Swedes are a proud people. They are proud of their country, their exports, flat-packed furniture and super-safe cars. They would never admit it, though, because that just wouldn’t be Swedish. The capital Stockholm is a stealthy powerhouse of forward-thinking fashion and world-conquering music, universally touted as the flag bearer of ultimate cool and consistently ranked as one of the three most liveable countries on earth. As a Stockholm native, may I introduce you to the most stylish spots in the city for that unforgettable stopover.
There’s a place, unbeknown to most, that has been quietly plying its trade for more than 120 years. On a busy side street in the neighbourhood of Östermalm, a brisk 15-minute walk from The Prince, lies Palmgrens. Originally makers of equestrian goods, Palmgrens was founded by John Palmgren in 1896, offering saddles, driving harnesses and bridles to the city’s elite. By the 1950 Palmgrens had launched their Rattan Bag. An homage to the “it” bag of southern Europe, the Rattan Bag was airy, refined and irrefutably practical. An instant success, it paved the way for the Palmgrens of today, with a full range of both men’s and woman’s bags, belts, wallets and cases of various size, shape and usage. The brand has never strayed far from its roots, however, with the shop now only one block away from its earlier location and still outfitted with the original display cases from the late 19th century.
www.palmgrens.se / Classic Rattan Bag HK$2,400 / Sibyllegatan 7
The “Chanel of Sweden”, as I call the label, Rodebjer has not only proved that sticking to your guns means you never run out of ammunition, but also that when you create truly amazing pieces, people don’t mind paying, even in Sweden. Founded in New York in 1999 by Carin Rodebjer, this staple of the Swedish fashion scene constantly presents its version of effortless elegance.
Not entirely Swedish in colour, cut or fabric, Rodebjer’s fashions suggest far-flung influences yet she never relinquishes her love for oversized volume, high-waisted, wide-legged pants and exquisite fabrics. A visit to the label’s new flagship store on Norrmalmstorg should be way up there on any self-respecting fashion follower’s to-do list.
Most people regard Scandinavia is the epicentre of mid-century modern interior design, although some southern Europeans might disagree. Enter Jackson Design, the holy grail of high-end furnishing. Founded in 1981, it presents the very best the world has had to offer over the past 100 years, all in near-mint condition. Whoever said perfection was cheap?
www.jacksons.se /All prices upon request/Sibyllegatan 53
As lavish as it is restrained, with equal parts modern and original fittings, Lydmar is an amalgamation of tradition and contemporary Swedish design. A clash of aesthetics that seem to meld seamlessly, it offers a perfect balance of luxury without opulence. Back in the day, before I was old enough to appreciate David Lynch or enjoy the taste of oysters, Lydmar was famous as a club, music venue and all-round cool place where people would hang out. And they still do today, at its excellent Summer Sessions on the patio with resident DJs.
www.lydmar.com / HK$3,100 for Medium King Room at time of writing / Södra Blasieholmshamnen 2
Prince Van Orangien
A narrow wooden bridge separates the beauty of Kungliga Djurgården (The Royal Game Park) from the much smaller Beckholmen. It is here that the “Prince”, as it’s called by the locals, lies at permanent anchor. She comprises three large stately cabins and three smaller options for single occupants. All exude the same grace and charm, and all have the same access to the adorable living room, quaint kitchen and fore- and aft-deck outside seating.
This is history anchored in the middle of history – a floating bastion of absolute relaxation with all the conveniences of a grounded hotel, but with a creak in the floorboards, faint waves lapping at her sides, and the scent of oak, tar and shellac permeating every nook and cranny.
www.oaxen/prince-van-orangien/ HK$3,300 for the No. 6 Helmsman Cabin / Beckholmen
Oaxen Krog Slip
Where an old boat slip once was now stands one of Stockholm’s most celebrated and respected restaurants, serving inventive Nordic fare. Twenty-two years ago, Agneta Green and Magnus Ek opened their first restaurant on the Archipelago island of Oaxen. In 2011 the couple left the shores of Oaxen to open up in the greener pastures of Djurgarden two years later with Oaxen Krog Slip. A magnificent homage to the area’s industrious past was constructed, designed by Mats Fahlander and Agneta Pettersson, Oaxen Krog Slip mimics its history and surroundings with comfortable ease.
It earned its first Michelin star, in 2013, and soon added a second one,. Ek, the heart of Oaxen, divides his days between the restaurant and Oaxen Farm, home to much of their produce. It’s all high-ceilinged airiness, with a large open kitchen on the left and planked oak everywhere; a charming interior is filled with vintage ceramics, picked wildflowers and exquisite furniture. Here is a gastronomic jewel in Stockholm; a dish that includes a 200-year-old Icelandic mussel is still on my mind.
www.oaxen.com / 10 courses with wine pairings HK$3,100 / Beckholmsvägen 26
Esperanto Group is not to be taken lightly. As well as the eponymous Michelin-starred mother ship, there is Rakultur (Raw Culture) on the ground floor and their latest addition, Shibumi, in the basement. You’ve opted for the newcomer, and as underdogs go, this one punches way above its weight class.
A nondescript copper door on the west side of the building greets you, on which hangs a tiny, rectangular sign with the words “SHIBUMI Tuesday – Saturday from 18.00”. You raise one eyebrow, but still gently turn the handle and enter. The rest is hard to describe. Fine dining without pretence, a Haute Casual gourmet experience. The dishes are tiny celebrations of Japanese cuisine, the menu short but uncommon.
As the evening hours give way to night, you realise this is a connoisseur’s watering hole, delivering a veritable onslaught of polished rice grains, natural wines and dazzling cocktails, such as the O.P. Andersson Beetroot, laced with vinegar and sugar.
www.shibumi.se / HK$500-HK$800 per person / Kungstensgatan 2
Airlines including Finnair, Aeroflot, Thai, KLM and Lufthansa fly daily between Hong Kong and Stockholm.