Exploring Stockholm

We spent today exploring Stockholm, its history, its food and its drink.  Our day started with a wonderful and real authentic continental breakfast.  It wasn’t the paltry continental breakfast every hotel at a hockey tournament tries to sell you.  This breakfast was legit.  There were no watery eggs or overcooked bacon to be had.  The only similarity is that this breakfast also had a waffle maker, which we definitely enjoyed.

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Our time here in Stockholm is short, so we wanted to maximize our time and see as much of the city as possible.  The best way to do this, especially in the winter, is the hop on and hop off buses.  They run continuously throughout the day with several stops and a narrated tour to boot.  If the weather were a bit warmer and my ankle/foot completely healed, this would be a perfect walking city.  Truly, if my foot was better, we’d probably have walked most of the city.

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We grabbed the bus at Stockholm’s Central nation, which is super nice.  We somehow managed to missed it twice.  Once it was our fault, the second time it just drove by.  When the third bus came by, we were sure to be first in line.  We sat atop the bus and rode for about half the tour before realizing we should have grabbed the headphones downstairs.   The bus takes you through all the major neighborhoods in Sweden and provides a lot of great information about the sites.

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We rode the thing throughout the complete loop before deciding to hop off at Gamle Stan near the Royal Palace.  As soon as I exited the bus, I was cold.  We were dropped off right across from the palace and not far from the water.  The wind was whipping off the water with no buildings to slow it.  I was getting cold fast!  We made our way up the palace stairs to check it out.   Our timing was sublime as we entered the courtyard right before they started the changing of the guard.   I filmed it in its entirety, but I almost froze my fingers off!

As soon as the ceremony ended, we made our way into the Palace to check out the Royal Apartments, the museum and find a bathroom.  The Palace is stunning and a beautiful example of the baroque design style.  Throughout the palace, the artwork was sublime.  At every turn, every room there were a myriad of paintings, sculptures and tapestries.   There was one drawing room in particular that was full of portraits of the royal family.  It reminded me of Harry Potter and a couple of other movies where the eyes in the portraits follow you as you move through the room.

After exploring the palace grounds, we headed to find food.  We explored the palace while past the lunch hour, so we decided to go for dinner.   At the recommendation of our bartender last night, we headed to Aifur.  It was an adventure through Gamle Stan to find it with two pit stops at Stortoget, the oldest square in Stockholm, to get coffee and mittens.  Finally, we headed down the hill to Västerlånggatan, the main thoroughfare, to find Aifur.   I tried to behave, but couldn’t help perusing a few of the stores along the way.  Humorously, when we finally found the restaurant it wasn’t opened yet.  Naturally, we killed the half hour at Corner Bar enjoyed  a few drinks.

Dinner at Aifur was quite the experience.  The restaurant is an homage to Scandinavia’s Viking heritage in its decor, its food, and its staff.  Consequently, the dining room was set up with several long tables with benches on both sides.   On the tables, there were candelabra, silverware and glassware in keeping with the theme.  Each of the dishes on the menu were inspired by the Vikings.

We started our meal with a charcuterie board inspired by Ragnor himself.  Largely, it was compiled of different types of sausages, including reindeer heart.  Surprisingly, the reindeer heart sausage was tasty.  I enjoyed the reindeer sausage with some cheddar chess on a cracker.  While I had the elk sausage on bread with cheddar and boiled apples. It was a nice exploration of the different types of sausages from the region.

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Our main courses were just as yummy.  Jon and I enjoyed venison with hash browns on root vegetables served on a creamy mushroom sauce.  Jake had the porcini risotto, which he thought was okay.  I really enjoyed it!  Brandi had the dwarf chicken also served with the risotto, which was also quite tasty.  We accompanied our dinner with Mead from Poland.

The best part of dinner, aside from the company and the food, was the atmosphere.  Every time new guests would arrive, the host/hostess would announce them to the dining room sharing both their party name and where they’re from. It was fun to guess where our other dinners guests hailed from.  I’d be lying if I said we were good at that game.  Nonetheless, it made for a fun night.  Lastly, as we ate, we enjoyed live traditional Scandinavian music keeping with the restaurant’s theme.

Post dinner we walked back to the hotel and then headed up to The Capitol Bar at the Scandic for the first of two night caps.  I ended my night out at the bar downstairs with a great apple beer from Belgium.  While I got ready for bed, the rest of the party closed down the bar and went on a fast food run.  Sadly, there were no Doritos burgers tonight only zombie burgers from Burger King.

Tomorrow we’re off to Helsinki for several days.  Stockholm has been a blast and we’ll definitely be back!

If you go:

Sightseeing bus: Hop On Hop Off Bus

The Palace: Royal Palace Complex: 

The Dinner: Aifur

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