As far as cities go, you can’t beat Stockholm for relaxing and recharging in picturesque settings, especially on a beautiful spring day. It’s not a very small city, but there’s no sense of urgency or stress. According to residents, it’s no different for those who live here, making it a popular spot for retirees. Ultra clean subways and streets enhance Stockholm’s cool, confident vibe, but the appealing aura comes more from the Swedes themselves. They are the only people with a word for relaxing and chatting over coffee (or tea or juice!) and snack. It’s called a fika, and you’ll see and hear the word everywhere.
Where to have a fika? Anywhere. There are plenty of flowery, fountained parks, and a wealth of cafes and bakeries all over, but head to Gamla Stan (Old Town) for an unbelievable environment that’ll transport you back hundreds of years, when this medieval neighborhood was built. With its narrow cobblestone alleys and brilliant yellows and reds, these quirky blocks house a trove of charming fika-friendly pit stops in an old European atmosphere that’s hard to match. The route there is packed with popular destinations, too: Take the metro to King’s Garden, head toward the Royal Palace (one of the largest in Europe) and walk through Queen Street’s magnificent arches. It’s a short distance that’ll take you longer than you think as you stop to snap pics every few feet.
My host in Stockholm was Arian Eskafi, 30, an Iranian transplant working toward his Ph.D. in bioinformatics. He’s an energetic, cheerful guy who’s been all around Scandinavia and insists that Stockholm really is the best. It’s where he plans to stay. Here, he tries to explain to a baffled American how much of a non-issue sexuality is in Sweden.
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Out Traveler: How long have you lived in Stockholm?
Arian: 5 years. I’m a citizen now.
How long have you been out?
I think most of my colleagues know, but it’s not something you need to tell people here. My friends and family have known for many years. My family’s still in Iran and they’re very supportive. Even when I still lived there.
How is it for a gay person to get along in Stockholm?
It’s not any different than if you’re straight here. Swedes don’t differentiate or treat gay people any differently. It’s just normal here. It’s more polite to ask someone their orientation than their political position.
Name two places a visitor should go with just one day here in the city.
Go to Kungsträdgården (King’s Garden). It’s such a unique, beautiful park across from the palace. Then go to the Mariatorget neighborhood and climb the hill for an unbeatable view of Stockholm.
Your favorite restaurant in Stockholm?
Winterviken has good food. It’s in a really nice area, and I heard that the building used to be a factory before it was converted. It’s surrounded by woods and it feels like a fantasy there. I also like Orchid for Thai food. Thai’s very popular here.
One thing every visitor needs to know about your city before coming here.
Choose the right time to visit: Summer or the end of spring is the best. Don’t come in winter. You probably won’t like the climate in Stockholm in winter. And Swedes behave better when it’s warmer, too!
Follow Brandon Schultz on Twitter @BrandonAlexandr and Instagram