Photos by Felix Swensson unless otherwise stated
The Swedish capital is exorbitantly expensive, a thing called a "dance permit" exists (which suggests the existence of dance police), and we don't go hard by say, Berlin standards. But Stockholm is also beautiful, friendly, and has some of the most insanely hot people. Read on to find out how to get the most out of your already dwindling sack of krona.
Jump to sections by using the index below:
– WHERE TO PARTY
– WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH DRUGS?
– POLITICS, PROTESTS, AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?
The Racists | Protests | The Immigrants
– WHERE TO EAT
– WHAT DO LOCALS EAT?
– WHERE TO DRINK
– WHERE TO STAY
– LGBT STOCKHOLM
– WHERE TO HANG OUT WHEN YOU'RE SOBER
– HOW TO AVOID GETTING RIPPED OFF AND BEATEN UP
– HOW NOT TO BE A SHITTY TOURIST
– PEOPLE AND PLACES TO AVOID
– TIPPING AND HANDY PHRASES
– A YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF QUESTIONABLE LOCAL MUSIC
– VICE CITY MAP
WHERE TO PARTY
All-night raves can be tricky during the winter months, when the entire country is basically on suicide watch. If you want to dance in a public building, the building needs to have a permit, and then the place needs another one if you want to dance in a public building while drunk, and you definitely want to be both drunk and inside a building during our painful, painful winters. BUT, there is a loophole if the establishment has a members list. You'll need to sign up to this 24 hours before any party starts, but you can do this online if you know where to look. Lighthouse, Karbon, Pangea, Autonom, and Levande Charader are all names worth looking up on Facebook, or do a search for “svartklubb” (the Swedish word for a rave, which literally means "black club"). Bet you never thought anyone would be envious of your luxuriously simple keys-wallet-phone-fags check, did you?
Our compensation for the misery of all this organized fun is our summer, when Stockholm blossoms and open-air shows take over some of the most beautiful locations at the edges of the city—often close to the water, by either the Baltic Sea or Mälaren. They’re a little way out of the centre, so be prepared to bring cash for a taxi and cheap beers since you won’t be able to use a card. Everyone’s really lovely, fit, rich, and not a space cadet—so be prepared to stand out like the genetically hideous sore thumb you are.
You’ll often hear about the location of the next party at clubs like Slakthuset or Berns, or during the daytime sessions at Trädgården. We really are quite nice, so don’t be afraid to ask us what’s going on.
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH DRUGS?
Bad news, you addict: Stockholm is the capital of zero tolerance. Drugs aren't really socially acceptable, so it’s bad form for anyone to ask locals about buying them unless they’ve already made it apparent that they take them. Yes, we’re squares—but at least our hearts work properly and we’re not going bald.
As the penalties for being caught are so severe, everyone who does take them will do it at home before they go out. Undercover police work the toilets of clubs, and unlike most countries it’s illegal to even have drugs in your bloodstream. It’s not unheard of for police to make you do a piss test on the street, so don’t get cocky just because you’ve managed to shove a gram up your hooter.
Don’t give me that face. This city is great!
Though it is worth pointing out though, that while getting drunk is perfectly socially acceptable, buying drinks in clubs will cripple you. You’re better off drinking before you go out, which means paying a visit to the government’s official booze shop, Systembolaget. These are open Monday to Friday from 10 AM to 7 PM, Saturdays from 10 AM to 3 PM, and they’re closed on Sundays. So stock up.
Coke is probably the most common drug but tends to be of very, very low quality, with plenty of washing-up powder and speed thrown in. So we don’t recommend it. Look, drugs just aren’t our thing and frankly you should just deal with that. It’s not like you couldn’t use a week without any shitty chemicals flowing through your veins.
Photo by Hampus Andersson
POLITICS, PROTESTS AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?
As a foreigner, you should know that your mere presence is probably going to be enough to infuriate Swedish Democrat supporters. It doesn’t even matter if you’re blonde and blue-eyed—they basically hate everything other than Swedish folk dress, midsummer celebrations, and meatballs with hilarious toppings. If you have the misfortune to run into one, for god's sake don’t bring up the EU.
If those guys sound too reasonable and moderate for you, check out the SMR (Swedish Resistance Movement) and SvP (The Party of the Swedes). Unlike the Swedish Democrats, these guys don’t bother to keep their hateful views in the closet—instead, they'll write them down, put them in a bottle, and deliver them right to the back of your head while you're out smiling your way through a peaceful demonstration. They’re neo-Nazis, basically. Pure blood dickheads.
You’ll recognize SMR supporters easily enough in real life, as they’re usually between 15 and 19, move in small packs, dress in black, and hold giant green flags with arrows on them. They often hang out in creative suburbs like Kärrtorp, or on Södermalms Torg by Slussen, because that's where they think people are doing too much to promote basic human rights.
POLITICS, PROTESTS AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?
Stockholm is currently experiencing a wave of protests against racism and fascism ahead of our general elections in September 2014. Anti-racism has been a big issue here ever since the Sweden Democrats won their first seats in parliament in 2010, because they're bigots.
Protests happen at least once a month in the capital but they can range from peaceful family gatherings to ultra-violent far right vs. far left atrocity exhibitions—all Swedish people are beautiful, so even when the Nazis' faces get fucked up, it counts as a crime against aesthetics. Whether or not any of these protests actually have an impact is hard to tell. As you may start to gather, the Swedish system is built around a deeply entrenched bureaucracy. It’s often said here that it takes an elected government at least two terms to noticeably change anything.
The growing support for the feminist party, Feminist Initiative, will hopefully turn Stockholm into the gender-equal utopia the outside world already believes the city to be at some point, but that could take decades.
POLITICS, PROTESTS AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?
MEET THE IMMIGRANTS
Aside from Finnish and Norwegian immigrants, who tend to be characterized as wealthy, happy-go-lucky slackers, the most noticeable influx of immigrants has been in Södertälje. This suburb has been dubbed "Little Iraq," as the council takes in more Iraqi refugees than the USA and Canada combined. There are countless horror stories about them being taken advantage of for cheap or unpaid labor, which is doubly sad because it makes it seem like the only thing we're really willing to circumnavigate the red tape for is slavery.
Honestly though, we're great people and this is a great city. It's not just here that hatred blossoms when people are uncertain about the economy—it's all of Europe. Somalis and Roma people are two groups that are currently being blamed for our society not being 100 percent perfect—despite the fact that both endure some of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Furthermore, there's a popular truism over here that it’s the poorer people from the suburbs who are responsible for Stockholm's high quality of life. It’s there that many of the city's restaurant workers, cleaners, taxi drivers, and elderly home care assistants live. Also, a rising generation of musicians, entrepreneurs and athletes are the sons and daughters of immigrants who've been literally carrying Swedish society on their shoulders for decades.
WHERE TO EAT
Although traditionally Swedish cuisine has been all about meat, potatoes and the occasional fish, these days loads of Stockholmers have gone veggie. Hermans has a decent vegetarian buffet and one of the best views of the city. You should walk there as the street it is on is one of the most beautiful in Stockholm—many of the buildings here on Fjällgatan are the traditional red wooden houses that you usually see in the Swedish countryside, so you’ll have something else to Instagram beyond your food.
Sturehof is located in the center of Stureplan, one of Stockholm's bougiest squares, but for some crazy reason it’s actually pretty cheap. You should try the crayfish plateau, which is delicious and a plateful of excuses to make Kanye jokes.
Lilla Nygatan 5
Gamla Stan (the Old Town) is usually so packed with tourists that it’s best to be avoided, but there are a couple of places that won’t make you puke. One of them is Tweed Bar, which is decorated with old Chesterfields, bits of old boats, and other ideas stolen from Wes Anderson. The burgers are excellent though, and there’s a much wider selection of beers on offer than what you usually get in Stockholm. No veggie options, though—heresy to many modern Swedes.
Yes, burgers are the most popular meal in Stockholm, so you might as well eat one with a soul while you're at it. Flippin' makes burgers from fresh meat that is locally produced—you can actually ask your waiter where your particular burger meat comes from. The only downside is that they don't take reservations, which makes it a pretty long, but oh so social, wait.
WHAT DO LOCALS EAT?
When people think about herring (which is once every eight seconds in Sweden), they usually think about pickled or fermented herring, and consequently about how much it stinks. Fried herring is a much less intimidating way to eat the Baltic’s most traditional fish supper. Typically, it’s served with mashed potatoes or in a thin roll as street food. It’s better than salmon. FUCK you and your salmon, Scotland.
Basically, it's prawn mayo with some dill. Not exactly revolutionary, but Toast Skagen is now the signature Stockholm starter. Everyone says it was invented at restaurant called Riche, and that’s the only place you should eat it. (I’m pretty certain other countries thought of it as well, but whatever.)
Pizza with Béarnaise Sauce
Swedish pizza is a cheap, soft and, slimy version of Italy’s flat thingy. We serve it with Béarnaise and white cabbage salad, which sounds like some hippy crap invented by a well-meaning mum with no understanding of junk food—somehow, it works.
Jesus, this list isn’t making us look sophisticated, but we really do love eating meatballs. They’re typically served with hilarious toppings, like lingonberry jam, pickled cucumbers, and brown sauce, as well as less hilarious ones, like mashed potatoes. Classy meatballs are a lot bigger than those you buy in the supermarket and are considered to be one of our finest folk dishes. Tranan in Odenplan serve some of the best meatballs in town, but it’s not written on the menu, so you have to ask at the bar. In Swedish, they’re called köttbullar, which is pronounced “Sch-utt-bullllaaaar.”
It literally means warm sausage. This traditional Swedish street food is basically the same as that other famous pig-cock suppository, the hotdog. They’re cheap, and you can buy them absolutely anywhere, but head to Günters at S:t Eriksplan for the best in town.
WHERE TO DRINK
Häktet, which means "remand," used to be a debtor's prison back in the 19th century. Now it’s a place where they’ll serve you reasonably priced whiskeys you'll drink all the way to abject penury.
Södra Teatern is located at the top of Hökens gata and the views are so good that in the summer everyone—from my mother to my drug dealer—hangs out in the beer garden. Their prices are pretty decent too.
There’s a whole host of trendy bars and cafés in the Nytorget area in the heart of SoFo (South of Folkungagatan). Our favorites include Urban Deli, Vurma, and the unmissable Nytorget 6 for drinks and food. Sadly, you can’t drink booze in the park—unless of course you were to buy drinks from Systembolaget (the state controlled alcohol store) and then disguise them in takeaway cups from 7-11, but that would be some ninja shit that is waaaay beyond you.
In a city where no one plays jazz and everyone serves burgers, it’s easy for a bar that only serves moules frites and hosts live jazz to be the best at what they do. But whatever, Glenn Miller is a wicked place, and jazz and moules are exactly the kind of things you should be trying out on holiday.
WHERE TO STAY
Did you know Stockholm is spread across 14 islands, making the city mostly water? That’s partly why accommodation is generally so expensive, and also why staying on a boat isn’t a terrible idea. Af Chapman (rooms from 590 krona/ per night) is moored along the bay by Skeppsholmen and is a decent enough place to spend the night if you don’t get seasick/easily lured to your death by mermaids.
If you’re looking for a budget place on dry land, HTL Kungsgatan (rooms from 599 krona, or $89.52, per night) has got you sorted. The rooms are tiny and not exactly luxurious—it’s basically a stationary Ryanair flight—but there aren’t many other options at this price. The street it’s on, Kungsgatan, is one of Stockholm’s most central but also one of its shittiest, so we wouldn’t hang around outside too much.
The Östermalm area is mostly famous for its extravagant shops and horrifying nightclubs, but its saving grace is Story Hotel (rooms from 1,290 krona, or $192.78, per night). The bar and restaurant are popular with both tourists and locals, and the rates are pretty reasonable. On the other hand, they’ve replaced their check-in desk with a flat-screen computer, so arriving there has all the glamor of scanning your own toilet paper at Walmart.
Berns Hotel (rooms from 1521 krona, or $227.30, per night) has one of Stockholm’s sweatiest dancefloors in its basement and a great smoking terrace that feels like it’s indoors. It’s also the hub for Stockholm Fashion Week, as well as various other weird events and conferences, so one big advantage of staying here is that you don’t have to worry about getting into those parties because they’re happening in your bedroom.
Seeing as Stockholm is more expensive than most of the rest of Europe anyway, why not just push the boat out and check into a seriously nice hotel? Lydmar Hotel (rooms from 3495 krona, or $522.31, per night), which hosted Boiler Room last year, is the pick of the high-end locations, though it obviously won't make you feel like a pirate like the boatel.
Being gay in Stockholm is pretty much like being straight. The gay scene revolves around Gamla Stan, Södermalm, and Kungsholmen. Candy on Fridays at Le bon Palais is Stockholm's biggest gay club, but you'll find as many gay people at Berns and Trädgården as anywhere else.
There are two huge annual events on Stockholm's gay calendar: Pride and the Eurovision Song Contest, which is essentially a second pride event. Any country will have a few angry idiots, but the general population can usually be counted on to shout down any overt displays of homophobia.
WHERE TO HANG OUT WHEN YOU'RE SOBER
Bonniers is one of Sweden's biggest publishing houses, and Bonniers Konsthall is their art gallery.
One of Stockholm’s highest points with the best view of the city. Go there, look at the view, wish this was the kind of city where you could smoke a joint, and then move on.
A great park in the shadow of the graceful Sofia church. It’s near this bizarre, fake American shopping area, SoFo, so you’ll know you’re in the right place when you see loads of people carrying huge bags with logos on them.
In Stockholm in the summer, going swimming at night is practically mandatory, and Långholmen is a good spot. Situated beneath the bridge that connects Långholmen with Kungsholmen, it's so popular that there will probably be a crowd, especially in the early hours.
Marielle’s is Stockholm’s only clothes shop where you’re likely to actually find something both affordable and wearable. It’s not particularly well known, even among the locals, so try not to ruin it with your foreign vibes.
Everyone visiting Stockholm in the summer should take a boat to the islands. How many fucking archipelagos have you got? Anyway, if you need a specific reason to go, go visit the art gallery Artipelag on Värmdö.
HOW TO AVOID GETTING RIPPED OFF AND BEATEN UP
Pickpocketing is as common in Stockholm as it is in any other capital city. The worst areas are the crowded streets around Drottninggatan, Gamla Stan, and Plattan. There have also been reports of drunk hipsters getting mugged in a small park close to Mariatorget, so maybe find somewhere else to get drunk, hipster.
Thieves also have an irritating habit of just trying doors to see if they’re unlocked, so always make sure you’ve locked up even if you’re home. They won’t give a shit. You probably shouldn’t worry so much, though—it’s not Chicago.
HOW NOT TO BE A SHITTY TOURIST
The best way to piss off a Swede is to skip the line. Seriously, if you want to get punched in the face, walk into a McDonald’s and go straight to the front. We take our lines very, very seriously, and so should you.
Generally, it can be tough as a tourist in Stockholm if you don’t know any locals. Bouncers will hate you, and locals will point you in the wrong direction if you ask them for help. Maybe this is because we’re sick of tourists on bikes who don’t understand cycle lanes, so if you want to do your bit for Swedo-touro relations, don’t wobble about town on your rented bike, getting all up in our space and slowing down our city. I've only got five minutes before the government booze shop shuts.
PEOPLE AND PLACES TO AVOID
Compulsive power abusers who will go out of their way to insult you. They look at you, they hate you, they’d love to beat the shit out of you. Just be polite and never question their authority.
You’ll recognize them a mile off because they wear clogs and Razorlight T-shirts. They think everyone under 30 is high all the time, and they’re pretty keen on interrogating all of us. In Swedish. Which will totally fuck with you if you have miraculously managed to score and smoke some weed.
Fake Taxi Drivers
There are plenty of taxis in Stockholm, but it’s always better to call a reputable company than to flag one down in the street. The dodgy ones will try to convince you that you can go with them for free, so obviously don’t fall for that—it's a stupid trick and they are not good people.
Stockholm’s state-owned (obviously) casino is a hotspot for money laundering and the creepiest people around. Not the sort of place you put a tux on to visit, more the sort of place where marriages go to die.
Slussen is a giant intersection at a badly planned junction that is known in Stockholm as the “place of nothing.” The plan was to refurbish this giant urinal years ago, but various "decision makers" have had a hard time agreeing on anything and as a result the place is a dangerous spot where big blocks of bricks occasionally fall from viaducts and land on cyclists. Viaducts 1, cyclists 0.
Festivals In Kungsträdgården
Kungsträdgården is a pretty park where most of Stockholm’s cherry blossom trees are located. You won’t notice them though because some tosspot will be trying to feed you street food, or make you learn a skill, or help someone because Kungsträdgården is the home of the worst community events in Northern Europe.
Yeah, you don’t want to go to prison, so don’t bother with the drugs. Just thought I’d warn you again.
TIPPING AND HANDY PHRASES
Stockholmers aren't particularly fond of tipping unless they feel like they owe it to someone. Also, tipping should never be excessive. Lagom is key, which is Swedish for "in the middle," or "just about enough." If you're eating out and your waiter or waitress takes care of you as if you're the only one in the restaurant, tip about 15 percent (20 if you find him or her hot). If the service is standard, 10 percent is enough.
Tipping in bars only happens if the bar-person tells you to sit down and wait until he or she brings you your drinks, or if the bartender gives you a generous discount. Only serving you drinks at the bar means no tips—except for a couple of kronors change when you pay with cash.
Never pick up the kronors though. They're worthless and piles of them in your pocket will pull down your trousers. The same goes with taxi-tipping.
Tack: Thank you
Varsågod [pronounced, weirdly, "war-so-goooood"]: You're welcome
Hej då [pronounced "hey dooo"] – Goodbye
Fan vad keff du är [pronounced "fan va keff dou are"]: You're fucking weird
A YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF QUESTIONABLE LOCAL MUSIC
Here are ten songs from Sweden. They are of questionable quality and dubious virtue.
VICE CITY MAP
So there you have it, that's pretty much our city.
Crack is wack, yo,
– VICE Sweden