Weekend Adventure: Stockholm

Stockholm in December is a very dark place. But it’s also cozy and magical and full of life. Early in the month, George and I spent a weekend with a couple friends exploring the Scandinavian city. We were able to fit a lot into the weekend, so we made this quick guide of all the places we stopped!

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STAY

& Hotel | What I loved most about this hotel was its location: right next to a metro stop, with an Urban Deli around the block and loads of shopping nearby. Of course, we booked last minute so our options were limited. But this hotel was one of the least expensive we could find with comfortable rooms and breakfast included. Book a family room for more space!

Generator Hostel | Our friends stayed here and told us it was really nice and well designed. They also have private rooms, which we considered because of how inexpensive they are. However, the nearest metro was a ten minute walk. Not a problem for most people, I know, but it did feel a bit far away from everything.

Miss Clara | Although we did not stay here, this is where I would have liked to stay. Originally a girl’s school, this boutique hotel has well-priced rooms with modern Scandinavian design. It’s also really well located near some of the best shopping streets.

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SHOP

Shopping was one of our main reasons for wanting to visit Stockholm. We can’t get enough of Scandinavian design, even if we aren’t willing to pay the exorbitant prices. But it’s still fun to look! Here are some of our favorites:

Grandpa | Simple and beautiful home goods, clothes, and more. Very hipster. There is one located in Södermalm and another closer to the train station.

& Other Stories | Women’s fashion, beauty products, and accessories. I loved the jewelry here and actually bought something for myself. The prices were not as bad as other stores, comparatively.

Stockholms Stadmission | This is one of the second-hand chain stores in Stockholm. They have multiple locations throughout the city and an amazing selection, if you ask me.

Granit |  Minimalist home decor and home organization.

Snickarbacken 7 | A café, shop, and art gallery in one! The shop wasn’t initially open when we arrived, so we just admired the art while sipping our coffee.

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EAT

I wanted to stop in every café we passed for Fika (the Swedish tradition of gathering with friends around coffee and cake). Each one was so inviting and perfectly designed. That did not happen, however we did have some pretty amazing food in Stockholm.

Meatballs for the People | Swedish meatballs. Need I say more?

The Flying Elk | Centrally located in the old town, our meal here was surprisingly delicious and comparatively affordable. I would describe it as quality Nordic cuisine in a modern casual setting. Each of us thought we had chosen the best dish, which I suppose shows the strength and diversity of the menu. Book before you go!

Fabrique | This café has the best buns! I thought I would like cinnamon best, but I actually preferred the cardamom. Either way, with locations throughout the city it’s definitely worth a stop.

Urban Deli | While we did not have a full meal here, we stopped into the shop a few different times just to look. Picture a cross between a grocery store, restaurant, bakery, and market. We picked up saffron buns here on more than one occasion.

Pharmarium | Drinks in the main square of the Gamla Stan on the site of the first Swedish pharmacy from 1575. You know it’s good when the bartender spends a minute or two to personally explain each of your drinks.

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SEE & DO

There were seriously so many museums I wanted to see in Stockholm. Some were closed for the winter (like Carl Eldh’s atelier) while others were simply not in the direction we were going. For the most part, we ended up choosing shopping over museums, which I do not feel bad about. However, it definitely necessitates a trip back.

Vasa Museum | If you only have time for one museum, as we did, I recommend this one. It contains the only preserved 17th century ship in the world. It sank in the harbor minutes into its maiden voyage for reasons you’ll learn about if you visit the museum!

City Hall | There is a beautiful view of the city from here. For some reason, the tower is closed during the winter, so we were not able to climb it. But it’s totally free to walk around the courtyard and out to the water’s edge.

Skansen | Under normal circumstances, I’m not sure I would recommend Skansen (Stockholm’s open-air museum and zoo). But because their Christmas market was going on, I absolutely loved it. It had such a traditional feel, but there were also stalls selling products with more modern designs. Go here over the Christmas market in the old town…it was awfully small and absolutely packed with people.

Södermalm | By far the coolest neighborhood in Stockholm. We originally intended to stay here, but Airbnb turned out to be a more expensive option than hotels in the less hipster areas. Anyway, Södermalm is filled with crazy cool shops and cafés worthy of an afternoon spent wandering its streets.

Gamla Stan | The Gamla Stan or Old Town is one of the city’s main attractions with its cobblestone streets and pretty façades. It is quite touristy as evidenced by its many souvenir shops and constant influx of people (also an alarming number of 12 year olds chasing Pokémon). However, that is easily avoided by simply waking up earlier.

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I am sure we’ll be back to Stockholm again before our time here is over. It is, after all, one of the cheapest places to fly from London. But also, I’d just love to see the city and archipelago during the summer. Until next time!

Weekend Adventure: Hallstatt and Salzburg

A few weeks ago, we went to a place that has been on my bucket list since we moved here: Hallstatt, Austria. George’s sister and brother in law were visiting from the States and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to see the tiny lakeside village. I think we caught the very end of the fall colors there which was also really cool to see.

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Hallstatt is not only the oldest village in Austria, but probably also the most photographed. Even in the off-season, the village is full of tourists who took the ferry over the lake for a day-trip. However, because we decided to stay overnight, it felt like we had it all to ourselves. We stayed in the Seehotel Grüner Baum, which faces the lake on one side of the hotel and the market square on the other. Our room had a balcony overlooking the market square!

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There is not a ton to do in Hallstatt during the day, aside from walking around and taking pictures, but it was a very peaceful place to spend a weekend. I can imagine it getting crazy in the summer, but in November, things were pretty quiet.

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On our first day there, we took the funicular up to the famous salt mine for a view looking over Hallstatt and the surrounding Dachstein mountains. This area of Austria is called the Salzkammergut (salz meaning salt, in German) and salt production here has been traced back to the Bronze Age. Once at the top, we simply took in the view while sipping hot chocolate and mulled wine, but for the more adventurous, there were plenty of trails leading into the mountains. We also stopped into the gift shop to buy some salt-themed souvenirs.

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The next morning, we woke up to a fog-covered lake and a forecast of rain for the rest of the day. We didn’t have set plans for the day, but in the end we decided to head to Königsee, which is actually a lake in Germany. It was about an hour’s drive from Hallstatt.

First we took a cable car up the Jenner mountain for a view from above the lake. The weather really was awful, but I think we made the most of it. The ride up the mountain in the weathered and creaky cable car was an experience in itself!

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After returning to ground-level, we made our way over to the lake to see it up close. I can totally see why Königsee is so popular with German tourists; the water was so clear even on a cloudy day and the mountains surrounding the lake give it a fjord-like feel. Looking back on the trip, I do wish we had taken a boat tour across the lake. The lake is so long, that would be the only way to see all of it!

But we were all tired from walking around in the rain and decided to head back to our hotel instead. That night we ate dinner at the hotel in their lakeside restaurant. I’m sure sitting on the terrace on a summer night would be amazing, but for a fall or winter trip I would suggest eating somewhere else. The food was just not that special.

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Our final day in Austria was even wetter than the previous day. We had planned to escape the rain with some shopping and sightseeing in Salzburg, but when making those plans I forgot that it was Sunday. So when we arrived in the city, everything was closed aside from a few tourist shops and cafés.

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Luckily, the café I had chosen to take us that morning was open! Café Tomaselli is the oldest coffee house in Austria with origins dating back to 1700. And it was said to be a favorite of Mozarts. The experience is a little different from your average European coffee shop, so it’s good to be aware of before you go. First, a waiter will come to the table asking for your drink order, which you will pay for upon leaving the café. Next, a woman will bring an entire tray of cakes and pastries to the table and you can choose as many as you want. These must be paid for immediately. Of course, we each chose something different so we could sample them all! It definitely made our coffee stop feel more special and upscale.

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This is the view from the terrace outside the modern art museum. It was so simple to get to! You just take an elevator from street level up to the museum and walk outside. We did not pay to go into the museum.

Later that day, we were able to squeeze in a couple Sound of Music stops like the Mirabell Palace and gardens, but we spent the majority of the afternoon hiding away at the Augustiner Brewery. As you pass through their delicatessen arcade on the way to the beer halls, you can pick up snacks like wienerschnitzel, pretzels, and fried radishes. We got a little of everything and found a cozy nook at the end of the hall.

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While we were there enjoying our beer and snacks, it started to snow! I realize I may have been alone in my excitement, but it never snows in England so I always look forward to the possibility of snow when we travel. For me, it was the perfect way to end our trip.

Weekend Adventure: Copenhagen

Copenhagen surprised me. I had been once before just after highschool on a backpacking trip and my experience then was…interesting. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it wasn’t my favorite place either. This time, though, I loved exploring the city with George: shopping and eating our way through Copenhagen. It may even be my favorite city we’ve visited since living here…aside from London, of course!

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We arrived around noon on Saturday and almost immediately set off for one of the city’s coolest neighborhoods: Norrebro. We shopped, we ate cinnamon buns, we drank coffee. All the best places are found on one street called Jægersborggade.

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Next we headed to the city center to climb to the top of the Rundetaarn for some amazing views. The Rundetaarn (Round Tower) was built in 1642 with a spiral ramp so that royalty could ride to the top on horseback. At the top, there is an observatory which claims to be the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. And supposedly, on a clear day, you can see across to Sweden!

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Afterward, we walked around the pedestrian area and did some more shopping. The shopping really was amazing in Copenhagen. There were so many beautiful pieces of Danish design I wanted to bring home.

For a quick snack, we got hot dogs from Torvehallerne. It is a food market, so there were lots of tasty options to consider. But for a proper meal, we had already decided to go to the meatpacking district later that night.

 

For the next hour or so, we hung out at the library bar across from Tivoli at the Plaza Hotel. The drinks were pretty pricey, but the Amaretto Sour was probably the best I’ve ever had. It was the perfect place to relax and talk while surrounded by floor-to-ceiling bookcases.

After leaving the library bar, we decided we still were not hungry and instead went to the Mikkeler bar to sample some local beer. It was totally packed, but we found a seat fairly quickly. I highly recommend this place!

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The next morning, we tried to get up as early as possible to see Nyhavn harbor expecting there to be tons of tourists there later in the day. Although when we got there at 9 am, we basically had the place to ourselves. Could have been the fact that it was such a dreary day!

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Nonetheless, we had a great time strolling past the colorful houses and taking way too many pictures of pretty boats. For lunch we popped over to Papirøen, or Paper Island, for some delicious smørrebrød. The Danish open-face sandwiches at this street food market were so tasty. Also, the seating options here were great! Much better than any London market.

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The only thing on our agenda for the rest of the day was the Design Museum. However, the Amalienborg Palace just happened to be on our way there so we opted to check it out. You can watch the changing of the guards here everyday at 12:00.

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We were also able to see the Kastellet military fortess as it was just a few minutes past the Design Museum on foot. More than anything, I loved the colors here. It was a nice place to go for a walk, especially with all the leaves changing color.

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When we finally made it to the Design Museum, we realized you can basically see the same designs just by going shopping. Specifically, by making a stop at both Illums Bollighus and the Royal Copenhagen store. I would give the museum a miss, because I would rather have spent that time shopping for pieces that are actually available to purchase (even if they were crazy expensive).

That night, we made reservations to have dinner at a place called Väkst. Both of our meals were amazing, not to mention surprising and (compared to other Nordic restaurants) affordable. The decor was super cool as well, centered around a greenhouse with a cozy, urban style basement. It was the perfect end to our trip and I’m so glad we got to experience some modern Nordic cuisine before heading back to London.

Road Trip: Luxembourg & Germany

George and I have been traveling a lot lately. We went to Bruges, Belgium a couple weeks ago to celebrate his birthday and we just got home on Monday from his sister’s wedding in Chicago. But before we left for the States, we took a road trip to Luxembourg and Germany with a couple friends. We chose Luxembourg because it was the only place within driving distance that none of us had really been before. George spent about an hour there one summer, but everything was still pretty new to him.  Continue reading “Road Trip: Luxembourg & Germany”

Norway, Part I: Bergen

This past weekend, because it was Easter, George had both Friday and Monday off from work. So we decided we wanted to go somewhere a little farther with our extra time! We chose Haugesund, Norway because it was the cheapest place to fly over the holiday weekend. I have always wanted to see the fjords and George was excited because it was something totally new.  Continue reading “Norway, Part I: Bergen”