Chanoy Honeymoon: Stockholm, December 2015

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.

In the days after we left Stockholm, I started re-reading Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo etc) after having last read the series over two years ago. This time around, the novels really came to life – where I could envision human interactions last time, these interactions took place in a vacuum without a physical setting. This time every time Mikael Blomkvist talked about his apartment on Bellmansgatan or the Millennium journalists followed a target from Slussen metro station, I could picture exactly where they were. It made the novels that much more realistic and readable.

It makes me wonder what other novels have such an intrinsic link to a particular city that the simple act of reading the book can transport the reader to those city streets. If anyone can suggest any such books to me, I’d love to add them to my to-read list – bonus points if the book is linked to a city that I’ve visited on this European trip!

There’s a lot of things that I loved about our stay in Stockholm, and I think that they’re all linked to one central theme – the socialist (small s) principles that guide the way society runs. For example, the concept of fika which I talked about in my review of Chokladkoppen. A designated break time in the work day for the express purpose of catching up with your colleagues on a social level, to ensure that people are happy and productive at work…it makes so much sense. Happy employeers = more productive local economy.

Another example are the latte papas, which I briefly mentioned in my review of Fine Food Karlek & Mat. The latte papa is a result of Sweden’s extremely progressive parental leave policies – every time a couple have a child, they can take a combined 480 days of paid leave. More often than not, couples choose to divide this time equally – the mother will take 240 days, and the father will take 240 days.

What this means is that women get a proper opportunity to stay in the workforce (resulting in greater pay equity later), and fathers get to spend quality time with their children right from the start (taking the child out with them for coffees at the local cafe – hence, latte papa). As this parental leave scheme is government-sponsored, employers don’t lose out either. It just makes so much sense, helping to create not only a tighter and stronger family unit where both parents take on the burden of child-rearing, but also helping to redress some of the issues of pay equity amongst the sexes.

On a less serious and philosophical note, Stockholm also offers a lot for the average tourist, not just for locals. In the few days that we were there, we did the following activities:

  1. Three ‘free’ walking tours (tips-based), around Stockholm city, Gamla Stan, and Sodermalm
  2. Visited the world’s largest Ikea at Kungens Kurva, and tried their Christmas buffet with traditional Swedish festive foods (surprisingly delicious, and super cheap for a buffet at only 129SEK per person)
  3. Visited Skansen, an open-air museum dedicated to showcasing the lives of Swedish people ‘back in the day’ and a zoo featuring Swedish animals.
  4. Visited the Nobel Museum, in the same week as the 2015 Nobel Prize ceremony. We saw a lot of official Nobel cars driving around the city!
  5. Visited the ABBA Museum – surprisingly well done even for people like K who aren’t fans of awesome 70s music.

We also ate out a bit! I linked my reviews of Chokladkoppen and Fine Food Karlen & Mat above, but we also had a few ‘fast’ meals at the Mall of Scandinavia. There was a lot of casual snacking and baked treats along the way as well, particularly at the Christmas markets! The cost of dining out was probably the main deterrent to eating out all the time – Sweden, along with the other Nordic countries, is one of the most expensive places to visit for an Aussie when our dollar is doing so poorly.

When we left Stockholm, I told K (quite seriously) that he should look for a job in Sweden. It’s not completely outside the realm of possibility – he’s an industrial designer, and Swedish/Nordic design is obviously well regarded internationally. The main thing is that Sweden is the type of country that offers the type of lifestyle that we’d be looking for over the next few years – flexible workplaces, and the ability to spend lots of time with our future children. There’s nothing more depressing than the thought of having to put our kids into daycare from 7am to 6pm…and sadly, that’s what we’re facing when we return to Australia as there’s no conceivable way for either of us to stop working.

Review: Fine Food Karlek & Mat, Stockholm Sweden

Many weeks of a variety of Airbnb apartments had passed since our last stay in a hotel back in Valencia. It became clear that we needed a single night stay in a comfortable hotel to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. The only problem with this scenario was that we were in expensive Sweden at the time, where you’re not likely to find a $61/night hotel room as we did in Valenca! Still, we needed a bit of a treat so I searched for a cheap-ish hotel in the greater Stockholm region and came across Motel L in the south, just outside the main heart of the city.

Don’t let the name fool you – it’s a far cry from the Australian roadside motel, and resembles a unique ‘design and art’ hotel more than a motel. At $108/night, it was well within our budget for Sweden, and so we packed up our bags, left our Airbnb apartment and went to Motel L for a one night stay before our overnight cruise to Helsinki the next day. Our room had a strong rainfall shower, modern and efficient bathroom, comfortable bed, crisp white linen and clever storage solutions, making it a great place to chill out for one night.


For a hotel that’s definitely off the beaten tourist track (guests were mainly businesspeople!), it’s superbly located. There’s supermarkets and pharmacies just a few doors down, and the whole main street is full of a wide variety of restaurants – from cheap Asian lunch buffets, to trendy cafes, doner kebab joints, and fancy waterfront seafood restaurants. We stepped into one of those trendy cafes for a late lunch, just as the local business lunch crowd was beginning to be replaced by local yummy mummies and latte papas.


Fine Food Karlek & Mat is a cafe cum high-end grocery store. The attraction is definitely the daily cafe menu, but I did spot a few people perusing their shelves of organic tea, locally-made jams and fancy chocolate for Christmas gifts. The a la carte menu leans towards traditional Swedish fare like meatballs and stromming (herring), but there is a grab-and-go display counter of salads, sandwiches and wraps for the few people who just want to eat at their desk. Eating in is definitely the preference though, as you can help yourself to as many pieces of house-baked bread and whipped salted butter as you would like! (The ready-made mango and vanilla smoothie was an excellent choice as well!)

Fisksoppa rakor aioli krustonger, 115SEK
Fisksoppa rakor aioli krustonger, 115SEK

I decided to try the Fish Soup, served with prawns and a dollop of cream, a handful of mini-toasts, and a sprinkling of fresh chives on top. I chose the soup as a lighter option, but was blown away by how hearty and filling the soup actually is – it’s a very thick soup (especially with the cream stirred through), rather than the thinner soup I’d been expecting. There was also a generous amount of flaky fish fillets and firm prawns in the soup, as well as chunks of flavourful vegetables like capsicum to give the soup a bit of a kick.

It was a little saltier than I usually prefer, but I’ve tended to find that many meals we’ve had in Europe have been on the salty side…a reflection of my personal preference for dishes to not be over-salted. In this case, it certainly wasn’t a deterrent from my finishing the whole bowl of soup with delight!

Kottbullar graddsas potatispure, 125SEK
Kottbullar graddsas potatispure, 125SEK

K chose the Kottbullar, or Swedish meatballs. We had had meatballs when we visited Ikea’s canteen earlier in the week (Sweden = Ikea!), but he wanted to try them from somewhere slightly less commercial! Needless to say there’s a discernible increase in quality to these meatballs, with a more distinct minced texture and meaty flavour. Like the soup though, both the meatballs and the gravy was on the salty side, but in this dish it was balanced with the creamy mash and the sweet lingonberry sauce. A truly hearty traditional Swedish meal!

Pommes Chilidipp, 45SEK
Pommes Chilidipp, 45SEK

As I wasn’t sure how large the servings were going to be, I suggested to K that we order a side to share as well, hence our order of the fries with chilli dip. This was definitely not needed as our main meals were so large! The chips were a little bit disappointing as they were on the limp side and not as crunchy as good chips should be. Definitely not a patch on the deliciousness of the main meals!

If you want to try some good quality, hearty, traditional Swedish cafe-style food at a reasonable price, Fine Food Karlek & Mat is a great place to visit! It’s a little bit out of the way of central Stockholm (not far at all by Australian standards – it’s like Sydney CBD to Newtown, or Melbourne CBD to Windsor), but you could always try staying at Motel L for a night to make the trip down south worthwhile.

Fine Food Karlek & Mat is located at 62 Hammarby allé, Stockholm.

Review: Chokladkoppen, Stockholm and the Swedish tradition of Fika

The Swedish social tradition of fika is one that I can definitely get behind. Both a verb and a noun, it’s the concept of taking a coffee break in the middle of the day. Everyone does it and it happens every day – it’s a regular break in the workday for almost all Swedish workplaces as everyone stops work for a cup of coffee and a sweet treat like a cinnamon roll. I wish we had that kind of a tradition in Australia!


Fika isn’t just for workers though – students, stay-at-home parents, and retirees all ‘fika’ at the many coffeehouses dotted around Stockholm. One day, K and I joined them (albeit a little after the usual fika hour) at Chokladkoppen, a cafe located right in the heart of Gamla Stan, the old town of Stockholm.


It’s a cosy little cafe off the main square – dimly but warmly lighted and very very hygge (cosy) in the Danish sense. At 4pm in the afternoon, the cafe was mainly populated with females in their 20s and 30s, catching up for a cup of hot chocolate or coffee before doing a spot of Christmas shopping at the markets outside in the square. There were also a number of tourists in the cafe, looking for somewhere cosy to warm up before heading back out into the Scandinavian winter!

Hot Chocolate (45 SEK) and small White Hot Chocolate (37 SEK)
Hot Chocolate (45 SEK) and small White Hot Chocolate (37 SEK)

Looking around, I could see that the hot chocolate was the drink of choice for many people in the cafe, despite the statistic that the average Swede drinks three cups of coffee a day. I imagine the coffee-drinkers all head next door to KaffeKoppen, Chokladkoppen’s sister cafe! I ordered a hot chocolate for myself, and K decided to try something a bit different with a small white hot chocolate instead. I think I made the better choice – my hot chocolate was creamy and rich without being too sticky and sweet, but K’s white hot chocolate was much too sugary and sweet for my liking.

Cinnamon Roll (35 SEK)
Cinnamon Roll (35 SEK)

The kanelbulle (cinnamon roll) is believed to have originated in Sweden back in the day, though it’s obviously now a favourite with many people around the world. I ordered one myself and interestingly, it came out with a tiny wedge of orange on top. I still can’t tell whether you’re supposed to squeeze a burst of citrus over the kanelbulle or not – I chose not to, but still enjoyed my hit of sweetly spiced doughy goodness. My only qualm is that it would be that much better if the cafe had heated up the bun for just half a minute before serving it – hot baked goods is always better than lukewarm baked goods!

Blueberry pie with vanilla sauce (53 SEK)
Blueberry pie with vanilla sauce (53 SEK)

K opted for a dessert that would make the most of Sweden’s ample abundance of wild berries in their forests – blueberries in particular. Chokladkoppen’s blueberry pie was more like a blueberry tart, with a thick buttery pie base, sweet jam-like filling, augmented by fragrant vanilla cream on the side. Not the pie I was expecting, but delicious in its own right. By the way, did you know that it’s not uncommon for people to drive into the forest and go berry-picking for a day? Whatever they pick from the wild is then frozen for the months ahead and used in jams, pies, smoothies, and more.

Fika is a Swedish tradition that everyone must try – even if you never visit Stockholm once in your life, at least bring the philosophy of a daily break into your routine at home! If you are lucky enough to visit Stockholm though, drop into Chokladkoppen for a cup of hot chocolate and a kanelbulle, and enjoy a taste of Swedish fika in a cosy little cafe.

Chokladkoppen is located at 18 Stortorget in Gamla Stan, Stockholm.