Best of Södermalm

In a city known for clean lines, Stockholm’s Södermalm district (“Söder” to locals) is nonconformist. A slum in the 18th century, the neighborhood is now home to a mix of vintage shops, eclectic cafes, hip clubs, local dive bars, and ethnic restaurants. It was also the backdrop for author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and best seller “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

Highlights
Skånegatan 79, 116 35 Stockholm, Sweden
Let’s face it, Stockholm is three things for travelers: It’s cold. It’s expensive. And it’s home to some of the most gorgeous human specimens on this dear planet of ours. I may have found the perfect place to remedy these issues, should they be considered as such—Gilda’s Café. Set in the heart of the boho district of Södermalm in south Stockholm, Gilda’s is the perfect place to shelter from the cold with a warm cup of coffee in hand, inexpensive pastries (fika, anyone?), and some good old people watching. Trust me when I say that people watching does not get any better than in Stockholm. Locals are very fond of hipster ways. They are relaxed, friendly, and could all be on the front cover of a fashion magazine. Beautiful people aside, Gilda’s is a little slice of heaven on its own. Think unmatched tableware, indie music, eclectic furniture, and delicious homemade dishes. Worlds away from the compartmentalism and practicality of Ikea. The change of scenery is most welcome and enjoyable. Save your precious kronors, daydream about a handsome Swedish Viking while sipping a comforting latte, and go to Gilda’s. It’s the ultimate south Stockholm thing to do, and you won’t regret it.
Södermalm, Stockholm, Sweden
In a city known for clean lines, Stockholm’s Södermalm district (“Söder” to locals) is surprisingly nonconformist. A slum in the 18th century, the neighborhood is now home to a mix of clothing and furniture shops; Thai, Greek, and Turkish restaurants; historic falu red cottages; and one famous fictional character, Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist in Stieg Larsson’s bestseller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Linger at a cafe along the main square, Medborgarplatsen, and take in the scene.
Stadsgårdshamnen 22, 116 45 Stockholm, Sweden
Here is a museum dedicated to the art of photography and placed, um, picture perfectly for views of Stockholm. The museum building sits along the waterfront with a view of the Old Town (Gamla Stan) and the Tivoli Amusement Park. Exhibitions change throughout the year, but while I was there they had three exhibitions that were fabulously curated and equally compelling. The exhibitions are curated in Swedish and in English—plus the museum offers guided tours of the exhibitions. In addition to photography, the building has a gift shop full of photography books and prints. A bistro on the top floor looks out over the waterfront and offers weekend brunch, wine tasting events, concerts, and in the fall and spring they even turn the space into a dance club. If you are in Stockholm for a longer period and have an interest in improving your photography, they offer seminars and workshops by well-known professionals.
Bysistorget 6, 118 21 Stockholm, Sweden
Stieg Larsson singlehandedly burst the world’s bubbled image of Sweden and its conformist society through his riveting best-selling Millennium trilogy. With over 60 million (and counting) copies sold, the late author introduced an edgier side of Sweden to the world beyond long-held stereotypes of ABBA, IKEA, blondes, Volvos, Saab, and meatballs, revealing a multi-layered and diverse country through his fictional protagonists—journalist Mikael Blomkvist and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. Set in Stockholm’s eclectic neighborhood of Södermalm, with its gentrified mix of wealthy, religious, offbeat, and working-class residents all flitting between outdoor cafes and vintage stores, Larsson introduces us to a cutthroat world of greed and crime. Avid fans of Larsson’s books can take two-hour long tours organized by Stockholm City Museum and led by certified guides, on Saturdays at 11:30am year-round. The walking tours take fans through key locations spotlighted in the book, such as Bellmansgatan 1 (Blomkvist’s home) with its views of Stockholm’s Gamla stan and Riddarholmen across Riddarfjärden bay, and the 21-room penthouse on Fiskargatan 9 (which Lisbeth Salander buys with stolen money). During the summer months of June to September, travelers can also take the tours on Wednesdays at 6pm. Visit http://www.stieglarsson.se/.
Folkungagatan, Stockholm, Sweden
To while away time, you can go people-watching and vintage shopping in Stockholm’s answer to New York’s SoHo—South of Folkungagatan, called “SoFo” on Södermalm (“Söder” to locals). This busy bohemian district boasts some of the edgiest cultural experiences in town. Visit stores like Sneakersnstuff for funky limited-edition sneakers and running shoes, or wade through rows of vintage clothes at Beyond Retro, offering styles from Victorian-era attire to 1990s grunge-rock Pearl Jam–inspired clothes, with every era in between. If you’re into vintage—vinyl records, throwback clothes, paraphernalia, odd knickknacks—you won’t find them anywhere else if you don’t find them in Stockholm’s SoFo district.
Bellmansgatan 1, 118 20 Stockholm, Sweden
If you’re a fan of late Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s award-winning Millennium trilogy, or have read his book selections on long-haul flights, you might be interested in exploring the backdrops and settings of this suspenseful crime drama series. Take a guided tour (group or individual) that walks you through Stockholm’s edgier bohemian neighborhood of Södermalm, and visit spots like Mellqvists Kaffebar (which both fictional journalist Mikael Blomkvist and real-life author Stieg Larsson frequented) and Fiskargatan 9—an expensive address with stunning views over Djurgården and Gamla stan (Old Town) where protagonist Lisbeth Salander buys her 21-room apartment.
Malmgårdsvägen 16-18, 116 38 Stockholm, Sweden
This boutique takes you back to the 1940s and ‘50s with retro clothes and accessories. In addition to vintage clothing, Sivletto also offers interior decorations, furniture, and other wares that span various subcultures; from Rockabilly to Tiki. Getting there will take you through a back street and down spiral staircases into a cellar, complete with café, pinball machine, and hairdressing salon to give you a matching classic look.
Åsögatan 124, 116 24 Stockholm, Sweden
Avid collectors of classic footwear will find Sneakers’n’stuff’s selection of vintage and limited-design sneakers fascinating. Brands include classic Nike, New Balance, Adidas, and the house label SNS. Deep discounts of up to 50% off are offered on vintage shoes that normally run from $125 to $225 per pair.
Åsögatan 144, 116 24 Stockholm, Sweden
Located in a 300-meter-square basement once used by fishmongers, this iconic store is the premier spot for retro shopping and is also Beyond Retro’s flagship store in Stockholm. With over 35,000 items available across its six stores, you can pick through Victorian-era attire, 1920s beaded flapper dresses, elegant gowns from the 1930s, and much more—spanning the 1900s to the early grunge-rock–inspired 1990s. A sister two-story store is located along Stockholm’s famous pedestrian drag, Drottninggatan.
From hipsters, fashionistas, and bohemian chic youngsters to executives in business suits, dads pushing strollers, foreigners in ethnic garb, and guidebook-wielding tourists, a true cross section of Stockholm’s diverse residents populates Medborgarplatsen (“Citizen Square”), a central and iconic plaza that is prime for people watching on the island of Södermalm. Once night falls, it becomes one of the active nightlife spots in town—with lounges, clubs, and live music in nearby Debaser.
Monteliusvägen, Stockholm, Sweden
To escape crowds and get some fresh air, you can stroll along Söder Mälarstrand on secluded Monteliusvägen (Montelius road) with marvelous views of Lake Mälaren, Gamla stan, Riddarholmen, and the City Hall on Kungsholmen. Despite ongoing construction in the area, you’ll still enjoy some of the best panoramic views of Stockholm.
Renstiernas gata 12, 116 28 Stockholm, Sweden
Spearheaded by chocolatier Martin Isaksson who was trained at the Maison du Chocolat in Paris, this boutique chocolate store sells some of the best (and most expensive) pralines in town. Some of its chocolate lines feature artwork and designs by local and international artists, and the store also runs evening tastes where you can come and sample various chocolates and pralines. You can also buy decadent boxes of pralines through its web shop.
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