After a so-so flight with Ryanair to Italy a few years ago we have been getting emails ever since, but nothing convinced us to pull the trigger until we got a winter special to Stockholm for 9 euros per person. That's absolutely unbeatable and worth a few hours of subpar travel for the opportunity. Back when we first booked the trip, Kevin hadn't actually gotten the days off of work yet-- but we figured we would be out less than €40 if the days didn't work out. But work out they did-- in fact, our good friend Ryan Millar (airline named after him) flew out from Colorado and met us there, and our German friend Valesca flew with us from Hannover.
Since we were 4 people, an Airbnb made the most financial sense. We ended up with an awesome place looking over an ice rink in the trendy-hipster Södermalm area. At first we though, hey cool, we can go skating there or watch some hockey. But it got even better-- we got to see them play the sport called Bandy-- it is a combination of hockey and soccer-- bigger nets than hockey, 11 on 11, but the soccer offsides rules. What a treat that we stumbled upon!
We started off our Stockholm experience with a free walking tour-- it was a great introduction to the city and the history with some great tidbits. For example, the 'nobel' prize of economics is not an official Nobel prize but was added later by a Swedish national bank-- this is a well known fact. What is less well known is that there is no chance there will ever be an unofficial Nobel prize for mathematics as his girlfriend left him for a mathematician.
We also later visited the Nobel museum. Well placed smack in the middle of Gamla Stan, the old town, the museum felt more of a 'must do' than an exciting experience. This is a direct juxtaposition to undoubtedly one of the coolest museums in the world, the Vasa museum. The Vasa was a Swedish warship built in the 1600s which sank very early during its maiden journey. It laid under the sea for over 300 years before it was rediscovered and hoisted to the surface and brought onto land where a museum was built around it. It was something surreal to see, an absolutely cool experience.
We decided we hadn't had enough history and Swedish culture and signed up for another tour-- this time, a bar tour of Sweden's old town. Most notable was the mead hall, awesomely decorated with the chance to drink mead still made with a Middle Ages recipe. We also learned about attempts of rationing alcohol by the government including a booklet which had coupons that allowed you to buy alcohol-- but the amount of alcohol was based on your gender and marital status. A single woman could get less than a man, but a married woman's booklet was taken away because it was up to the man to decide! But the night was definitely enjoyable due to our Swedish host and his friends who came along-- we had a fabulous time.
All of the food was very good, but the meatballs were amazing. We tried them at a few different places, and each person had their favorite. First we tried them at a bar-restaurant which is attached to the Opera house-- the same food without the pretentious atmosphere (and prices). There the sauce was awesome! And on the last night we went to hipster version in our trendy neighborhood, where they offered meatballs made of venison, lamb, ox, and moose.
On our last night we hiked up to the highest natural point in Stockholm right near our house to take in the beauty and the sunset. It was a very relaxed, locals feeling. Since it was winter we only stayed there 30-45 minutes, but during summer it would be a great place to hang out and picnic and just watch life move slowly by.
Overall Stockholm is a quintessential European city. Lots of history, culture, and beauty-- absolutely worthy of a visit.