Its official: I have fallen in LOVE with Stockholm.
I have just returned from a stint exploring Russia and Scandinavia, and I have never felt so inspired in my entire life.
My mind is absolutely bubbling right now! I honestly have no idea where to even begin. And indeed, where does one even start when attempting to compress into a moderate amount of words the sheer beauty of Stockholm?!
With a self-diagnosed obsession with Europe, I have shamelessly fallen victim to the charm of many cities over the years, from Athens and Helsinki, to Budapest and Saint Petersburg... However, Stockholm has now set the bar that bit higher. I'm a fickle woman - I've plastered my heart across the pulsating vibes of many cities - but this love... This is real deal.
I will be hard-pushed to find a place that recaptures the feelings I have for Stockholm.
Stockholm is without a doubt the most gorgeous and unique city in the world, let alone in Europe.
My first view of the Scandi capital was revealed as we docked up in port. My eyes became accustomed to low-rise craggy hillsides doused in emerald shrubbery, afore a gothic skyline wickedly reflecting across the water. A bright and breezy sky made up a miraculous backdrop and sent shockwaves of energy hurtling down my spine.
You can drink up all of images Google has to offer, but I can wholeheartedly confirm that no amount of photos or research can possibly prepare you for the true magnificence of the city.
With cobbled streets to rival all similar setups across the continent, an old town (Gamla Stan) oozing with enchantment, and rich greenery contrasting with the calm waters, Stockholm is, without a doubt, the jewel in the Scandinavian crown.
Walking up from the port, my view of the city became clearer, and I was treated to sights of fairytale-esque buildings of different colours, shapes and dimensions lining the waterside. A series of turrets and spirals defiantly gate-crashed the landscape, making for a modest skyline that I simply couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into. Gothic architecture proudly dominated the harbour; the sooty black steeples sharply contradicting the lazy summer’s morning.
I took my first steps into the heart of Stockholm. I could have sworn that I heard the city whisper my name, enticing me across the cobbles.
The bold strikes of the German Church boomed a hearty 9 O’clock welcome throughout the backstreets of Gamla Stan in a gust of wind.
My advice would be to head to Gamla Stan as early as possible during your time in Stockholm. While even the busiest of days couldn’t dampen the appeal, there is just something so enriching about having those cobbles and hide-and-seek alleyways to yourself. Solo with simply Stockholm for company is a blossoming status that purely feeds the magic of the surroundings.
Another piece of advice? Don’t have a plan. Stockholm is too sizeable and much too wonderful to even consider the monotonous craft of a careful itinerary. Let the city take you on a journey. Willingly allow it to showcase all of its talent as it effortlessly sweeps you along in a captivating mismatched jumble of backstreets, quaint islands of intrigue, and all the surprises in-between.
The city is divided into a series of islands; the water on which they lie laden with lily pads. Getting between the islands to explore their various attractions is easy – just take a water bus and find yourself in a new location in seconds.
One ‘must do’ item on my Swedish bucket list was to visit the Abba Museum, which is located on the Djurgården Island.
My Mum is an Abba fan (let's be honest - who isn't?!) and one of my favourite memories takes me back to London's West End, where we spent the night up on our feet, joyously singing along to every word on the Mamma Mia! setlist.
I took a small boat across the water to Djurgården Island and soon located the museum – the soft trills of Dancing Queen that floated along with the breeze were a give-away to its location!
You've simply got to pay a visit to the Abba museum. In fact, you can't possibly come all the way to Stockholm and not embrace your inner Dancing Queen/ King!
Side note: An element of adoration for new places is often born from an inner familiarity. This can present in many different forms: for example, my first experience of this was when I visited Hannover, the birth city of my Grandma Barbara. I instantly felt overcome with nostalgia. The city was exactly as my Grandma had described, and the imagery I had been gathering in my head since childhood suddenly materialised with every step I took.
For some, this feeling might come about by the scent of a place - maybe the jasmine flowers of Capri take you back to your wedding day, and the flowers of your bouquet.
Maybe you grew up in a Spanish household, and your first taste of traditional paella in Old Town Marbella is a ticket back to past mealtimes with your family.
Familiarity can stem from a sight, sound, smell, taste, feel... Any one of the senses. Sometimes, it doesn't even need any of the aforementioned; it can quite simply just be a feeling. You can't describe it, but you just know that you and this place have met before, be it in a past life, a future dream, or a blissfully unaware state of mind that passed by in the soft poetry of a slumber.
I believe that one of the many reasons I fell so hard for Stockholm is because it possessed that delicate link to my Mum, via the aid of music - namely Abba!
I could see myself living in Stockholm. To those with a creative eye, be it expressed through art, poetry, or beautiful words, Stockholm is paradise. There are just some places that take your creativity by the hand and infuse your veins with that unrivalled combination of drowsy contentment and breathless exhilaration. Stockholm is one of those places. Part of me longed to dash madly around every corner of the city, manically guzzling up everything I could, before spitting all of the fervour out between my pen and notebook. Another part of me hung back, slipping into the gentle lull of Stockholm's pace as I daydreamed the afternoons away by the river.
That's the beauty of Stockholm - anything goes. The city is what you make it, as long as what you make of it compliments its collected composure.
Never before have I experienced a city with such panoramic beauty. Seemingly something eye-catching at every corner, you are bound to at least a fortnight if you wish to truly explore the depth of all Stockholm has to offer.
Stockholm doesn't feel the need to brag. It does not require or rely upon garish tactics to draw in its crowds. It exhales as silently as it does deeply, dispersing its thrilling disposition only to those only who come to seek it.
I felt almost intimated to be in the presence of Stockholm and its shuddering equilibrium
- this is a hugely cool and composed city from every angle.
My love affair with Stockholm only grew as I resentfully boarded the boat and embarked upon the descent from the port. I spent a good few hours on the top deck, longingly admiring the passing spectacle of the Stockholm Archipelago – the some 30,000 islands that carry the city out to sea.
Finding somebody who would fail to be impressed by Stockholm is impossible. The city is so versatile in its reasons to boast. There is undeniably something to hit every travelling taste bud.
Quirky art-fans - assemble! Incredible street graffiti roars around the city, adding to the cosmopolitan, laid-back vibe.
Families will relish the joys of the displays outside the Moderna Museum, and of course, a day at the Gröna Lund theme park is a must.
Couples will inevitably be rendered spellbound by the romantic air that floats tentatively between the cobbled streets and bursts within the eyes of those visiting in spine-tingling fashion.
Walkers will find paradise island-hopping amongst the Archipelago and its sensual tumbling greenery.
And last but certainly not least... Fans of Abba and Mamma Mia! will be above and beyond their element!
The first thing I did after leaving the city behind? Googled ‘How to move to Stockholm.’
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©