Tuesday, May 19, 2020

To Trollhattan by Train

My Great Grandfather Arne grew up on the west coast of Sweden, and eventually made the decision
to start a new life in the United States, leaving behind friends, parents, and siblings.  He eventually came to meet and marry my Great Grandmother, a feisty Norwegian woman, and together they raised three children, one of whom was my Grandfather.  Many years later, when Grandfather had retired, he and my aunt decided to make a trip to Sweden so that he could finally meet his family in person.  In particular, he spent a good deal of time with his first cousin (and his family).  Ever since the meeting of these two men, our families have reconnected.  There have been a few opportunities to meet in person in one country or another, but none I've been so lucky to participate in..  Just prior to this trip, I reached out to our Swedish family, and they invited us to come to see them in Trollhattan.

A couple of days after arrival in Stockholm, we got up early in the morning, grabbed a coffee and croissant, and made our way to Central Train Station.  We took a beautiful train ride across the width of Sweden.  In fact, we were to take two trains and a bus, but apparently, the woman that helped us book our ticket scheduled our bus incorrectly, and the other bus option broke down!  Some travel issues are just unavoidable!  Fortunately, a kind young lady at the bus depot lent us use of her cell phone so that we could call my family who suggested we just stay put because apparently, our bus depot was only about twenty minutes from them.

We drove a short bit through the beautiful Swedish countryside until we arrived at the family farm.  The farm was surrounded with bountiful summer crops in surrounding fields.  The farmhouse was of moderate size and traditional Swedish charm and craftsmanship, which was right next to the greenhouse my grandfather's cousin uses for tomato plants and other vegetable starts.  We were lead through the interior of the house, which contained gorgeous hardwood floors, and an elegant simplicity that often marks Sweden's traditional interior design.  Eventually, we ended up in the sun-room, just off the porch, where the beautiful summer sun poured in through the windows.  I looked across the table to see my grandfather's cousin in sheer amazement.  My grandfather passed several years ago, but looking at his cousin felt as though he had been brought into the room with us.  His wife brought us into the kitchen to dish up.

She had prepared us a traditional Swedish meal.  To say that the spread was impressive would be a grand understatement.  I later learned that she had hesitated to make what she thought was a relatively simple meal, because she thought it a bit too mundane, but I am quite glad that her daughter and granddaughter (who did most of the translation between Swedish and English for us) talked her out of changing her mind.  This was all very exciting for me. I hope no one wishes to revoke my "vegan card," but, knowing my system can handle it, and for the sake of having a cultural experience, I was willing to try it!  She made traditional Swedish meatballs made from the wild pig and elk.  Her husband belongs to a hunting party.  Each year, the party hunts for such game as elk or wild pig.  Once they've completed their hunting for the season, they have the meats prepared and divided among the group.  My family uses their share for food for most of the year and used it to make our meatballs for this particular meal.  The meatballs were served with Lingonberry Jam, which she made herself.  There was Elk roast, again from their own hunt, whole, boiled baby potatoes, cauliflower, green beans, and brown sauce (a bit like a gravy only less thick).  Finally, there was a coffee cake and berry cobbler.  I must say, I'm not sure I'd eaten such a spectacular home-cooked meal since Thanksgiving.

After such a meal, his daughter took us all into Trollhattan (which is about 30 minutes outside of
Gothenburg) to go for a hike along the locks.  We spent a fair amount of time hiking through the locks of Trollhattan until we were able to meet her husband, who helps to control the locks.  We had a light dinner at this outdoor cafe that's somewhat famous for its open-faced sandwiches.  I don't think anyone even looked at a menu, but rather just ordered the sandwich and coffee.  Now, don't be surprised if you try one of these and it doesn't come with anything.  You really don't need the extra sides.  This sandwich is a knife and fork endeavor. This spectacular open-faced creation is piled high with mayo, egg, shrimp, lettuce, and tomato.  Now, interestingly, the mayo was in somewhat an elegant blob underneath the shrimp, not at all mixed in as would be typical of a sandwich with an American leaning.  I admit that I was feeling both curious and amused at the sight of the mayo because I happen to know that my partner greatly dislikes mayo.  I was honestly wondering how this was going to go over.  Now truth be known, I think we'd both have to say this was one of the best sandwiches we'd ever experienced, and if given the opportunity we'll definitely get another!

From there, we went to her husband's workplace.  From the outside, it looks like a somewhat commercial looking house.  Upon entrance, one can see that it really is set up like a house with couches, places to rest, a kitchen.  It has everything needed for one of these men on a long shift while controlling the locks.  The primary difference between this place and a house is the sheer number of monitors on the walls.  From these monitors, you can see the locations of the ships or boats, calculate the distance and time until they reach the locks, as well as monitor the water.  It was really quite a fascinating tour.  Additionally, it was fascinating seeing the locks operated, especially so because my partner's father worked on some locks when he was younger as well.

From there, we went to stay at her place until morning when she'd drop us at the train station again...

Monday, January 20, 2020

Review: Icelandair flight

I boarded my first Icelandair flight this summer and immediately noticed that there was a flight attendant handing out bottles of Icelandic water to each passenger as they boarded regardless of whether they were flying first class, business, or coach.  In all honestly, this was a pretty good start to a flight.  It made me feel like my needs were under consideration from the moment I stepped on board.

I slipped into my coach seat, which didn't feel any tighter than any other airline, and promptly started looking at my entertainment options.  Before I could do anything further on the television monitor, I was required to sit through a variety of advertisements for Icelandic companies. Once I got past them, I found that there were not only your standard tv and film option, but also some audiobook options as well.  One devoted to the history of the Vikings caught my attention, and thus my selection was made.

As I sat there enjoying my Viking audiobook, I pondered my day up to this point.  I was fairly disappointed that Icelandair's carry-on luggage size requirement is a couple of inches smaller than what we are used to domestically.  So, we had to check our bags.  On the bright side, we were not charged for it because they were our only suitcases (we like to travel light).  I just happen to like having my suitcase with me. It's that whole "lost luggage" thing I'd prefer to avoid.  There's also not much chance of securing a first class or business class bump without paying extra for it.  Icelandair has a system that lets you bid for upgrades about 48 hours in advance of your flight.  The system is pretty easy to navigate, but the minimum bid requirement didn't feel like a great value to me, so I didn't bother.

Part way through the Viking audiobook, I started to get hungry.  Fortunately, I had used Icelandair's online system to pre-select and pay for our meals (if you earn saga points with them, you can also use these points to pay for meals).  I wondered when exactly was "dinner time?"  On most other carriers I've traveled on, meal and beverage services worked like clockwork, and were very clearly on a schedule.  This did not seem to be the case with Icelandair. Eventually, I just rang the bell, and the flight attendant brought our meals out to us.  The food quality was surprisingly good, although I wouldn't recommend it for those with dietary restrictions.  The choices were: a salad, a sandwich, skyrr (a type of Icelandic yogurt), and chicken.  If you're vegan or gluten free, you'll want to bring something on board with you because only the salad will meet your needs (the chicken was breaded).  There was also a decent variety of miscellaneous snacks and beverages, but what I listed were the options that fit primarily into the "meal" category.

We stopped in Reykjavik to transfer to another flight and were a bit surprised by the boarding process.  I had taken for granted that airlines in the U.S. have fairly particular boarding processes: boarding zone number one, zone number two, etc.  That didn't really seem to be the case here.  For all intents and purposes, it seemed that everyone just gathered into a giant mass until allowed onto the airplane.  As someone that likes order, I must admit this made me a little anxious.  Although, once on board again, out came the little bottles of water handed out by cheery flight attendants, and we were off...

Overall, I know I will fly with Icelandair again.  The staff was wonderful, the entertainment options were good, and the optional 7-day stopover in Reykjavik is a tremendous value.

If I could suggest some changes, I would bring back the complimentary in-flight meal.  Then, incorporate some systems that give customers some indication of "what time things happen" such as meal services, and boarding times.  Finally, consider adjusting the carry-on size limit so that most standard carry-on suitcases are allowed to be actually carried on.

All in all, thanks for the wonderful experience.  We will certainly plan on seeing you again.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Stockholm Pass: Day #3 (The Extra 1/2 Day)

I am referring to this as the "Extra 1/2 Day" rather than simply Day #3 because we were given a 48-hour pass.  To your average American, this means "2 Days."  In Sweden, they say 48 hours; they mean 48 hours!  So, technically, we had till 11 AM before our time would officially run out.  Seeing as how museums and various attractions typically open at 9 AM, it would seem that we'd only fit one attraction in...  Think again!

After eating breakfast at the hotel, we stopped by our favorite coffee and gelato shop, Morelli, for a coffee to go.  We then went straight to the waterfront where we could buy tickets for a boat tour. We knew we needed our passes to buy the tickets, but once we had those tickets, they would no longer need our passes.  So, we got in line for the ticket booth right before they opened, and purchased tickets for an afternoon boat tour.  With tickets in hand, we grabbed the hop-on-hop-off boat across the water to the Nordic Museum and were there by ten.  We used our pass to get in, and stayed for just under two hours.  The exhibits were quite remarkable, containing all things that I love: fashion, design, and theatrics.  They also had a special exhibit which was of extraordinary interest to me about the Lapps.  Also known as Sami, these people are the indigenous people of the far north, encompassing a small band of territory that includes Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia.  The terms Lapp or Sami are shortened from the words that represent the geographical areas they come from: Sapmi or Lapland.  Indigenous cultures are near and dear to my heart for a number of reasons: I grew up steeped in Native American culture because of where I grew up; I am Scandinavian; and my partner is part Cherokee. Because of these interests, we spent a great deal of our time there.  Though I must say, I am a huge lover of Scandinavian design, with its sleek elegance and space-saving features, as well as theatre arts and fashion, all of which are represented incredibly well at the Nordic Museum.  Honestly, upon returning to Stockholm, I see myself carving out more time for this particular attraction.

We made it back just in time to catch our boat tour but had to splurge for lunch on board due to a simple lack of time between places (especially because we were taking public transit).  We took the "Under the Bridges of Stockholm" boat tour.  This one was entirely less classy than the last boat tour we took (Vaxholm/Archipelago).  The boat resembled the hop-on-hop-off boat in style only it had large tables that might seat 6-8 people and a snack bar in the back.  We were too hungry to wait two hours so we ended up grabbing some food at the snack bar.  Many people there had brought food on board, and this didn't seem to be a problem.  I would highly recommend bringing your food on board if possible because from my perspective, only really the beverages were a decent deal.  The food was terribly expensive, and the quality was mediocre at best.  The tour in and of itself was great though.  There was a headset that offered the description and history of each bridge, and several stories and funny little anecdotes that went along with it.  I would recommend this tour near lunchtime if you bring your own food, or with children, if you want to maximize your pass, but need to take a bit of a break with them.  I saw many sleeping children and relaxing parents on this tour.

It was 3:00 by the time this tour was finished, so we spent our afternoon window shopping a bit, and finally grabbed pizza before going back to the hotel.  I've always said, you can learn a lot about a place based on what the pizza is like (maybe that's just because many years ago, my partner used to run several pizza restaurants)...  Stockholm pizza is pretty good.  We ordered a cheese pizza with black olives.  We got back to the hotel only to realize that literally nothing had been cut up!  Olives were completely whole, and the pizza wasn't cut into slices.  Could be a problem if you are in a hotel room without any silverware (which we were)!  Thankfully, we always throw a wine key into our suitcase when we travel, so we used it to cut our pizza!  Once we finally got into that pizza, we discovered that Swedish pizza is definitely worth trying!

Budget Savers:

  • Hotel breakfast
  • Dinner: Pizza carry-out
  • Stockholm Pass:  bonus 1/2 day; Nordic Museum, Under the Stockholm Bridges tour, hop-on hop-off boat
  • Public Transit

Budget Splurges:

  • Lunch on the boat tour
For further reading, see also:

Monday, June 25, 2018

Stockholm Food Favorites

We might be best classified as "casual foodies" if there is such a thing, and that being said, I wanted to give you my list of favorite food and beverage experiences in Stockholm.  This list runs the gamut including everything from street food and coffee shops to trendy and classy establishments because as a traveler, I like to experience a wide variety on my travels.  Another point of honesty here, in my home life, I prefer a Vegan diet and will point out which places provide easy options for those with dietary restrictions.  That being said, I like to try new things when I travel, so not all places on my list are geared toward those with Vegetarian tendencies.

1.  Boulebar (Splurges; Good for Veg/GF/Meat)

If I had 24 hours in Stockholm, you'd find me at Boulebar.  This outdoor restaurant embodies everything that is beautiful about Swedish culture.  When the weather is nice you will find the Swedish outdoors, enjoying the day.  Boulebar provides a sophisticated and trendy albeit rustic parkside environment.  Edison light bulbs and greenery line the beams above the heads of folks gathering at long, wooden, communal tables.  Those preferring a more private experience will find the taller, wooden two-top tables more to their liking.  Boulebar has taken everyone into consideration offering options for those with gluten-free or vegan dietary restrictions, and meat-eaters alike.  "Veg," "Meat," and "Shrimp" are all clearly labeled on their menus, vegans and those with gluten-free restrictions will need to investigate a bit further for clarifications, though Boulebar falls into my "splurges" category, but is well worth the expenditure!
the menu seems very obviously accommodating.  This is the absolute perfect place to unwind after a long day of sightseeing.

2.  Morelli (Savers; Good for Veg/GF/Meat)

This is a Gelateria and Espresso Bar is just off Fridhamsplan and is owned and operated by an Italian man that relocated to Stockholm.  We stopped in every morning to pick up a coffee to go, and by day number two, the owner knew our names and our order.  The gelato is made fresh by the owner who's so honest that he'll even tell you if there's a flavor that he wasn't pleased with when it came out.  There are a variety of flavors that are subject to change so you'll have to ask which ones are dairy free if you're vegan.  One day, I noticed that there were little leather bracelets with designs etched into them on the counter.  When I inquired about them, I learned that they were made by an artisan from his village in Italy.  They were the sort of thing I actually like to wear, so I picked them up as an inexpensive and practical souvenir.

3.  Hot Dog Cart (Savers; Good for Meat-Eaters)

This one is a budget saver that is mostly just for the meat-eaters.  Since I am more willing to experiment on vacations, I tried it when we were really hungry and didn't want to take time to sit down and eat somewhere.  This was a serious leap of faith on my part because with all do respect, I consider hot dogs to be pretty much the bottom of the barrel of carnivorous fare.  Well, perhaps it still is, but only in America because Stockholm, you changed my mind.  The hot dog carts in Stockholm are pretty much gourmet by American standards.  There are frequently up to five different varieties, made with high-quality meat (no strange animal parts).  They are also made from a variety of different types of meat.  While they are presented like hot dogs, perhaps it is more fair to consider them sausages.  If you are looking to cut some time and money corners, I highly recommend you try them at least once for lunch.

4.  Max (Savers; Good for Veg/GF/Meat)

For anyone lucky enough to have lived in or visited the Pacific NW, Max is sort of like the Burgerville of Sweden.  It also caters to dietary restrictions with very clearly labeled options for those preferring vegan or GF options (although they're slightly spendier).  It's a fast food joint, with high-quality standards.

5.  Espresso House (Savers; Good for Veg/GF/Meat)

If you need a break in the day, snack, or even lunch there is bound to be an Espresso House nearby.  They have nice, strong coffee, and a variety of tasty healthy food choices.  Additionally, once you know the wifi password, you can set your phone up to connect to the wifi whenever you are in range to another Espresso House.  That helped us retrieve directions using Google maps multiple times.

6.  Stockholm Fisk (Splurges; Good for GF/Meat)

Vegans, you might be able to find something, but I'm sure this won't be your first choice.  That being said, if there are any Pesca-tarians out there, this is a definite must-try!  Stockholm Fisk is an elegant environment, perfect for that date night you hope to have with your partner or the one meal you ask your family to "dress" for, although I don't want to give you the wrong impression.  While I wouldn't wear jeans and a t-shirt there if you spent your day out in khaki's or a sundress you'd likely be fine.  The seafood variety is impeccable, and I dare say that this is the one restaurant whose bread basket I won't refuse!

7.  Hermitage (Savers; Good for Veg./GF)

This vegetarian restaurant is located in Gamla Stan and quite reminds me of a cafe I used to go to in Portland, Oregon.  It has a tiny, quaint coffee-shop feel, and a vegetarian buffet.  The price was reasonable (about $17 for dinner, less for lunch), and we could elect for a second helping if we so chose.  Occasionally, when traveling, I feel as though there are not enough whole foods in my diet, so a cafe like this one is a pleasant refueling.  I could see myself developing quite an addiction for their slightly spiced fresh bread, rosemary potatoes, and lentil soup.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Stockholm Pass: Day #2

After enjoying a traditional Scandinavian breakfast, we set out for the 2nd day of our Stockholm Pass.  Admittedly, we were making it our absolute mission to maximize the utility of our passes on that day.  We decided to start out by going to the attraction that was furthest away from us, and quite honestly, nowhere near any other attractions.  This attraction is known as "Skyview."

Skyview is an attraction that takes place at the Ericsson Globe, which boasts to be the largest sphere shaped building in the world, and really is something to see in its own right.  We arrived there, and quickly got our tickets.  To our dismay, we had to wait until noon for our turn in the Skypod.  Obviously, we had been unsuccessful in booking a time slot ahead of time, but you may want to investigate doing so if you decide to work this into your itinerary.  There happens to be a shopping mall adjoined to the Globe, so we decided to do a bit of window shopping while we waited.  Not only did we find the decanter of our dreams, but once in the Skypod, we gained access to the best view Stockholm has to offer.

Using public transit, we made our way to the meeting spot for a walking tour of Gamla Stan (Old Town).  We had a bit of time to wait, so we grabbed a beer and a table outdoors until it was time.  There happened to be plenty of options regarding outdoor food and beverages due to a cultural festival happening at that time.

The English version of the Gamla Stan Walking Tour was nothing short of amazing, especially if you're a great lover of history and culture.  We learned about the preservation of the buildings,  and which colors of paint reflect which eras in time.  Additionally, we learned of Stockholm having areas that were built upon garbage!  The tour ended in the square where the historic Stock Exchange building was located.  This square also contains the Nobel Museum and several restaurants, only one of which our tour guide said was "worth giving your money to..."  By this time it was around 3:00 in the afternoon; most museums close around 5:00.  So, despite our sore feet and pending hunger, we decided to quickly walk back a short distance to Kungliga Slottet (The Royal Palace).  Before entering the palace, we quickly grabbed a bite to eat from a food cart (you'll mostly find ice cream, sodas, and hot dogs although the quality difference compared to what we experience in the U.S. is night and day), just to enough to get by for the time being.

Kungliga Slottet  (The Royal Palace) is a remarkable experience, one that could take the better part of a day if you choose to do so.  If you don't have quite enough time to take in everything you desire, they will allow you re-entrance if you present a ticket purchased within the previous 7 days.  Also, they have storage lockers available, and a fairly useful flier that suggests what to do if you only have: 1 hour, 2 hours, or 3+ hours.  Within the palace lies a beautiful old chapel.  The Royal Chapel is the epitome of Scandinavian design.  It's serenity and beauty make it the perfect place to take a moment to meditate, pray, or otherwise stop to appreciate the splendor around you.  From there, we dashed into the Treasury for a peek at the monarchy's regalia including Gustav Vasa's sword of state and Erik XIV's crown.  From there, we spent the majority of our time remaining touring The Royal Apartments.  The Royal Apartments contain Guest Apartments, the Hall of State, and rooms of the Royal Order.  You can elect to do a guided tour, but in the interest of time, we toured this area on our own marveling at the amazing furniture, furnishings, and decor, which was clearly created by some of the best artists and craftsmen of the time.   We departed The Royal Palace at about 5:00 which is closing time during the summer months (winter times may vary, so check up on these details), and headed back to the square we were at during the Gamla Stan tour.  We stopped into the cafe recommended by the tour guide, Grillska Huset, for a beer and to rest our feet for about an hour.

After the break, we went to the Nobel Museum.  Admittedly, we did this mostly because it was right there, we could use our Stockholm Pass, and it was open that night until 8!  It really seemed to provide the most value for our dollar.  To our surprise, it turned out to be one of the most fascinating museums I had ever toured!  Apparently, there are many more displays than they're currently able to house due to a lack of space, and they will be moving to a larger venue in the next couple of years. We were able to catch the last English tour of the day, where we learned the history of the Nobel Prize, and of the mystery behind the fact that only one prize is awarded in Norway each year, and the rest are awarded in Sweden.  We also learned why it is near impossible to determine which country has had the most Nobel Prizes awarded.  Our fascination kept us there until 8 when the closed.

Finally, we made our way back to our hotel where we grabbed dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant called Gandhi.  It was reasonably priced for a sit-down meal, and we were entirely too tired to venture far away.  From there, we grabbed snacks at the grocery store and headed in for the evening.

What I'd Do Differently:
Not succeeding at booking the Skyview attraction for an earlier time slot ahead of time, I might have attempted it on our 3rd/Half Day of the pass because it is so far away from everything else.  That being said, I enjoyed the attraction and felt as though we really did get a lot of value out of the pass that day.  Additionally, it is worth noting that sometimes it's impossible to use a non-Scandinavian credit card to book things online.  This doesn't always happen, but it does at times.  In those cases, you can purchase them at the ticketing location. location.

Budget Savers:

  • 4 attractions using the Stockholm Pass: Skyview, Gamla Stan Walking Tour, The Royal Palace, and the Nobel Museum!  
  • Hotel Breakfast
  • Food Cart/Snacking for Lunch
  • Public Transit
  • Grocery Store for snacks 

Budget Splurges:

  • Sit-Down Dinner, although, it wasn't so expensive comparably.  Honestly, nothing on this day was terribly expensive.
For further reading, see also:

Monday, January 29, 2018

Top 7 Swedish Travel Hacks

If you are planning a trip to Sweden, here are my top tips for a smooth, economical trip.

1.  Free Lockers

I was pleasantly surprised that throughout Stockholm, free lockers appeared to be everywhere.  This certainly makes decision making a little easier in terms of whether or not to carry a daypack.  So, feel free to pack those snacks, cameras, and water bottles.  The museum or attraction you visit will most likely have a locker that you can stash them in for free!

2.  Debit/Credit Card Usage

I tried to book admission to one particular museum, and train tickets online and ran into difficulty.  It turns out that some (but not all) companies will not allow you to make purchases online using a non-Scandinavian issued debit or credit card.  So, if you seem to be unable to check out when purchasing some sort of fare online, that is likely the reason why.  Don't be too concerned though; you shouldn't have any problems taking care of these reservations and payments in person.  Additionally, be sure to know your PINN for any chipped cards you have to ensure smooth credit/debit card usage.

3.  24 Hour Transit Tickets

In the United States, we're accustomed to purchasing an "all day" fare on public transportation and having it run out at midnight.  This is not the case in Sweden.  A 24-hour ticket is exactly that!  In an age where time is money, this can save you both.  Side note: This same hack applies to the Stockholm Pass.  The number of hours listed on the pass genuinely reflect just that: the number of hours you can use it.

4.  Free Museums

There are many free museums in Stockholm.  So, if you have partial days or days without the Stockholm Pass, they don't have to be expensive to provide a rich cultural experience.  A visit to the local visitor's center will provide you with maps and lists of museums, attractions, and their associated fares.  You'll be surprised by how many of them are free.

5.  Alcohol

Alcohol is terribly expensive in Sweden.  So, if your tastes are somewhat eclectic, you will certainly save money by choosing beer over wine.  Wine is pretty much always imported and spendier, but there is a fair amount of beer that is made locally.  While it still isn't cheap, it is entirely less expensive than wine or other spirits.  Additionally, grocery stores sell beer relatively inexpensively.  So, you can always make a purchase for your hotel room.

6.  Cell Phone Charges

In order to avoid international charges on your cell phone (especially if you don't have an international plan), simply turn off your cell phone data.  This means you are only going to use your phone for internet purposes when you are able to connect to wifi in your hotel or another business.  Alternately, take a look at your roaming options and make sure that it is all turned off.

7.  Directions

Google is pretty amazing.  Even if you turn off your cell phone data, you can still use Google Maps to give you directions. Just pop into a local coffee shop for a beverage and hop on their wifi.  Once connected, you can initiate your route using the Google Maps App.  The app will continue to give you directions even when you become out of range of your wifi signal.  The app isn't entirely perfect, and occasionally makes mistakes, but for the most part, it works pretty well.

Are there any other Swedish travel hacks that you've tried and recommend?  If so, leave them in the comments below.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Stockholm Pass: Day #1

After a relaxing and completely satisfying traditional Scandinavian breakfast in our hotel, we made our way on foot to City Hall to catch a Hop-on Hop-off bus.  In Stockholm, City Hall is one of the first stops on the route.  You should know that the Hop-on Hop-off buses don't start until 10 AM, and they are very full in the mornings.  From City Hall, you may still get a seat, but perhaps not from stops further down the line.  It is also worth mentioning that there are multiple companies that run Hop-on Hop-off buses, not all of which are usable with a Stockholm Pass. This can be fairly confusing.

We rode the bus to the Hop-on Hop-off boat dock, which is conveniently located right next to the tour, and proceeded to a Hop-on Hop-off boat to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa Museum is an absolute must-see for anyone visiting Stockholm.  If I should visit Stockholm 12 more times in my life, I would still visit the Vasa each and every time.  It is truly special.  The Vasa Museum features an authentic Viking ship which set sail on August 10, 1628, and sank in the Stockholm harbor where it lived until 1961 when it was rescued from the sea after a 333-year slumber.  It was then reconstructed and preserved in this 6 level museum.  The Vasa is truly a mesmerizing mark of Viking grandeur and extraordinary craftsmanship.  We happen to arrive just before the start of one of several tours performed in English.
ticket booth for all of the boat tours.  We quickly acquired tickets for an afternoon

After the Vasa, we made our way to Junibacken, a children's museum just next door.  Those traveling with children will want to plan enough time to take advantage of their considerable offerings.  For us, it was a quick trip to see a childhood favorite:  the Pippi Longstocking exhibit.  The Pippi Longstocking exhibit is a complete reconstruction of her house from the beloved series.

At this point, we needed to make our way back to the area we had just come from so as to be on time for our boat tour.  The boat tours originate in the same area the tickets were purchased.  Unfortunately, taking the Hop-on Hop-off boat would take too long to cycle back to that stop, so we took the 7 tram (streetcar) back to the waterfront. Upon arrival, we realized we had just enough time to grab a quick bite to eat and save ourselves some money on lunch by taking advantage of the outdoor dining kiosk right across the street from the ticket booth.  They serve modest fare: burgers, fries, ice cream, and the like.  While unexciting, we found it to be a quick and economical option.  Our priorities lie more in having a nice dinner as a splurge and saving
on breakfasts and lunches where possible.

There are a great number of boat tours in Stockholm.  They all vary in length, sights featured, and
amenities offered. We opted for the Archipelago Boat Tour to Vaxholm.  This is one of the lengthier tours, taking 3 hours to complete (1 1/2 hours in each direction).  The same basic tour exists under two names:  Vaxholm and Archipelago.   You can opt to get off at Vaxholm, and re-board later.  Many people like to make a day trip of it, go shopping, etc.  We opted to stay on board. This is a fairly classy cruise on a beautiful Yacht, where many other boat tours take place on board much more modest vessels.  This Yacht features a rather nice restaurant, where you can opt to be seated for a nice full-service meal.  We opted to enjoy the lower deck, seating ourselves in the bar area, where we enjoyed some Pimms and beers.  This tour also features a guide person, as opposed to a pre-recorded guide.  The tour guide provides anecdotes in both English and Swedish so as to provide further cultural and historical insight regarding the sights along the way.

After the lovely late afternoon tour, we decided to take the tour guide's recommendation for the best seafood in Stockholm.   I generally prefer a vegan diet, but when I travel, I occasionally like to try something that is both local and traditional.  On those occasions, I aim for the best.  In this situation, the best is to be found at Stockholm Fisk, located just a few blocks from the central train station.  Stockholm Fisk is a classy, yet relaxing atmosphere, and well worth the splurge.  We tried the daily special of Red Fish with horseradish and potatoes and the highly recommended Perch.  Side note: for those of you watching your figures, don't skip the bread basket.  I assure you.  It's worth it!

Full of fish and culture, we leisurely made our way back to our hotel to plan for Day 2 of our pass.

Where we saved money:

  • Stockholm Pass:  Junibaken Museum, Vasa Museum, Hop-on Hop-off bus and boat, and Vaxholm Boat Tour (no additional charge beyond the pass)
  • Breakfast at the hotel (free)
  • Public Transit:  24 hour unlimited pass
  • Lunch at the outdoor kiosk/cafe

Where we splurged:

  • Nice dinner at Stockholm Fisk