Amsterdam, London and Paris are cool, but there are other innovative European cities that we should be hitting. Stockholm is one of them. The capital of Sweden, a Scandinavian nation, Stockholm is a stylish metropolis built on 14 islands connected by 57 walkable bridges dotted around Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea. Sound enchanting? It is. The city has 80 museums, the most museums per capita in the world, and is leading the charge, globally, in interior design, fashion, food, technology, music and art.
The cobblestone streets of Old Town feature those notorious colorful buildings that have become synonymous with the destination, and the bustling city center is overflowing with rooftop bars, upscale restaurants, picturesque parks and hospitable locals who are as friendly as can be.
And yes, if you’re wondering, Black folk travel to and exist on all 14 islands. From Tensta in the North to Södermalm in the South, Somalian, Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants make up the largest populations of East African descendants in the city. However, transplants from across the diaspora are sprinkled throughout.
If you’re looking for a cosmopolitan escape with cutting-edge appeal, explore the less traveled path and head to Stockholm.
Getting to Stockholm is fairly easy from NYC. Board the non-stop, red-eye on Norwegian from JFK and wake up the next morning in Arlanda International Airport. The quickest and most environmentally friendly way to the city center is via the Arlanda Express speed train. Pro Tip: Reserve your ticket in advance.
Once you arrive, check-in to the Downtown Camper by Scandic, the minimalist accommodations are your ideal basecamp—they were designed with the urban jetsetter in mind. Before you hit the town, spend time exploring the inviting hotel grounds. From the lobby and the rooftop, to the guest rooms, bar and restaurant, a relaxed ‘nature meets city’ atmosphere is evident in every detail of the laid-back luxury design.
Hungry? Head across the street to The Farm, a sustainable eatery serving up tasty small plates. Order the crispy fish with pickled veggies and a side of curry sauce. When you’re done, stroll over to Gamla Stan aka Old Town, Stockholm’s charming original city that dates back to the 13th century. Pull up on the Royal Palace, walk the cobblestone squares and alleyways, and don’t leave the area without experiencing a guided tour on top of the old Parliament building. The views are sick.
Next up are libations and throwback music from a Tribe Called Quest at Hojden, a swanky cocktail bar at Takpark by Urban Deli, one of the city’s largest rooftop terraces. When you’re done sipping and mingling with locals, take the elevator down to the dimly lit restaurant wing and treat yourself to a succulent lobster entrée and a glass of champagne. You earned it.
Since Sweden is six hours ahead of EST, it may take your body a bit to adjust to the time difference, so don’t feel guilty about sleeping in. When you finally do rise, enjoy a typical Scandinavian breakfast at the Campfire Grill & Bar, which consists of crisp bread alongside cheese, jam, butter, smoked salmon, tomato and cucumber. It’s different but still satisfying.
When you’re done, hop on the metro and take it a few stops to Slussen so you can roam the quaint island of Södermalm. With its cobblestone streets, secret alleyways and hidden little gems like Ivar Los park — a local fave that’s ideal for just kicking it— the quaint island is worth a visit.
The eclectic Sofo district is where the cool kids hang. From vintage boutiques and delightful shops like The English Bookshop, to art galleries, design stores and a slew of cute places to eat and drink, good luck leaving this part of town.
Have lunch at Nytorget 6 and order grilled fish with a medley of seasonal veggies. Then head over to Rival. The award-winning boutique hotel has a retro Art Deco swag that’s inviting and super chic. Socialize and sip at Watson’s lobby bar. Afterwards, partake in a very Swedish tradition, Fika, a relaxing coffee and café break that’s enjoyed daily by locals in the morning and afternoon. Pro Tip: Link up with Nigerian expat, Lola Akinmade Åkerström, while you’re in town. She’s the cultural plug for all things Black in the city.
Start your evening with a few glasses of rosé at Mälarpaviljongen, an alfresco waterside hangout with superb service and even better vibes. Then end your night a Smak. The elite eatery’s inventive concept is all about flavors. Choose from three, five or seven small plates (vegan options available) based on the flavors you enjoy most and indulge.
Traveling by subway in Stockholm is like moving through an illustrious tale that follows the artistic pioneers from the 1950s up to the modern expressions of today. Nearly 100 of the city’s subway stations feature art. The underground attraction is said to be the world’s longest art exhibit and should not be missed.
When you’re through touring, take the metro north to Tensta, the Brixton of Stockholm, for a visit to the Tensta Konsthall center for contemporary art. The gallery is the result of a grassroots initiative to bring art to the suburbs of Stockholm and has hosted exhibitions from some of the world’s leading contemporary artists. Enjoy a flavorful and colorful Eritrean lunch outside at the gallery’s café, run by a local Eritrean family. Then, explore the surrounding area—it’s overflowing with our people and culture.
Before you leave Stockholm, connect with local Muslim-Swedish fashion designer, Iman Aldebe, who’s celebrated for re-imagining the hijab with her Happy Turbans line. Her custom couture creations were at the forefront of the modest fashion revolution and are carried in department stores in Sweden, Paris, New York and Dubai. Being Muslim isn’t a requirement for rocking one.
Editor’s Note: This trip was taken before the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States. When planning to travel this summer, be sure to research any local tourism-related restrictions or closures ahead of time and continue to practice social distancing while visiting. Safe travels!
All images by Metanoya Z. Webb.