Guide to Stockholm (updated on July 28, 2011)
This is probably what I get asked the most - what to do when in Stockholm! As a local, I don't reflect all that much on some of these categories, but I've tried my best. Feel free to comment and tell me about your own favorites!
Where to go in Stockholm when you want...
Swedish coffee is good, in just about any place. It's a whole lot better than American coffee - that's for sure. The coffee culture is strong, and because of that you can get a decent espresso-based drink in a lot of places. However, there are some that are MUCH better than others. I like Sosta and Primafila, both tiny coffee bars. You'll notice that there are no Starbucks in Stockholm (only at the airport, so get your fix before you leave!) but there are many other chains that at least look similar. I find that Espresso House and Barista Fair Trade are the ones that seem to train their baristas the most, and have the most consistent, good results. None of them can make a frappuccino though, so you'll just have to go without. (And no, their "frapinos" and "frapistas" are nothing like the real thing.)
Not a coffee drinker? Longing for an excellent cup of tea? Go to Chaikhana or Esters The & Kaffehandel.
... Swedish food
This is really the hardest part to write, and the one most people ask me about. See, I never ever go out to eat Swedish food. That's the kind of stuff I, and most others, cook at home. So, I asked my friends on Twitter and Facebook for advice, and they recommended Ulla Winbladh, Konstnärsbaren, Tranan, Rolfs kök, Tennstopet and Magnus Ladulås.
... Swedish fastfood
You'll find korvkiosker (hot dog stands) all over the city. Try one! A Swedish specialty is a "tunnbrödrulle" which is a soft wrap bread (sort of like a tortilla) with a hot dog and mashed potatoes. It's often topped with shrimp salad. It's as weird as it sounds, but people really do eat it. (Not me, though.) And if you're here in the summer, go to Slussen subway station, get to the plaza on top and find Strömmingsvagnen for fried herring sandwiches.
You'll find tons of bakeries and pastry shops ("konditorier") all over the city and most of them are very good. Things you definitely want to try include cinnamon buns, Princess cake, chokladbollar, chokladbiskvier and dammsugare. My favorite place to go, and to take foreign guests, is Vetekatten. It's very old-fashioned and very quaint. A similar place is Sturekatten on Riddargatan 4 - also very nice. Don't forget to try Lussekatter if you're here in December, or Semlor if you're here between January-March.
... ice cream
You'll find excellent home made ice cream at 18 smaker. Stikki Nikki is also great, and serve gelato. And when nothing else will do, there *is* always Ben & Jerry's - in several locations.
... fancy dinner
For a spectacular fancy dinner, definitely go to Frantzen/Lindeberg. Check out my post about our dinner there - I can't wait to go back! (But I better start saving up some money - it's pricey.)
Well, not that I've tried these personally, but if you want a traditional big smorgasbord (and aren't lucky enough to get invited to a Swede who happens to serve you one), I hear that Stallmästaregården and Ulriksdals Wärdshus have good ones. Or hop on a day-ferry to Åland - the boats have surprisingly good food and it's very reasonably priced. (Viking Line, Silja Line)
I really like the burgers at Texas Burger Co. Good stuff. A Swedish alternative to McDonalds is MAX.
... steaks & American food
The above-mentioned Texas Smokehouse has some nice steaks too, but I prefer Saddle & Sabre. (Their chili is awesome too!) Also try Restaurang Peppar (a relative of mine is head chef!) at Torsgatan 34, or Mississippi Inn.
... French food
Le Rouge and Wasahof come highly recommended. I haven't tried either, though.
... Mexican fast-food
Ok, so maybe you're not expecting to find great Mexican food in Stockholm - and why should you?However, Swedes are obsessed with Tex Mex and you'll find tons of products in any supermarket. Every Swedish family - well, almost - eats some sort of Tex Mex at least once a month, and many more often than that. So, it's sort of surprising that there aren't more restaurants. There are however two shining stars. La Neta is wonderfully authentic, and they make their own tortillas. Serrano calls themselves Fresh Mex, but their burritos and quesadillas are really tasty and it's well worth a visit. Avoid Taco Bar!
There's good stuff to be found, promise! Ki-Mama is supposedly great, and Hasseludden Yasuragi is a Japanese-style spa with excellent food. A few dumpling places - perhaps more Chinese than Japanese have been popping up around the city lately. I've tried Pekingmormors Dumpleria and was very happy.
... Swedish traditions
Skansen, definitely. It's a zoo (nordic animals only), but also an outdoor museum. There are many authentic old buildings showing what life in Sweden has been like through the ages, and in different parts of the country. It's well worth a visit - and while you're there, don't miss the freshly baked goodies in the "town quarters", they're excellent.
The major chains are Ica and Coop, and there are many locations. For something special, go to the food halls - Hötorgshallen, Söderhallarna and Östermalmshallen. Hötorget also has a great outdoor market with good fruit & veg. (NOT a farmer's type market, though - for those, check out Bondens Egna Marknad.)
... ethnic food stores
There are many, most of them clustered near Hötorget. I have to do a separate guide on that, some time... For now let me just say that there are definitely at least Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Polish, French and Korean stores.
There are many book stores, but some of the best selections are at NK and Hedengrens. These also have a decent amount of cookbooks in English.
... kitchen stuff
The department stores NK and Åhléns City have decent kitchen departments, but if you really want the best selection of cooking tools, head to Cordon Bleu. They have it all.
... a history lesson
Old Town - Gamla Stan - is always nice. It's quite touristy and you'll find a lot of cheap souvenirs, but that's not all you'll find. Do take one of the walking tours - they're quite interesting. (If you happen to be here in December, there's a nice christmas market at Stortorget.) And tourists seem to enjoy Vasamuseet as well - I personally don't really find an old ship all that charming (especially not one who went under on her maiden voyage) but the exhibit is pretty good and there's a lot to learn about life in the 1600:s. Medeltidsmuseet is a good museum about old times in Stockholm, and for an authentic meal, go to Sjätte Tunnan.
... to get out of the city
Nacka Strand (get there by boat or bus) is nice - you can see lots of people fishing for herring, and while you're there - drop me a line and maybe we can have coffee, as it's about ten minutes from where I live. You can also take the boat to Fjäderholmarna - a nice place for a picnic! Or if you have a car, drive out to Värmdö and perhaps visit at Siggesta Gård. You'll find a big flea market on the weekends.