herald

Saturday 20 December 2014

Swede dreams or money, money, money?

STOCKHOLM is icily beautiful, open, and exuding style, from the perfectly-coiffured boys to the Scandi-minimal blonde bombshells tripping along the city streets. It's also cripplingly expensive.

Not for nothing does Stockholm, the home of Abba, have the reputation as one of the world's most costly cities, with a pint costing around the €7 to €8 mark and a short metro (tunnelbana) trip about €4.

Stockholm is made up of a number of small islands linked by bridges - the expanses of water give the metropolis panoramic views, of disparate but elegant architecture perched on the waterside.

It is possible to enjoy Sweden's historic capital without blowing your children's inheritance.

Stockholm can be expensive if you allow it, but it's a must-visit still.

A winter weekend affords the perfect opportunity to wrap up, take in the sights and sounds, enjoy the cuisine and taste a few local beers.

Averaging a €15 entry fee, Stockholm museums might leave you a great deal more informed, but lighter of pocket. Culture-lovers will be delighted to hear the Stockholm card allows the bearer entry to 80 museums and attractions and includes public transport for the day.

We bought the one-day option, which works out at around €50. While that might seem a lot for one day it certainly works out when metro fares are taken into account - and with Stockholm's reliable, easy-to-understand and regular underground system, you'll be taking a lot of trains.

Visit the Vasamuseet for a harrowing and unique

experience. This museum showcases the Vasa, a Swedish warship from the early 1600s which sank 20 minutes into its maiden voyage. Rescued from the sea, replete with hundreds of carved wooden figures and perfectly preserved, it sadly isn't going to last forever, so see it while you can.

Make sure to artfully glide through the museum of modern art, Moderna Museet (pictured below; although avoid the overpriced café). Tillmans's photographs, verging on both erotic and precocious, sit in contrast with Picasso's modernism, with a healthy dose of pop art in between.

Don't settle there - witness the changing of the guard, a 40-minute spectacle at Stockholm's royal palace, on Saturdays. When it comes to pomp and circumstance, Stockholm's royals do it properly.

If you're in the mood for an outdoor stroll (and you're wearing appropriately thermal underwear) then take a walk around Stockholm's Djurgarden.

The island is home to the Grona Lund amusement park and the open-air Skansen museum.

After a day of trying to cram as much value into your Stockholm card as you can, you'll no doubt be yearning for a soft bed - preferably in a boutique hotel.

The renovated mansion comprising Hellstens Hotel is just a metro stop away from the centre of Stockholm's uber-hip and (and uber-pricey) Sodermalm district.

The sumptuous, geared-to-your-comfort interiors mean you can enjoy the café and bar culture of Stockholm's 'design-investment' district without the sumptuous price tag, at around €130 for a double room, per night.

Stockholm has wonderful food - the further you travel, the more the menu changes too. Centrally, you'll be able to find haute cuisine without much effort.

Operakallaren beside the Opera House will cater to a taste for the small and intricately organised portion. Stray a bit further and in Gamla Stan, the Old Town, you'll find traditional moreish Swedish grub at a reasonable price.

Dine at Den Gyldene Freden, a medieval basement, owned by the Swedish Academy (which picks the Nobel Prize for Literature for classic cooking with a modern twist.

Stockholm isn't a boozer's paradise. Going out is pricey, but the Stockholm-wide ‘happy hour' for the after-work crowd provides on both the value and ‘stiffener-against-the-cold' front.

Most bars partake - and if you're a Girl With the Dragon Tattoo reader, then make for Kvarnen on Sodermalm, apparently the best place ‘to talk trash', with a young, fun crowd (and most importantly, beer for less than €8).

If you want to splash out, go to the Sky Bar in Och Himlen Därtill, a sky-high bar and restaurant with 360 degree views of the lights.

Stockholm is a city filled with charm to be found everywhere - not just in the priciest bars or hotels.

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