Great Discoveries: Stockholm Archipelago part 2
Enough already about the city of Stockholm! Stockholm also has one of the world’s finest, most beautiful archipelagos.
To be truthful, only one of these islands, Lisselö, was a real discovery for me. For Jacques, they all were new discoveries, except for Sandhamn and Träskö-Storö, which we visited together back in 2013 in a chartered Bavaria 40.
Lisselö was a true find for us. We visited it twice and each time, we were the lone boat in the anchorage. It has a cozy feel since there are a couple of fishing cottages and a few summer houses here. We liked observing the fisherman coming and going in their little semi-open boats, called Snipa in Swedish. They are kind of like pick-ups for the sea.
The anchorage of Lisselö, not far from the outer edge of Stockholm’s archipelago
We did need a couple of tries to finally get the anchor to hold here, at around 10 meter’s depth. Perhaps there’s some seaweed growth on the bottom. If you’re anchored just so, you’ll have a view of the open sea through a shallow channel towards the east. Lisselö is well-protected from all winds except for hard easterlies (that blow through the little channel).
Senna drying off after a swim. You can see out to the open sea through this little channel.
Our anchor spot was at 59°20′.43N, 18°54’59E
We had a visitor at our anchorage in Lådna — a grey seal hunting for a meal. We were sitting in the cockpit after dinner, each reading a book, when we heard a strange sound. It sounded like a whale exhaling through its blowhole.
It was a seal! The sound is produced when they come up for air, open their watertight nostrils and exhale. We took some photos, but in all of them, the seal looked like a tiny black dot, even with a 120 mm telephoto lens — not worth putting up here.
The anchorage we chose was a new one for me. I’d been to the well-protected Lådna many times before but always on the western part of the island. The entire series of small coves at Lådna was already crowded when we arrived at around 18.00, so we didn’t have a huge choice of spots. Our little inlet on the far southeastern part had no boats at anchor when we arrived, so we quickly choose a spot there. We found good holding at about 8 meter’s depth.
It’s nice to have some flowers in the cockpit – here’s our little geranium.
The GPS coordinates for our anchor spot: 59°24’53N, 18°44’18E
This is another anchorage I’d visited before, but never in the western part. With a small boat, you can use the eastern inlets and tie to land, but with Freja, we need a good place to turn around our anchor. And turn around we did! During the evening, the wind died completely, and all of the boats lying at anchor floated every which way. We saw the track we made on the plotter — we had turned 360° around because of the lack of wind.
We had no wind at all in the Själbottna anchorage
The western bay of the island is protected from all winds and seas. We were anchored in about 10 meters’ depth (mud).
Cozy atmosphere in the anchorage
The GPS coordinates for our anchor spot (star): 59°33’32N, 18°46’44E. The places marked with an asterisk are ones I’d used with my former boat.
Sandhamn is the archipelago’s version of St. Tropez. It’s the summer base for the Royal Sailing Society of Stockholm (KSSS), which means that almost every member will spend some time there during the summer. If you enjoy bars and house music, people and yacht watching, this is your place during the summer. Outside the period of June 20th to August 10th, it’s a much calmer place, and during the colder months, when only the year ‘round population is left, it’s pretty much in hibernation mode.
Sandhamn is the most popular marina in the entire archipelago
We visited Sandhamn with guests from Switzerland, just to show them another, livelier side of the archipelago. There are several small boutiques selling clothes, home décor, souvenirs, local artwork and boat “stuff”. Sandhamn also has a small grocery store and a lovely bakery. You’ll find ice cream stands everywhere during the high season.
The marina berths are expensive during the summer and they are hard to come by, so you really need to reserve a berth or risk ending up with nothing.
The Seglarhotellet houses part of the hotel as well as 2 restaurants and bars.
There are two sides to the marina — one that’s managed by the KSSS and one that’s managed by the restaurant called Seglarhotellet. We reserved a berth in the Seglarhotellet part of the marina.
The prices there run from 310 SEK to 380 SEK for a boat up to 38 feet, depending on the season, plus a restaurant voucher fee of 300 SEK. For a boat like Freja, 55 feet, it’s either 550 SEK or 620 SEK, plus the voucher fee, depending on the season. The restaurant voucher, for which you are billed 300 SEK is worth 350 SEK in any of the hotel’s restaurants or bars. We had planned to have dinner at the restaurant, anyway, so we got 50 SEK out of the deal. It’s a strange system; obviously to strongly encourage you to eat at one of the restaurants.
This is the marina attached to the Seglarhotellet. It was a tight squeeze for Freja.
I don’t think we would return to Sandhamn during the high season again, unless we had guests that really wanted to go there. It’s just so much more expensive than any other marina in or around Stockholm, and it’s not really our style, especially at night with all the noise! During the off-season, it’s much more quiet, but then all of the little shops have closed and the bakery is open only three days a week and a few of the restaurants have closed for the season…
Träskö – Storö
Träskö – Storö is a huge anchorage that spreads out over a few different islands and inlets, so there’s always room for one more boat. There is just one area to avoid if laying at anchor, though, especially with a west wind blowing. I’ve marked this on the map. It’s one of the most beautiful anchorages in the archipelago, in our opinion. That explains why we stayed for 2 or 3 days each time we came here. On weekends, there’s usually a “bakery boat” that sells bread and pastries by going from boat to boat.
Just a tiny part of the anchorage on Träskö-Storö
The GPS coordinates for our anchor spot: 59°26’42N, 18°46’45E
Gällno is one of the few genuine islands left in the archipelago. It still has farms and fisherman, unlike most of the other islands which are 80-100% summer cottages. You may hear a tractor working a small field or cows mooing. It’s an anchorage relatively close to Stockholm, so it’s a good choice if you’ve gotten a late start to the day, or if you want to drop the anchor for lunch. The anchor bottom is thick, heavy mud and it’s well-protected from winds and seas.
Our guests from Geneva swimming with Senna. The water was only 20° C.
It felt like we’d gone 100 years back in time here
The GPS coordinates for our anchor spot: 59°23’49N, 18°38’8 E
Part 3 — Where to have coffee and other ideas for exploring the city
Our Top 10 places for “Fika” (Swedish for “coffee break”)
Did you know that Fika is coffee said backwards?
This café is located in the “oasis” in Gamla Stan, a little square called Brända Tomten. If it’s a hot day, the chestnut tree in the square will seem to call out to you to sit under the its shade-giving leaves. Under Kastanjen (Under the Chestnut Tree) serves all kinds of hot and warm drinks, pastries and light lunch. The lunch selections run from fresh salads to soup and sandwiches. They also service a daily lunch special.
Having a “fika” at Under Kastanjen in the Old Town
View of the square called “Brända Tomten” in the Old Town
The chestnut tree at Brända Tomten
Possibly the most famous bakery in Stockholm, the pastries and cakes here are just a little too tempting. It’s a dangerous place for the waistline! It was founded back in 1920, and has taken quite a few prizes in various pastry-chef competitions.
If you are really into beautifu, old-school kinds of pastry/coffe shops, you’ll love Vette-Katten on Kungsgatan. It was founded in 1928 and frequented by Grete Garbo. In addition to the delicious pastries, cakes, bread and biscuits, light lunches are served between 11.00 and 14.00.
Sture Katten is not at all like Vete-Katten and there is no connection, save for the word “katten” (the cat) in their names. Sture Katten is like going back to your great grandmother’s house. The pastry shop is laid out on three different floors of a building that dates back to the 1700s. Each former apartment in the building is a group of small dining rooms at Sture Katten. Each dining room is different and even the plates and glasses are different — it really feels like visiting three different apartments. It’s beyond cosy! I used to come here quite often for a dose of “hygge” when I lived in Stockholm.
Cafe Ektorpet (about 100 meters from the Navishamn Marina)
Café Ektorpet is an old coffee house hidden amongst the trees and flowers close to Print Eugens Waldemarsudde (a beautiful art museum). They are noted for their “våfflor”, a kind of waffle, lighter than then Belgium or American versions, heavier than the french one. In addition to pastries, cakes, våfflor, and ice cream, they serve a couple of daily lunch specials. “Simple, but delicious typical swedish food” is how we describe it. During the summer, the café moves outside, and you have a wonderful view of the sea leading in to Stockholm as well as of the Navishamn marina.
Rosendals Trädgårdscafé is well-loved by the locals and tourists alike. It’s placed right in the middle of a series of greenhouses selling plants and flowers. It’s wonderful for a fika, but you can eat a light lunch (between 11 and 14.00), a sandwich, or a bowl of soup if you’re hungry. All of the food, including the cakes and pastries are certified organic. All of the bread, biscuits, pies and cakes are baked in their own wood-burning oven. There’s even a little farm shop! It’s not far from the Navishamn — a 10-minute walk. If you’re staying at the Wasahamn marina, you can take the tram towards Waldemarsudde and get off at the “Bellmansro” stop. From there, it’s about 5 minutes’ walk.
This is yet another of Stockholm’s elegant tearooms. Svenskt Tenn is a home decorating shop (Swedish Design!) with its own tearoom. The best thing about Svenkt Tenn is it’s mini side-walk café/ice cream shop during the summer. It really is the best ice cream in town! Each day, you can chose from 5 or 6 flavours in the ice cream cart and it’s served in either a cone or a bowl. We were told the ice cream is hand-made in small batches by a mom and pop-style company on the island of Kungsholmen. Since the weather was sunny and warm almost every day during the month we spent in Stockholm, we were there at least 15 times. That’s a lot of ice cream tasting.
We saw this beautiful super yacht across the water from the sidewalk café at Svenskt Tenn (yellow building with green awnings).
This café/restaurant/bakery is housed in a building from the 1600s at Stortorget (The Big Square) in the Old Town. Skip all of the tourist trap cafés at the Stortorget and come here. The Grillska Huset serves organic, home-made food (you can buy bread, biscuits, pies and cakes in the bakery part of the building. We bought lots of their knäckebröd (for me) and cinnamon buns (for Jacques) to stock in our galley. In addition, the Grillska Huset is run by a official charity called Stockholms Stadsmission, so you’ll be doing good by eating or buying here.
View from the café “Grillska Huset” in the Stortorget, Gamla Stan (Grand Square in the Old Town)
For Stockholm’s best views, go to the Kaknästornet. After walking around the tower with your camera/phone in hand to take photos, you can relax in the Sky Bar. We had a glass of wine and then coffee (it was late afternoon) while enjoying the amazing view.
View from the Kaknästornet’s café/bar
If you’ve been shopping at the Östermalmshallen (and it’s really worth a visit), you can take a break at Robert’s Gourmet Coffee. We enjoyed cappuccinos and Jacques and our visitors some delicious cinnamon buns (called kanelbullar in Swedish).
Top 10 “other” things to do that are reasonably close to the either marina
Ride your bike (or rent a bike) around Djurgården.
We rode from the Navishamn out to the eastern end (Blockhusudden), then back along the canal.
We came across the “King’s sheep” while biking through Djurgården.
The shortest tour would be to do a “tour de canal” ride and the longest would be to ride along the shoreline and come back on the “other” side (the Gärdet side) and back over the Djurgård’s bridge. You can rent a bike at the Durgård’s bridge.
For a really great tour of the city, ride your bike into the centre of town, then along Södra Mälarstrand. Continue over the “Västerbron” bridge and then back along the Norr Mälarstrand. You can ride over Slussen (the locks) and then catch the ferry to either Kastellholmen or Djurgården from Gamla Stan. You’ll pass lots of places for coffee or a meal along the way. And you’ll pass lots of photo opportunities, so pick a beautiful sunny day. I used to do this tour often when I lived on Södermalm, near Hornstull (minus the going to Djurgården part).
Beautiful vintage wooden boats at Kastellholmen
Go for drinks, perhaps even a meal and a wonderful sunset view over Stockholm. Mossebacken Terrassen is located high up on the cliffs of Södermalm, providing a great view of the city. It’s open during the summer only. Check the website for opening times (depends on the weather as it’s outdoors).
You can rent kayaks at the Djurgård’s bridge, so it’s just not far from the Vasahamn marina. It’s great fun to paddle the canal.
Drinks along the Strandvägen waterfront
Strandvägen has lots of cafés/bars along its waterfront. We tried a few during the warm summer evenings as we’re always up for a glass of wine. You really can’t go wrong when you have the beautiful view of the Stockholm waterfront right in front of you as you sip your favourite drink.
Here you can see some of the “sidewalk” cafés along the Strandvägen Waterfront.
Go up to Fjällgatan for the view of the city
The area around Fjällgatan (means Fell or Mountain street) is a great place to visit. The low-slung row-houses lining the cobblestone streets were once housing for the working class back in the day. They are now some of the most expensive apartments on Södermalm. The view from Fjällgatan is so amazing all the tourist busses stop here on their site-seeing rounds. If you’re hungry or thirsty the famous (in Stockholm) Herman’s vegetarian restaurant is here. Otherwise, there’s a small café, Fjällgatan’s Kaffestuga.
This is a relatively new restaurant and bar in a “skyscraper” that used to be where the tax authorities worked. The building is known to the locals as the Skatteskrapan (taxscraper). The restaurant and bar are located on the two top floors — the 25th and 26th respectively. Because the other buildings around it are much lower, the view is incredible. Have a look at the website for photos of the view.
These are run by the Stromma Turism company. We took both of the couples who visited us (friends and family from Switzerland) on this tour and they all loved it. Even though we’ve done several times, we love as well. You’ll see a lot more of Stockholm by boat in an couple of hours than you will walking or riding your bike in a week. And you’ll see places that you probably would never have visited otherwise.
Go swimming like the locals at the beach called Smedsuddsbadet in Rålambhovs Park.
This is the most well-loved beach in town, and on hot sunny days it gets really crowded. It’s on the lake side of town so you’ll be swimming in fresh water — no need to rinse the salt off!
This little group of islands hosts seven different cafés/restaurants, several different artisans (glass blowers, painters, potters, textile artists, etc.) a smoke house for smoking fish, and lots of choice picnic spots. If you do sail over to the Fjäderholmarna, be warned that the marina is small and there aren’t many berths, so call ahead to reserve or see if there’s space (+46 8 716 39 10).
We saw this beauty just off the Fjäderholmarna (Feather Islands)
City Visit: Stockholm — Where to eat, where to shop
Our top 10 favourite restaurants
The “decoration” at Oaxen Slip. Impressive!
Oaxen is two restaurants – one is an upscale gastronomic experience with 2 Michelin stars (Krog). The other, called Oaxen Slip, is a more relaxed version of the Oaxen Krog , with the same localvore, organic philosophy. We had dinner at the Oaxen Slip. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for our wallets) the Oaxen Krog was closed for the summer holidays. It was a beautiful sunny evening, we were seated at the best table on the terrace and we were with friends, so we ordered the entire gamut from snacks and wine to first course and main course, and finally dessert. If we were to label the type of food it serves it would be “upgraded and revisited Scandinavian”. Everything was outstanding, including the service! A warning: since both of these restaurants are so popular, you’ll need to reserve a table — for weekend evenings, a couple of weeks in advance. They have on-line reservations.
The Strandbryggen is a hip and friendly outdoor restaurant and bar, built upon a pontoon at one end of the Djurgårdsbron(Bridge of Djurgården). As we had non-stop sunny days in Stockholm, we had both lunch and dinner there several times. It’s a great place to have a glass of rosé in the late afternoon as well. It can be really full on Thursday and Friday evenings when they have their “after-work” parties, though. If you’re there in July, there won’t be any after work parties as everyone’s on holiday, but if the weather is sunny, it will be full, especially the bar area. The lunch menu is usually composed of 4 or 5 items as main courses. You order at the counter and are given a beeper when your dish is ready. You then fetch your lunch from the kitchen window. In the evening you can chose between the “self-service area on the left, and the table service area (slightly more expensive) on the right.
While Cultur is a “normal” restaurant at lunchtime, in the evening it really impresses with its fantastic mouth-watering tapas dishes. It has a fun, bohemian atmosphere. Order four or five tapas dishes and you’ll have had a wonderful dinner. The wine list (many wines available by the glass) is equally impressive.
A view of Gamla Stan (St. George and the dragon, just a stone’s throw from Cultur Restaurant and Bar.
This fish and seafood restaurant is part of Östermalmshallen, an upscale food market just a few tram stops and a short walk from Djurgården’s marinas. The quality is impeccable, the service is friendly and the wine list is interesting. You’re starting to understand that wine is important for us! Our favorite dishes are the typical Swedish “rimmad lax” and their version of “Toast Skagen” (open-face shrimp salad and caviar sandwich).
The restaurant at the Fotografiska moves to the outdoor terrace during the summer. It’s a restaurant that puts the vegetables in center stage, not the meat or fish. When you chose your dish, you chose a couple of vegetable “creations” (we’re not talking about a helping of broccoli or spinach just dumped on your plate) and then chose a meat or fish to go with them. A nice change of pace, we thought. And it’s a festival for the eyes and palate.
Restaurant at the Fotografiska, under the pergola.
Restaurant “Terassen” at the Grand Hotel
We had lunch here twice during our stay in Stockholm. If the weather is nice, meals are served on the patio with a lovely view of the old town and the Royal Castle across the water. The setting and the look of the restaurant is what attracted us to the restaurant in the first place. At quick look at the menu and we were asking for a table. I figured that if it was managed by the Grand Hotel (the Grand Dame of all of Stockholm’s hotels), it can’t be that bad. The price level at this bistro-style restaurant was far below one would pay for a meal at the Grand Hotel itself (2 Michelin Stars). Towards the late afternoon, the place turns into one of the “in” places to have a drink.
Blå Porten (next to Liljevalchs Art Museum on Djurgården)
This restaurant is possibly the most zen of all the restaurants in Stockholm. The change in vibe when you walk through the entrance is immediate. Outside, you have the noisy, crowded area around the Abba Museum with crowds of people walking towards the various attractions on Djurgården. Inside, the tranquility will almost startle you. The courtyard, with it’s huge trees provides shade on sunny, hot days and various plants and flowers placed all around the restaurant provide a lovely backdrop.
Mälarpaviljongen (outdoor floating restaurant/bar on lake Mälären)
The atmosphere at Mälarpaviljongen is similar to that of Strandbryggan – hip, fun, and on the water. The food is simple, but good. Go for the atmosphere and beautiful views of the lake and Södermalm island. Come early for lunch or dinner, as it tends to be packed on warm summer days and evenings!
View of the “North Beach” of Lake Mälaren (Norr Mälarstrand), not far from the Mälarpaviljongen
Tradition – typical Swedish food in the old town
Tradition serves typical Swedish food — the sort of grandmother’s recipe food —but seriously upgraded to a gastronomic level. Most of the old swedish dishes can be labelled “comfort food” — think dairy, potatoes, cabbage, onions and other vegetables that can grown in northern climates, local varieties of fish and meat. For dessert, blueberries, strawberries, cloudberries and apples. That makes sense if you reflect on what was available here before food began to be shipped all over the world. Tradition is a wonderful experience, especially if the weather is grey or cold.
Part of the Old Town near Tradition Restaurant
For one of the best views of the city, combined with excellent food (Erik Lallerstedt has a Michelin star under his belt) and great wine, you can’t miss with Gondolen. The restaurant is suspended high above the ground on the north side of Södermalm, next to Slussen (the locks between the sea and the lake). The menu is a blend of traditional swedish and “new nordic” gastronomy
Our Top 10 shops
Nordiska Kompaniet (NK) on Hamngatan
This is Stockholms best and possible biggest department store. We found lots of small things “for the boat” – mostly for the galley. Here are some of them: some Eva Solo thermos coffee mugs, a gorgeous Holmegaard candle lantern, a few kitchen utensils. Clothing was on sale, and Jacques found a great pair of sailing pants from Pelle P. Note that the sales in Stockholm run during July and August. It’s a great place to find small “typically swedish” gifts for family and friends.
Illums Bolighus on Hamngatan
This is a smaller version of the Illums Bolighus in Copenhagen. We found two Muuto baskets that fit perfectly in the boat, behind the sofa. I found a wonderful pair of black mesh slip-on sneakers by Ilse Jacobsen, one of Denmark’s most well-known fashion designers. An on sale for 50% off! Have you seen those granite “ice” cubes for drinks? Bought those here as well. The advantage of putting granite “ice” cubes in your drink is that it doesn’t melt and water down your drink. You keep them in your freezer and when introduced into your glass of white wine, it keeps the drink cold for about 20 minutes.
Sail Racing Flagship Store on Hamngatan
We love the Swedish brand Sail Racing! The problem is that it’s expensive. Solution: visit Sweden in late July-early August and everything’s on sale. Including Sail Racing. It also helps to suggest an “early birthday gift”. We both walked out with a SR down jacket, bought on sale for 40% off, both as late and early birthday gifts.
Gamla Stans Cykel
This is a bicycle shop for those of us who cycle for transportation, not for competition. It has a vintage, hip and cosy atmosphere. Best of all — for us — it has a Brompton department! Jacques had a slow puncture in his front tire and had it repaired during our afternoon stroll through the Old Town. We also picked up a few Brompton accessories like rain covers for our shopping baskets. It’s amazing how many other cruisers we’ve met so far who have Bromptons. They do fit into very small places.
Lisa Elmqvist (Östermalmshallen)
We bought tons of Skagen Röra here (a Swedish shrimp salad) during our month-long stay. As you may know, everyone make their own version of this, and Lisa Elmqvist takes the silver medal in the Skagen Röra competition ( in our humble opinion). Larsson’s Fisk in Mollösund takes the Gold. Also warmly recommended: their quiches (especially the chanterelle and the shrimp), the smoked eel, the flounder and all of the variations of salmon (gravad, rimmad, smoked).
Different sorts of herring at Lisa Elmqvist
Smoked fish and eel at Lisa Elmqvist
Variation of Salmon at Lisa Elmqvist
Hand-churned butter anyone? How about some good Parma ham or even Pata Negra from Spain? This deli has so many mouth-watering foods it’s difficult to chose. We bought some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sauces, and Swedish reindeer and Elk sausages.
M Seger Meat and Cheese (Östermalmshallen)
We bought some well-aged steaks here for each time we had visitors. So delicious! And they almost melt in your mouth. The service is fantastic!
This is a wonderful place to buy some unique, inexpensive, yet not at all kitchy gifts for family and friends at home. They have a range of hand-woven and hand-sewn textiles. We picked up some table mats and table runners for future Christmas gifts for friends.
This is the closest chandlery to both marinas. They have two stories of boat supplies, parts, charts and clothing. The service is excellent! We had to order part of a bow ladder that we lost to the sea. It arrived in just 2 days.
Bonus 1: grocery shops for your daily needs
- ICA Esplanaden on Karlavägen – not far from the marinas if you have a bicycle – they have a great selection.
- ICA Quantum Värtahamnen – this is a really big ICA. You have the biggest selection here, but it’s a 5-kilometer bicycle ride away. It’s really only for those with a bike or who are willing to take a taxi/Über to get groceries. We were groaning under the load of backpacks and overfilled bicycle baskets.
- ICA in the basement level of NK – this ICA has an excellent of selection of gourmet food, but doesn’t have a great choice of some ordinary things like toilet paper and cleaning products. The advantage is that the tram stops right in front of the store — so you won’t have to lug your heavy grocery bags too far.
- Hemköp in the basement level at Åhléns. The Hemköp chain of grocery stores is just as good as the ICA, its just not as easy to find. The one at Åhléns has a good selection of just about everything you’d need.
Bonus 2: Wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages
As you may know, Sweden, like Norway and Finland has a monopoly on the sale of alcoholic drinks. You need to go the “System Bolaget” (green sign with yellow lettering). There are many retail outlets in Stockholm but the one closest to the marinas is at Karlavägen 100. If you have a bike with a large basket, it’s perhaps a 10 minute ride. If you don’t have a bike, a better alternative is the System Bolaget next to the NK, since the tram will take you door-to-door — something you’ll want if you’ve purchased a case of wine or beer!
You can’t taste anything at the System Bolaget, but there are written descriptions (at least on the wine — but only in Swedish). When in doubt, ask the personnel — they seem to love giving advice (at least about the wines).