Do you like capsule wardrobes, sustainability, minimalism, spa time, and some beautiful people watching? You’re reading this, so I’m going to go with, yes. Then you will be obsessed with a certain Scandinavian city, Stockholm.
Stockholm is everything the modern conscious traveler could want out of a city. In fact, it’s hard to visit and not be sustainable. Stockholm is highest in Europe for consumption of organic foods, recycling of drinks cans and bottles, and share of energy from renewable sources, and is innovating on ways to become fossil free by 2040.
In short, this is one of those rare places where treehuggers can relax and really enjoy their vacation, without worrying so much about only patronizing the right businesses. A lot of the work has been done for you! However, I had the opportunity to visit this spring for a few days and wasn’t going to let that pass without ferreting out all the best places to shop for sustainable fashion, restaurants to visit, and even where to get a good smoothie.
The three main neighborhoods you’ll want to check out are:
Gamla Stan: The old part of town, this island is a bit touristy. Which makes sense, it has the historicaly, charming, narrow streets, the Royal Palace, and old bars and restaurants. But you can’t deny that it’s nice to walk around in.
Södermalm: A more hipster neighborhood that is South of Gamla Stan, this is the place to go if you love shopping and fresh dining, and want to get a sense for what the young Stockolmers are doing.
Norrmalm: A sort of business district or downtown area, this modern part of the city has the train station, businesses, and high-rise hotels. This is where I stayed. I didn’t spend a lot of time in this neighborhood, but it was convenient to Gamla Stan and only a 20 minute walk to Sodermalm.
Djurgarden: An island that includes must-see attractions Vasamuseet (learn about the Vikings), Nordiskamuseet, Skansen park (an immersive experience that’s sort of like colonial Williamsburg, but for Stockholm), Biologisjamuseet, Prins Eugens Waldermarsudde and Rosendahls slott. (By the way, museet means museum in Swedish.)
How to Get Around Stockholm
Train: Take the Arlanda express train from the airport into the city. It’s fast and the most sustainable way to get from the airport to the city. Trains leave every 15 minutes.
Public Transportation: When you arrive to Stockholm, get yourself a Stockholm Pass with Travel for a period of one to five days. This allows you to use public transportation – the metro, buses, trams, and trains – as well as the Royal Canal Tour and admission to more than 60 attractions. I hear that the subway stations are like art galleries and worth a visit themselves. You can use it for the Arlanda express train from the airport as well, but you’ll have to pay a supplement.
Bikes: Stockholm is beautiful for biking! Get a 3-day pass for the bike share at a Pressbyran (news stand) or through your hotel.
Walk: This is a pretty compact city. You can get from one sight to another in an hour’s walk at the very, very most. So bring your sneakers!
Eco-Friendly Hotels in Stockholm
It’s hard to go wrong, actually, with Stockholm hotels. There are 90 hotels bearing the Nordic Swan Ecolabel (“Svanen”) denoting their compliance with strict environmental and health regulations. (Look them up here.) In fact, Stockholm has the highest number of eco-friendly lodging in the world. But here’s a couple of ideas:
HOBO – Where I stayed, this brand new hotel is almost painfully geared toward millennials. The rooms are just big enough for a bed and bathrooms, and it had the vibe of a hostel. There’s no telephone in the room, for example – they expect you to use your cellphone to call the front desk if you need anything. And everything is extra. But the breakfast that is included is healthy, delicious, and includes some Scandinavian touches, like an egg sandwich with Swedish caviar on rye. The restaurant/café has an Ace Hotel vibe: young, relaxed, welcoming, laptop-friendly. There are edible plants growing in the lobby, and plenty of eco-friendly gifts to buy at the desk.
Scandic – This modern hotel chain is known for their sustainability initiatives.
Sustainable Fashion Shopping in Stockholm
The sustainable shopping in Stockholm is out-of-this-world good. The Swedes…they just care about the earth and have impeccable style. Make sure to call your credit card company and warn them.
Nudie Jeans – Soder and Norrmalm
This sustainable denim company not only sells unisex jeans made with organic cotton, they will repair or shorten your Nudies for you. I’ve written about how much I love them before!
Stockholms Stadmission – Soder
A wonderful vintage store. I found a Sandquvist laptop holder. But there’s also everything you would find in a typical vintage store, but with a Nordic twist. Don’t worry, though, they do have color here.
Swedish Hasbeens – Soder
Traditionally handmade with natural and sustainable materials, these these 1970s classics have become simultaneously timeless and innovative. The sales associate gave me instructions for care and repair of my new wood and vegetable tanned leather shoes, which will age beautifully over time.
Grandpa – Soder
A mix of Swedish designers, this store carries organic cotton sneakers, knitwear made in England, selvedge denim, everything heritage, plus Swedish Stockings, nontoxic clothing detergent, Ecotex underwear, and classics like Adidas, and Doc Marten. If my apartment burned down, I would come straight here to rebuild my wardrobe.
H&M – Norrmalm
Yes, this global brand is originally from Sweden, and it’s gunning toward sustainability, with a goal to be carbon negative and circular. While you’re in the city, swing by and see it in its native habitat! Visit the flagship at Drottningatan and Mäster Samuelsgatan.
Ecosphere (Soder): A store featuring favorite international sustainable brands, such as Veja, O My Bag, Kowtow, Kings of Indigo, and more.
Uniforms for the Dedicated (Soder): This men’s brand sells everything a guy needs to look both cool and professional, using organic, recycled, and natural fibers.
Swedish Stockings (Norrmalm): Nylon stockings made from recycled yarn
Filippa K (Soder, Norrmalm): In 2015 this Swedish brand started going sustainable. They use fabrics such as Tencel, silk, linen, organic cotton, wool and recycled materials in certain items. They even have a secondhand store in Soder now.
Eco-Friendly Restaurants and Cafes in Stockholm
Hermans – Soder
A vegetarian restaurant with luxury views for a reasonable price. On the cliffs by Fotografiska, it serves a buffet of comforting health food, plus Swedish desserts done raw, beer, and cider.
Bleck – Soder
The park Lilla Blecktornsparken on Södermalm is home to this hidden little gem. A cozy, tiny restaurant and bar right inside the park, it serves plates of organic and locally-sourced vegetables and meats (sometimes elk and rooster, I hear, though the night we went the weirdest thing was iberico, or what the waiter like to call “fancy pig” who eats just acorns). There’s a patio out back with blankets if there’s still a chill, but during the summer, the menu expands and I can imagine it getting crowded and really fun.
Other restaurants to try:
I didn’t make it to these, but they’re at the top of my list for next time!
Volt (Norr) – A seasonal restaurant with organic wine list.
Leijontornet (Gamla Stan) – From Travel and Leisure: “Relies on farm-fresh ingredients for the hearty dishes, such as venison with dried cherries, ox marrow, and crispy black pudding. For dessert, don’t miss the baked apples with hazelnuts, bee pollen, and house-made ice cream.”
Woodstockholm (Soder) – It’s a furniture store, foodbar and bistro in one, with a themed menu that that changes regularly focused on organically produced food and wine. Book in advance to get a table in this tiny place, or hope for a seat at the bar.
Paradiset (Soder and Norrmalm) – An organic food market
Kalf & Hansen (Soder) – Serves Nordic, organic fast food, centered on beef, fish and vegetarian quenelles served with salad and tasty sauces. The interior design is simple and tasteful, just like the food.
Rosendals Trädgård (Djurgården) – Part café, part bakery, and part nursery, with a greenhouse of fruits and vegetables. What the restaurant can’t source itself, it purchases from local producers. Leftovers are composted.
BONUS: Ecobaren Centralbadet – Norrmalm
Do not leave Sweden without trying out a spa! I spent a few hours (and wish I could have spend more) cycling through five different types of female-only and mixed saunas, several pools, and hot and cold showers. The setting, built 1905, is not fancy, but has an art deco charm. You can even don a robe and have a light lunch at the cafe inside the spa, or get a healthy, full meal downstairs before or after. With cell phones verboten, it was the most relaxing experience I’ve had in months. I came out feeling like I had collected the cumulative relaxation of 10 yoga classes. Just be aware that you will see some naked bodies. So shelve your puritanical American sensibilities before entering.