Mini guide to design in Stockholm
Traditional and contemporary trends blend in Stockholm, the stylish Swedish capital. (David De Vleeschauwer)
The Swedish capital is like a living gallery – the city has understated style in its very DNA. Venture beyond the IKEA phenomenon and marvel at the functional beauty and simplicity of Scandinavian craftsmanship.
Swedish design and stationery are a perfect pairing – the elevation of function by the attention paid to form has, at Bookbinders, some dapper results. There’s a range of handcrafted notebooks, diaries, photo albums, cards and boxes to keep your life in perfect order (Hamngatan 18–20 bottenplan; notebooks from £4).
If you want to take home some good Swedish design but don’t own a Gold AmEx card, head to DesignTorget, where the works of emerging designers rub stylish shoulders with more established denizens. With new items on the shelves every week, from resin rings and cutting-edge candlesticks to wall clocks and kitchen-knife sets, there’s little chance you’ll leave empty-handed (Götgatan 31; butterfly-print flower jars £7).
Svenskt Tenn was once the stomping ground of Josef Frank, whose floralpatterned fabrics and Modernist furniture are now the stuff of design legend. Bag yourself some of his printed fabrics or simply go for the innovative glassware, brass horticulture pots or retro, mid-century modernstyle printed cushions from Swedish design heavyweights (Strandvägen 5; closed Sun; Josef Frank table mats from £30).
Beautiful Skogskyrkogarden cemetery was designed by Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz in the early 20th century. It’s on the Unesco World Heritage list and is famed for its functionalist buildings, such as the Holy Cross – the largest chapel in the cemetery – and is also the resting place of Greta Garbo (Sockenvägen 492; admission free).
Built in 1889 and originally a lawnmower factory, Färgfabriken now makes headlines thanks to its leading art exhibitions and innovative performances, which often fuse the likes of dance, theatre, music and film together in pretty experimental ways. Filmmaker David Lynch once exhibited his sculpture Eat My Fear here (Lövholmsbrinken 1; closed Mon & Tue and Jul & Aug; admission £4).
Sweden’s Nationalmuseum holds a permanent exhibition that runs through the major movements in 20th- and 21st-century design, from Pop Art and postmodern furniture to folk themes and industrial objects. The wider collection, including 18th-century works, shows contemporary Swedish design in its historical context (Södra Blasieholmshamnen; closed Mon; admission from £9.50).
Eating and drinking
Hotel bars have become the new cool in Stockholm, and Rival is one of its most style-aware places to drink, with bold, blocky colours, striking lighting and a slinky, circular bar. You’ll find it inside the design hotel of the same name, which is co-owned by Benny Andersson of ABBA (Mariatorget 3; cocktails from £12).
An empty table is as rare as a mediocre meal at Sturehof, a crisp, Jonas Bohlin-designed brasserie – all white tiles, frosted glass and quirky lampshades. This is the perfect place to enjoy seafood, champagne and gratuitous people-watching on the Stureplan. Afterwards, pop into Obaren, the tiny bar-withinrestaurant, for a post-meal martini (Stureplan 2; mains from £14).
Eating at award-winning F12 Restaurant is akin to a culinary adventure, with the likes of squid and sea-buckthorn with oyster emulsion, veal tenderloin with lobster and tarragon, and pear fudge with ginger and cardamom. The focus is as much on the décor as the dining, however – the entire interior is renovated every two years to keep it in style (Rödbotorget 2; closed Sat lunch, Sun; tasting menus £120).
Where to stay
STF Gärdet is Stockholm’s first ‘designer hostel’. It has smart, contemporary rooms with fluffy sheepskins and textured rugs – all have their own bathroom and some come with kitchenettes (Sandhamnsgatan 59; from £85).
Hip Hotel Hellsten’s themed rooms range from rustic Swedish to Indian exotica, while sleek bathrooms sport phones and hand-cut Greek slate. There’s live jazz in the chic lounge on Thursday evenings (Luntmakargatan 68; from £125).
Hotel Anno 1647 has labyrinthine hallways, affable staff and both budget and standard rooms. The latter are the real winners and come with old floorboards, Rococo wallpaper and chandeliers (Mariagränd 3; from £230).
Stockholm Arlanda airport, which is around 20 miles north of the city, connects with Birmingham, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Heathrow, London City and Manchester (Manchester from £160 with Scandinavian Airlines; Heathrow from £135 with BA). From here, buses leave for the Cityterminalen every 10–15 minutes and take around 45 minutes (single tickets £9.50). Stockholm is a compact city and best explored on foot. Public transport (buses, trams and Metro trains) is clean, reliable and efficient (citycentre singles £3.50, day travelcards £11).