Sorry for the hiatus, y’all. I’ve been on a Norwegian adventure (posts forthcoming) and the wifi’s been a bit spotty… #firstworldproblems, I know.

But on to the amazing city of STOCKHOLM!

So, I know I use the word ‘amazing’ approximately 50 times a day and have painted most everywhere I’ve traveled thus far with a glowing review… I try to differentiate one amazing from the other with some context though, so with that disclaimer I’ll say this about Stockholm: it’s the first city I’ve visited on my trip that I would actually consider moving to. I spent three days there and wish I had planned longer because when I left it felt like I’d barely scratched the surface of the city…

Thanks to the new high speed Swedish SJ trains and the Øresund Bridge connecting Denmark to Sweden, getting to Stockholm is a breeze.

I’d bought my ticket so far out that there was minimal difference between the first and second class fare so, naturally, decided to #treatmyself.

Train travel is the best you guys! There was a train stewardess! AND free coffee and brownies! Already off to an excellent start, I knew Sweden and I would get along just fine.

The ride there was a bit of a shock though; after spending five hours en route essentially traversing the country, the view outside for 90% of the ride looked somewhat like the shot above. I knew the population of Sweden was relatively small at approximately 10 million people, but I didn’t realize just what that looked like in a country as big as the state of California (where the recorded population is almost 40 million).

Everything fell into place upon arriving in Stockholm though. In case you all haven’t heard, it’s supposedly El Niño this year, and what that’s meant for the majority of my travels in the UK and Scandinavia is a love/hate relationship with my rain jacket and (super cute) Clarks waterproof booties. Well, as someone who knows can tell you, Stockholm has the rare distinction of being one of the few European cities that is just as beautiful in the rain!

I stayed in the old part of town, appropriately named Gamla Stan (or Old Town in Swedish), one of the 14 islands making up the area of Stockholm.

For those who are curious, on this trip I’ve primarily been staying in either hostels or airbnbs. Urban Hostels, pictured above, may not look like much in the photo but was one of the best I’ve ever stayed at! Highly recommended if you’re ever in Stockholm. It was in a great location, super clean, and the people there were very chill and friendly.

The small area of Gamla Stan is steeped in history and one of the most photogenic places I’ve ever been. Along with a free walking history tour, I spent an entire day just wandering around and taking it in.

After exploring the old part of town, one could spend days visiting the other modern neighborhoods of Stockholm. One of my favorites was Norrmalm, the central borough of Stockholm and a fun place for window shopping and people watching over a cup of coffee. (On that note, did you know that after only the Dutch and Finnish, Swedes are the third highest per-capita consumers of coffee in the world? Seriously, these are my people.)

It was near here that a very famous bank robbery attempt occurred back in 1973…

Now a design studio, it was in the above building that two armed robbers held four bank employees hostage over the course of five days. At the end of the five days, when the robbers finally gave up and were turning themselves over to the authorities, the hostages protected the robbers both from police gunpoint and later while on the stand at their trial. It was after demonstrating that the shared experience of the ordeal affected the hostages in this way, leading them to sympathize and even protect their assailants, that the term Stockholm Syndrome was coined.

With the little time I had remaining, I decided to visit the City Hall.

Here it was really interesting to learn more about the politics and economics of Sweden. All I knew going in was that the Swedes are very progressive (they were the first country to amend their laws of succession so that the firstborn descendent of the throne, regardless of sex, could rule) and that they have some of the highest tax rates in the world.

Well this is to support their welfare state, based on the principle that no one should ‘go without’. (The opposite side of this coin is that no one should outrageously ‘go with’ either. From what I’ve seen, the über-competitive, highly motivated, wealth-seeking personalities that are so sensationalized in American culture just don’t exist here. I’m not sure if individuals who desire this simply move out of the country, or if there just aren’t many who desire this to begin with…) Either way, income tax rates are between 30 to 50 percent while most sales taxes are between 6 to 25 percent.

All that tax money pays for the following: Swedish education is free (including food) for all children through high school. College is also free, and if the student maintains good grades they’ll receive an additional 3000SEK (~$350) per month (though with the high cost of living in this expensive country, I can’t imagine that going too far!). Additionally every single full time employee in the country earns 5 weeks of paid vacation a year, period. Lastly, Sweden leads the world in terms of generous parental leaves, with both mother and father earning 240 days off at 80 percent of their paid salary for every child.

Again the above is just a dip of the toe in the city that is Stockholm (aka the home of H&M. I never thought I’d see three of anything that wasn’t Starbucks on a single corner). The extremely friendly and welcoming Swedish people, gorgeous architecture, and rich culture were absolutely enchanting (not to mention the beautiful Swedish men!) and I can’t wait to go back some day to spend more time there!

Thanks for reading!

xo Carrie