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.

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.

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….

Boat to Grinda

Day trip to Grinda in the Stockholm archipelago

Boat to Grinda

what a glorious sunny day in the archipelago

If you haven’t been to the Stockholm archipelago, then you haven’t been to Stockholm as far as I’m concerned! A great way to start your exploration is to take a day trip to Grinda. Make sure you take your sunglasses and appropriate equivalent for the children, look at me squinting here despite my glasses!

The reason that Grinda is a good place to start is several fold:

1. It’s one of the closest islands to the centre of Stockholm.

2. It’s real archipelago, not an inland “pretend” archipelago island

3. There are regular boats from various central locations, both new fast ones and slow heritage ones.

4. There’s good facilities on the island, especially in high season. There’s a high class bistro / hotel. There’s several cafes, lots of beaches, a youth hostel, various accommodation and cabins associated with that. There’s even boat hire and a fully serviced guest harbour (if you’ve got your own boat) with its own bar and restaurant.

My personal favourite is to take a walk to the northern beach. It’s only a small island so it takes about 20 minutes from the main harbour on the south. There is in fact a northern harbour, but the boat service is very rare at this end, unless you’re calling a private taxi boat. You pass some interesting parts of the island on the way whilst you’re walking, and you can always stop off for a coffee or to look at the farm animals that you come across. Once you get to the northern beach though, you’re in your own little west facing paradise; you can watch the sailing boats slip in and out of the harbour round the corner of the bay and if you’re there long enough you’ll be surprised by one of the huge ferries from central Stockholm which suddenly appear from behind the horizon and cruise slowly right in front you on their way to Åland or some other Baltic location. You can even swim out to a fantastic little diving island in the middle of the bay, and take part in some excellent diving opportunities.

Just make sure that you check the ferry timetables home back to Stockholm, and that you don’t miss the last ferry of the day! Fortunately the ferry companies never seem to leave anyone behind, and on the one day when there wasn’t room on the last ferry of the day, they sent along a special boat for just me, my friends and about 4 other people, and we cruised back to Stockholm on our own private boat. It doesn’t get that much better than that!

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.

rainbow over a nice family house in Stockholm

Family accommodation in Stockholm

rainbow over a family house in Stockholm

rainbow over a traditional Swedish house in Stockholm

Since I’ve not been living in Sweden full time for the past 18 months, whenever I travel there now, I’m always on the look out for great family accommodation in Stockholm. This great rainbow picture is taken from my house in Sollentuna a few years back, but when you’re travelling on holiday you can’t always get this type of accommodation. Many people will resort to hotels but I think this is a big mistake, especially when travelling with the family. I far prefer to be self catering when I have the children with me and I also like the space and flexibility that holiday rentals normal provide.

In recent years, especially now that tripadvisor have got into the market for holiday rentals, there are more and more opportunities for finding good value and excellent accommodation in the Stockholm area. When I was there 3 months ago I did some searches on trip advisor and I found some OK-ish stuff, but a lot of it was over priced and often targetted at the couples weekend break market. I was looking at their lists again last night, and this was still the focus of their market, but you might find a few interesting family ones as well. In the end I recently rented with Cocoon Stockholm and I can’t recommend them enough. They have a good selection of properties, but more over their booking and customer service was excellent.

The key I think though in finding value is some local knowledge about the areas. I rented a great apartment in Birkastan / Vasastan and it was about 50% cheaper and about 50% bigger than all the equivalent ones on the trendier Södermalm. Don’t get me wrong, I do like Söder, but it’s fairly overpriced, whether you’re rented for a holiday or even if you’re buying property as well (in my opinion at least!).

Cocoon and others also have some amazing family houses in and around Gustavsberg and Värmdö. Now if you’ve got a car these represent amazing value, and you’re only 20-30 minutes drive from the centre of town. Even if you don’t like to drive into town (and I’m of that nature) there are still good quality public transport links from these areas, and if you’re kids are older and not in pushchairs then you can easily hop on the express bus (hey, even if your kids are in pushchairs you’ll be fine as Swedish bus services are very accommodating to young families and I spent innumerable happy trips on these buses with my daughters who just love to travel on buses). The other benefit of these eastern suburbs is that you’re really in the archipelago edges and there will be a lot more space and scenery and opportunities for outdoor activities.

Now I know that some people will have the need to be right in the middle of town, and I don’t dispute that, but personally if I can have a 150 sqm house with space and garden 20 minutes away compared to a 40 sqm 1 bedroom apartment, I know which was I’d go, especially when I’m with the family. So if you’re browsing for family accommodation in Stockholm on the web, don’t just limit yourself to the Stockholm keyword, as when you do so, most often you’re unwittingly filtering out many of the outlying suburbs. For example on tripadvisor, trying using the search word Värmdö and you’ll find a whole other host of opportunities you didn’t realise were there. Once you’ve seen this you can check out other suburbs on the map and search around these as well.

If you’ve any questions about the suitability of specific areas or any such matters, leave a comment and we’ll get back to you.

finnhamn stockholm archipelago

Island hopping in the Stockholm archipelago

finnhamn stockholm archipelago

Killing a few minutes waiting for the next ferry

As I’ve noted elsewhere, the beauty of the islands outside of Stockholm is at times simply jaw dropping. A great way to experience this wonderful area is to go island hopping in the Stockholm archipelago (especially if you haven’t got the energy to go kayaking). It’s always very easy to get ferries around the archipelago, especially in summer, with Waxholmsbolaget, but in the summer they also a special season ticket for those who wish to go island hopping. You can find the details on this link (only Swedish).

Compared to the normal ferry cost it’s quite extraordinary value, 420 SEK for 5 days unlimited travel at the time of writing. There are innumerable great places to go throughout the archipelago, whether your budget is large or small. Just because the ticket is cheap, you don’t have to stay in youth hostels and camp if you don’t want to, when there are fantastic establishments such as Grinda Wärdshus, and several others of the same quality spread far and wide throughout the islands.

However there’s no doubt that there’s something quite appealing about the nature of grabbing your rucksack and heading for a few days of backpacking throughout the archipelago. The picture above is taken back in 2007 when I went out for a few days peace and quiet after my dad died. I distinctly remember the time on this beach, which is at Finnhamn, where I killed a happy quiet hour in the sun, waiting for the next ferry. Finnhamn is a truly special place and one which you’d be well worth considering, especially if your tour is in the northern part of the archipelago. There’s a fantastic restaurant and a great youth hostel there, along with a wide variety of the usual healthy outdoor activities. I hired a kayak and cruised around the area one day, and it was a peaceful and restful place, especially slightly off season in early June when I went.

There are of course an almost infinite number of itineries that one could take, but I took a long weekend like this:

Day 1 Depart Stockholm – ferry to Grinda – camp on Grinda

Day 2 Depart Grinda – ferry to Finnhamn – youth hostel in Finnhamn

Day 3 Stay on Finnhamn and enjoy the outer archipelago – dinner in the bistro restaurant in the evening, before going back to the youth hostel for the night

Day 4 – Depart Finnhamn and cruise slowly back to Stockholm (it’s a couple of hours even on the express boat)

All in all strongly recommended.

If you don’t want to book all the independent travel yourself, you can book Stockholm package trips through our partner site.

 

stockholm archipelago kayak

Stockholm archipelago kayak tour to Ängsö

stockholm archipelago kayak

25km kayak through the archipelago later, dinner is welcome whilst watching the sunset

One of my favourite experiences of my time in Stockholm was an archipelago kayak tour to Ängsö and back which I did with Kayak och Uteliv. These guys are a great school / organisation to travel with if you want to do a guided tour, but they’re also really good (or they were when I was there) if you want to just hire some equipment and set out on your own.

I did a number of courses with them over the years, including some excellent kayak safety courses where myself and Sarah practiced various emergency recovery techniques and the like. These were really valuable in our overall development, but our favourite trip had to be the 2 day tour to Ängsö starting out from the home base of Kajak och Uteliv.

We did the classic Stockholm archipelago kayak trip, which I sometimes struggle to find so accessible in the UK. We rocked up to the organisers, packed some camping stuff, filled up our water bottles and packed lunches, and set off for the the islands!

We paddled about 25km each day and we saw many amazing sights. I still remember a group of seals surfacing next to us, and on the other extreme we had to watch out for the massive Stockholm party ferry boats which ply their trade up the main shipping channel near Ängsö as well.

You can’t camp on Ängsö itself, so we set up the tents on an island a couple of kilometres to the east, which in itself is an amazing reflection of the Stockholm kayak experience. You can just rock up to any old island and pitch your tents and not be breaking any laws or trespassing, itäs how the outdoor life ought to be. (You just need to watch out for the ticks which are pretty common in the summer around there – I had to pull a few out of awkward places!)

As you can see from the photo, we had a lovely camp site looking west towards the sunset and there were also good swimming opportunities for those brave enough to sample the early June water temperatures (that’ll be me). There’s a few more cool photos in this flickr set

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 kayak

Kayak from Brunnsviken to Edsviken

edsviken kayak

Graham kayaking on Edsviken near Tegelhagen

When I lived in Tegelhagen I was always thrilled by the fact that 15 minutes walk through the woods from my house was the amazing lake of Edsviken. Just beyond Edsviken if I took the bus or cycled a little further was the connected lake of Brunnsviken, and one of the things I loved to do was hire a kayak at Brunnsviken kayak club and kayak from Brunnsviken to Edsviken, stopping at a beach for lunch.

BKK is a great club as it’s easily accessible by public transport or road and has great equipment for hire at good prices if you’re not a member. If you’re a beginner or short of time you can just hire for an hour and paddle gently round Brunnsviken itself. There’s a couple of cafes and beaches and some lovely spots and views.

If however you’re feeling a little more adventurous, then you can head under the bridge which is actually the E18 road and you’re in open water. If you turn right you’ll come down to the main harbours for the large international ferries, and you can effectively paddle right out to sea from there (watch out for the ferries though!).

However if you turn left, you turn north into Edsviken, which is closed water and you can paddle up to one of the many lovely beaches along the way, or you could even stop at Ulriksdals Slott, where there are wonderful gardens and a castle, and a couple of great cafes as well.

Here’s a map showing where BKK is where you can pick up the kayak, and you can see that the exit from the lake is on the eastern side under the E18.


View Larger Map

Just watch out as you go under the bridge as there are boat traffic lights there, and it’s a very narrow channel. Watch out for bigger boats coming the other way! Depending on your paddling speed you can easily get well up into Edsviken in about an hour. I’d recommend one of the beaches on the west side, at either Ulriksdals Slott or a bit further north, but basically you’re free to pull in wherever and that’s the joy of kayaking in Sweden. Just remember to take a packed lunch!

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.