If you happen to find me snivelling into my blueberry smoothie this week, don’t be alarmed. I’m suffering from a serious post-Scando come down after what can only be described as an adventure of a lifetime to Sweden and Norway.
A belated apology for the influx of nature porn via Instagram over the last few weeks – but I couldn’t resist sharing with you glimpses of the most incredible destinations I’ve ever been lucky enough to explore.
There are so many days from our trip I want to tell you about, like the day we surfed inside the Artic Circle in 4C water, or the day we caught and ate our own Norwegian cod in a fjord in the middle of a freaking fruit farm – I kid you not, Norway is the place of outdoor fairy-tales. So much so I’m tempted to write the worlds longest blog post….
BUT instead I’ve decided to kick things off with a guide to Stockholm and Oslo – the beginning and end stops of our journey through Scandinavia. While there are no words to describe the never-ending natural beauty we encountered, we also adored our time in these two cooler than cool cities. The relaxed fashion (you had me at jeans and kicks), the clean design and exciting creative vibe made us feel we could set up camp and never leave.
The places in this guide are a mixture of favourite local suggestions, friend recommendations and our own nerdy research (I enjoy a good yelp/blog/foursquare session more than most). Included are some of the hippest/healthiest cafes, best coffee and craziest menus (Icelandic Asian fusion anyone?) in our travels to date.
If you’re like us – and exploring a new city means riding a bike from coffee to food – then you’re going to dig this guide. It’s all the places we loved and want future travellers to love too.
So go, enjoy, and make sure to tell me about your Scando adventures. On second thoughts don’t tell me – I might throw my blueberry smoothie on you.
A more appropriate name would be a guide to the neighbourhood of Södermalm – easily our favourite part of Stockholm and where we spent the majority of our time. Full of eclectic cafes, rambling health food stores, vintage shops and coffee hang outs – it felt like the Fitzroy of Melbourne or the Surry Hills of Sydney. Skånegatan in particular was a super cool street worth walking the full length of.
Hire bikes and hang in the parks
Exploring by bike is the ultimate in travelling freedom. Save money, see more and work up a sweat at the same time. Perfect, no? Most forward thinking cities will have bikes you can pick up and drop off at different locations on the cheap. We used City Bikes every day in Stockholm, even when it was pretty chilly (gloves essential).
We also discovered that Stockholm comes alive when the suns out – but not until after 10am. The first sunny afternoon we experienced saw locals crawl out of the woodwork, flooding the parks and sidewalk cafes until late in the day. The perfect way to experience a slice of local life was to grab some beers, find a sunny perch and turn our faces towards the sun. Tourists? Never.
Our favourite bike ride
A ride along the water from Södermalm to Hornstull makes you feel like you’ve left the city and landed in the picturesque Swedish countryside. Check out the tiny sheds and cottages along the way and grab a coffee/beer in trendy Hornstull.
Speaking of coffee
While I missed my Aussie latte vice, Stockholm did a damn good filter coffee or Swedish ‘Bryggkaffe’. Our favourite spots for the daily hit of Joe.
Drop Coffee Roasters
Wollmar Yxkullsgatan 10
Relaxed, trendy café where you’ll feel at home working on a mac or spending hours in the sun on the footpath. Not a huge range of food, but their oat milk lattes where worth checking out.
Best stone oven bakery on Södermalm. Try a black coffee with a ‘treat-yo-self’ kanelbulle (cinnamon bun).
Vegetarian hang outs
Skånegatan 79, 116 35 Stockholm
Craving a big filling salad? Look no further. Gilda’s is a big, crazily decorated café right on Skånegatan – one of our favourite streets in Södermalm. Order a salad and be surprised by a huge serving of soft cheese and candied walnuts. Sit on the sidewalk and chat to some locals (like we did!).
Hornsgatan 80, 118 21 Stockholm
If you love big, hearty, all-you-can-eat vegetarian food in a cosy, unpretentious atmosphere – head straight to Legumes. While not much to look at from the outside, the cheap buffet style food and wine – and super friendly staff made it one of our favourite spots.
Urban Deli – Nytorget
Nytorget 4,116 40 Stockholm
Health food store and smoothie bar / café. Stock up on essentials for your travels and have a green smoothie in the park next door.
Bars with a view
Mosebacke & Södra Teatern
Amazing bar with an outdoor terrace that looks out onto the whole of Stockholm. Go for afternoon drinks or to check out a gig. Uber cool.
Götgatan 78, 11830 Stockholm
A bit fancy, but head up to the top floor for a wine and to rub shoulders with Stockholm’s trendy folk.
We stayed in central Oslo but most days migrated towards more happening Grünerløkka and St Hanshaugen neighbourhoods – both easy walking / riding distance from the centre of town. In particular down by the river was an ace place for a few beers and to discover hidden cafes.
Coffee & day time eats
Big, beautifully designed food hall with produce from around the world. Spend an afternoon sampling the incredible cheese and tapas. There’s even a raw food stall. Win.
Funky Fresh Foods
Hausmanns gate 16
Best vegan and vegetarian in Grünerløkka. Located on the river inside the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture. Order the HUGE mixed salad bowl and grab a raw brownie to go before soaking up a bit of culture inside.
Fuglen – “The Bird”
We went here on our last day, and wish we had discovered it earlier. Great coffee, even better cocktails and a cool retro fit-out. Perfect for a well earned free wifi session.
Grünersgate 1, on the corner of Fossveien in Grünerløkka
Considering the owner and namesake of this café has recently won the best barista in the world competition – we were expecting big things. While the café itself felt a little too fancy, the coffee lived up to the hype. Grab a takeaway before heading down to the river.
Rosteds gate 15 b
We got the inside tip on this place from our awesome Airbnb host and were totally blown away. Hiding down a quiet street with only a cardboard sign to point the way, we opened the tiny door to discover cool hip-hop tunes and an Icelandic/Asian fusion menu. Don’t hesitate or question it – try every single on the menu. I’m not kidding. So good we considered going back twice.
St. Olavs Gate 7
Laid back Japanese tapas with an extensive drinks menu. The perfect place for a date or small group of people to chat the night away. We loved the big soba noodle salad and crazy good sticky sweet mushrooms. Book, or head here early on the weekends to grab a seat.
Best for Norwegian food
Waldemar Thranes gate 8
The Norwegian version of pub food. Hang with locals over a beer and a huge plate of meatballs with lingonberry sauce. Once you’ve had your fill, head across the road to the Underwater Bar for a spot of ghetto opera on Tuesday nights.
The best place to try Brunost (Norway’s famous sweet brown cheese) and sample some of the finest produce in Oslo. Select some cheese, cured meats and bread for a picnic fit for royalty. Say hi to the owner, Eirik, whose family have run the store for decades.
A spot of shopping
Råkk og Rålls
Big, multi level record and furniture store you could get lost in for hours.
Karl Johans Gate 19
Super cool hiking and outdoor gear – you’ll recognise the colourful backpacks bobbing through pretty much every street in Oslo. The perfect souvenir if you can afford it (or just stare longingly at through the window like me).