Children’s activities at Skansen – delivering the post

children's activities at Skansen

I’m ready to deliver the post!

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere and as every half decent guidebook will tell you, going to Skansen is a must when you’re in Stockholm and this is especially true if you’re looking for children’s activities. When we lived in Stockholm we had a season ticket to Skansen and you could find us there on many days come rain or shine. This particular post details a favourite day that I remember spending there with Matilda whilst Sarah was at work on a Saturday.

We did some of the standard things, we drove the small cars in the town square, we did face painting (you can just about see Matilda’s painting in the photo here), we went on the road train, and all of these are fantastic things which you should take your children to Skansen and do.

But the activity which was by far the most memorable and so utterly Swedish and Skansen like we discovered by chance at the end of the afternoon. If you go into the post office building which is near the town square you can register to be a postman (or post girl in our case) for the afternoon, which basically means that they give you letters to deliver all around the site to different old buildings. Moreover they give you a traditional post bag (see photo) but even more amazing for the children is that they give you a post horn which you are free to blow to your hearts contents all around the site to announce your arrival! It’s such an absolutely genius idea.

The thing that ties it all together all the more is that all the staff / actors which play their roles in each of the traditional buildings are all completely ready to play their parts in this little background game, so you get given a letter at the post office and told to take it to the so and so buildings, let’s say the bakery for example. When you get there the actors are ready for you, they read the letter you give them, act out the part of the people receiving their post, and then they have letters which they give back to the children, with further instructions to deliver them to other houses on the site. It’s somewhere between a game, a treasure hunt and a museum visit, it’s absolutely amazing, and if you have any doubt about that whatsoever, see the size of Matilda’s smile in this photo. I still treasure my memories from this day.

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.

Väsjöbacken ski slope

Alpine skiing in Stockholm at Flottsbro

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere one of my favourite activities whilst living in Sweden was alpine skiing in Stockholm (or downtime skiing as some would refer to it). I guess that Stockholm is far more famous for cross country skiing or skating due to its very flat geography however there are still good opportunities for alpine skiing in the city. These are never going to have huge vertical drops or be proper mountains, but they’re all good hills to practice on, or teach your children on, or just to hang out on a bit. Flottsbro in the south of the city is one of the better ones.

When people used to come to visit us, it was always one of the ones that we would take them to, even though we lived in the north of the city. It was well worth the drive south, as it has good facilities compared to some of the local ski hills in Stockholm. It has a proper electronic card reader system for the lifts for a start, which is definitely a time saving bonus, and it has good quality ski equipment for hire for people who don’t have their own. Again a excellent point if you’re just in Stockholm on a city break or passing through on holiday.

There’s a fairly nice restaurant where you can hang out and keep warm when you’re not on the slopes as well. It has a sledging slope for the smaller children, and the final major benefit is that it has a chair lift, which is definitely a bonus compared to many of the smaller Stockholm slopes! All in all it’s well worth a visit. I did some interesting videos here of the slopes back in 2007, but I used a site called livevideo, which obviously over the years lost the war with youtube and now looks rather tired, and its performance it even worse, but you can view them here

 

boat tour around Stockholm

Boat tour around Stockholm with Waxholmsbolaget

One of the things that any tourist guidebook will tell you is that you need to take a boat tour around Stockholm, for a city on water it’s an essential thing to do. I completely agree with this, but I would advise you to ignore the standard tourist boats which depart from the centre of town (they’re nice, I’ve nothing against them) and instead take a trip on one of the waxholmbolaget ferries which depart from the same quays. To be fair, Stromma, the company which run many of the sightseeing tours, also run some absolutely excellent lunch and dinner cruises on some amazing boats, and also some archipelago sightseeing tours. Each has their place, but Waxholmsbolaget is so much more immediately accessible. It always reminds of taking the number 38 bus through London as opposed to getting on the sightseeing buses!

boat tour around Stockholm

2 boats from waxholmsbolaget waiting for passengers in Stockholm

I still remember the first time that I took my uncle on one of these when he came to visit and he was almost struck dumb by the beauty of the trip. He kept saying things like “I can’t believe all this is here, I just had no idea”. The thing about these boats is that they actually service all the islands in the archipelago for commuter traffic, for want of a better description. In the summer there are many more routes with higher frequency, but I’ve also taken friends visiting me on them in the middle of a snow storm in winter. The views are still great, but you might not want to sit on the outside deck! I also used to take my daughter on them to just hang out and watch the views.

To me there’s no comparison with the tourist boats which ply their trade in and around the centre of town. I guess on the tourist boats you get a commentary and the like, but that’s really the only advantage. If you take a waxholmsbolaget ferry, you get to see all the inner city stuff that you do on the other boats, but you also get to go somewhere, Vaxholm or an archipelago island for example, and on the way you get to see all the inner archipelago and all the beauty it contains. Being as it’s a commuter boat, you can simply hop on, buy a ticket on demand, go somewhere, get off , grab a coffee or some lunch and then hop back on to return to Stockholm. That’s just a single idea for using them as a viewing platform, but there’s much more that can be done with them in summer, using them for island hopping and weekends away, and searching out hidden beaches for the day. Check out some of the other categories and tagged posts to read about those ideas.

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.

Väsjöbacken ski slope

Skiing in Stockholm at Väsjöbacken

Many people forget when travelling to the Swedish capital that skiing in Stockholm is entirely possible. It’s never going to be a major resort, because as a region, it’s incredibly flat, but there are a few local ski hills around the city that are great for a day or two’s skiing, especially with children or beginners.

Because I lived in Sollentuna for many years, the slope I frequently most often was Väsjöbacken, as it was just around the the corner from my house.

skiing in Stockholm at Väsjöbacken ski slope

Väsjöbacken from across the lake – photo from http://www.veidekke.se

I haven’t really got any great photos from Väsjöbacken myself, I guess I was always there enjoying myself too much. This one shows the main slope though from the across the other side of the lake that is at the bottom of the slope. One of the great things about Väsjöbacken is that when you’re at the top, you can see for miles and miles all around, looking north over forests and lake and south back to Stockholm.

It’s very much a local hill, in that it won’t keep experienced skiers busy for long at all, but I used to use it for an hour here and an hour there type of skiing. You can just rock up, jump a few lifts and then go home again.

What it does have compared to some local hills is excellent ski hire equipment, so it’s a great place to go if you’ve just popped into town for a few days. There’s small cafe there selling drinks and snacks, but no more than that. It’s all about the skiing really. It also has a prepared cross country track starting at the main entrance (and for the more adventurous, a ski jump as well, that’s the one bit I haven’t tried personally though!)

It’s easiest to drive there in all truth, although like all of Stockholm, there is a reliable bus service, but to get there from town you need to take the commuter train and then change at Sollentuna station to the bus. In the season when the snow is good it’s often open at night as well for floodlit skiing, which is a great way to kill a couple of hours after work, rather than going to the gym!

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).

kayak trip to Västra Vidskär in stockholm archipelago

Kayak trip to the Stockholm Archipelago

If you want to see the true magic of the outer islands of Stockholm, then there’s no better way than taking a kayak trip to the Stockholm archipelago. Depending on your experience you may need to take a guided trip, of which there are many English speaking providers, or if you’re more experienced a confident, you can just hire a kayak and equipment from one of the same providers, or alternatively from one of the kayak clubs or hire shops who don’t provide guides.

It’s not uncommon for you to see paddlers cruising round the centre of town in amongst the main shipping lanes, which is certainly a great way to see central Stockholm from a different angle, but my personal opinion is that you need to get out into the real outer archipelago to experience the best that the area has to offer.

kayak trip to Västra Vidskär in stockholm archipelago

a lovely camping spot for the evening

This photo is taken from Västra Vidskär on a trip I went on one summer. We picked up our kayaks in Runmarö and then paddled across the sea, hopping from island and island to make the open water stretches short, before stopping off here for the evening and setting up camp. It was a truly magical experience. We’d been chased by thunder storms on the way out but they were so small and localised that we managed to avoid them. As the sun set over Stockholm in the evening, we watched them pass by our little island, which is what the above flickr link shows.

The good thing about kayaking in this area, is that even if you’re a beginner, if you’ve got a guide with you, the open water stretches are short and you can get right out into the true archipelago without feeling at risk.

Typical companies which run this type of trip would be:

www.stockholmadventures.com

or maybe

http://www.kajak-uteliv.com

I’ve travelled and hired kit from both of them. Stockholm adventures caters more to the short term visitor tourist trade and runs from the centre of town and will arrange packages, whereas kajak uteliv are based up in the northern archipelago and have more Swedish guests (although they do of course speak English). I did a couple of safety courses with them as well as few years back. When I was last there they were also good for just hiring kayaks and camping gear as well.

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.

if you fancy just having a quick go around town or in the suburbs, then you can hire kayaks for just a couple of hours from many places, 1 of which is

Brunnsviken Kayak Club

I was a member here. These guys are very close to the Stockholm university and are based on the edge of Brunnsviken which is a nice quiet lake to practice on, however it has access to open water if you want to go further afield. Their website isn’t targetted at tourists, but their prices are some of the best on town, especially if you fancy just practising for an hour or 2. As I mentioned in this other post you can even paddle up Edsviken easily from here for an hour or 2 and come to some great beaches and swimming places.

 

 

 

 

 

open water swimming at Edsviken

Swimming at Edsviken in Sollentuna

One of the most glorious things about Stockholm in the summer is the near constant possibility to go swimming in open water, either in one of the many lakes or in the sea off one of the many islands of the archipelago.

open water swimming at Edsviken

A glorious view south across Edsviken

This picture is taken at a wonderful lake in Sollentuna which is in the northern suburbs of Stockholm. The lake is called Edsviken and it stretches north south more or less for about 20 km, before it actually reaches the sea. There are numerous individual spots where people can just turn up and have a quick dip, and there’s loads of other activities to be had along its borders, which I’ll detail in other posts. For example, on other occasions I’ve hired a kayak (swedish only site) in town and paddled up to this and other swimming spots. But that’s a bit of a full day commitment and one for another post! The particular spot marked on the map below is one of my favourites as because of the rocks here, meaning that there’s great opportunities to jump in from a few feet up. This is always great fun in my mind, but for the less adventurous, there’s an easy path down to the edge of the water and nice shallow sections where you can just wade in and out if you don’t want to actually swim. Just be careful though, as rocks above tend to mean that there’s rocks below and as with all open swimming you need to be careful as there’s no lifeguards to save you should you get into trouble.

Here’s a map of the actual location. You can walk , drive or get the bus there, it’s fairly accessible (or kayak of course which is the truly stylish way to arrive!). There’s no facilities there though, as it’s just one of many little public spots all along the edge of the lake, so make sure you take some food and drink with you if you’re planning on staying a while, and remember that there are no toilets as well!


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