Stockholm: The Venice of the North

05 May, 2017

Stockholm: The Venice of the North

With more daylight, green space, and open water than just about any city on earth, Stockholm is a utopian triathlon destination—as long as you visit during the summer.

by Brad Culp

It's hard to beat Stockholm in the summer. Long days, plenty of sunshine, and near-perfect temperatures make it an ideal destination for any outdoor activity, and the Swedes know how to take advantage of their beautiful summers. The Swedish capital has played host to ITU Triathlon for six years now, and in addition to attracting some of the top short-course pros in the sport, age-groupers also head to the city for what has made up the largest triathlon in all of Scandinavia.

Often referred to as the "Venice of the North," the city of Stockholm is spread across 14 islands where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea. Its location near the Arctic Circle makes for very long days during the summer months, with an average of 18 hours of daylight during July. With an urban population of 1.4 million people, Stockholm is the largest city in Scandinavia and also the most visited by foreign travelers.

Why visit Stockholm?

Fancy a bike ride at 9 p.m.? How about a sunrise swim at 3:30 in the morning? If you've always wished you had more hours in your training day, then Stockholm is the place for you. In July, the sun rises just after 3:30 a.m. and sets just after 10 p.m., giving athletes the flexibility to train whenever they please. There are dozens of massive parks within the city limits, offering safe and accessible routes for cycling and running throughout the day. While the city has been coined the "Venice of the North," instead of polluted canals and gondolas, you’ll find countless crystal-clear lakes, inlets, and beaches to get your open-water swim fix.

Stockholm's location in the center of Scandinavia also makes it the ideal jump-off point to the rest of the region and is an easy (and cheap) one-hour flight from cities like Helsinki, Oslo, Tallinn, Copenhagen, and even St. Petersburg.

See and do

Djurgarden: Stockholm's most visited island park should be on every visitor's to-do list—and not just because it’s home to the world's only ABBA museum. The island has at least 10 miles of dedicated running and cycling trails and a number of museums for both adults and kids alike. Unless you're a real fan, we recommend skipping the ABBA Museum in favor of the Vasa Museum, which is a maritime museum dedicated to Sweden's Viking history.

Get hip: The island of Södermalm is home to perhaps the world's largest concentration of hipsters. It's like Portland, but with better weather, better food and no one smokes. It's a beautiful neighborhood for a stroll or a relaxing ride on a rentable city bike. After an afternoon visiting Södermalm's cafes and galleries, you may actually find hipsters charming. Or not.

A royal boat ride: The Royal Palace in Stockholm's Old Town neighborhood is stunning and might be worth the visit, but if you want to see where Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia really live, take the 50-minute steamboat ride to Drottingholm. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to a beautiful palace (with most rooms open to the public), as well as a theater dating back to 1766, which hosts opera throughout the summer. Not to mention the views from the ferry might be the highlight of the trip.

Eat and drink

Fine dining: Contrary to popular belief, there's a lot more going on with Scandinavian food than meatballs and herring. Stockholm's fine dining scene takes full advantage of the fruits of the Baltic Sea, and there's no better place to experience it than Restaurang Frantzén. Located in the heart of the city in Gamla Stan, it's one of only two two-star Michelin restaurants in the Stockholm. Expect a 14-course meal to cost around 4,000 Swedish Krona (around $460 USD), but given the affordability of the Krona at the moment, it's a relative bargain compared to a similar meal at other major cities around the world.

Eat like a local: Located in the Norrmalm district, Vigarda is a favorite of locals seeking a gourmet burger at a cheap price (accompanied by unique homemade sauces and a great variety of French fry and beer options). If you're looking for true Scandinavian cuisine for only a few bucks, check out Strömmingsvagnen, located in Södermalm, for Swedish classics like fried herring, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, lingonberries and pickled everything. You can get a complete Swedish dinner (with a beer) for the equivalent of $10 USD.

Late nights: Swedes like to party, especially during the summer when the sun almost never goes down. There's an endless number of nightclubs where you can party your night away until the sun comes up a few hours later. But you're a triathlete, so you want to keep things classy and relax with a nice beer or wine. If you're looking for an old-school Swedish beer hall, try Kvarnen, located in the center of Södermalm, where you can toss back pints of local brew until the sun comes up. If you can handle "harder" beers like imperial stouts and porters, you'll feel right at home at Kvarnen or pretty much any Swedish beer hall.

Getting there

Stockholm-Arlanda is Stockholm's main airport and is located 25 miles (approximately 40 kilometers) north of the city center. The Arlanda express train runs all day and will take you from the airport to downtown in 20 minutes. A one-way trip from the airport runs 260 Krona ($30 USD) and bicycles are allowed on the train. If you decide to rent a car for your stay, expect at least 45 minutes to drive from the airport to the city. There's also the Bromma Airport, located within the city limits, which has direct flights from within Scandinavia, as well as Brussels.

Where to stay

The Clarion Amaranten is the official host hotel for the race and is located a short walk from the race start. The race begins at City Hall and finishes in front of the Royal Palace, so you'll want to stay close to the city center, in either the Gamla Stan, Norrmalm or Kungsholmen neighborhoods. Unless you splurge for four-or five-star luxury, hotel rooms in Sweden are famously simple and small. If you're traveling with the family and need more room, it's recommended that you search a site like Airbnb.com for apartment rentals, which are very popular in Stockholm.