Posts tagged ‘Stockholm’

Stockholm’s Junibacken brings Pippi and pals to life

With only a week in a city as fascinating as Stockholm, you have to make choices. No easy task for a fangirl like me. There’s the ABBA museum with its legendary stage costume, gold records and flashing dance floors. There’s Steig Larrson tours of Sodermalm that visit the haunts of Mikael Blomqvist and dragon-tattoed Lisbeth Salander.
But the hero I most wanted to visit was the red-pigtailed, superhuman nine-year-old named Pippi Longstocking. As you may remember from Astrid Lindgren’s popular books, Pippi not only has a pet monkey named Mr. Nilsson, a suitcase full of gold coins and her very own lemonade tree, but she lives fearlessly by her own rules, relishes nonconformity and regularly sticks bullies and other unreasonable, condescending adults up in trees. That’s my kind of champion.

In the 11 books, Pippi’s colorful home resides in the middle of a forest, but lucky for millions of her fans, Villa Villekulla has been recreated right in the center of Stockholm. It’s on Djurgarden Island, just steps from the Vasa Museum, and easily accessible by bus and ferry. Although Junibacken, as it’s called, is technically a children’s museum, it is by far one of my favorite Stockholm attractions. The carrot cake alone is worth the visit.

The highlight of the museum is the Storybook Train that whisked us and other guests through miniature landscapes of Astrid Lindgren’s many books. In wooden houses with lights twinkling in the windows, we met Alfie Atkins, Festus and Mercury Max, we watched the Lionheart Brothers slay Katla, the dragon and, of course, communed with Pippi and her friends, Tommy and Annika.

The 15-minute adventure is available in 12 languages and, if you happen to know Swedish, you can hear Lindgren herself reading the narration, allegedly the last text she ever wrote. Junibacken also has Sweden’s largest children’s bookstore, a Children’s Theater that stages more than 1500 shows per year and a restaurant with stunning views of Stockholm’s Nybroviken Bay.

The most remarkable thing about the restaurant (at least if you compare it to the average junk food dispensed at most US children’s museums) is that its entire menu is made fresh from locally-sourced, certified organic produce. Whether you want lingonberry pancakes or classic meatballs, just-picked asparagus or autumn’s chanterelles, Junibacken’s restaurant prides itself in being sustainable, conscious and worthy of its young customers and their parents. There’s even dairy and gluten-free cakes options and a staff master baker who dishes up delectable bread, cakes and pastries.

So, Pippi, thanks again, for making my childhood and now even my adulthood so adventurous and memorable.

Five top reasons all of us should give a flying fika

According to a 2017 report by the United Nations, Sweden is right up there in the top 10 of the world’s happiest countries.

Swedish fika

And I’m pretty sure it has to do with its reverential obsession with fika. The Swedes will fika anytime, anywhere, with any person.

This long-standing Swedish institution, considered a non-negotiable right, is even written into employee contracts. To fika (although the Swedes are loath to translate their proprietary word) basically means to have coffee and a pastry.

But fika, which can be a noun or a verb, is way more Zen than that.

Here are the top five reasons all of us should fika every chance we get:

1. It’s a caffeine-fueled siesta. It’s one thing to zip around a Starbuck’s drive-though. But to fika is to drop everything, to sit down, take a break, energize and meditate with your homies. It’s the Slow Food movement for coffee drinkers.

2. It creates social capital. Theoretically you could fika alone, but to a Swede, that would be like tango without a partner, like wearing one mitten.


3. It’s completely rule-free. British tea is usually taken in the afternoon. Likewise, happy hour, is an after-work phenomenon. The Swedes, on the other hand, fika in the morning, in the afternoon and really any time they need a breather. It’s no wonder the average Swede consumes 864 cups of coffee per year. Anyone who read Stieg Larsson’s dragon tattoo trilogy couldn’t help but notice the sheer volume of coffee consumed by Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander.

4. It’s rebellious. Five times, over the past centuries, Swedish kings have outlawed the consumption of coffee. King Frederik I taxed it, banned it and even confiscated cups, pots and other “paraphernalia.” In the name of science, his grandson, Gustave III, commuted the death sentence of identical twins, sentencing one to instead consume 3 pots of coffee per day and the other 3 pots of tea. His hypothesis failed miserably. Not only did the physicians monitoring the experiment die long before either of the twins, but the coffee-drinker outlived the tea-drinker by several years.

5. By definition, it comes with a treat. If you’re fika-ing properly, your coffee is accompanied by fikabrod, a slew of baked goods ranging from croissants and coffee cakes to bulle, a knotted, buttery pastry, often with cardamom.

Stockholm’s new Hobo Hotel is off-the-chain

I haven’t been hip since I was in my 20’s, wearing cut-offs and hair down to my waist. Least of all, to my 23-year-old daughter.hobo yes x2

So how fa-jeezy that the hotel I chose in Stockholm happens to offer the swassest, buzziest scene in town. I’m talking (finally in language that everyone can understand) about Hobo, a just-opened hipster haven in the Brunkebergstorg area of central Stockholm.

hobo yes

Here are five reasons it’s totally off-the-meat hook (it’s the last aphorism, I promise):

1. It’s near everything that’s anything. Because it’s minutes from Stockholm’s best sights, you can walk–or take the townie-style bikes that, of course, a hotel this cool would offer.

Opened in March, Hobo overlooks the overhauled Brunkebergstorg Square, close to Gamla Stan, hop-on-hop-off boats and buses and Drottninggatan, a lively pedestrian street that runs between Old Town and Observatory Hill. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more perfect jumping off point for touring this city of 14 islands.

And because Hobo’s bar, café and pop-up studios pull in locals (all part of the community vision), we got to sip smoothies and sample small plates and trade itinerary suggestions with a wide assortment of the city’s millennials and artists.

hob5o yes c3
2. Prices are millennial-friendly. Hobo’s vibe, as friendly and as let’s-consider-hooking-up as a tinder account, resembles a hostel except for the Scandi-cool lobby with its flip-dot message boards, barber’s chair and combination of vintage and contemporary, museum-quality artwork. While not quite hostel-cheap, Hobo is notably affordable for such a brand new, innovative hotel.

3. Breakfast, which doesn’t end until 11 a.m, is amaze-balls. Think fresh, organic juice, chia seeds with honey and yogurt, espresso drinks and just-made sandwiches with avocado, tomatoes, lettuce and herbs grown right in the main lobby’s forest of hydroponics. After breakfast, the two-floor restaurant dishes up such communal plates as porchetta (with gnocchi, sage and tomato), torched carrots (with green curry, coconut and crispy rice) and polenta with lemon confit and trevisano.

Every Thursday, the chefs write the upcoming week’s menu with the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients they can find.

room-view-from-bed-hobo-hotel4. The compact rooms are more than offset by the cool factor. Peg walls offer hanging space for overalls and flannel shirts, had we brought any, next to, of course, curated city guides that detail vintage shops, trendy museums, pop-up restaurants and gypsy breweries. Beds come from Swedish designer Anders Hilding. Telephones have been replaced by flat screen TVs that allowed us to stream content from our phones. And, of course, there was a squirt gun in our bathroom and a comic book next to the bed. Not to mention that the efficient size enabled us and other forward-thinking guests to feel noble for not contributing to environmental waste.

5. The owner channeled Houdini for the grand opening. Norwegian entrepreneur and billionaire Petter Stordalen, outbid 75 international operators and ponied up 53 million pounds to buy the former red light district that become Hobo and a second hotel (stay tuned for more on At Six). To draw attention to the project that, as he argued, offers a great escape, he swang from the rooftop in a locked safe attached to a rope. The rope was set on fire and Stordalen, an amateur escapologist, had to free himself before it plunged to, as he says, a project worth dying for, to the ground.

So like Stordalen, who has opened 180 other hotels, some by skiing or jet skiing in, I got to be least for a couple beautiful days in Stockholm.