During the winter months in the Swedish capital, 'whistleblowing' takes on a whole new meaning. Forget informants and dodgy dealing – the high-pitched shrieks that fill Stockholm’s dark, cobbled streets serve to warn wanderers of the constant stream of snowy avalanches that tumble from the city’s rooftops.
With temperatures falling as low as -13°C degrees, only the bravest tourists make it to this winter wonderland. Those that do, however, are rewarded with more than 100 museums and galleries, a creative culinary scene and a cockle-warming cafe culture. Set across 14 picturesque islands, this diverse city has all interests covered; high end fashion in Ostermalm, cobbled streets and cafes in the Old Town and bohemian bars in Sodermalm's trendy Sofo area.
Shopping and style in Stockholm
Sweden is famous around the world for its practical, clean and stylish design ethics, so it's no surprise that Stockholm is a treasure trove for fashionistas. While all the high street staples are present and correct, the city is also awash with pop-up shops, vintage stores and high-end boutiques, with each district offering its own arsenal of consumerist distractions.
The central area of Norrmalm is a good initiation. Although its main streets may seem characterless at first, it does have a few fantastic department stores hidden amidst the repetitive chains. NK (Hamngatan 18, +46 8 762 83 65) is the Harrods of Stockholm. Dating back to 1902, this historic mass of shopping halls features an impressive array of Swedish brands alongside all of the usual suspects and sells everything from hosiery to homewares. The misleadingly named PUB (Hötorget Stockholm, +46 8 789 19 30), on the other hand, is a good choice for eclectic fashion, as well as a good selection of vintage items.
But, for a true vintage experience, head south to trendy Sodermalm, where the streets are lined with independent shops selling unusual jewellery, fashion and all manner of other trinkets. Don't miss Grandpa (Södermannagatan 21, +46 8 643 60 80), where you can listen to local DJs while you shop. Lisa Larsson's (Bondegatan, +46 8-643 61 53) popular vintage boutique is also worth a visit, specialising in select pieces from the 30s-70s.
If the muted Swedish pallet leaves you craving a bit of colour, head to Odd Molly (Kornhamnstorg 6, +46 8 30 36 28) where bright hues and floral patterns provide a playful twist to Swedish fashion.
For interior design, Asplund (Sibyllegatan 31, +46 8 662 52 84) is a must-visit. Selling Scandinavian rugs, furnishings and lamps, it's great for picking up stylish signature pieces. Design junkies should also check out DesignHouse Stockholm's collection in NK, which brings together some of the best pieces from Sweden's most talented designers.
Restaurants in Stockholm
Stockholm is fast becoming one of Europe's hottest culinary capitals, with an ever-growing stable of Michelin-recognised venues and base and an exciting selection of innovative, home-grown chefs. The latest talked-about opening is Taverna Brillo (Sturegatan 6, +46 8 519 77 800); a lively bar, deli and restaurant that serves inventive Italian fare and great opportunities for people-watching. The crispy prosciutto and fig pizza is deliciously sweet and the sage and brown butter gnocchi is deliciously hearty. Arrive early and enjoy a drink in the back area, where the afro-topped DJ pumps out tunes whilst casually sipping champagne.
Another restaurant grabbing the headlines is Gastrologik (Artillerigatan 14, +46 86623060); a fine dining restaurant with a frustratingly lengthy waiting list. Proprietors Anton Bjuhr and Jacob Holmstrom build their ever-changing menus around the finest available ingredients, resulting in an unusual and avant-garde dining experience. Their new no bookings restaurant, Speceriet, is literally next door and offers a less formal (and more affordable) opportunity to experience their cooking.
Alternatively, head to one of the city's food halls and sample the finest local produce and street food Stockholm has to offer. Championed by the likes of Jamie Oliver, Ostermalm's Saluhall was established over 130 years ago and is the city's oldest food hall. Head here to try delicacies such as reindeer and moose, but arrive early, as the crowds are often shoulder-to-shoulder come midday.
Stockholm's medieval Old Town is the perfect place to escape the wintery snow flurries and hole up in a cosy cafe. Tea fans with deep pockets should visit Chaikhana (Svartmangatan 23, +46 8 24 45 00), a small independent tea room specialising in rare teas from around the world. Those with a sweet tooth, meanwhile, should make time for fika, a uniquely Swedish afternoon tea. One of the most authentic places to indulge in the local cinnamon-sprinkled pastries is Vete-katten (Kungsgatan 55). Located in central Stockholm, it's one of the best preserved traditional cafes – don't miss their infamous 'princess cake'.
Galleries and museums in Stockholm
If culture is high on your agenda, you'll do well to invest in a Stockholm Card, which grants free entry to 80 museums and attractions around the city. With more than 100 museums to choose from it can be hard to know where to start, however certain islands house more treasures than others.
Djurgarden is home to more than twenty of Stockholm's best museums and attractions. If you only visit one museum, make it Vasa Museum (Galärvarvsvägen 14, + 46 8519 548 00), dedicated to an enormous Swedish war ship that sank in Stockholm on its maiden voyage in 1628, and was salvaged 333 years later. The Vasa is the only preserved seventeenth-century ship in the world and after a painstaking restoration project lasting almost half a century, the 69-metre-long beast has been returned to its former glory.
Also on the island is Skansen (Djurgårdsslätten 49-51,+46 8 442 80 00) – the world's first open-air museum, which allows visitors a chance to explore historic Sweden in miniature. Wander around the tiny town and you'll stumble across glass-blowers, pottery shops and even an eighteenth-century wooden church. For kids, the museum also houses a miniature zoo, housing moose, bears, lynxes and even wolverines.
The peaceful island of Skeppsholmen – lovingly referred to as 'museum island' by locals – is also well worth a visit. Linked to central Stockholm by a bridge it feels like a peaceful retreat from the city and has wonderful views of the city across the water. The Museum of Modern Art (Exercisplan 21, +46 8519 552 00) has an impressive collection of Swedish art as well as pieces by the likes of Picasso, Dali and Matisse.
The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities (Skeppsholmen 41, +46 8 519 557 50) is home to an exciting mix of art and culture from India south-east Asia, and one of the most impassive collections of Chinese art outside of China. Its current exhibition (until March 31 2013), 'Secret Love', features 150 thought-provoking artworks by 27 acclaimed Chinese artists, all dealing with controversial subjects such as sexuality, identity and normality.
As well as museums, Skeppsholmen is also home to a trendy eco hotel, ideal for those looking to appreciate Swedish hospitality and design away from the crowds. Located within the old Naval offices, Hotel Skeppsholmen's (Gröna gången 1, +46 8 407 23 00) minimalist rooms and candlelit communal areas feel decidedly boutique. Rates starting at £148 a night represent great value in what can be an expensive city.
British Airways operates 11 flights a week direct from London City Airport to Stockholm. Book by January 22 2013 for return fares from just £136 including taxes.