This is Stockholm: Food And Drink In The Culinary CapitalWritten by Alison Wren on April 10, 2016

Stockholm has a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in the world for eating and drinking, and this certainly can be the case. It’s easy to spend 250 SEK or more on an uninspiring dinner, washed down with a 70 SEK beer. This week Alison Wren will give her tips for good value meals, Swedish food you should try, where to drink, and the all-important restaurants near Globen.

The Taste Of Swedish Smörgåsbord

Traditional Swedish cuisine (Husmanskost) is based around meat, fish and potatoes, as original here as it is in the rest of Northern Europe. It’s hearty food designed to fill you up, and far more than the infamous yet delicious meatball. Look out for köttbullar (pronounced shut-bullar for English speakers) if you fancy authentic Swedish food, and expect it to come with potatoes, cream sauce and lingonberry jam. They are popular here, but usually it’s a quick school lunch food rather than a fancy eating out dish. More unique family favourites we recommend you try include kroppkakor (potato dumplings stuffed with pork), pytt i panna (diced potato, ham, onion usually served with a fried egg and more of that lingonberry jam) and kåldolmar (cabbage rolls, again usually served with lingon)

Pea and ham soup is traditionally served on Thursdays, along with pancakes with jam and cream. Indeed schoolchildren here seem to believe pancakes and jam is a legitimate main course… Fishy choices include sill (pickled herring), toast skagen (basically prawn cocktail on toast – a common restaurant starter), gravad lax (cured salmon), and Janssons frestelse (a tasty yet salty fish and potato gratin).

The traditional smörgåsbord is probably the best way to get all of these tastes of Sweden. Although these are easy to find during the summer months and at Christmas, there aren’t many places offering it in May. If you want to splurge, the Veranda at the Grand Hotel is the most well-known and central option, but at 525 SEK you will need to eat a lot of salmon to get your money’s worth.

If you are lucky enough to have access to a kitchen where you are staying, you can find pre-prepared ready meals of all the above in supermarkets. Generally complete ready meals are quite pricey, but you can find most of the traditional foods mentioned above in the chilled or frozen sections of any supermarket for a reasonable price.

For a simpler meal you can try the traditional Pelikan or Kvarnen on Södermalm, Tradition in Gamla Stan, or Melanders which has a few restaurants and delicatessens across Stockholm, mainly serving fish specialities. If you have a yearning for meatballs, Meatballs for the People on Södermalm offers a wide range, with good value lunch options.

Good value lunch options is the best way to eat in Stockholm and a savvy visitor will want to catch the weekday lunch deals Dagens rätt/lunch. These usually come with coffee and a salad buffet for around 80-120 SEK, 70 SEK is possible in the suburbs. Swedes eat lunch as the main meal of the day normally and they eat quite early, Lunch menus often run from 11:00 to 13:00. Top local tip is to search for menus and local restaurant deals on Kvartersmenyn, using the drop down area list (and Google Translate) to find some lunch offers in your area. Most local restaurants will change their menu on here, rather than there own website – this is the best way to find a lunch bargain. Even super-fancy restaurants such as Brasseriet at the opera house and LUX Dag för Dag join in on the lunch offers, starting at 150 SEK, and disco destination Golden Hits offers a 95 SEK deal as well.

Weekend brunch buffets seem to be gathering popularity in Stockholm, with most going for between 200 SEK and 300 SEK. The great-value exception to this is IKEA’s all-you-can-eat brunch, which is available every day from 09:30 to 11:00, a steal at 49 SEK if you have an IKEA family card, or 69 SEK without. You will have to take the 30 minute journey to Barkarby in north Stockholm as the restaurant at Kungens Kurva is closed for renovations. Just take the pendeltåg (marked with a J symbol) towards Bålsta. Get off at Jakobsberg and change onto bus 567 which will take you directly to IKEA. Could you get more Swedish?

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Meatballs for breakfast – it must be IKEA… Photo: IKEA

Fika, The Swedish Institution

Taking a break for coffee and cake is almost mandatory in offices across the country, and we’re expecting nothing different in the Press Centre. A large number of cosy cafes exist to service this need, especially in Gamla Stan. Expect to pay upwards of 25 SEK for a coffee and 30 SEK for a kanelbulle (cinnamon bun), but many places will do free coffee refills if you ask (remember Swedes have the 2nd highest coffee consumption per capita, after Finland). Cosy Chokladkoppen in the centre of Gamla Stan is a tourist favourite, and justifiably so. For a more traditional place to take the parents experience Sundbergs Konditori with its wide range of cream cakes in an opulent location.

My favourite fika location is Rosendals Trädgård, an organic garden and café in the centre of Djurgården. They bake all their own bread and cakes, and offer a range of light lunches made from produce from their gardens. Pricey, but idyllic. Another classic meeting spot is to go to Kulturhuset and sit in the Panorama Cafe overlooking Sergels Torg down below.

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Rosendals Trädgård. Choose between a seat in the greenhouses or the orchard. Photo: Visit Stockholm

When You Really Can’t Decide

For the vegetarians among us, Sweden caters well and it’s an expectation that a couple of veggie or vegan options exist in every restaurant. Hermans vegetarian buffet on the north edge of Sodermalm is recommended for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. The restaurant combines good-value food with some of the best sweeping views over Stockholm’s waterfront which are worth the hill climb. Lunch costs 125 SEK and dinner 189 SEK.

If there’s a group of you eating, and you can’t decide what type of food you want, you can always try a food court. Teatern is the most simultaneously hip and upmarket shopping centre food court you could imagine, located in Ringen just north of Skanstull T-bana station which is two stops north of Globen. Eight chefs promote concepts like Japanese noodle fusion food and fast food vegan with prices around 80 SEK for a small meal. Kungshallen in Norrmalm has 16 restaurants to choose from next to Hötorget T-Bana and is open from 09:00 to 11:00 every day. It’s more a budget eating out location, especially with the fast food type food in the basement, but solid Indian and Greek flavoured dishes can be had under the 100 SEK mark, and you can’t beat that for the middle of town location.

A compromise between the budget and flash options would be K25, located on the Kungsgatan road three minutes from Kungshallen above. Meals are also a little small, but it’s a busy bustling atmosphere and a cool place for a light lunch.

Twisting the restaurant concept around is chain Vapiano, which has been a big success in Stockholm. It’s a turn up, grab a table, order and collect your own food kind of place, making you do the leg work to keep costs down (pizza prices hover just over and under 100 SEK). The Gamla Stan location, right next to the T-Bana, is going to be Eurovision fan central over the two weeks we have no doubts. However you can’t book tables, so expect to wait quite a while to get in around peak times.

Swedes have a surprising close relationship with Thailand, with over 300,000 visiting each year. This means a proliferation of Thai food options throughout the capital, from small Thai/Wok/Sushi kisoks to full restaurants. To combine this with a different experience, Koh Phangan in Östermalm has done its best to recreate a rainforest in their restaurant, including tropical shower effects.

Surviving The Post EuroClub Food Munchies

The Swedish fast food chain MAX burger is maybe a little more expensive than McDonalds, but does offer some alternatives to people looking for a burger alternative to the global brand. You can order and pay for your food (with English language option and photos) at automatic terminals as you enter the restaurant, and pick it up at the counter – all without having to utter a work in Swedish! The closest MAX to EuroClub is at the north end of Kungsträdgården, about 450 m, and is open until 6am on Fridays and Saturdays.

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Order your burger without human interaction at MAX. Photo Ben Robertson

For other late night snacks McDonald’s at Slussen (about 900 m from EuroClub in the other direction) is infamously open 24 hours, and Slussen is also home to a slightly more Swedish option: Strömmingsvagnen selling fried herring and mashed potato. You can also pick up the Swedish fast food staple of a hot dog (Korv) at one of the stalls scattered all over the city centre. As well as the standard in-a-bun option, you could also try a Tunnbrödsrulle – a hot dog with mashed potato in a flatbread with optional shrimp salad. The two locations everyone talks about are Östermalms Korvspecialist, serving “gourmet hotdogs” and Gunters Korv which is certainly not central, but is apparently worth a detour.

Going It Alone

Stockholm has a good choice of food halls selling delicacies from around the world. These are fascinating if only for a browse, but bargain hunters will struggle. Östermalms Saluhall is the oldest of the lot, but currently under renovation. While the old building is shut, a temporary building houses the fish, meat and cheese shops as well as the restaurants. Melandersfisk is unsurprisingly the place to go for all your fish dishes, but also sells game specialities such as reindeer and elk. Söderhallarna off Medborgarplatsen in Södermalm and Hötorgshallen, just north of Central Station both combine outdoor vegetable stalls with speciality shops and restaurants inside. Most of the market traders are not ethnically Swedish and will be open for bartering, although you are more likely to win if you speak the local tongue.

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Östermalms Saluhall for all your luxury food needs. Photo: Ben Robertson

Södermalm has no shortage of alternative shops, and if you are looking for organic or gluten free food you probably want to head to Skånegatan, which is home to the uber-cool Urban Deli as well as health food shops and restaurants from around the world. There’s rationale behind SoFo’s hipster-by-hipster-standards reputation. Paradiset is the largest organic food shop in Stockholm, with a food court to tempt you.

The main supermarket chains in Sweden are ICA, COOP and Hemköp. Of these, ICAs are marginally cheaper, but the main determinant of price is the location of the store. If you have the choice to shop in a supermarket in the suburbs, you will find the food substantially cheaper than in central Stockholm. You will find a reasonably sized ICA next to Globen. If you are near a LIDL, these are your best value choice – you will find one in Hammarby Sjöstad to the south and near Rådmansgatan T-Bana to the north. Pick-and-mix is a big deal in Scandinavia, and expect to see it not just for sweets but also for nuts and fruit (naturgodis) and extensive salad bars.

In Central Stockholm there aren’t many supermarkets, but you can find a Coop in Järntorget, at the south end of Gamla Stan. There is a foodhall in the basement of NK department store at the north end of Kungsträdgården, as well as a number of cafes and restaurants. Expect to pay tourist-inflated prices.

The EuroBubble At Globen

There is a small shopping centre next to Globen with the typical cafes and pubs. If you are in the mood for a bit of Greek food before Semi Final One you could try Grekiska Kolbaren which you pass on the approach from Gullmarsplan. Check out too Fifis Bar and Kök (again, that is pronouced shuerk, as one syllable) which often does 85 Kr lunch deals Monday to Friday.

Tolv restaurant complex under the Tele2 Arena is probably a better choice, but don’t expect anything outstanding. The whole underground section of Tele2 was taken over by generic chain restaurants which do a perfectly satisfactory job. Your best bet to get a table (we’d expect casual Swedish fans to ram this place before the live shows) is O’Learys Tolv, located directly under Globen. The largest outlet of Sweden’s chain of sports bars provides standard food and drink choices and big screen action, as well as an unusual array of pub sports including an indoor 9 hole mini golf course and mini-curling. Not cheap but a fun diversionary location for a rainy day. In the same complex you can also find Enzo’s Italian restaurant, Bambino’s Italian restaurant, and a New England themed grill. Inspired,

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Fancy a game of mini-golf with your dinner? O’Learys Tolv is for you. Photo: O’Learys

Swedes And Their Drinking Problem

Stockholm’s tapwater is great to drink, some of the world’s best, so take a refillable bottle with you. If you need a top-up out and about, the tourist information centre has a water fountain, or pretty much all taps can be run cold. Don’t feel bad about asking for tap water in a restaurant or bar, as they have to provide this by law if they serve alcohol. Many nightclubs even just offer self-service water jugs next to the bar, and it’s not frowned upon to skip a round and have some H2O.

If you want to avoid paying the high alcohol prices in bars and restaurants, you will almost certainly need to find a Systembolaget. Sweden has tight alcohol controls, and everything but the weakest beer and cider must be bought in the state-run shops with service-unfriendly opening hours. For example at Globen you will need to buy your booze by 19:00 on weekdays, and have stocked up by 15:00 on Saturday to last until Monday morning. You have to be over 20 to buy anything in the shop, and don’t be surprised if they demand you for ID by asking “har du leg?”

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Take number to buy your alcohol at System Bolaget! Photo: Ben Robertson

The result of this culturally is that Swedish drinking culture is not usually made up of big sessions in pubs, unless you venture into one of the few Irish bars in town. They do exist, but often for ‘after-work’ drinks which can have special offers. Friday afternoons are therefore really crowded in town, but this gets quieter around dinner time as people head home or onto other parties. Many people going out stock up at ‘System’, invited some friends to pre-party and go out ready intoxicated, making that nightclub water a godsend.

Euro Fan Cafe is open to the public during the day and early evening, and I expect that will be the mingle point of choice for many during the two weeks. The second floor balcony overlooking the water will be the watering hole of choice on a sunny day. We can confirm there will be a restaurant open almost all hours as well providing standard Swedish dishes at competitive rates. If you want to adventure into a real Stockholm then again Södermalm is the place for finding some dark local watering hole. Beer, unsurprisingly, is usually the cheapest thing on the drinks list.

What do you all think, are you excited to come to Stockholm? Have you got any other restaurant suggestions for the Eurovision fans? Let us know below.

About The Author: Alison Wren

Alison is passionate about the Eurovision Song Contest and has travelled now to three ESCs, three JESCs and her National Final appearances are in double figures. She loves travelling and has been to almost every country in Europe (under ten to go!). For ESC Insight Alison works as our travel guide writer, giving all the hints and tips to Eurovision fans as they arrive in different cities each year.

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