Stockholm is built across 14 islands in the Baltic Sea and blue Lake
Mälaren, with two-thirds of the city comprised of water and green space. The
actual urban sectors are some of the most beautiful in Europe and the cleanest
in the world. A truly modern metropolis filled with historic architecture and a
reputation for tolerance, Stockholm gives its residents an amazingly high
quality of living and safety — regardless of what certain writers of Swedish
crime novels conjure up — in a forward-thinking city.
What is it known for?
Stockholm’s skyline may be low-profile, with church spires and the Stadshuset
(City Hall) tower exclusively dominating the traditional red, yellow and
terracotta buildings and the baroque gems of Gamla stan (Old Town). But the city is the power centre of Sweden,
from politics to technology to design. The headquarters of many banks and
businesses are also here, as well as 100 museums including the comprehensive Modern Art Museum and the
living history museum Skansen, home to
traditional Swedish buildings and craftspeople.
Locals take full advantage of the seasons. In winter, when the sun is
only an occasional visitor, the town squares are strung with lights and ice
skating rinks are full. In summer, locals flock to take a fika (coffee break), along with the ever-important kanelbulle
(cinnamon bun), in the
cobblestoned Stortorget square in Gamla stan
or a hip café on the island of Södermalm. The sun never really
sets then and the skies only fade to twilight.
Stockholm abounds in Scandinavian
design, food and fashion – and not just with flat pack furniture and H&M apparel
— as well as capital improvements such as new light rail lines, cycle lanes and
other green initiatives. Great restaurants and small cafes serve fresh local seafood,
reindeer and elk meat, cloudberries and mushrooms, as well as many different
ethnic cuisines. Declared the European Green Capital in 2010, Stockholm is
investing in new construction like the City Line tunnel,
which will put commuter rail lines underground and double the number of trains
able to move through the city.
Where do you want to live?
Central Stockholm, not surprisingly, is the most popular place to live, on
islands and districts close to the Old Town. One of the most popular is
Södermalm, once a working class district that is now incredibly hip and trendy.
Especially desirable are the areas north of Mariatorget where terraced houses
climb Mariaberget, a high hill with views of the lake and downtown, and SoFo
(South of Folkungagatan), home to media types, designers and artists who
frequent the bars, boutiques and bohemian art galleries. To the west and east of Gamla stan, quiet Kungholmen and the
wealthy Östermalm neighbourhoods are very popular places to live. Farther out
from the city centre, Djursholm is one of the most expensive districts, with
large villas and gardens.
People looking to find value
for their money often search in the Solna suburbs, according to Alexander Kjellström, estate agent and managing
partner of Bostadsagenten realtors. Surburban Solna is divided into eight
districts and is home to many corporations’ headquarters, including Skanska,
the construction company, and NextJet, a Swedish regional airline. All the
districts have excellent transport links to Old Town and other parts of Stockholm’s
Stockholmers sail on day trips or make longer trips to the islands of the
Stockholm archipelago (there are 24,000 of them), or even the island of Gotland
in the Baltic Sea. Many head to a classic red board stuga (cottage) to swim, fish and live the outdoor life, while in
winter, they head for the Swedish resorts of Romme Alpin, Falun and Kungsberget
to ski. There are fast trains to Malmo (and Copenhagen just across the Oresund
Bridge from Malmo) and Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city. The town of Uppsala,
home to the Uppsala Cathedral and Castle and the oldest university in Sweden,
is only 40 minutes away. There are frequent ferries to Helsinki, Finland, and
The Arlanda Express
fast train whisks passengers to the airport in just 20 minutes from the centre
of Stockholm. Oslo is just a one-hour flight away and cities like Paris and
London are under two hours.
The majority of Swedes own their homes or flats: 65% of properties are owner
occupied, while only 35% are rentals. Buying is the preferred option, because
rentals take so long to come up in the Swedish system. “Unless you happen to be
number one in the municipal rental queue, the waiting period is about 35
years,” said Kjellström.
House prices in greater Stockholm have fallen from their peak in the
first quarter of 2010. In 2011, prices fell 4.4% to an average of 409,000 euro.
“However, the market is now slightly up, after having been considerably down
for a year and a half,” said Kjellström. The properties available are mainly
condos and apartments, and a typical two-bedroom flat costs around 500,000 euro.
A few single-family houses come to market at 500,000 to one million euro, and
rarely, a townhouse that can cost anywhere from 2.5 to five million euro.
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