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.

Moose safari accommodation

Moose Safari near Stockholm

Moose safari accommodation

back to nature accommodation before you go in search of the Moose

One of my earliest experiences after I moved to Sweden (before I had my children even) was going on a Moose Safari near Stockholm. When I say near, the place is about 2 hours either by car or public transport, which in Swedish distance terms is fairly near. We arranged this through a small firm called Wild Sweden and I’m pleased to see that they are still going strong today. They are also affiliated with the Swedish youth hostel association, which is worth considering if you are a member there.

We drove up there for a weekend and stayed in the fantastic little huts you can see in the picture. This was just my type of place, no running water, no electricity, a great campfire, look after yourself in the forest for the weekend. It’d be an amazing place to go even if there wasn’t the promise of loads of wildlife to go and see, particularly the Moose. I’m certainly planning to go back there, maybe with the children now, as it’d be a fantastic time for them to live in the cabins in the forest for a few days.

It’s the type of trip where you need to be prepared to muck in and help out around the site, fetch water, clean up etc, but I love this type of thing. The night in the cabins though is truly amazing. There are little wooden beds raised off the ground that you can put your sleeping bag on, there’s a stove to have a fire in to keep you warm in the colder months and it’s a generally lovely camping experience. As they say on their website, you wake to the sound of the forest and nothing else.

wood chopping before the moose safari

Chopping some wood for the fire

In terms of the safari itself, the guides were very experienced and knowledgeable, and spoke English quite happily and easily. To see the Moose the easiest time is at dusk, so we put on all our waterproofs and warm clothing (and some insect repellent) and set off walking round the local area. The guide knew all the good places to observe the Moose and we saw several. At times it’s fleeting glances and then at others if you’re lucky you catch them feeding and can pause for a minute or 2 to watch these majestic creatures.

The guides also run other courses there such as beaver safari and various other wildlife watching. I’m hoping to take the kids back there as soon as I can. Obviously the moose are rather hard to capture on film, especially at dusk, but hopefully these photos give a good impression of the experience around the site itself.

You can book the Moose Safari direct with Wild Sweden or through the Activity Booking section of this site.

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.

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