Sunday, July 08, 2007

A walk-through the districts of Stockholm

The inner city of Stockholm consists of seven major districts; the downtown of Norrmalm, Östermalm, Södermalm, Kungsholmen, Vasastaden, Gamla Sta'n (Old Town) and Djurgården.

Each part of the city having its very own characteristics and also appeal to different kind of people, different kind of inhabitants - even if the divides has become more hazy over the years, they're still there.

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Norrmalm - norr = north, malm = rock - is the very city with its heart being Sergels Torg with its tall glass fountain. The area mostly consists of shopping, entertainment and workplaces, very few tenements in that part of town.
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During the 6oies and 70ies that particular part of Norrmalm and its old houses, the so called Klarakvarteren/the quarters of Klara, was desolated in order to make room for urban renewal. A renewal that has been and still is very much disputable.
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Myself I find that particular area of Stockholm to be really awful and ugly as sin. I'm sure I would have preferred the area to have been more carefully restored with piety and a true sense of its historical and cultural importance.

Östermalm - öster = east - is considered to be the posh area of Stockholm. here one finds many expensive boutiques, restaurants and galleries. And of course many a grand apartment in the residential areas. A beautiful and well-kept part of town. If perhaps not always very lively and inviting.
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To take a stroll down the street/quay of Strandvägen to get to Djurgården is highly recommended.
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And the covered market hall of Östermalmshallen, built in the late 1880ies, offers a variety of Swedish food products as well as nice restaurants.

Södermalm - söder = south - is suppose to be the opposite to posh Östermalm. Söder used to be a typical working-class area, but is now more of a hip, bohemian part of town. Myself I have very mixed feelings, I used to live in the area until I was five years old, and after that many of my relatives still lived there. So I sort of know the quarters pretty well.
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That doesn't mean I wholeheartedly embrace the atmosphere. Yes it has a certain appealing bohemian chic ambiance in parts. In other parts it's just very shabby and run down, and in some parts it's just so unbelievably silly pretentious, you just can't help feeling either annoyed or snicker about it, depending on the mood of the day.

That whole essence of "Söder" and being a resident of Söder, shopping on Söder, hanging out on Söder can get *a bit* too much... But yes, there are many good cafés, restaurants and shops - so if you skip the wimpish pretentious parts there are many gems to discover.
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At Söder, by the shore of Hornstulls Strand you'll find the street market of Street, where different stall holders sell different well made handicrafts or cheap mass produced stuff. I once had the dubious pleasure of having a market stall there myself.
Let's just say it's v e r y difficult as a craftsman with carefully handmade products to compete with low-priced mass produced stuff... But at least I tried it once and came to the not very surprising conclusion, that that kind of markets really aren't my cup of tea...
Street also now have a restaurant and café, with organic food products from local farmers. Myself I haven't been around to visiting just yet, but I'm sure it's well-worth a visit.
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Just beside the Street market is the floating bath-house of Liljeholmsbadet. A place I frequented often as a child, and no I wasn't very keen on water and swimming back then either..., and it's quite a charming old institution. And no, the both peeping and flashing guy who worked as a lifeguard there for a while was most certainly not a part of that charm...
For as long as I can remember one day of the week it's only open for women and another only for men, the nudist-days. I've never been much interested in flaunting my private parts, or coming up close and personal with others in public, so I always wore a bathing-suit or kept away from the bath-house on those occasions... The flaunting has of course an exception, and that's rain dancing.
At Södermalm you'll find several places which offers spectacular views over Stockholm, like Monteliusgången. A walking path along the cliffs above Södermälarstrand. And Fjällgatan, which offers views over the Stockholm inlet, Djurgården and the Old Town. Not to mention Västerbron, the car traffic bridge which connects Södermalm with Kungsholmen.
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Kungsholmen - kung = king, holmen = the islet - is probably the most anonymous and unexplored, for me, parts of town. I've worked at several places there, have friends and relatives who reside there, have some favourite shops and places to eat there, but I still have the feeling I don't know very much about that islet of the city...
For me it's sort of a sleepy part of town, even though there are many shops, cafés, restaurants, residential areas, workplaces situated there. Perhaps it's just not very appealing or have any special characteristic features compared to the other parts of Stockholm...
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The magnificent City Hall building, where the Nobel Prize festivities are held, is situated at Kungsholmen. And from the garden of the City Hall you have a breathtaking view over parts of Södermalm and the Old Town.
Vasastaden - Vasa = being the name of king Gustav Vasa, the king that made Sweden independent, staden = the city - is my favourite district of them all. It has been ever since we made a special school-project about it when in 8th or 9th grade, and we were able to discover some secret gardens and places.
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I don't recall them all, but they nonetheless made a lasting impression. And I think Vasasta'n - as its called - offers the perfect mix of quiet, beautiful residential areas as well as great restaurants and cafés plus a very nice bit shopping. If I was to live in the city, I'd definitely choose that part of town!
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Even if Vasasta'n is my favourite part of Stockholm, I think we all can agree that it's the Old Town (Gamla Sta'n) that's the one thing that shouldn't be missed if you're on a short visit. The small island which is a cultural landmark and the oldest part of Stockholm, is a true gem. It offers charming old houses, cobbled alleyways, 13th century churches, the Royal Palace and the Parliament building.
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There are also a great many excellent restaurants and cafés, as well as my favorite teahouse of Chaikhana, to be found in the Old Town. There are unfortunately very many touristic, overpriced places to eat as well as to shop there.
The best way to avoid them is probably to skip the main street of Västerlånggatan and take a narrow side or back street instead, for much nicer shopping and eating.
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The street of Österlånggatan for example, offers several e x t r e m l y nice craft shops. Be prepared to walk around in awe, eat, drink, be merry and shop 'til you drop, if you happen to have some time to spend in the oldest part of Stockholm...


Unknown said...

Sigh, these types of posts always make me want to jump on a plane and come see for myself! Love them!


Pia K said...

And I shamelessly continue promoting our fair city...:)

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