Toeing the Line

A journey along Stockholm’s metro line (and also some study cafe recommendations!)

So… if you’ll recall my previous post, I claimed that I would return to a regular posting schedule. It seems that that did not happen. Apologies.

However, perhaps I will earn your forgiveness with evidence of my loyalty and determination to deliver to you the very best information. Committed as I am, I spent the last week engaged in field work, collecting data and scrupulously researching its ramifications.

Put otherwise, I spent the week touring my parents around Stockholm. It was really nice to introduce them to Stockholm —and Sweden —as I’ve come to know and love it. They traveled over with me in August, so this isn’t the first time we’ve walked around together. This time, however, I had a personal knowledge of Stockholm, which gave me the opportunity to present them with the city as I know it (and made traveling a lot less stressful!).

At the same time, their visit made me realize just how much I’ve changed since I came here in August. Not just because I know so much more about Stockholm now, but in the way my perspective on everything has broadened considerably. International cooperation takes on a new importance once one visits pacificist (and de-militarizing) Sweden and the small-yet-nationalistic Baltic countries. So does time, once one is introduced to the revolutionary concept of fika: how lovely it is to have a coffee and a kardemummabulla and just enjoy another’s (or one’s own!) company.

Here I am again, my own coffee in hand, as your personal guide through Stockholm! We’ll be travelling along the metro line for efficiency. I’ll use my parents’ visit as a rough guideline, while adding in some sites we didn’t see. I won’t be including our museum visits or anything super touristy (though I recommend those too!) just to keep it short, so stick around for advice on my favorite places to explore and my favorite (study) cafes.

The Metro:

https://notaboutthemiles.com/stockholm-subway-art/

Welcome to Hornstull! (pronounced Hornshtool)

The Hornstull station is about an eight minute walk from my studentboende (the dorm I share with other DIS students, Swedish students and other residents) on Högalidsgatan. It’s right across from the ICA Nära (nearby), meaning that it’s rather expensive but quite accessible. I’m quite grateful to live here: the island of Södermalm is brimming with great cafes and restuarants, and the studentboende is a twelve minute walk from a mini-mall (with a pharmacy and an H&M) and the gym (which you can sign up for through DIS). If you’re looking for a fika spot, I recommend Sams Espressobar (two blocks from Högalidsgatan) which has really tasty coffee and a friendly owner. The dorm is also right next to a small park (Högalidsparken), is a few steps from the water—oh, and we have that gorgeous view!

The view from my window!! Absolutely breathtaking.

Things to do/see:

Hornstull Market (Hornstulls Marknad)

The Hornstull Market is located on Hornstull’s Beach (Hornstulls Strand). Open only during the nicer weather, the market hosts vendors selling food, drinks, souvenirs and homemade art.

Langholmen

When the weather’s nice, a trip to Langholmen is absolutely necessary! The island is about a twenty minute walk from my studentboende—though navigating around the island is no walk in the park. On the last warm weekend here in Stockholm (in early September), I went swimming there with two friends. It was an absolutely beautiful day and the Baltic ocean was cool and gentle. It amazed me how clean and clear the water was, for being so close to a major city!

Liljeholmen, Midsommarkransen and Telefonplan

Farther along on the red line towards Fruången are the stops Liljeholmen, Midsommarkransen and Telefonplan. The towns are currently pretty residential, but I’ve heard they (specifically Midsommarkransen and Telefonplan) are the newest ‘it’ places for the artsy, twentysomething crowd. I can’t verify this myself (I haven’t really explored the areas), but I can suggest a visit to the A.B. cafe in Midsommarkransen for a good fika and/or study sesh. They only have limited computer-use hours (as do many smaller cafes in Stockholm), so this cafe is best for a slow Saturday in the company of a friend.

Nästa: Zinkensdamm!

(Nästa means next. You’ll learn this word in about two days, from hearing it multiple times per ride.)

In my opinion, Zinkensdamm boasts the best street west of SOFO (SOuth of FOlkungatan, a street in eastern Södermalm which we’ll visit later). Check out Hornsgatan for some great thrift stores (Myrorna, Beyond Retro, and Judit’s Second Hand to name a few) and head to a cafe afterwards for a fika (I recommend Cafe Giffi for a well-priced iced latte and sandwich bun).

Things to do/see:

Tantolunden

If you’re looking for a picturesque walk on a warm day, Zinkensdamm station is close to Tantolund, an area reserved for small, brightly colored sheds and beautiful gardens. Tantolund rests on a hill, and I recommend making the trek upwards for a stunning view.

https://stock.adobe.com/images/tantolunden-park-and-garden-stockholm/322152002

Skinnarviksberget

Even closer is the Skinnarvik park (Skinnarviksparken) and the mountain of the same name (Skinnarviksberget). From the top of the mountain one can see a magnificent view of central Stockholm.

Nästa: Mariatorget! (translation: Maria Square)

Drop coffee meal:)

Follow Hornsgatan farther east (or just take the metro), and you’ll wind up in Mariatorget. Mariatorget is more or less similar to Zinkensdamm (in terms of cool retro and thrift shops and cute cafes), but it has a beautiful park surrounded by a number of flower stands. Drop by the infamous Drop Coffee for a cup of coffee that’s expensive but totally worth it. The owners are true coffee connoisseurs, which is evident in their menu: it boasts beans sourced from all over the world! Paralyzed by indecision? You can’t go wrong with their bryggkaffe (brewed coffee) and a chokladbol.

Nästa: Slussen!

I learned recently that Slussen means The Sluice (which is apparently a word) meaning a water channel controlled with a gate. The more you know!

Slussen is the farthest east the red line goes on Södermalm, and here one sees the spillover of the SOFO area. We’ll visit that area proper when we transfer to the green line later. The fotografiska museum is only a 10 minute walk away, which can be done along a path overlooking the sea. Enjoy the view of central Stockholm and listen for the screams from Gröna Lund, the amusement park directly across the water. Looking for some bubble tea? Head to Ninecha, a small cafe an eight minute walk from the station. It’s very small, but the bar-table faces towards the street, so its great for people watching. I recommend the dirty purple (taro flavor with brown sugar bubbles) and the dirty green (matcha flavor with brown sugar bubbles), but everything there is tasty.

Gamla Stan and T-Centralen

I’m going to skip these because there is much written on them already. However, I can recommend a charming little cafe on Gamla Stan called Grillska Huset. The best thing (besides their coffee, of course!) is that they’re run in conjunction with Stockholm Stadsmission, the thrift-store chain and charity organization. So take a seat in the vintage-style room with the satisfaction that comes from a tasty bulle and knowing you’ve done some good.

Gamla Stan - Cafe Grillska Huset at Stockholms Stadsmission
the wonderful Grillska Huset https://www.flickr.com/photos/kycheng/7159482933

Nästa: Östermalmstorg!

Östermalm is an incredibly nice (wealthy) district of Stockholm, and certainly worth a walk around. Below French architecture-inspired apartments one will find a store for a number of luxury brands. But there’s plenty to do besides shopping: and lots of places to eat! After a long day of exploring the city and pursuing museums with my parents, we decided to end the night the Swedish way: with a cup of coffee, a nice pastry and a long conversation. At 8 PM, however, our options were somewhat limited. I picked Cafe Albert on a whim and was happily surprised. Though the meal wasn’t inexpensive (being in Östermalm, I assumed as much), the cafe was incredibly charming (note: this is not a study cafe). For a full meal, check out Mom’s Kitchen for a dagens lunch* complete with the included buffet-style coffee, salad and bread! Östermalm is really close to Stadion (where DIS is, in the KMH building), so its a nice walk in between classes if you’ve got the time.

Things to see/do:

Saluhall

Visit the Saluhall, a large, indoor food hall with plenty of options to choose from. To be honest, the restaurants here are a bit overpriced, so I’d save the meal for another time and invest instead in an expensive pastry and a divine cup of coffee. However, it’s certainly worth the time to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere.

https://whiteguide.com/se/sv/news/2448-ostermalms-saluhall-har-ateroppnat

Kungliga Biblioteket/National Library

On Östermalm’s outskirts lies Sweden’s National Library, an impressive building with an even more impressive interior. Head here to work or just browse the library’s giant collection and visit its most unusual item: the Codex Gigas. This Large Book (as the title is translated in English), which weighs in at 75 kg, is not only an incredibly well-preserved bible from medieval times; it also includes a large drawing of the devil for unknown reasons.

Loppis Karlaplan

A stop over from Östermalm is Karlaplan: also a very nice neighborhood. In the nicer months, you’ll find a thrift market/garage sale/farmer’s market mashup known as Loppis in the picturesque Karlaplan central park. Want to continue the shopping spree? There’s a mall right next door.

https://www.mitti.se/nyheter/har-ar-loppisarna-i-stockholm-i-september/reprhw!WqmtcmMNxKcpJHhWYru0A/

K-Märkt

Looking for a unique lunch spot? Walk over to Karlavägen 102 for a trendy buffet-style dagens lunch*. You choose the contents of your plate from a variety of dishes, and pay by weight. Coffee, salad and bread are all included! If you aren’t hungry for a full meal, order a pastry and coffee from the cafe on the opposite side of the hall. This bakery makes the desserts for the Nobel Prize Ceremony.

The Transfer

We’ll stop our tour of the red line here and take a bus near our first stop on the green line. Fortunately, the trusty SL app is here to help us navigate the bus schedule, and find the nearest and quickest route possible. I use the green line between St. Eriksplan and Hötorget most on the days that I have a lot of work: for some reason, the best study cafes are clumped around this line. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll list them out together.

Nästa: St. Eriksplan, Odenplan och Rådmansgatan

Vasastaden (translated as Vasa town, named for Gustav Vasa) is a very cool area to walk around: it’s reminiscent of SOFO, without the crowds and perhaps a bit more residential. Still, a reprieve from the city bustle is easily accessible: the main roads of Karlbergsvägen and Odengatan are lined with parks (Vasaparken, Observatorielunden and (a little farther out) Vanadislunden).

CAPITOL

Haven’t seen a movie in a while? Go to the CAPITOL cinema (bio in Swedish) and enjoy the beautiful 1920’s themed architecture and design before your movie. I saw the movie The Reanimators here with a friend during Stockholm’s Classic Film Festival in early September. Stockholm loves its film festivals (there have been three since I’ve been here), so there will always been something worth seeing. The Reanimators, which is based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, was quite the experience: but it sure isn’t anything I’ll forget!

https://tengbom.se/projekt/bio-capitol/

Best Study Cafes in Vasastaden:

St. Eriksplan:

  • Kaffeverket: Good wifi, but limited seating. Food and drinks are semi-pricey, but bryggkaffe comes with one refill. Can get noisy during brunch hour. Besides that, good vibes!
  • Cafe Koya: No wifi and limited seating but is never busy. Specializes in Japanese food and drinks (rather pricey), but also has good bubble tea and coffee (bryggkaffe with one refill). If you like to snack as you study, the matcha layer cake is to die for.

Odenplan

  • Johan & Nyström Odenplan: There are three Johan & Nyström cafes in Stockholm, but this is the only one large enough to guarantee seating. Good wifi and occasionally busy and noisy. Semi-pricey, but they serve good sandwiches and bryggkaffe with one refill.

Rådmansgatan

  • Fosch Artisan Patisserie: (To be honest I have not been to this location, but there’s one practically next to the DIS building that is lovely, so my review will be based on my experiences there). Good wifi and some seating, but its not always guaranteed. Usually not busy, but popular with computer-users. Pricey, but coffee and pastries are top-notch. They also serve dagens lunch.

If none of these cafes fit your needs, the area is simply littered with Espresso Houses and Bröd & Salts, the Starbucks of the North. Unfortunately, Espresso House doesn’t offer free refills (I’ll have to check about B&S), but these cafes are nice and accessible alternatives.

*bryggkaffe: daily brewed coffee. the cheapest option in most coffee shops, usually ranging from 30 to 45 SEK. Come with a refill in most shops, but you may need to ask. If you get your coffee in a separate, smaller coffee pot, the store does not do refills.

*dagens lunch: meaning daily lunch, a Swedish-style lunch wherein you buy a meal (usually 100-150 SEK, or $10-15) which includes access to an unlimited salad, bread and coffee buffet.

Nästa: Hötorget!

Hötorget spills into central Stockholm—so in my mind, the two are one in the same. This is your one-stop-shop to shop-til-ya-drop. The station exit leads to the street Sveavägen, which is lined with smaller boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Turn off at Olof Palmes Gatan and Mäster Samuelsgatan for some bigger name shopping, like H&M and the iconic Åhlens and NK (Nordiska Kompaniet) department stores. Walk along the adjacent street Drottningatan for more choices: I suggest visiting at night (during a holiday, if possible) for peak hygge (the Danish term for coziness) and a walk under the decorations and lights. Follow Sveavägen to its end, and you’ll find yourself at Sergels Torg (close to T-Centralen), a beautiful square with a modern fountain that lights up at night. During the holidays, one can find large displays here too!

Vete-Katten

Vete-Katten is my all-time favorite Stockholm cafe, which is why it gets its own little blurb. Translated as ‘The Wheat Cat’, this cafe is a 1920’s themed artisan bakery with incredible pastries and sweets. There are only a few in Stockholm, but I recommend the one nearest this station, on Kungsgatan, as it is as charming as it is mind-bogglingly large (seriously, this place is like a labyrinth, if a labyrinth served artisan bread and played soft jazz). The princess cake here is simply divine, as is the coffee. It is not a visit to Stockholm unless one visits this cafe.

https://www.tripadvisor.com.ph/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g189852-d1880334-i285303711-Vete_Katten-Stockholm.html

Hötorgshallen Saluhall

http://stockholmtourist.blogspot.com/2017/09/food-market-hotogetshallen.html

A hop and a skip from Hötorget station is the Hötorgshallen Saluhall, a large underground food hall (like the one in Östermalm). This one has fewer restaurants (mostly located on the top floor) and is more deli-heavy, so it’s a great place to stock up on charcuterie materials. Regardless, its a cool place to walk around.

Stockholms Konserthus

In the mood for classical music or jazz? Drop by the large, bright blue building with the fluted columns, across from the Saluhall. Stockholms Konserthus offers many concerts at unbeatable student discounts. Earlier in the semester a friend and I saw the legendary conductor (and nonagenarian) Herbert Blomstedt and the Royal Swedish Philharmonic Orchestra play Honegger and Brahms. Oh, and did I mention the tickets were $12?

Nästa: Medborgarplatsen!

We’ll skip passed the three big stops again and get off here, in the center of SOFO. The Medborgarplatsen station leads directly out to Folkungagatan (the FO of SOFO), so you’re only a step away from Stockholm’s artsiest area. It’s chock-full of cafes, restaurants, boutiques and thrift stores. Walk down the main street, Götgatan, for the full experience: but don’t leave out the side streets, on which you’ll find hidden gems. Dine at the iconic Meatballs for the People, where you can choose your meat (or a vegetarian option!) and a specialty dish from a rotating menu. For more traditional Swedish food (but still meatballs), go to Pelikan, a restaurant which has been open since the 1600s. SOFO is rife with students, so there are awesome cafes on every corner.

(Side note: this area also has, in my well-researched opinion, the best SATS gym. It’s gigantic and well-designed, and never over 80% capacity).

Best Study Cafes in SOFO:

  • Ilcaffe: my favorite study cafe. Good wifi and (in this location) lots of seating. Semi-pricey but bryggkaffe comes with a refill, and it has a good selection of sandwiches for lunch. I’m currently writing at this very Ilcaffe, for which I braved the heavy snow for ten minutes in order to get to. My feet are soaked, but my soul is warm:)
  • Coffeehouse 72: I’ve never been here, but I’ve heard good reviews. It’s gigantic, and seemingly caters to the studying crowd.
  • Kaferang: Also never visited, but I have friends who speak highly of it.

(Again, this area has a high concentration of Espresso Houses and B&S’s, which are guaranteed hits.)

The Blue Line: Kungsträdgårdan

Let’s hop on the metro one more time (on the green line towards Hässelby Strand), and transfer at T-Centralen to Kungsträdgårdan, our last stop on this tour. Kungsträdgårdan is the only stop on the blue line going East—but not for long! To my excitement, I recently learned that the blue line will be expanding in the coming years towards the southern-most side of Södermalm, ending at the Nacka suburb (which itself is worth visiting).

From this station, one exits at Kungsträdgårdan, a beautiful square. In the nice weather, a walk around the gardens (while the flowers are blooming!) and along the ocean (around the peninsula) is simply delightful. From here, one can see the Riksdag (the parliament) and the Royal Palace, as well as views of Gamla Stan. The National Museum and the Modern Museum (Moderna Museet) are both close by. Visit any of the cafes (Cafe Söderberg is very cute) lining the gardens in the warmer months, and enjoy a fika outdoors!

Here concludes our tour. Thanks so much for joining me! I hope you’ve gotten a feel for this wonderful city. If you have any questions (or if I’ve left anything out!), please comment below.

Tack tack!

Julia

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