24 Hours In: Stockholm

Drink coffee like the Swedes, see a maritime marvel, climb the city hall tower and put on your finest for a bedtime drink


Skip the herring, feast on pastries

09.00: Rise and shine at the Grand Hotel before stepping out for breakfast. If the last thing you fancy is herring, try a coffee, smoothie and a pastry at the Ostermalmshallen, a 19th-century redbrick gothic market hall on Ostmalmstorg, where there are numerous coffee stands. (The Swedes are serious coffee connoisseurs.) Once sustained, marvel at the displays of Baltic fish, vegetables and elaborate breads pastries and baked goods - apple cake, cheesecake and gingerbread. Closed Sundays.

Drop anchor at ship's museum

10.00: If there's one absolute must-see museum in Stockholm, it's the Vasamuseet (00 46 8519 548 00; vasamuseet.se). Set on the island of Djurgarden, this vast gallery was built to accommodate the only 17th-century ship in existence, which sank within minutes of her launch in 1628 and was salvaged almost complete from Stockholm harbour 333 years later. The vessel itself is unexpectedly beautiful, and there are fascinating displays on her reclamation, reconstruction and preservation, as well as on naval architecture and life as it must have been lived on board.

Hit the high notes for lunch

13.00: Just behind the Opera House, you'll find Bakfickan ab Operakallaren (10 Jakobs Torg, opposite the red church of St Jakob; no bookings). An institution since 1962 (the decor can't have changed; only the signed photographs of singers and dancers on the walls are ever updated), it serves simple, inexpensive, traditional dishes from a short menu that changes daily. You could try salmon with dill mayonnaise and cucumber, Swedish hash with fried egg and beetroot, and many ways with herring. It's a buzzy place, and the food is great because it comes from the same kitchen as the opulent Operakallaren restaurant, whose name translates as"back pocket".

Go for gold in City Hall

14.30: Walk off lunch by climbing the 106m-high tower of the Stadhuset or City Hall (00 46 8508 29058; stockholm.se/cityhall), from which there are sublime views across the city and its islands. More like a cathedral than a municipal HQ, this magnificent redbrick edifice - think 20th-century gothic - also contains the Golden Hall, whose walls glitter with pieces of mosaic made from glass and 10kg of goldleaf. Its sister, Blue Hall, where the Nobel banquet is held, has walls that aren't blue at all but exposed brickwork.

Head for the old town to shop

15.30: Across the water from the Stadhuset lies the Gamla Stan or Old Town, an island connected by bridges to the rest of the city, and cross-hatched by ancient lanes and alleys, some of them 13th century, but interspersed with Baroque. With its colourful narrow houses, it is undeniably touristy, but attractively so. And the antique shops on Osterlanggatan are a good place to window-shop if you've developed a taste for genuine Gustavian furniture.

Eat cake while royal-watching

17.00: Stellan Astrom designed Konditori Valand (Surbrunnsgatan 48) in 1954. Its stunning, of-the-period, curvaceous wood-panelled décor - neon lettering, a black stone floor, neat rows of bottles lined up on shelves - together with an artful display of mouthwatering cakes baked by his German wife, Magdalena, are two compelling reasons to make the journey here. The atmosphere is undeniably boho, but royalty has been spotted here.

Now for Swedish food at its best

20.00: More than a century old - not that you'd know from its interior - and something of an institution, Sturehof (Stureplan 2; 00 46 8440 5730) is one of the best restaurants in the city, serving modern Swedish cooking. If you've had it with salmon and herring, there are excellent meatballs with lingonberries and pickled cucumber. And don't miss the Toast Skagen, prawns in a lemony dill-flavoured mayonnaise spread on toast and topped with bleak fish roe.

Dress up for a nightcap

22.30: Now that the eternally hip Lydmar has closed, the best hotel for post-dinner drink is Berns, Nackstromsgatan (8 Berzelii Park, 00 46 8566 32200; berns.se). Conran may have fitted it out, but the building remains fabulously belle époque, all chandeliers, mirrors and wood panelling. Its lounge bar which is one of several is an essay in opulent crimson plush. There's also a nightclub and an outdoor terrace. Worth dressing up for.

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