Ok, this is probably - almost definitely - my last international trip for this tour so enjoy!
There are a number of countries I thought I would visit while posted to Rome, but the reality of leave schedules, savings goals and simple travel fatigue made me cut back quite a bit. This year I knew I wanted to go somewhere though - Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Iceland, Malta, Greece and a smattering of Eastern European countries were all in the 'maybe' box, just waiting for the right circumstances. Obviously, Spain came through a few months ago and this month with less than a hundred days left at post, Ryanair offered a flight to Stockholm for the price of a couple meals out in Rome and I just couldn't resist. Knowing my own tendency to put things off and pay the price I snatched up the flight and booked a micro hotel before I could change my mind and I'm so glad I did.*
Stockholm was colder (and rainier) than I like - and that was with my winter coat! - but I loved getting out in nature a bit and seeing something new.
I basically hit the standard tourist sites, starting in Gamla Stan (the old city), touring three different museums - the Nobel museum (informative), the Vasa museum (about an old ship - meh) and the ABBA museum (surprisingly fun). All in all I'd recommend skipping Vasa - if you're headed to Norway they have a similar museum with more, and more interactive, exhibits - but suggest the other two. If I had more time I would have checked out Nordiska - about Nordic culture - and the Photography museum. They also have some open-air "living museums" if it's a nice day. I really, really had my heart set on a boat trip in the archipelago - thank goodness I didn't book a sailing trip as intended since it was freezing and rainy off and on all weekend - but in the end I found a great 2.5 hour archipelago tour that fit the bill. Had I been in town another full day I would have signed up for the full day tour but this was just right given my timeline.
Gamla Stan! The Nobel museum is just off to the right in this shot.
Vasa museum - mostly just this one boat with a smattering of exhibits on the boat and its passengers. You aren't allowed to go inside the Vasa unfortunately.
The Vasa was a ship that capsized on it's maiden voyage and was salvaged in the 1960s.
Here's the Nordiska museum on the island if Djurgarden - highly recommend a whole day there, especially if the weather cooperates.
The ABBA museum is just up the street. In fact all three museums are an easy stroll from each other and the below amusement park.
One site I didn't make time for was this adorable amusement park. It didn't sound so fun for a solo traveller but especially if you have kids it seems worth a shot.
The boat tour in a rare moment of sunshine.
There's no better way to see Stockholm and get a feel for the culture than to get out on the water.
Finally, if you visit, check out the neighborhood of Ostermalm and its food market. I sampled some local delicacies (elk, cloudberries, and reindeer) and purchased some chocolates for the ride home. Oh, and one last note about food - make sure to eat the cinnamon rolls/buns - they're a national specialty and available just about everywhere at any time. It's a good thing for my waistline that I had to get back to work! A cinnamon roll every day might be a bit much even for a sweet tooth like mine.
Ciao Sweden, thanks for the hospitality!
*A note about being cheap in Europe. First off, my micro hotel (I think it was just called Hotel Micro) turned out to be more of a hostel. But unlike other hostels I've visited it was full of travellers of all ages and felt a lot more civilized. There were private rooms with key cards and shared (but clean) bathroom facilities. Honestly it was as comfortable as some of the very expensive places I've stayed in the past few years and put me close enough to walk to the attractions. Eating out in Sweden was very expensive so if you go it might be worth booking a place where you can make a few basic meals in the room.
As for Ryanair - I have a love/hate relationship with them - love the prices but hate everything else from the constant tricks to try to make you spend more (forgot to print your boarding pass? That'll be €50 euros!) to the fact that the advertised fare into Stockholm actually lands at an airport an hour and a half away. In the end I still think I saved money but next time I will have to calculate out the added cost of transportation to and from these out of the way airports. For Rome's Ciampino, for instance, unless you leave yourself TONS of spare time to catch the bus from Termini you'll waste more than the cost of your flight on a taxi. On the Stockholm end I think the bus fare was 14 euro each way. So beware!