mountain scenery.

reindeer in sweden

Reindeer in the forest

We walked in the first week of September and it was frosty at night, so you needed to be well prepared (early snow could easily have come), and you needed to carry all your food as there were no mountain huts or anything along the way. There a plentiful supply of 2 things though: crisp clear mountain water and blueberries, both of which we indulged in heavily.

The guide we went with can be found at http://www.pathfinderlapland.se/ although at the time of writing he’s not actively running tours as he has another role. However his website says that he can put people in touch with Sami guides. I think we were extremely lucky to work with Lennart on that week, as he owned many reindeer and knew the mountains extremely well which is why we were able to get such excellent photos as these and be around the reindeer all week.

coffee and cake in a Stockholm cafe

Cafes and Coffee

coffee and cake in a Stockholm cafe

a handmade kanelbulle from Helena’s at Järvafältet

One of the great things to do on any holiday is to have a coffee and a cake in a cafe and just watch the world go by. The same goes for when you’re not on holiday of course, and if you’re a coffee addict like me, then there’s not many a day goes by when you don’t pop into a cafe for an espresso or whatever your particular favourite is. Stockholm is a fantastic city for this, often it feels like there’s an espresso bar on every corner, but unlike London, they’re not all run by the large chains. Don’t get me wrong, you can find those chains if you really want, but I’d prefer an independent cafe any time, and the thing I most notice about Stockholm cafes generally is that the coffee nearly always seems to be made with love and attention.

For me the Swedes have a rather sweet tooth (I’d prefer a marmite sandwich most days to a sweet bun or cake) but I understand the joy of those that do love them, and if you’ve got a sweet tooth then you’re in luck in most Stockholm cafes and bakeries. There’s always a selection of great sandwiches anyway for those that prefer the savoury like myself (although I’m still reminded of my first job in Sweden when I spent ages trying to explain the nature of savoury to my colleagues, in the end we settled on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umami – but I never did convert them to marmite all the same)

This picture is of a classic Swedish bun, the kanelbulle which I bought at Helena’s at Järvafältet, versions of which you can expect to find just about everywhere, although I’m told by my work colleagues, who I liked to take up to Järvafältet, that this was one of the best that they had tried.

You can find various links to cafes throughout this site, just click on the cafe category or browse through the post tags. To get you started though here’s my current top 3 cafes in Stockhom (a purely personal preference based upon the quality of the espresso, the vibe, and sometimes the food as well). Your mileage may vary as they say, but there are mine.

1. Mellqvist Cafe & Bar – Vasastan – fantastic espresso and great sour dough sandwiches. Small but perfectly formed shop in one of my favourite places in town. When I was there last month I saw that they were refurbishing and growing it slightly. I hope this doesn’t destroy the vibe.

2. Helena’s at Järvafältet – northern suburbs – ok I mention this place time and again, but it’s a hidden gem, just go there!

3. Baresso Coffee at Nybrogatan – Östermalm – great espresso and also great lunches, salads and “health plates”. Right next to Östermalms food market as well which is worth a trip afterwards. Very close and central to loads of other tourist sites.

If you don’t fancy exploring yourself and want something more organised, you can book a guided Stockholm food tour through our partner site.

 

Åre Björnen

Christmas Skiing in Åre

Åre Björnen

Looking east down the lake from the top of the runs above Björnen

I was in Sweden last week with the family for some Christmas skiing in Åre. It was a fantastic trip and was the first time I’d tried going so early in the season to Åre. I’d been to Vemdalen a couple of times in the first week of the new year, but here we arrived the week before Christmas on the 23rd December.

For once though we didn’t come via Stockholm. As I’ve written elsewhere it’s wonderful train journey up from Stockholm to Åre (although it’s a long long drive). Since we were coming over from London we were flying in, but I noticed that you can now get a direct flight from London to Trondheim. Although in Norway, Trondheim is very well connected to Åre by both road and rail. It took us less than 2 hours to drive across the border and it’s a spectacular drive right along the mountain pass between the 2 countries. I’d thoroughly recommend the trip just for the scenery along the way!

We checked into the Vargen group of apartments which are right next to the nursery slopes in Björnen as we were skiing with our children for the first time (well they were old enough to take lessons themselves for the first time would be a better descrption). This accomodation is booked and managed through Skistar, so it was easy to have everything pre-booked and ready to roll when you arrive. I absolutely love the service Skistar give, they just make everything so easy from start to finish and I’ve had many happy holidays arranged through them.

The lifts were open throughout the week as normal, although obviously there wasn’t much light with it being the shortest week of the year. There’s a snow guarantee from Skistar from the 23rd onwards, so although there was no huge amounts of snow cover, they were making snow whilst there and ensuring that there was skiing for everybody. Add to that a selection of Christmas activities and all in all you’ve got a great break.

Sledging in Hagaparken Stockholm

As I write this winter is fast approaching and my recent thoughts have all been of snowy fun in Sweden. I’ll be in Åre in a few weeks myself for some top skiing action, but you can’t get up there every weekend! Fortunately there’s many top winter activities in Stockholm itself and a great one for young and old is Sledging in Hagaparken.

hagaparken winter fun

sledging fun at hagaparken

Here’s a photo of a few of us enjoying the excellent snow in February 2007. Stockholm is a fairly flat city and surrounding area, so the opportunities for downhill skiing and sledging are somewhat limited. Elsewhere on this site you’ll find some good recommendations of places to try skiing in the centre of town, but if you don’t want to go the whole hog and just have a quick mess around in the snow, then an afternoon sledging is always a winner.

Hagaparken has many excellent points which makes it a winner for a sledging day out.

  • A good side safe hill suitable for all ages
  • A nice cafe at the top to warm yourself up and gets some snacks in
  • Fantastic views over the Brunnsviken lake
  • Toilets and facilities in the cafe
  • Easy transport links either by car or public transport.

 

If you’re worried that you’re on holiday in Stockholm and you haven’t got a sledge, then even this is not a problem as you can nip into any branch of Stadium, of which there’s many distributed throughout Stockholm and pick up a sledge for 150SEK or so. This is what my friends in the picture did, and then they’re so cheap that you don’t even need to worry about taking them home if you don’t want to.

Royal Viking hotel Stockholm, next door to central station

Stockholm hotel review – Royal Viking Hotel

Royal Viking hotel Stockholm, next door to central station

Royal Viking hotel Stockholm, right next door to the central station

In my travels to and from Stockholm over the years I’ve stayed in many hotels and other accomodation of different grades with and without family. This is a review of the Radisson Blu Royal Viking hotel in central Stockholm.

Overall I’m a huge fan of the Radisson group of hotels and I’ve stayed in many around Europe over the years. I tend to find them generally to be stylish, clean and reasonable value for money, with excellent service and wifi. The Royal Viking is no exception.

Location

It’s position is excellent and it’s right next door to central station and so you couldn’t really get that much more central. This means your right next to all the best public transport links and within walking distance of all of central Stockholm’s’ best sights. If you’re coming on the airport train, you’re only about 2 minutes walk away so even if you’ve got loads of luggage, it’s not a problem. The only time you might find it tough to get there is if you come by car. I had this problem personally in 2005 the first time I went there. The royal viking hotel does supply secure car parking, but it’s not within the hotel itself, it’s within a garage just nearby. When I was first there they even did valet car parking by default, which was fairly important as there’s practically no stopping outside due to its location and only 2 temporary pick up / drop down places. The bigger problem is navigating the one way systems around there if you’re not familiar with the city. It’s quite complex and you’ll need a GPS otherwise you might struggle.

Rooms

The rooms I’ve tried were excellent, if on the smaller side by default (the standard I think is 22 sqm). They’ve got lovely decorated doors in viking rune stone style and the decor is fairly standard nordic style hotel simplicity. The bed was good and firm and the bathroom clean with smooth lines, again in a very Nordic style. Overall very simple and pleasant.

Facilities

The hotel has an excellent restaurant which is called “Stockholm Fisk” (fisk translates as fish) and this is what it specialises in. I have eaten there, although personally I’m not huge on eating in hotel restaurants as there’s so much else to go and enjoy in town. It also has a nice downstairs bar which is frequented by guests and locals alike, next to the restaurant in the foyer. Breakfast is served in a huge airy atrium on the mezzanine floor, which is a joyous and light experience every morning. There’s a huge buffet of international quality to indulge in. The best facility at the Royal Viking hotel though has to be the sky bar! Take the lift up to the 10th floor and there’s an outstandingly good bar with huge windows which give you a panoramic view over huge areas of central Stockholm. You don’t even need to be a resident to go there and it’s thoroughly recommended.

Price

Pretty much standard Nordic rates for 4 star hotels really. As I write in 1695SEK for a week day standard room, including breakfast and wifi. I consider this to be well worth it considering the location, especially if you’re not driving.

 

summer swimming in Stockholm

Swimming at Rösjöbaden in Sollentuna

summer swimming in Stockholm

Summer at Rösjöbaden looking towards the dive platform

As I’ve written elsewhere, one of great things to do in Stockholm in the summer is to swim in the lakes and open water. When I lived in Sollentuna there were numerous opportunities. One of the ones that can be easier with children is to go swimming at Rösjöbaden.

Many of the swimming opportunities that abound in Stockholm are wonderful directly due to their informal nature, but sometimes, as all parents will know, it’s nice to have that type of experience, but with a few extra facilities or entertainments to keep the little ones happy. I’ve been to Rösjöbaden many times as both a couple and as a family and it works well on both counts.

As you can see from the photo here, there’s nice sand, good grass (and much more of it out of shot here) where you can happily have a picnic or a BBQ or play games with the children. In terms of water activities, there’s great swimming and an excellent tall diving board for the braver. Also out of shot is a large bendy slide which drops into a small swimming pool, toilets, changing rooms, shop and cafe. It’s also a campsite with cabins for those who want to holiday there.

It’s very accessible by either public or private transport and there’s some nice woodland walks in the woods next to the site itself. Being as it’s a commercial enterprise, you do have to pay a small fee for the use of some of the facilities, but that’s the trade off you make. You can read about the full facilities on their website (English and Swedish). In my opinion it’s probably not worth a trip up from central Stockholm (although it’s only 15km as the crow flies) as there are better alternatives, either closer or more well appointed, but if you’re already in the northern suburbs or thereabouts, it’s well worth a visit on a warm day.

Persian food in Stockholm

The best Persian restaurant in Stockholm

I absolutely love Persian food and many other similar cuisines from the surrounding countries. If I’ve time on my hands at home this is the type of food you’ll always find me cooking. First time visitors to Stockholm might imagine that the cold Northern European countries are a desolate wasteland of food from this area, but they would be oh so wrong! Let me share my favourite Persian restaurant in Stockholm, which is the true definition of a hidden gem.

Persian food in Stockholm

A typical dish from the Vanak menu

When I first moved to Stockholm I was staying in an apartment hotel in Akalla. This is an area which is in the northern suburbs, at the end of one of the blue metro line spurs. It’s not a particularly glamorous area in all truth (especially amongst native Swedes) but it’s close to Kista where all the IT companies have offices, it’s fairly convenient and it’s quite cheap to live in. (Since I lived there it’s probably also more famous for the fact that there were riots just down the road in 2013, but that a whole another story). The truth of the area is that it’s got a high proportion of immigrants or families descended from immigrants particularly from the countries around Iran. Sweden is a country which takes in one of the highest per capita ratios of immigrants in Europe and I’ve always thought this was a good thing, and in truth it’s one of the many reasons that I love the country. I’m going off on a slight political tangent here, but hopefully you get the overall point.

As an immigrant myself (although admittedly a white European one) I would always engage with others that I met that were in similar situations, I would often meet people from Iran or Iraq. This particular restaurant was described to me by a taxi driver I got talking to (we were both speaking Swedish, out second language in a slightly terrible accent) and it was a complete revelation. The irony was that despite living in Akalla itself I’d never noticed this restaurant as it’s completely hidden away at the bottom of a residential block. The first time I tried it I spent ages kicking myself afterwards about why I hadn’t discovered it sooner. The food is amazing, the pricing is reasonable, the people are amazingly friendly and you just need to go there as soon as you possibly can! It’s called Vanak and they have a lovely website here (swedish only) which gives a great account of their food and the general vibe of the place. It’s huge, and it’s always full of locals enjoying cheap healthy persian lunches. My personal favourite was the slow cooked lamb shank with lentil casserole for lunch, a bargain at less than 100SEK!

I’ll admit that the mainstream tourist might find this a bit out of the way and slightly off the beaten track. One might also be intimidated by the not entirely tourist nature of the area once you step out of the metro station, with lots of high rise blocks, but make no mistake, the area is lovely, the people are friendly and you shouldn’t let first impressions put you off. Go there, order some wonderful lamb dishes and revel in the fact that you have found a true hidden gem of Stockholm.

And in case you’re wondering, they’re fantastic with children, I took my youngest there when she was about 18 months and was welcomed with open arms, she ran around all over the restaurant, danced on their stage and generally caused mayhem and not an eye lid was batted. I’m salivating over the thought of having a “Baghalipolo Ba Mahiche” now….

Finnhamn Stockholm archipelago

Kayak round Finnhamn in the Stockholm archipelago

As I’ve noted elsewhere, taking a kayak to the Stockholm archipelago is one of the more wonderful ways to see the area. However doing a full kayak trip for several days is not always everyone’s cup to tea, so sometimes it’s just nice to take a quick tour for a couple of hours. You can easily do that in central Stockholm like this in example but sometimes it’s nice to get right out of town into the outer Stockholm archipelago, take a short kayak trip, but also have a decent bed for the night.

Finnhamn Stockholm archipelago

see views like this as you kayak round Finnhamn

One of my favourite places to do this is Finnhamn. It’s quite a long way out from central Stockholm, in that it takes almost 2 hours to get there even on the faster Cinderella boats, but it’s well worth the wait, and in truth, there’s not much better than a 2 hour boat trip through the Stockholm archipelago anyway! Once you’re in Finnhamn there’s not a huge amount to do if you like the city party scene, but if you like tranquility and the sea, then you’re in the right place. You can just about make it for a day trip if you don’t mind the travelling, but many people will stay in the youth hostel there or camp in the camp ground.

I’d recommend the youth hostel myself, as it’s a lovely old traditional building, in a superb position looking out over the water from one of the higher points on the island. They have the usual high quality STF facilities there, which includes some small cabins in the grounds of the hostel, which is where I stayed last time I was there.

In the daytime opening hours you can pop into the main building and hire variety of equipment, including sea kayaks or small motor boats as well. The fees were very reasonable and the kayaks were of good quality. They’re not huge sea going ones that you’d go away on a long trip with, but then they don’t need to be. They’re better suited for a quick tour round Finnhamn itself or the local islands. Saying that it was quite choppy on the day I went out last and the kayak was quite happy in such conditions. It took me about 90 minutes for gentle paddle right round the entire island (it’s that small) and you find the usual lovely beaches along the way, just like the one in the picture here.

If you don’t fancy arranging your own trips manually when you get there, you can book a kayak tour in Stockholm directly here through our partner site.

Edsviken Ulriksdal

Wild swimming at Edsviken near Ulriksdal

Edsviken Ulriksdal

a wonderful small beach on Edsviken near Ulriksdal

As i write this, I’m in the middle of a summer London heatwave and it’s been 30 degrees or so all week. All I wish right now is that I still lived in Sollentuna and that I could nip down the road for spot of wild swimming at Edsviken near Ulriksdal slott. The picture here is of Matilda sitting on the beach early one sunny summer morning in 2009. It’s taken from a tiny beach which is a local hidden secret, ironically though it’s only a few hundred metres from a major tourist site at Ulriksdal Slott.

As I’ve written on other pages on this site Edsviken is full of many wild swimming opportunities and this is another great one. For me I used to walk south from my house, past Silverdal and the police high school along a beautiful lakeside path for about 30 minutes and then you come to this little quiet secluded beach (there’s a map below of the exact location).

This beach is absolutely tiny though, there’s only room for a few families, but the swimming is great as it’s a gently sloping beach where small children can happily paddle quite a long way without getting into trouble. Once you go out about 5 metres though, there’s a bit of a shelf where the adults can kick off from and do some proper swimming. You might also be able to see in the background a small island which the more adventurous can swim over to.

The thing which is strangest though about this beach is that it’s incredibly close to the fantastic tourist site of Ulriksdals Slott. You simply walk north past the slott itself for about 300 metres and you come to this glorious private beach, but noone ever goes there whilst visiting the slott (castle) as who takes their swimming trunks on a tourist castle visit. This is sad for the people visiting the slott, but great for those in the know who fancy a chilled swim. For those with children there are always ducks on the beach as well which adds another entertainment. Sarah describes it to me as “The beach where the ducks are there eating ants” which is pretty accurate.

Finally on the ridge up above the beach is the Ulriksdals Garden cafe (Slottsträdgården Ulriksdal), which is another local secret (in fact I’d call it a local institution) with the most amazing vegetarian buffet lunch. More on this on another post, but it’s definitely worth a visit.