There’s no denying that the “Venice of the North” is a beauty.
Stockholm is a rich city. This is evident not only in the magnificent Jugendstil buildings lining the promenades of Strandvägen, where the ferries dock that sail out to the skerries, where those local residents who can afford it have their weekend and vacation getaways. Stockholm is also rich in its wealth of islands. Whereas 763 years ago its founding fathers were satisfied to make their home on the tiny islet of Stadsholmen (today the picturesque Old Town of Gamla Stan), Sweden’s capital has since expanded to encompass an archipelago of 14 islands in Lake Mälaren, whose labyrinthine arms lose themselves in the estuary to the Baltic Sea. The city is just as generously endowed with bridges. Are there 53? Or is it 57? There’s certainly more than enough water, in any case.
The abundance of nature is also striking – lush green spaces spread over two-thirds of its surface area. One magical example is the island of Djurgården. There is also a plethora of museums (around 100) and of artistic and cultural assets. The SoFo district on Södermalm is known as a rich source of second-hand, vintage and retro items and is an increasingly important focus for Stockholm’s avant-garde, with more and more artists and designers moving there. The SoFo abbreviation – South of Folkungagatan – is a smart marketing move, copied from New York’s SoHo neighbourhood. The risk of visitors falling prey to bouts of extreme shopping frenzy is high in the bustling centres of Norrmalm and Östermalm, with their profusion of chic boutiques, trendy designer outlets and elegant shopping streets. Then there are the countless restaurants, bars and other sources of Lucullan bliss: Stockholm serves food from (virtually) every nation under the sun – with plenty of stars to boot. And last but not least, there’s Stureplan – the epicentre of the most exclusive clubs and bars and playground to the hippest and coolest of the capital’s beautiful people.
Avant-garde meets history
There’s no denying that the “Venice of the North” is a beauty. The city has great allure, but is without pretention. It is young and dynamic, yet maintains traditions. It is a global player, yet retains a sense of modesty. In other words: it is much more than just “beautiful”. Without great to-do, this little metropolis has grown into one of the most innovative, creative and cosmopolitan cities on earth. Ingenious and inventive figures from the realms of music, fashion, design, technology and the Internet astound the world again and again with groundbreaking ideas and new trends. This includes such brands as Acne Studios, Gant, Orrefors Kosta Boda and giants à la Ericsson, Skype and Spotify. Classics like ABBA, Ikea and H&M have been setting the tone for generations.
The hotel sector is also attracting attention with its inspired concepts – away from impersonal sleeping factories to genuine guest houses: “My personal experience as a guest elsewhere goes into shaping my design hotels,” explains Alessandro Catenacci, owner of the Nobis Group. “I expect elegance, efficiency, charisma, unrivalled comfort and a relaxed atmosphere. And that is precisely what we offer.” One of the city’s greatest sons, Alfred Nobel, draws the interest of the world to Stockholm every December. On the anniversary of his death, the King of Sweden shakes hands with winners of the prestigious prize at the Konserthuset. Is it the wonderful purity of the air here that so inspires the Nordic spirit? Is it the intensity of the light that animates the soul? Is it the omnipresence of that elixir of life – water – that imparts such energy and drive? Why not find out for yourself?
Five Questions for Mats Wahlström
The founder of the Festival da Jazz talks about his relation to music and to St. Moritz.
An Internet pioneer, a music junkie, a multitalented creator who always has another ace up his sleeve.