Stockholm A-Z: ÅÄÖ

A-Z doesn’t stop here. No, not in Sweden. As if the Swedish language isn’t difficult enough to learn, there are three more letters of the alphabet to contend with: Å, Ä and Ö.

Å is pronounced like ‘or’
Ä is pronounced like ‘air’
Ö is pronounced like ‘urr’

These letters are partly what gives the Swedish language its distinctive sound and can be a bit difficult for foreign learners to get their brains and mouths around.

Interestingly, the letter Ö is also a word – Island. Think about that if you head into the archipelago and see many of the place names ending with ö.


Stockholm A-Z: Zombie invasion


At some point in August, Stockholm becomes a fearful place. Hordes of zombies invade the city and bystanders should be careful not to get in the way. Starting in Östermalm, the zombies limp to a nearby underground station, where they travel the tube and arrive on Södermalm. Zombie nurses, zombie soldiers, zombie children, zombie clowns swarm out of the station and onto the street. Another sombre walk and they arrival at the zombie park to mingle and eat flesh. It’s a scary sight, not for the faint of heart.

There are many festivals and parades in Stockholm, many of them taking place in the light summer months. Stockholm Pride on the first Saturday in August and the May Day parades on May 1st are probably the largest parades to watch. Another parade is ‘Stockholm Cruising’ also on the first Saturday in August where hundreds of vintage cars and rockabillies cruise along Sveavägen in Vasastan. ‘Shockholmen’ on the first Saturday in November in Kungsträdgården is Scandinavia’s largest Halloween parade. Like the zombie walk, it’s also a scary experience.

There are masses of festivals going on in Stockholm all year. Whether you’re a beer drinker, a music follower, a fetischist, a poetry aficionado, a theatre buff, a choir lover or a stand up fan there is something for everybody. More information can be found on

Stockholm A-Z: Yumpin’ Yimminy


In 1941, a Hollywood movie was released starring Vaudeville actor El Brendel. The movie was about a simple Swedish immigrant who unknowingly becomes assistant to a jewel thief. As an expression of surprise, he exclaims ‘Yumpin’ Yimminy!’ instead of the phrase ‘Jumping Jimminy’ which was popular at the time. This, of course, was a way of ridiculing the Swedish difficulty of pronouncing J and similar jokes highlighting this are for example ‘do you have any use (ie juice) for my wife?’

The Swedish language that we see on signs can still today provide us with some giggles. It’s useful to know what some of the words mean when you’re visiting Stockholm.

Infart – this sounds painful, but it’s the Swedish word for entrance (usually for vehicles)
Utfart – the word for exit (usually for vehicles)
Ned – on the underground, this means down
Rea – not a singer but the Swedish word for Sale
Slutrea – not a tarty singer but a Final Sale
Slutspurt – rather unappealing word that means end of Sale rush
Realisation – oh my god!! It’s a sale!
T – banan – not a funny shaped banana but the underground metro (Tunnelbana)
Mynt – not fresh breath tablets, but coins
Kök – pronounced ‘shurk’, this means kitchen and nothing else
Herrtoalett – confusingly not her toilet but his toilet. Herr in this context is the Swedish word for Gents
Drag – not a suggestion to wear women’s clothes but a suggestion to pull a door open
Tryck – push the door
Väg – nothing female, just the Swedish word for road

Stockholm A-Z: eXpat community


There are thousands of expats living in Stockholm from a variety of countries. Seduced by the allure of the city and its inhabitants many decide to stay after initially intending to love here for only a short while. As expat life can feel isolating sometimes, there are many expat organisations and clubs catering to the needs of this group such as, and the American Women’s Club.

And then there’s the pubs. One pub where you will typically find an expat crowd from Europe and English-speaking countries is The Tudor Arms in Östermalm. Founded in 1969, this pub won the 2009 Best English Pub in the World competition run by the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper for its genuine atmosphere, entertainment and pub grub.

On Södermalm, a popular joint is the Southside Irish Pub with its live music and pub quiz nights. Not far from here are the Oliver Twist, the Bishop’s Arms and Accurat – other pubs popular with British expats.

Many club nights are also arranged in Stockholm which attract people from for example South America and African countries.

Speciality food shops exist throughout Stockholm to appeal to the expat crowd and interested Swedes. Asian supermarkets in the Hötorget area are a good example, and the British sausage has had a renaissance via Taylor’s and Jones butchers on Kungsholmen. In the suburbs of Tensta, Skärholmen and Rinkeby great foods shops selling international produce can be found.

To tune into expat life in Stockholm, visit the Expat’s very own newspaper

Stockholm A-Z: Wine and Whisky


When visiting Sweden, people are often struck by the system for purchasing alcohol. In bars and restaurants everything goes as expected but if you want to buy a bottle of, for example, wine or whisky then this is done in the state-owned alcohol shops known as Systembolaget. These shops have restricted opening hours closing at 6 or 7pm on weekdays and 2 or 3pm on Saturdays. On Sundays and Public Holidays they are closed. Only in Finland, Iceland, Norway and the Faro Islands do they have similar concepts.

Sweden’s alcohol monopoly started in the 1800’s and the national company Systembolaget was formed in 1955.

Systembolaget has a retail network of circa 426 stores, around 25 in Stockholm. The company has an interesting mandate from the Swedish state – to help limit the medical and social harm caused by alcohol and thereby improve public health. This explains why access to alcohol is restricted through the number of stores, opening hours and retail rules, and why the corporation is aims not to maximise its profit. In other words, the alcohol monopoly is highly socio-political -its foremost aim is to stop people consuming alcohol, or at least to consume it responsibly.

Although strange for many visitors, it’s a concept that seems to work – Swedes consume on average 9.1 litres of pure alcohol per person annually. How long this state monopoly is allowed to last is however a question decided by the politicians on national and EU level and an important factor is the how strong the support of the Swedish people is. Systembolaget is loved by some and hated by others. On the one hand you have the limitation to individual freedom of choice, lack of accessibility and lack of competition. On the other hand, you have a very broad product range, knowledgeable wine experts and a brand-independent consumer environment.

However you look at it, Systembolaget has economic significance in Sweden. It employs many people, spawns an industry of wine merchants, turns over billions of crowns a year, contributing to the state income.

So if you want to buy a bottle of alcohol head down to your nearest Systembolaget. Just not on a Sunday.

Stockholm A-Z: Vasa


It’s amazing that a country like Sweden, known for its technological success and innovative thinking, is also proud owner of one of history’s most epic fails. The Vasa ship, built in the 1700’s was supposed to be the grandest, most fear-instilling vessel of its time. It included an unprecedented 64 canons and was reflective of the great warrior king Gustav Vasa.

The problem is the ship never made it to battle. In fact, it didn’t even make it out of the harbour. The Vasa ship sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 right to the bottom of the Baltic Sea. However, because of the brackish nature of the water, the Vasa didn’t rot and in the 1980’s was able to be miraculously salvaged – a case of achievement winning over failure. Today, the boat is housed in the stunning Vasa Museum on Djurgården. If you only see one museum in Stockholm, this is the one to see.

You don’t have to be a lover of maritime history to enjoy it. Just reflect over how the people of Stockholm, centuries later, overcame defeat and humiliation and restored their pride. If nothing else, the Vasa Museum is a celebration of modern innovation and tenacity as much as it medieval delusions of grandeur.

Stockholm A-Z: Traditions


Depending on the time of year you visit Stockholm, you will experience or witness different traditions. The Swedes are a people who love their customs and it usually involves food and snaps.

In winter there are the usual traditions of Christmas and New Year, and Stockholm is awash with beautiful Christmas lights and trees. To see the biggest Christmas tree in Northern Europe head down to the quayside on Skeppsbron in Gamla Stan where a fantastically evenly-proportioned tree dominates the night sky. The window displays, the twinkling lights and the New Year’s Eve fireworks are all great things to see in Stockholm during this season. Christmas is celebrated on 24th December with a Christmas buffet that includes ham, herring, meatballs, salmon, beer and snaps. Prior to Christmas, December 13th is the interesting Swedish tradition of Lucia. Early in the morning in schools, churches, workplaces and hotels, girls dressed in white arrive in a vocal parade to bring light to the darkness. It’s a beautiful tradition and very atmospheric.

Come springtime, the weather is starting to improve and several national holidays are taken. Easter is a long weekend and a time for Swedish families to gather. Stockholm is often quiet around this time as residents often travel outside the city for their celebrations. Typically people eat herring, salmon, lots of eggs and drink beer and snaps.

The last day of April – Walpurgis Eve – huge bonfires are built around the city and crowds gather to watch the flames and listen to choirs to welcome the spring. A good place to catch this impressive tradition is Riddarholmen next to Gamla Stan. The following day, May 1st in Labour Day in Sweden and in Stockholm you will see demonstrations and speeches being held in many of the public squares and parks.

Then there’s Ascension Day towards the end of May. No special traditions are associated with this but as it is a four-day break, many Stockholmers take the opportunity to go out of town.

On June 6th Sweden has it’s national day. It’s a fairly new public holiday and usually means an opportunity for people to be off work and be outside to enjoy the weather. Celebrations are held at Skansen and in Kungsträdgården park and in the City Hall a ceremony takes place for everybody who has become a Swedish citizen during the year to welcome them into Swedish society.

Around June 20th, it’s time for Midsummer’s Eve. Stockholm is often quiet on this day as shops and restaurants are shut. Residents head out to the countryside to celebrate this time with friends and family. Celebrations involve dancing around a maypole, eating herring and potatoes, playing games, drinking snaps. Needless to say, many babies are made during this long, light summer night. In Stockholm, Skansen has a Midsummer celebration for those left in town which is a fun way to experience this very Swedish tradition.

In late summer, early autumn it’s time for the crayfish party. Friends, colleagues gather to eat crayfish, sing songs, drink snaps and party. It often signifies the last days of summer before heading into the darker season. Many restaurants offer crayfish on their menu at this time of year.

Another food-related tradition in the autumn is the ‘surströmmingspremiären’. This is the gathering and eating of fermented Baltic herring. Far from everybody follows this tradition, as it is an acquired taste. The herring ferments in a tin and is opened outdoors due to its pungent reek and eaten with bread and potatoes.

On the cusp of autumn and winter is All Saints Day. While Halloween is becoming more popular in Sweden, it’s not a traditional Swedish celebration. On All Saints Day, people go out to the cemeteries and light candles to honour their loved ones. It’s a beautiful tranquil sight to behold as dark descends to see the crisp twinkling candlelight illuminating graveyards around the town.

Stockholm A-Z: Stockholmers


To find one word that sums up Stockholmers is tough. As true East Londoners are supposedly defined by if they were born within the sound of Bow church bells, ‘real Stockholmers’ are defined by having being born and raised here for 6 generations. That’s no mean feat, and needless to say there’s not that many of them.

So what is a Stockholmer? Like most world cities, the people of Stockholm are urban mongrels. In the rapidly expanding population, if you literally swung a cat on the street, you would probably hit somebody from another part of the country. The majority of the residents of Stockholm have migrated here from ‘the countryside’. Chosen to come to get a job, go to college, chase a dream or eat from the smörgåsbord of the capital. Consequently, you will find that Stockholmers are hard-working, focused, cosmopolitan people who want to make a difference to their lives but still dream of the idyll of the countryside.

On the surface, Stockholmers seem fairly homogenous in terms of appearance. People are generally very trend conscious and if one person wears a checked scarf, it’s not long before everyone’s doing it. Diversity of style is not so easy to find when compared to other, larger cities. Often voted amongst the most beautiful people in the world, this conformity and fashion-consciousness combined with fitness orientation can be part of the reason. However, Stockholmers rarely find themselves in the top list for the most friendly people in the world. Residents are often perceived as cool and aloof and not very helpful. I’ve personally had enough people closing doors on me, walking into me as though I wasn’t there and ignoring me to share this perception to some degree. Like many urbanites, Stockholmers are busy, stressed and wrapped up in their own thing. For example, balancing child care with child events, work and social life can sometimes lead to a lack of awareness of others around. Add to this the challenges of being battered by a cold dark winter and you find a population generally more inwardly-focused than outwardly-conscious.

That said, Stockholmer’s can be schizophrenic. The inward focus of the winter shifts as the lighter warmer season arrives. An understandable lifting of the spirits is tangible, cafés move out onto the streets, people ditch the quilted coats in favour of airier clothes and more laughter is heard. People embrace the outdoor life and try to soak up as much UV as possible. It is literally like coming out of hibernation.

For Stockholmers, cultural activities, sport of all kinds, physical activity, shopping, personal pampering, eating out are all part of the agenda. The social Swedish concept of ‘fika’, drinking coffee and eating cake, is popular in the city and reflected by the large number of cafés and bakeries. Even here, trends play an important role, and the current trend of artisan baked goods seems to have a long-lasting grip.

Most Stockholmers seem to love their city and many take an interest in planning regulations and environmental issues. Despite this, Stockholm is the only city in the world that I know of where the term ‘unSwedish’ is used as a positive description of, for example, a cafe, a butique or a restaurant. It seems like the migrant soul of many Swedes extends beyond the capital city to other, more exotic places.

So, one word to describe Stockholmers isn’t possible. A diverse, cosmopolitan, schizophrenic, conformist population is perhaps the closest definition we can get.

Stockholm A-Z: Restaurant scene


Stockholmers are real foodies and the restaurant scene in the city is second to none. From simple food trucks to Michelin restaurants, Stockholm can offer everything, whatever your culinary taste. All types of international kitchens are represented and eating out is a favourite pastime for many residents. The cheapest time to eat is at lunch and is often great value for money. The restaurant scene changes frequently but here are a few of the hottest restaurants right now:

The Flying Elk, Gamla Stan
B.A.R, Norrmalm
Urban Deli, Södermalm
Nytorget 6, Södermalm
Nosh and Chow, Norrmalm
Mathias Dahlgren, Norrmalm
Gastrologik, Östermalm
Ekstedt, Östermalm
Lilla Ego, Vasastan
Oaxen Krog, Djurgården
Esperanto, Vasastan

For an exhaustive list of restaurants, with a useful grading system, check out

Stockholm A-Z: Queen of the Mälaren


Throughout the years, Stockholm has been given many nicknames: The Venice of the North, Beauty on Water, The Capital of Scandinavia, the Oak, Cissy swamp. Another old nickname for the city is the Queen of the Mälaren. Built on 14 islands between the Baltic Sea and the lake Mälaren, it’s not hard to see why Stockholm was given this majestic title.

Inspired by this nickname, a mural was created in the Gold Room of the City Hall. The mural depicts a giant woman, the Queen of the Mälaren, being honoured from the east and the west. Legend has it that this mural received heavy criticism at the City Hall’s opening in 1923 as people perceived her as ugly, unlike the beautiful Stockholm. The artist, who had modelled her on his wife, irritatedly responded ‘her eyes are big so she can watch over the world, her feet are big so she can sit firm and her golden hair symbolises the sun’.

Whatever your opinion the Queen of the Mälaren is an eye-catching dominating image in the City Hall and well worth the visit.

Stockholm’s City Hall sits proudly on the island of Kungsholmen opposite the abstract conference centre of Stockholm Warterfront. The location of the Nobel banquet, the City Hall offers beautiful interiors, halls and chambers. It’s highest point is the 106 meter high clock tower which can be reached by an elevator or 365 steps for the energetic. From the top, you have a magnificent view over the city and the Mälaren. And for a moment as you stand there, taking in the commanding panorama, you feel like the Queen of the Mälaren.