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.

 

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….

home made sourdough pizza ready for the oven

Pizza lunch in Vasastan Stockholm

home made sourdough pizza ready for the oven

home made pizza ready for the oven

In an ideal world, I’d stay at home all the time and do cooking projects with my kids every day like this one. I love pizza and all such bread based projects and as you can see from this photo I love to make them at home with the kids. However the reality of life dictates that I do need to go to work, and as such I’d find myself in Stockholm, frequently in Vasastan, most weekdays looking for a tasty lunch.

Fortunately there are a myriad of great restaurants in that area, but one of my favourites would have to be the Haga Deli. This was always a popular choice with my work colleagues and it stood head and shoulders above many of the pizza and pasta joints which you find in that area.

I never actually ate there in the evening, although I’d  certainly consider doing so considering the quality of their lunch menu. You can pretty much eat like a king for 100 SEK but the thing that really seals the deal is the diverse quality of the food on offer.

You can get a really top notch Swedish style pizza and anyone would be happy with that. But in addition to that you get a great selection of salad included in the price and a some yummy foccacia bread well. If you’re not in the mood for pizza, then they have a full pasta menu of suitable quality as well. But my personal favourite, and the dish that always stood out amongst all my colleagues was the meat stew. They don’t shout about it on the menu strangely, but it was the secret joy of everyone who went there.

A deeply flavoured slow cooked beef stew with lots of lovely root vegetables and a tomato based based, which had plainly been made in the kitchen every day. Add to that some freshly cooked flat breads to mop up the lovely sauces and I’m salivating now at the thought of it. It’s a class above many other lunch options in the area, and well worth a visit.

sourdough poolish baguettes

Great sourdough breads and coffee in Birkastan

sourdough poolish baguettes

Some sourdough that I made myself

Bread is my favourite food and always has been. I’ve also got quite a coffee habit and so there’s nothing more I love than going to a bakery or deli that sells great sourdough breads and coffee, preferably so I can have a top notch espresso whilst I’m there buying a fantastic sourdough bread. Luckily for people like me Stockholm is a great city for such activities.

There are innumerable websites which deal with the cafe culture of Stockholm but I’ve listed a few of my personal favourites in this site. it’s by no means an extensive list and doesn’t claim to be, it’s just some places that I love and where I’ve had some nice breads and coffee.

When I was last in Stockholm I was staying in Karlbegsvägen right in the middle of Birkastan, which is one of my favourite areas of town, and I was lucky enough to be very close to “Bageri Bröd & Salt”, whose website you can find here. It’s a tiny little bakery, where only about 2 people can fit in at once, and it’s got a tiny table outside where one can take a quick coffee. Like so many of these little bakeries that you find all around Stockholm though, size doesn’t matter and both the coffee and the sourdough bread are obviously made with love.

I had a classic levain, which was truly lovely and chewy with deep sour flavours, all that a good levain should be. I also had fine little espresso sitting outside for a couple of minutes watching the world go by. All in all well worth a visit and if you do drop by, there’s tons of other interesting shops, bars, cafes and restaurants all within a couple of hundred metres.

Cross country skiing at Lida Friluftsgård in Stockholm

cross country skiing and skating on the lake at Lida

a beautiful sunny day in February – perfect for winter activities

As I’ve written about on other places on this site, Stockholm is certainly a city where you can go alpine skiing, but it’s not what it’s most famous for. In my opinion the better options for winter activities are cross country skiing or skating, as the the flat geography and high amount of lakes gives you numerous opportunities. One of my favourite places to do this is Lida Friluftsgård which is in the southern suburbs of Stockholm.

Here’s a great picture I took from the lake there one sunny day in February. The conditions were perfect and it’s still a day I remember now, even though it’s a few years back. There’s so many places to go cross country skiing or skating in the Stockholm area, that they are too many to list here. Tons of them will be informal opportunities where you just get out there in the countryside, but there are also a number of high organised and well prepared areas, where the lakes are ploughed of snow regularly and checked for safety, and the skiing tracks are kept well maintained. Lida is one of those and it’s quite a special place in my opinion.

They have tens of kilometres of prepared cross country skiing tracks through the forest. They have a small downhill ski slope which is good for beginners and children (only a rope lift though). They have a great sledging hill next to the restaurant (with free sledges for borrowing). They have a fantastic lake with well prepared skating tracks, and an area of playing ice hockey and finally they have a wonderful restaurant with great food at reasonable prices.

I’ve tried all the activities here at one time or another. The only downside I ever found was that when I hired some alpine skis to teach my eldest daughter, they were of pretty low quality and hadn’t been waxed properly. Beyond that I’ve only had fantastic experiences there. I took my own cross country skis and skates, so I’ve never tried hiring these. The skate hire is far more mainstream than the ski hire actually, as the downhill skiing is just a side line for them. The skate hire has a specialist hut next to the lake.

My final recommendation would be to ensure that you don’t leave without trying the food in the restaurant. When I was there last month I had the fish soup dagens lunch which was completely wonderful and great value at SEK130.

You can get to Lida in about 30 minutes from the centre of town by car, or you can take SL public transport. It’s a commuter train south and then change to a bus.

farm visit at Järvafältet

A farm visit and lunch at Järvafältet nature reserve

For all my years as a Stockholm resident, my favourite family activity every week was to to do a farm visit and then eat lunch at Järvafältet nature reserve in the northern suburbs of Stockholm. The nature  reserve itself is quite large, it takes a few hours to cross it from side to side by foot , but on the eastern border, there’s a small car park, a wonderful cafe and a children’s visiting farm where they can stroke certain animals and get close to them in their pens. I’ve written other posts about activities there, but this is the regular thing that I did with the kids pretty much every week.

You can get there by car easily, it’s about 20 minutes north of central Stockholm, straight up the E4, or you can take the commuter train to Häggvik station which is about 15 minutes from central station. It’s then about a 15 minute walk to the cafe. Here’s a link to a google map of the exact location.

Right next to the car park is the most wonderful cafe. It hasn’t got a huge menu, but as I said above it does the best egg and prawn sandwich in Stockholm in my opinion. It’s opening hours are quite short, normally 9 or 10am to 3pm, and it’s often closed Monday and Tuesday. During the week it also sells classic Swedish “dagens lunch” in addition to its standard sandwich and drinks menu. Mostly its frequented by families coming to visit the farm, or by people doing various outdoor activities in the nature reserve, whether it be running, cycling, cross country skiiing or just walking. It’s got a very easy going vibe, and is the building is a very classic Swedish wooden style. There’s lovely outdoor seating, which is good in both the winter and the summer assuming you’re appropriately dressed.

Here’s a photo of me and Matilda eating ice creams outside in winter on a wonderful sunny day.

cafe at järvafältet nature reserve

eating ice creams outside Helena’s cafe in Järvafältet

As any parent will tell you, it’s never too cold for ice cream! The views from the cafe are across some nice open fields where some Icelandic horses from the farm live and it truly is one of my favourite places in the world.

Just up the main path from the cafe, is the visiting farm where you can take the children (or the adults) to look at the animals. There’s no cost involved it’s just open most days until 4pm and you’re welcome to wander around. It’s used as a teaching resource to local school children as well sometimes. Being Sweden, if it’s winter time, all the animals are inside, but in the summer they’re all out in various pens and fields, some of wish you can go in a stroke the animals.

There are sheep, cows, chickens, horses, rabbits, pigs and goats. Sometimes in the summer they have special days where they do pony rides or horse and cart rides, which are also great for the children. Sometimes you’ll even meet the big friendly farm cat who loves to be stroked. All in all it’s very wholesome and fun.

Check out our other posts about Järvafältet. There’s site about the farm as well and some good pictures of the cafe on their site. (only in Swedish).