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An Interior Designer’s Guide to Stockholm Island art galleries, super-traditional meatballs, and impeccably curated design stores.

A street in Södermalm, Stockholm. Photo: CSP/Getty Images/AWL Images RM

It’s commonly understood that the best way to explore a new place is to go straight to the locals. Each week in the Urbanist, we take that wisdom one step further by seeking out not just locals but local experts — those who are especially well versed in their cities’ newest and most noteworthy scenes — to give us insider tips. This week, we asked Johannes Carlström, interior architect and founder of Note Design Studio, for his recommendations in the Swedish capital.

“I think Stockholm has the same kind of values as Scandinavian design: clean, functional, democratic, and aesthetically pleasing. The city has been preserved quite well. There’s a strong idea of preserving old buildings and restoring and keeping what has been for the future. If you come to Stockholm, come in the spring or summer. The days are long and people are just starved for sunlight from the long, dark winter and the city is buzzing with activity. Stockholm is surrounded by water, so you can easily end a late night by having an outdoor swim or go out in the archipelago to enjoy nature and relax. Gamla Stan, the Old Town, is a bit touristy during the summer, but otherwise it’s a really nice part to visit just to walk around — lots of narrow streets and old buildings. In Djurgården, you have the Nordic Museum (Nordiska museet, Djurgårdsvägen 6-16), which shows the history of the Swedish home, as well as Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet, Galärvarvsvägen 14), which has a big old wooden ship from the 17th century. That’s quite impressive.”

His Other Musts

Hotel

Ett Hem was originally built as a private residence in 1910. Photo: Courtesy of Ett Hem

“In the last few years, there’s been an explosion of new hotels. One of the standouts might be Ett Hem (Sköldungagatan 2), which means ‘a home.’ It’s a small hotel, but it’s super-well-curated. It’s not cheap, but it has a homey vibe to it. And it’s super, super, super–aesthetically nice. They have treated the interior as a private space, not as a public hotel, with the scale and functionality and comfort of a home creating a relaxed but elegant vibe that I really enjoy.”

Neighborhood

The view from Södermalm. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

“I would go to Södermalm to search for an Airbnb. It is, generally speaking, the creative part of Stockholm. There you will find experimental restaurants, vintage stores, and small-scale, edgy fashion stores. If you want to go out dancing in Söder, I recommend Under Bron (Hammarby Slussväg 2), a big outdoor club under one of the central bridges — a really creative and fun place. It’s also close to Gamla Stan and Skeppsholmen, where many art and design museums are (Moderna Museet, ArkDes).”

Scandinavian Design Stores

The Arranging Things showroom is open Thursdays. Photo: Courtesy of Arranging Things

“One of the go-to places is Asplund design store (Sibyllegatan 31). It’s been around for more than 20 years. They’ve been doing really nice work for a long time, and it’s still really updated. Now they’re even producing themselves. It’s a really good place to find not only Scandinavian but a selection of European design. It’s located in Östermalm, which is one of the more posh areas. If you go in the other direction, there’s a small place that hasn’t been open for long — not too many people have found it yet — called Arranging Things (Erstagatan 17). It’s just a beautiful little store. They have a selection of mostly secondhand or antique stuff. You can find really unique stuff. If we’re talking about a curated selection, you will find it there.”

Local Restaurant

Pelikan’s meatballs (left) with cream sauce, gherkins, and lingonberries. Photo: Jack Bengtsson/Courtesy of Pelikan (meatballs); Christer Fahlstrom/Courtesy of Pelikan.

“It’s not cliché to order Swedish meatballs; it’s just good food. One of the best places is Pelikan (Blekingegatan 40). It’s super-traditional. It was a beer café in the beginning, a big room, old furniture. Now it’s a restaurant with a bar, of course. They’ve preserved everything. It’s loud and it’s a bit messy but the interiors are really nice. There you find the best meatballs and lots of locals. Not too many tourists find that place. The guys next to you on one side of the table will be like the guys drinking beer every day, but on the other side there will be business guys having meatballs.”

Brewery

From left: Photo: Erik WåhlströmPhoto: Erik Wåhlström/Courtesy of Omnipollos Hatt

“There’s this brewery called Omnipollo. It’s craft beer, quite small scale, but they’re starting to pick up a little bit. They have a place where they serve pizza and beer called Omnipollos hatt (Hökens gata 1A). The beer is fantastic. It’s rich and it’s complex. I recommend the Aon Pecan Mudimperial stout, but beware, it’s heavy, with a powerful aroma. All the interior is bespoke, made by Kristoffer Sundin, Simon Klenell, and Fredrik Paulsen.”

Spa

Yasuragi spa. Photo: Courtesy of Yasuragi

Centralbadet (Drottninggatan 88) is nice and located right in the middle of the city, but I would recommend the Yasuragi (Hamndalsvägen 6). It’s more of a Japanese spa, but it has some Swedish influences. It’s located a bit outside of Stockholm in Nacka. Super-nice, with a view of the water and the forest nearby. You could just do the sauna. You could also take a sauna, swim a little bit to cool down, take a sauna again, swim a little bit, and take the sauna again. You don’t want to stay in the sauna for too long. It’s good to stay there for maybe 10, 15 minutes, have a little break, and then do it again.”

Park

Hellasgården. Photo: Karin Alfredsson

“I like Hagaparken. It’s a bit on the outskirts of the city center. It’s a big park and there’s nice cafés. There’s a butterfly house with butterflies from all over the world. If you want to have an experience of nature, you can go to Hellasgården. You can go there by bus; it takes like 15 to 20 minutes. You can book a sauna: In the winter, they cut up the ice from the lake right next to it, so you can have a sauna and go out and have an ice bath. You can also rent ice skates and go skating around the lake. There are also nature trails there, so you can hike.”

Day Trip

One of the smallest islets (left) outside of Stockholm. The boardwalk at Artipelag (right). Photo: Sven Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images; enricobbbb/CC BY-SA 4.0.

“There’s an archipelago right outside of Stockholm. There’s lots of boats going from the city center out to the archipelago daily, because people live in the archipelago and work in the city. You can go on boats through Strömma. In the summertime, it’s really nice. You can go to these places where there’s a lot of restaurants or go further out and find small islands where just a few people live. I would recommend to take the boat to Artipelag (Artipelagstigen 1), a very nice art gallery and restaurant, for a combined cultural and nature experience.”

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