Image obtained from Flickr.com under Creative Commons (c) Nicholas Boos
For a quirky trip back in time with fine coffee and pastries, head over to Sturekatten in Östermalm. And make sure you try a semlor (buns with almond paste and whipped cream) while you’re there.
Sturekatten, Riddargatan 4. T-bana to Östermalmstorg. Opening hours vary but are closing time is no later than 1900 – come during the day
Looking for an unusual Swedish souvenir? What about a polka-pig? Rather than being a dancing farm animal (even Google Translate knows that) this is the name the Swedes use for a candy cane. If you pay a visit to the relatively new Polkapojkarna store and its on-site sweet factory in Gamla Stan (old town) you can see how “polkagris” candy canes are made. What’s more, the polkagris is still made according to the company’s original recipes from 1859 – by hand. A huge range of (often rather bizarre) flavours are available but the classic Swedish polkagris is made of twisted red and white sugary ribbons and a peppermint taste.
Image obtained from Flickr.com under Creative Commons (c) HamburgCam
If you were wondering about the pig thing, here’s the story. Polkagris is indeed a combination of two swedish words; “polka” (the dance) which was used due to its ‘swirling’ style, and “gris” which does mean pig. But in Swedish it’s also used in a light-hearted manner to describe a person who loves candy. Like Sturekatten, walking into this store is like a trip back to simpler times with its old-fashioned displays and decor.
The store in Stockholm is the first one outside of Gränna, the birthplace of the polkagris. This town of just 2,500 residents receives over a million visitors each year primarily due to its 150 year polkagris history, but you can save yourself a journey by calling into Lilla Nygatan 10 while you’re in Stockholm.
Image obtained from Flickr.com under Creative Commons (c) Truus, Bob & Jan of Holland
Fancy a swim while in Stockholm? Unless your hotel has a pool (in which case it’s probably the size of a postage stamp) or it’s the height of summer (in which case you can jump in the fjord as the water is so clean) you may be thinking that there’s no reason to pack your trunks. Centralbadet is the reason. Designed by architect Willhelm Klemming to fulfil his vision of an open window on nature Centralbadet opened in 1904. It’s hard to avoid using the cliche “an oasis of calm” so I won’t even bother trying, because that’s what it is. This art nouveau spa is located in central Stockholm in a quiet garden just metres from bustling Drottningatan.
Image obtained from Flickr.com under Creative Commons (c) Esther Dyson
Centralbadet is some 3,000 square metre in size and contains a swimming pool, gym, bar, restaurant,sun roof and the relaxation baths. It’s a great place to revitalise and highly recommended – being Sweden it’s not cheap but how often do you get the chance to take a dip in a place like this?
Image obtained from Flickr.com under Creative Commons (c) Jurriaan Persyn
You can hire towels and robes if you so desire, and a towel is required for the sauna. Note that children are not permitted – those 16 to 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Centralbadet has long opening hours so you should be able to fit in a visit during your stay. You definitely should.
Centralbadet, Drottningangatan 88. T-bana Hötorget. Open daily – see website for details
If you want to see the results of a well-considered ‘fair trade’ project – and perhaps buy a gift for a child (or the young-at-heart), take a look at Kalikå in Gamla Stan. Kalikå’s colourful soft toys and dolls are hand made by parents of children with functional disabilities in Russia. The “Fair Play” project allows mothers to stay home to care for their children but also support themselves. This provides an alternative to having to place the child in an orphanage. Despite changes in the country old attitudes linger from the Soviet days – especially the stigma attached to disabled children. The independent Early Intervention Institute in Saint Petersburg provides specialized training for staff as well as providing help for the children and their families. Kalikå began a joint venture with the Institute in the 1990s and today 60 women are sewing Kalikå toys in their homes.
They meet regularly at the Institute to exchange their experiences of being parents with disabled children as they deliver their finished work and collect more materials. The profits generated are shared with the Institute and are used to increase support for functionally disabled children. Unlike many companies who are more concerned about cheap labour in other countries than poor working conditions, Kalikå ships Swedish made pre-cut materials and components to Saint Petersburg for the mothers to sew the toys. By establishing production in Russia it can comply with all the basic concepts for fair trade.
As well as its Russian-produced items Kalikå stocks a whole range of educational and traditional toys and games and is a good place to find something to take home that will be far more well-received than that “My Dad went to Stockholm and all I got was this lousy…” t-shirt you may have been considering…
Kalikå, Österlånggatan 18, Gamla Stan. T-bana Gamla Stan