i am not sure that anyone anywhere calls the southern neighborhood/area in the beautiful capital of sweden, known as simply söder (meaning south in english), the “greenwich village of stockholm”. but, i am dubbing it just that. personally, i think it is the perfect description. not that it is exactly like the nyc neighborhood famous for its arts, bohemian vibe, but it comes close. and if you want a short, easy understanding of söder, then greenwich village/east village is it.
i’ve been intrigued by the area for a while now, and my love has always loved it. but, we never seem to spend any significant amount of time there. so, we decided to make a day of it this past saturday. a train to stockholm. straight on the subway to söder (officially called södermalm). and then a whole day to explore and experience.
a little background info on södermalm
stockholm, the capital city of sweden, is spread across many islands. söder is the big island, or borough, that lies just south of the city center. it was once a working class district, but has felt the effects of gentrification, making it a popular, eclectic hub for artists, hipsters, designers, musicians… you get the drift. it is a funky place. a place filled with diversity, art, independence, progressives, creatives, and lovers of all things vintage, cool, and hip. it could be intimidating, but then again, self-expression is what it’s all about. so, everything + everyone is in. as long as it’s authentic + real. people create, philosophize, eat + drink, and enjoy life in söder – at least that’s how i see it.
everywhere you look, you feel the bohemian quirkiness of the neighborhood. there are funky cafés, edgy independent shops and boutiques, yummy local restaurants and pubs, relaxing parks, and views to die for.
the architecture is beautiful. colorful, old, unique. apartment buildings with shops on the bottom floor lining little backstreets and amazing, cozy houses with incredible perched on cliffs that rise above the water and the rest of stockholm.
but, enough info about it. let me share a few tips with you about what we did, where we went, and what we experienced during our day in söder!
first things first: coffee, of course
after our short ride to stockholm, and a quick subway ride from the central train/subway station to mariatorget, we were in söder. first up on our agenda… coffee! after a short walk, we rounded the corner and saw our destination: kaffe, a simple café in the heart of a typical södermalm neighborhood.
we walked into the airy, spacious one-room café and up to the bar to order 2 cappuccinos for 25 kr a piece. (cheap!). however, the barista told us that they only take cash, so she pointed us in the direction of an atm (things that are not on every corner in sweden for some reason) about 4 blocks away. we left the café, took a little walk, got our money, and walked back. no biggie.
tip: just a heads up if you plan to visit. take cash!
i snagged two stools at the bar by the window for us and waited for lina to pay. there are no tables in the café, it’s just stools lined up at a counter bar that runs down the windows. a cozy way to sit and chat, or just read. personally, i loved it. there is nothing like sipping on some delicious coffee (which it was), chatting, and looking out at the street as people pass by.
kaffe is definitely a popular place, but it wasn’t crowded or loud, even for a saturday morning. it was absolutely the perfect start to our day.
independent, quirky, unique shops + boutiques
loaded up with caffeine, we hit the streets of söder to see what funky places + things we could see. we walked back toward the atm we visited earlier and headed up the shopping street. though neither of us wanted to do much shopping. this day trip was all about discovering the vibe of söder for ourselves. but, some of the vintage, hipster, independent (and even one or two not-so-independent, if i am honest) places just called us in. one of my fave’s was a little bookshop we found, called simply söderbokhandeln (south bookstore), filled with all kinds of books. i was totally in love.
tip: wander all around the bookstore. look carefully. browse and search. take your time, it looks oevrwhelming. there are so many unique titles, and even a little english section.
we need way more time to return and explore more of the vintage shops. oh, it’s heaven!
eat like the locals
ok. we researched a bit, and apparently there is a little dim sum/dumpling restaurant in söder that locals love. so, we planned our wandering to take us from the café, through some of the shopping areas to this tiny little, hole-in-the-wall restaurant called 58 dim sum. i just love getting tips and then searching them out for myself. i was so excited about lunch!
we found the place and walked in. space for only about 4-5 different groups to sit. it was teeny tiny. paper lanterns hanging around. a delicious smell. i knew right off that we were in an authentic place.
we had no idea what to do, so we went to the counter and the lady working there, who was not really good in swedish or english, gave us a menu, two slips of paper and 2 pens. we grabbed a seat, and began perusing. well, we were there for the dumpings, so that was an easy decision. but there were so many to choose from. we decided that i’d get the broccoli/cauliflower ones and lina would get the mushroom. then we’d share.
you get 10 pieces for 58 kr. amazing price! it includes a noodle salad and soup, both of which i had. but not a drink, which is not that big of a deal. the dumplings were delicious and served quickly. i fumbled over chopsticks as usual – i totally suck, but managed to eat 8 out of 10 (with the sticks. woo hoo.). then, i was totally full.
tip: 58 dim sum. a small, local place serving authentic food for really cheap. ummm… i loved it. highly recommend!
around the corners + down the alleys
as i walk through the main streets of any city, i am always intrigued by the little ones. so, after a bit more peeking into some unique stores in the little mall called skrapan, such as etc. and habitat, where i could have snatched up tons of little dresses and home decor, we decided to just wander off the beaten path.
all throughout söder you can find parks. open green spaces, little fenced-in basketball/soccer areas , and squares with benches and trees. and, of course, where there is a park, there are plenty of swedes enjoying the outdoors. we passed park after park, filled with couples, families, friends, kids, even live music. and, wouldn’t you know it? a random food truck too.
one of the most beautiful places we walked through, though, was the cemetery at katarina kyrka (the church of catherine). i have never seen a cemetery so filled with flowers. green grass, yes. and flowers on graves or beside headstones, yes. but, here, flowers grew naturally. it was just breathtaking. so, we had to pause for a moment to reflect on life and death.
on any spring or summer day when the weather is nice (and by nice i mean 50 degrees or higher, americans!), it’s totally worth a walk through a park (or a cemetery). and a few moments of getting back to the simplicity of the outdoors.
tip: the swedish sun is warm and intense, so even if it’s only 50 degrees f, if it’s sunny, you will be warm. i promise.
of course, surrounding all of these parks are the amazing, colorful, european buildings. most house apartments in them, and are totally full – as this is a very popular place to live, which i am sure that you can now understand a bit why. but, the closer you get to the edges of this island, the more little houses you find. oh, they are not houses with yards, per se, because it’s still urban. and on a cliff. but, they are row houses, built right next to each other, and surrounded by apartment/office buildings. these houses + buildings near the edges of the island, are perched up high, and they offer incredible views of the city and the other islands.
lina and i roamed through the cobblestone streets and alleys, found different little lookouts between buildings, and imagined what life would have been like years ago, when people lived here. of course, we also imagined what it would be like to live here today…. one can dream, you know.
tip: get lost. put down the map and just follow the streets where they lead. you never know what you might stumble upon. and you can always find your way back to the main streets in söder. it is an island, remember? in the meantime, see what you see.
an unexpected bird’s eye view
we just had one more thing to do before we ended our afternoon in söder – a visit to a pub. but, on our way there, we came across this bridge that seemed to go straight out over the streets + water, giving what i assumed would be an amazing view of stockholm. the “bridge” is called katarinahissen. now, i’m a bit freaked out when i walk out on something with nothing underneath me, so i need to walk in the middle and preferably have someone hold on to me, so i don’t irrationally think that i am going to fall off (through a fence or through a glass, which of course, would be impossible, which is why i said, irrational).
but, i needed to see the view. so, we walked out and i could look back at söder, and look across to gamla stan (old town) and other more northern/eastern parts of the city. it was so beautiful to see!
tip: do it!
we did finally make it to that pub, but i wouldn’t say it was quite what we were looking for. we didn’t research anything, but just wandered and then, since we were running out of time, ducked into a pub called balthazar. totally ok. but typically swedish. not anything funky or unique. still, the beer was only 29 kr. super cheap! so, that was a win. clearly, we need to come back to explore the more hidden pubs of söder.
we had plans to meet up with some friends in a whole other part of stockholm for a beer tasting event (perhaps another post coming soon!), so we bid farewell to södermalm for the day. however, after the microbrewery beer tasting, we took a ferry back to the area and walked up to söder for one last drink together. we ducked into the cozy, relaxed, fair-trade bar/restaurant called muggen, located on the main shopping street in söder and across the street from a subway entrance – necessary for our ride back home later on. we had so much fun catching up and enjoying each others’ company, that i didn’t take any photos!
so, friends, if you find yourself in stockholm, make your way over to söder. i totally recommend exploring this hipster, funky, international, artsy part of the capital. i personally loved it.
to be fair, there are some not-so-great things about it too. while there is so much hip stuff happening, there is a sense of lots of people are trying a bit too hard. in the fight to be an quirky independent, many people seem to be doing it the same way. like the hipster fad. and yet, there are plenty of people who are just living their life. being funky, weird, and artsy, just as they are.(read some more local views on söder here).
nevertheless, in my opinion, söder is a haven for those people who love to live life on the edge or outside of the mainstream. a place for intellectuals, artists, free thinkers, and eclectic spirits to gather. and that, to me, is the definition of a place that make my soul sing.
i can’t wait to go back. how lucky am i that it only takes me about 50 minutes to get there?!
onwards + upwards!