City Slicker in Stockholm

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The Swedish capital is booming, not least because it is Europe's first designated Green Capital. Sarah Barrell offers a guide for new and returning visitors



Why visit?


Because it's summer in the city and because this year Stockholm has been named Europe's first Green Capital, a new accolade to be awarded annually by the EU Commission to cities that lead the way in environmentally friendly urban living.

Along with workaday achievements such as smart waste management and reductions in noise pollution and CO2 emissions, the Swedish capital also has 95 per cent of its population living within 300 metres of a green space. And you can bet your Swedish-designed Hasbeens eco clogs that this includes your hotel.

The city sprawls across 14 distinct islands, and navigating its neighbourhoods by ferry or cruise boat is a supremely pleasant way to get your bearings, as is cycling (from borrow-and-return City Bikes: citybikes.se). But a bird's-eye view gives the best sense of Stockholm's patchwork lay-out and there's no better place to see it than from the new SkyView, the city's dome-shaped answer to the London Eye.

Stockholm is currently booming with new sights and hotels. More than 1,000 hotel rooms will open in the city this year alone, including one in an old waterfront mill (elite.se/marinatower). Best of all, Stockholm is no longer the budget buster it used to be. Mercer's latest Cost of Living Index gave Tokyo and Moscow the top spots, with plenty of eurozone destinations to follow; Stockholm wasn't even ranked.

Don't miss

Gamla Stan. Even if you're not titivated by displays of jewel-encrusted tiaras and well-polished weapons, the royal palace complex dominating the island of Gamla Stan is a must-see, representing the grandest of Stockholm's old town architecture.

The archipelago. A maritime world of more than 24,000 islands, islets and skerries, of which only about 1,000 are inhabited. Cruises from 45 minutes, to full-day trips and longer. See waxholmsbolaget.se

Vasa. The museum built around a spectacularly well-preserved 69-metre-long warship, which met its end in the city's harbour on its maiden voyage in 1628. See vasamuseet.se

NK department store. A grand building, designed by Ferdinand Boberg, Sweden's leading Art Nouveau architect, sells everything from cutting-edge menswear to mints made from a 90-year old secret recipe. See Nk.se

National Gallery. Along with the Cezannes and Rembrandts, Sweden's largest art gallery is defined by its Scandinavian collection. See nationalmuseum.se

Djurgarden. Hike, bike or laze around this green lung of an island, a former royal hunting ground.

What's new

Fotografiska

A permanent showplace for international photography, set in a restored customs building originally designed by Boberg. The museum opened last month with five exhibitions, including the headlining Annie Leibovitz retrospective entitled A Photographer's Life, 1990-2005. Set near the somewhat remote Stadsgard wharf, the venue is best accessed by strolling along the cliff-top Per Andas Terrace, taking photos of the harbour, Old Town, Skeppsholmen and Djurgarden as you go.

Details: fotografiska.eu

Skeppsholmen Hotel

A new member of Design Hotels, Skeppsholmen is set in an 18th-century house near the Modern Art Museum and is the only hotel on the tiny, peaceful island of the same name. It's set in two long-house buildings that date back in part to the 1600s and used to house the Royal Marines. Apart from the building's exterior and antique wooden floors, the hotel is ultra-modern, decked in lots of marine greys and blues warmed up by sculptural fittings and furnishings from local designers Claesson Koivisto. Rooms from £187 per night.

Details: hotelskeppsholmen.se

B.A.R restaurant

Tiled walls, a huge wet fish bar, rough cotton napkins and a zinc-top bar make this the coolest of Stockholm's new eateries. Open since last November, B.A.R is the third restaurant directed by award-winning chef and gastronomic visionary, Henrik Norström and Peter Johansson (the team behind feted LUX restaurant). This "ocean grill" gets patrons to participate in devising their dishes, by choosing from the ice counter and fish tank, fresh fish, seafood, meat, seasonal vegetables and condiments. Main meals cost SEK25-32 (£20-£27).

Details: restaurangbar.se

SkyView

Take a 20-minute journey to the top of what is pegged as the largest spherical building in the world. This new panoramic ride has two glass gondolas that travel on rails up the side of the Ericsson Globe Arena (on Stockholm's largest island, Sodermalm) to heights of 130 metres above sea level, offering superb city views. Admission: SEK130 (£11).

Details: globearenas.se

The Grand spa

The city's landmark hotel, The Grand, has just opened a birch-scented spa in the Burmanska Palace section of the building. Book a massage, wrap or holistic treatment and you can use the sumptuous pool, wet rooms and Nordic baths that overlook the Baltic and Sweden's Royal Castle.

Details: raisondetrespa.se

Millennium Trilogy Tour

Unless you've had your head in a very big pile of herring, you'll have heard of Swedish author Stieg Larsson and his bestselling Millennium Trilogy, which tells the story of journalist Mikael Blomkvist and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. Fans can delve further into Larsson's world on a guided tour of Stockholm, taking in story locations (or buy a Millennium Map from the city museum for DIY exploration). Admission SEK120 (£10).

Details: stadsmuseum.stockholm.se

Insider's secret

Pierre Couriaut, founder of the Swedish dating site blickar.se

"Enjoy the late-setting sun at Vitabergsparken, a hilltop park on Sodermalm island, near the bohemian district of SoFo [South of Folkungagatan]. Then move to one of the crowded cafés around Nytorget, rounding off your evening at one of the hundreds of local restaurants. My favourite is Pelikan (pelikan.se), just off the main hub, serving home-style Swedish food (plenty of pickled herring and more), in an atmospheric, old building."

Compact Facts

How to get there

Sarah Barrell travelled as a guest of SAS (0906 294 2772; flysas.co.uk), which offers return fares from London Heathrow to Stockholm from £134, and from Manchester from £136. She stayed at Hotel Stureplan (hotelstureplan.se), which offers B&B in a double room from SEK1,325 (£120) per night.

Further Information

Visit Sweden (visitsweden.com/citybreaks).

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