Something I’d wanted to do for several years was celebrate midsummer in Sweden. It’s not really a thing in the UK (unless you visit Stonehenge), but in Sweden, it’s a big deal. In fact, after Christmas, it’s probably the best day of the year.
So when my friend and I were arranging our Scandi Adventure back in June 2014, it made sense to coordinate Midsummer Eve in Sweden’s capital. We booked a series of trains, planes and hotels, then started making plans. That’s right: we were spending Midsummer in Stockholm!
We caught the train from Malmö to Stockholm on a windy Thursday afternoon. The weather in Malmö was particularly horrendous, so we were actually looking forward at the prospect of sitting on a nice, warm train for four hours!
I was so excited, I was practically bouncing out of my seat as our train rolled into Stockholm at 8pm. I’d never been to the city before, but had heard so many great things about it: and friends who had been before assured me that it was my kind of place, and I was going to love it!
Stockholm is a big city by Scandinavian standards: home to almost 1,500,000 people (1,000,000 more than Copenhagen or Oslo), it’s set over several islands. The easiest way to get around is by the t-bana, which is famed for its interesting and unique designs.
Feeling pretty hungry, our first stop was at 7-11 directly outside the station for a hotdog (I love those places so much!). As it was getting quite late, rather than hauling our luggage round the t-bana to our hotel, we ordered an Uber instead.
We were staying at Connect Hotel City on Alströmergatan, near Fridhemsplan t-bana (a couple of stops outside the city centre). My friend and I had tried to keep our accommodation costs down (whilst refusing to stay in hostels – we value our own private bathroom way too much for that!).
I found Stockholm quite expensive for accommodation – even more so than Oslo. Connect Hotel City however, was reasonably priced; and as we turned up, we noted that it was in a good location and quite modern…
We did however, opt for the cheapest room option, and as we opened the door to our room, it showed. No exaggeration: the room was basically the size of the double bed that was in it. We hunted round, searching for the bathroom, which we eventually realised was behind a sliding door that looked suspiciously like a wardrobe (funnily, the bathroom was bigger than the bedroom). Oh, and there was no window. Our room was literally in the centre of the hotel, and to be honest was quite claustrophobic, and we didn’t have any space to put our suitcases (other than on the bed). To top it off, we had no wifi!
If we’d spent a bit more on a room with a window (and a bit more space), we would have been perfectly happy. However, you get what you pay for; and having been on such a long train journey, we decided to forget about it for the time being, and abandoned our miniscule room for a late night stroll around Stockholm.
It took us forty minutes to reach Kungsgatan, the main street. We walked past all the shops which had closed for the night, and crossed over the bridge into Gamla Stan (the Old Town).
Even though it was quite late, the streets were full of tourists, not to mention street performers, who were trying to get their hands on a few Kronor. Once we’d walked to the other end of Gamla Stan, we caught the t-bana back to the hotel, ready to tackle the suitcase issue and get some sleep.
Dancing round a maypole
Our first full day in Stockholm was Friday 20th June, 2014: aka Midsummer Eve! Grabbing breakfast at the nearest 7-11 (hello cinnamon bun and hot chocolate!), we wandered round the neighbourhood and picked up some pic’n’mix for later on in the day, before heading back to get ready for the celebrations!
I changed into a white lace dress and leather jacket, before putting a blue and yellow flower wreath in my hair to match the beautiful Swedish flag (it really complimented my outfit!); ready to celebrate Midsummer in Stockholm.
We caught the t-bana out to the train station (where I ended up being snapped by some random photographer along the way), and from there, caught the bus out to Skansen.
Skansen is an open air museum on an island in the centre of Stockholm. It boasts a big lake, a series of cute old-fashioned wooden houses, and even a farm. It’s also home to a huge Midsummer Eve party every year!
My excitement was building as we joined the queue to get in. I was finally going to tick something else off my bucket list, as in just a few hours, I was going to be dancing around a maypole with flowers in my hair.
The entrance fee was 180 SEK (approximately £16), so it wasn’t exactly cheap – but it was more than worth it for the experience of a lifetime.
Once we were in, we had a walk around the whole park (somehow managing to get quite lost), before having a go at making our own flower crowns.
When 3pm rolled by, we joined the crowds that had gathered by the tall maypole in the centre of the field. We enjoyed a show of professional dancers wearing traditional clothing, dancing to Swedish songs. Half an hour later, it was our turn…!
The whole afternoon was so much fun: everyone gathered round in a circle and danced around the maypole, singing (or attempting) along to Swedish songs. My personal favourite one was the frog song (koo-a-ka-ka, koo-a-ka-ka, koo-a-ka-ka-ka-kaaa – come on, you know how it goes!).
It got us talking to other partygoers too, including a couple who were visiting from America, and a guy from Georgia who had recently moved to Stockholm. Everyone was so friendly, and you found yourself just caught up in the moment, forgetting about everything else. It was a really special afternoon; and reminded me just how much I love Scandinavia.
I’m an Albatraoz
After a few of hours of dancing, we decided to head off and explore some more. As we walked out of the park (snaffling on sweets), we could hear the faint sounds of screaming. Reaching the bottom of the hill, we realised where the noise was coming from… Gröna Lund!
The theme park was literally right outside Skansen (no idea why we hadn’t seen it on our bus ride over!). I LOVE theme parks, so we paid our 115 SEK for entry, and an additional fee of 330 SEK for unlimited rides; and high on sugar, we went on a rampage!
We went on so many rides that evening, and nearly got a concussion on one of them as it spun us round and threw us backwards, over the water. We then raved on rides (where the legend of ‘Moustache and Bitch Face’ began), and I heard the beauty of the song that is ‘I’m an Albatraoz’. It soon became the theme song to our time in Stockholm (along with the frog song – you get to hear some interesting songs in Stockholm!).
Having been thoroughly bashed about for a good few hours, we caught the bus and t-bana back to our hotel. Our initial plans for the night were to head out for drinks in Södermalm, but after a quick Google, we realised that everywhere was shut. Seeing as we didn’t know any cool Swedes that were hosting a house party, we spent the night in the world’s smallest hotel room.
Sightseeing in Stockholm
With the excitement of Midsummer Eve the day before, we hadn’t actually been shopping in the Swedish capital. So we made that our aim for Saturday, as we headed into the city centre.
I didn’t buy that much (although I did find a nice white vest in H&M, which was surprisingly good quality!).
We stopped off at Wayne’s Coffee for a slice of cake for lunch, and then spent a couple of hours at the Royal Palace, which looked very pretty by the harbour in the sun.
In the evening, we booked ourselves onto a boat tour of the city. I’m not going to lie: it wasn’t the best one I’d been on. There’s no denying that Stockholm is pretty, but there didn’t seem to be that many sights from the water. Maybe that was just me though.
We had dinner at an Italian in Gamla Stan. The food was pretty good, but then we expected it, seeing as we were right in the heart of the tourist part of town! It was packed, and at the table next to us, there were a group of particularly loud Americans, whose conversation was drowning out my friend and I’s attempts to speak to one another. We did however, happen to learn all about their lives back in Boston and their plans in Stockholm.
Cocktails in Söder
We stopped off at the Systembolaget on the way back to buy some vodka, and got ready for our night out in Södermalm (the frog song and Albatraoz still firmly in my mind). I continued to embrace the black and white theme in a white long sleeved dress, black boots and my trusty leather jacket.
Having heard about hipster Södermalm, we decided to spend the evening there; and had a look at some of the recommended bars. We caught the t-bana out to Medborgarplatsen, sipping on our concoction of vodka and apple juice. We were so ready for a big night out as we walked to the first bar… and found it was shut.
It seemed that most places were still closed, and there weren’t many Swedes out at all – in fact, it was mainly tourists.
We ordered some particularly delicious vanilla martinis at one bar, and decided to spend a couple of hours there, as it was one of the few bars that was open, and it was kind of busy.
Unfortunately for us, we didn’t get to experience much of a night out in Söder, and by 2am we were on the t-bana back to the hotel. A trip back to Stockholm in the near future is on my list, as I want a proper night out in Söder!
On the way home, we made friends with a very nice drunk girl on the t-bana, who proceded to give us her whole life story, and a detailed description of all the colours she had dyed her hair… you can meet some very nice people when travelling!
It was raining quite badly on our final day in Stockholm, and we had to be at the port for our ferry to Helsinki by 3pm, so we didn’t have that long left. We had our final cinnamon bun breakfast, then caught the t-bana back out to Södermalm to see it in the light of day.
We headed back to the busy Gamla Stan to take some final pictures, before heading back to the hotel to pack our cases.
We weren’t too far from the ferry terminal, so caught an Uber to where we were boarding the ferry to Helsinki: aka the Party Boat, where a wild night ensued…
I enjoyed spending a full week back in Sweden, and the highlight was definitely celebrating Midsummer in Stockholm. It also marked the next chapter of our Scandi Adventure as we ventured into the unknown… Finland!