I’ve always been curious to discover the Scandinavian region. After all, if those countries are known to be some of the most agreeable in the world, there must be a proper reason to that 😀
I was browsing google flights’ map, looking for new week-end destinations, when I found two cheap planes (95€ round trip from Paris) for both Oslo and Stockholm. I wasn’t sure what to choose, I knew very little about this two cities. So I just searched “Stockholm or Oslo” on the web, and the first result said “go for Stockholm”, so I guess Sweden it is ! Random often brings me interesting things, and I know I won’t regret my decision, anyway Oslo isn’t going anywhere in the meantime 😉
One week ago I started looking for a couchsurfing, as that’s always the best way to meet people, and get to experience the local life. With such a short notice, I was a bit surprised that someone would agree to host me, but a very nice guy named Arshak did !
Before this trip, I haven’t gathered much information on what to do in Stockholm. However, a Russian friend of mine, Yuliya, was there earlier in the week, and gave a great tips. In my opinion, it’s always better to get advice from other travelers and locals, than from a travel guide.
After a 2h30 flight I land at Arlanda, Stockholm’s main airport. It’s already midnight, and I don’t want to make my host wait too much, so I take the Arlanda Express. It’s a very modern and fast train, joining the city center in only 20 minutes. The big drawback is its price : 280 Swedish Krona (= 30€) ! On my way back I’ll take the bus, which takes about 35 minutes for 10-15€. I like how the tunnels are designed, but we’ll come back to that later.
Walking from Centralstation to Arshak’s place, I follow Yuliya’s advice and stop a few minutes on the way, to photograph Tunnelgatan. The tunnel is closed now but I’ll come back tomorrow to get inside. For this picture I use a fairly high ISO of 3200, to stay above 1/50th of a second. I want my subject not to be too blurry.
I then finally join Arshak. He’s living in a very pleasant flat, not far from the city center. He is also a photography enthusiast as I am, but shoots mostly people and street, whereas I’m more into landscape. It’s awesome to be able to share common passions like this, and to learn from each other. We agree to rest for the night, tomorrow we’ll start early and shoot together. I can’t wait, I have the feeling I’m going to see amazing things, and create a lot of pictures. It definitely is going to be a long day !
I’ll have a more in depth subway tour this evening, for now the light and the sky are too good to stay inside.
The city center is composed of 14 islands, interweaving with waters from the Lake Mälaren and the Baltic sea. We head from Norrmalm -the northern part of Stockholm- towards Gamla Stan, one of the most touristic areas. Gamla Stan isn’t my favorite area so far, but it still has some interesting sides : lots of narrow, paved streets and absolutely no cars. We quickly stop for the typical postcard shot at Stortorget place, and move on to the rest of Södermalm island.
In Norrmalm (north district) you can find a lot of companies and offices, while Söder is much more diverse and colorful, with lots of bars, restaurants and shops. Arshak takes me first to Katarinahissen, an elevator used until 2010 to transport people to the heights of the island. From there you have a good panorama on both the west and the east side of Stockholm (the elevator itself blocks the view towards north). The colorful building in the foreground is a former nightclub and was supposed to be destroyed, but artists loved it so much that they made an open air artwork, Berlin style 😏
On our way to another vantage point, we stroll a bit on Götgatan, a big pedestrian street which runs also across the island.
This other panorama at Monteliusvägen was one of my friend Yuliya’s advice, and she was right, it’s one of the best views you can have on the Swedish capital. The sky today is perfect for cityscape pictures, deep blue with a lot of contrast from the clouds. I love the reflections on the water, and I tried to include a just enough foliage in the foreground so it frames the shot and isn’t too obstructive.
Here is also the perfect spot for a timelapse. I set my tabletop tripod on the fense and leave it there for about 20 minutes, taking a picture every 5 seconds.
Arshak has some work to do in the afternoon, so after walking a bit more around Söder he leaves me, giving me a few more tips. The first one is to visit the famous Vasa museum, and the second is to walk all the way around Söder island at sunset.
The Vasa museum -Located on the island of Djurgården- was built after the salvation of a 17th century ship. The boat is almost fully intact and displayed in the huge main hall.
The admission fee is 130 SEK (14€), a bit expensive in my opinion, but the museum is all around very interesting, explaining both how life on a ship was at the time, how the Vasa sunk and how it was salvaged. If you want to visit it, I’d say 2 hours are enough to see all of the exhibitions.
I get out from the Vasamuseet at closing time (5pm, on Wednesday it’s open until 8pm), and chill a bit on the quays. The wind is blowing hard along the water, and heavy clouds are rolling in the sky.
On my way back to Söder, I run across the half marathon occurring today. The city center is filled by a cheerful crowd. It’s a pretty big event as more than 12000 people are running, a lot spectators are also here for supporting.
I begin my tour of Söder while the sun is slowly setting. I first get back to Monteliusvägen.
There I shoot a few frames I’ve already tried earlier, but with a completely different light. In photography it’s a good idea to prepare a frame, make a few test shots, and come back when the light has changed.
My next stop is along the Pålsundet canal, where a lot of boats are moored. This is crazy, it’s still in the Swedish capital city, but this place is so quiet. A light drizzle starts to fall, and I love the texture it gives to the water’s surface. I try to protect my lend so I’ve no water drop on it, and bracket a few shots. This picture is the combination of 3 shot taken with a 0.7 EV offset, shooting in front light often means you won’t be able to capture detail in both highlight and shadow areas.
The rain stops and the light gets more and more interesting as I’m walking towards the south of the island, along the Årstaviken. There I notice someone having an evening swim (the water temperature must be around 15°C 😅), and then drying on this pontoon, as a rainbow is showing up.
Arshak was right 🙂 this is definitely one the best moments in my trip. If you’re visiting Stockholm, you must do this walk at sunset.
After the sun has set, I reach the Skanstull T-bana metro station. Now is the perfect time for my subway tour : I’ve been walking all day, and it doesn’t matters if it’s day or nighttime in there. Stockholm’s Subway is said to be the world’s longest art gallery. More than 150 artists designed its stations throughout the transport network, some of them with sculptures, some with mosaics, engraving or reliefs.
I start by T-Centralen and the blue line. Indeed its walls are painted blue with plants patterns. I have to say, I’m quite impressed by this design, it gives you the feeling to be in a cave, but those colors had a reassuring touch. Stockholm’s subway is a very quiet and agreeable place, far from my usual Parisian transports.
Still on the blue line I head towards Solna centrum. The station is a few kilometers outside of Stockholm but it only takes 10 minutes to get there. This one is red themed, with a forest pattern running all along its walls. 😵
The other stations I’d recommend you to see are Kungsträdgården and its mosaics and Rådhuset -a lot like Solna but in an Orange tone-. I didn’t the have enough time to go to the Stadion and Stockholm Östra stations, but I’ve heard they’re beautiful, too. One subway ticket for zone 1 (enough to see all the above) allows you to use transports for 75 minutes, and costs 36 SEK (less than 4€). It is really worth the extra trip ! 😉
Back to T-Centralen I get back outdoor. Its all dark now, and I take my few last shots of the day, playing with my phone’s torchlight and long exposures. It always gets a lot of bystanders curious like “What the hell is this guy doing?” 😅
It’s 10pm now and I’ve been out since almost 12 hours, and walked between 25 and 30km, I might officially be the slowest runner of Stockholm’s half marathon. I’m very glad I had a mirrorless camera with me, I could carry it all day and still preserve a good image quality. Now I think those are the perfect cameras for travelers.
Unfortunately my plane gets off at noon on tomorrow, and I have to wake up pretty early. This means, if I want to discover Stockholm’s nightlife I’ll have to do it another time 😔
Before I know it, I’m already in the plane, enjoying the aerial view on the Swedish landscape, but man ! this trip was a blast 😃 I’ve seen so many beautiful things, and I loved the city’s peaceful mood.
See you all in three weeks in Copenhagen !