Stockholm's Djurgården is a Swedish summer paradise at its best. There's something for everyone and its restaurants cater to even fussiest of foodies.
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As a footie lover it was such a joy to witness the enthusiasm with which our Western neighbours lived through the Euro 2016 fever... while it lasted, anyway. Though, Iceland's incredible success has given them another lease on life - seeing how their coach is another Swede.
According to a Liverpool FC legend Bill Shankly "some say football is a matter of life and death, but rest assured, it's so much more serious than that." The love the Swedish feel for the noblest ball game out there borders on that. They stand by their team til the day they die...
...and in some cases, even beyond that: nowhere else have I seen religious symbols being replaced by the crest of the deceased's football team. Even I find that a bit strange and that's a lot coming from someone, who's already got her urn (a Premiership trophy replica if you must know) and music (Händel's Zadok the Priest... a.k.a. Champions' League anthem) picked out for her funeral.
One of the most popular teams is Djurgården IF, 11-time winner of Allsvenskan, the Swedish equivalent of Premierleague. One of the many nicknames for the team is Stockholms stolthet - Stockholm's pride. There is a chance though that the name actully applies better to the area the team comes from: Djurgården, one of the most popular destinations in Stockholm for tourists and locals alike.
Located right next to the affluent area of Östermalm, the park is accessible on foot (across Djurgårdsbron bridge), by tram no 7, buses 67, 69 and 76 as well as a couple of ferry routes. For more information on the public transport along with timetables, please see here.
There's something to see and do here for absolutely everyone. In case you're travelling with children, you want to check out the amusement park of Gröna Lund and Junibacken, museum dedicated to the mischievous characters from Astrid Lindgren's beloved stories.
Museums are what Djurgården is most famous for. History buffs won't be able to get enough Vasa museum, built around the only surviving 17th century ship in the whole world. If you're into arts and things, you should head over to Nordic Museum, showcasing all things Swedish culture or Waldemarsudden and Thielska Galleriet, museums specialized in Scandinavian art.
The history of Swedish Royal Family that the Swedes (and I!!!) love so much is heavily intertwined with the history of Djurgården. The name translates as zoo and it got its name after being set up by King John III as his game park in 1579.
Waldemarsudde was home to Prince Eugen (the great uncle of current King's grandfather), who devoted his life to arts. Djurgården is also where Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia live, in Villa Solbacken they inherited from Prince Bertil.
One of the most impressive buildings in the area is definitely Rosendal Palace, built in 1827 by Kind Carl XIV John, the first ruler from the House of Bernadotte. During summer months it's open to visitors, too.
Especially on a sunny day I can't think of a more idyllic summer paradise. It is a great day trip destination for, say, a picnic...
... or completely out of control daydreaming sessions about a little Stockholm pied-a-terre. I myself find myself pathologically drawn to palatial real estate like this.
Perhaps it's the legacy of my Scottish title (believe it or not - I'm an actual lady!) ? Or perhaps I'm just a lunatic (and in a desperate need of professional help - and not from a realtor?)
Another great idea is skipping the picnic and relying on one of the many good restaurants here. Ulla Winbladh, specialized in fish, is a great choice if you're after a hearty traditional Swedish cuisine, known as husmanskost.
The restaurant takes husmanskost to a whole new level and their exhaustingly thoroughly curated wine list is guaranteed to make any winelover's head spin (Château Petrus, anyone? Or how about some Mouton Rotschild instead? Or perhaps one of the almost 20 Champagnes they carry?)
It hardly comes as no surprise that the place was awarded Bib Gourmand in Michelin Guide. A 3-course-meal (without wines) is about €55.
The most shamelessly indulgent afternoon of my Swedish excursion however, was spent on the terrace of Oaxen Krog & Slip, another recipient of Bib Gourmand. (Fine, so the fabulous company might have played a part in that, too... )
Serving bistro style food sourcing its inspiration from Nordic ingredients and culinary traditions, Slip is a perfect choice for a lengthy, leisurely lunch (3-course feast, wines not included, will set you back about €60). The food, great wines, excellent service and wonderful surroundings all lull you into the kind of blissful cocoon you just don't want to leave (me and my post-lunch-post-digestive shinged forehead are a testament to that...)
Upstairs they have a separate dining room Krog, proud owner of 2 Michelin stars (tasting menus €190 for 6 courses/ €220 for 10, only open for dinners).
How about that? Sheer bliss, right?
Do you have your own Djurgården secrets you'd like to share?
ANYONE FOR SECONDS?
SHARING IS CARING!