When in Sweden, one should buy Acne, or that’s the mantra I like to live by. So that’s exactly what I did on my mini-break to Stockholm last month. As guests of Visit Sweden, D (Mr DRG) and I stayed at the one-year-old Hotel Scandic Grand Central availing ourselves of its rather unique Blogger’s Inn room. In this cleverly planned and generously sized room, we found all the tech a blogger could need (including an iPad, speakers, tripod and self-timer, memory stick reader and ample plug sockets), plus – importantly – not one but two full-length mirrors and a good array of magazines and fashiony coffee table books. First impressions? Excellent. (Here’s a request: can all hotels please have full-length mirrors, plentiful sockets and free wi-fi?) My other favourite parts of the hotel were the café (above) and breakfast areas; cosy yet convivial. The hotel is very much about a relaxed informality, so the common areas are open plan to encourage a buzzy atmosphere, perfect for its young, media clientele.
Seeing as everything is about tastemaker discoveries these days (did I mention my picks for Discoveredd?), I was happy to have a list of insider recommendations from the likes of Acne, Monki and Filippa K. Of these, we sampled the foodie delights of Urban Deli (like a chicer version of Wholefoods with impossibly beautiful customers), posh cocktails at Riche (the fashion crowd’s favourite see-and-be-seen bar) and the wonderful Nitty Gritty. I love Nitty Gritty. Now with an impressive womenswear store stuffed with Isabel Marant, APC and House of Dagmar, I still find myself drawn more to the Nitty Gritty menswear offer– give me a rail of rainbow-hued Stone Island jackets and a shelf groaning with Inis Meain knits and I’m happy.
Paper Cut next door is another Stockholm favourite for retail tourists. It has a wall of every obscure international style mag you could ever want, as well as the best, most current fashion and photography books. That said, my favourite books come from the flagship Acne store at Norrmalmstorg. Here I resisted the vintage Warhol coffee table books, but couldn’t quite pass up a perfect-fit Acne angora Lia sweater. Well as I said, when in Sweden… Actually, Acne is everywhere in Stockholm, it’s a very clever brand. At every turn you see black-clad Acne girls swishing their dirty blonde ponytails in boxy biker jackets, jersey layers, skinny jeans and Pistol-style boots. The Acne influence is inescapable.
D wanted to show me Jacksons in Östermalm, his favourite vintage furniture store, alas it was closed for the day so I could only press my nose (and Lumix) up against the window. Instead we found Palmgrens, my big Swedish heritage discovery. This leathergoods brand started in saddles and bridlery and is now known for its beautiful rattan totes and minimalist handbags that have a slight whiff of Chloe-slash-Celine about them. The shop itself is a joy to browse and I was encouraged to take as many photos as I wanted.
I also got marched along to Nostalgipalatset (billed as Scandinavia’s largest second hand vinyl store) a haven of old vinyl, retro memorabilia and ancient magazines. I couldn’t complain too much though, certainly not when they gifted me the 1981 copy of The Face I was thumbing through – full of my 80s idols like Paul Simonon and Chrissie Hynde.
Stockholm is a gorgeous city in September. It’s mild but sunny and its mosaic of islands makes for the prettiest backlit scenery when driving over its many bridges. Although I would say it’s probably more sensible to use public transport than rely on cabs like we did. Cabs are expensive! Not least because Stockholm cab companies are unregulated and can set their own rates and you won’t find out until it’s too late (as we did – ouch). Best then, to invest in a Stockholm Card which gives unlimited travel on public transport, plus free entry to a number of the museums and cultural spots. What can I say, I’m a wuss when it comes to foreign public transport, don’t ask how I navigated Paris in June.
Anyway, my other Stockholm highlights? Dinner at the charming Cafe Tranan and a rather excellent flea market find. I’m obsessed with Swedish rårakor (potato pancakes) so I heartily recommend those at Tranan which come with roe, chives and sour cream. D chose another Swedish speciality, Beef Rydberg – chunks of beef fillet with diced potato and a raw egg yolk on top that you mix in. I know, it sounds gross, but it’s the best kind of comfort food, although after 2 days of bread, potato and meat-feasting we were more than ready for a detox.
On our last day, still not shopped out, we checked out of The Scandic and went walkies around Kungsgatan, the main shopping street near the hotel. As much as I love an itinerary, there’s nothing better than an aimless stroll around a city that takes you on its own journey. Which for us ended at a flea market. On first glance a not very special flea market, but as seasoned pros, that didn’t put us off. And as our reward, not one, not two, but three pairs of deadstock vintage ‘Made In USA’ Converse were unearthed, one pair in my size, and two in D’s. Ours for the princely total of 700 krona, we were happy shoppers indeed!