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Winter Adventures in Stockholm

Winter Adventures in Stockholm
By Candyce H. Stapen

One November several years ago my two children and I needed a break from mundane winter routines. Instead of heading south for the warm Caribbean waters we flew north to Stockholm, a city even colder than our hometown of Washington, D.C. Were we directionally impaired, wrong-way vacationers or just simply nuts?

None of the above. We were savvy travelers, taking advantage of pricey Stockholm’s winter discounts of 20-40% off summer’s high season rates. In fact, our trip to Sweden, including airfare, proved to be less pricey than a comparable stay at any number of luxury ski or beach resorts stateside. And yet we experienced and saw so much more: an 18th century castle, Viking gold, a real centuries-old war ship, master paintings, and great food.

Yes, it grew dark by 3:00pm and it was cold. But that’s why we wore Gore-Tex and other lightweight but warm miracle fabrics. We also frequented cafes for hot chocolate and coffee, and scheduled indoor tours after lunch when the weather grew colder and the skies dark. Our Thursday to Monday itinerary gave us just enough time to sample the city.

Here are some of the city’s top attractions:
*Vasamuseet: This museum houses the Vasa, a commanding war ship that sank in 1628 almost as soon as it left the dock because it was too tall and too heavy to sail. Salvaged in 1961, the ship’s wooden hull was preserved by the Baltic mud. Carefully restored, the massive Vasa, once again looks fierce with its ornate gargoyle-like sculptures. The museum, built around the ship, showcases coins, tools and other items reclaimed from the sea.

*Hisoriska Museet (Museum of National Antiquities): The Gold Room on the ground floor features a dazzling collection of Viking gold and silver coins, necklaces, rings, chains and other treasures.

*Nationalmuseum (National Museum of Art). Along with examples of contemporary Swedish design in furniture as well as plates, glass, lamps and other furnishings, this museum is known for its work by such masters as Reubens, Rembrandt, Van Gogh. Degas, Cezanne, Renoir and others.

*Saluhallen: This large food hall features vendors selling cheeses, fish, fruit, open sandwiches (great for snacks), hand-made chocolates and other goodies.

*Kungliga Slottet (Royal Palace): The 600-room palace, completed in 1754, has its share of ornate ceilings and intricate tapestries, but your kids are likely to be more interested in the Royal Armory’s display of armor and kingly coaches, some of them gilded. If it’s not too cold, stay to watch the changing of the guard.

*Gamla Stan (Old Town): The Royal Palace is located in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town. Cafes and shops line the narrow winding streets and the aroma of hot chocolate and grilled waffles pulls you into the eateries.

*Hotels: Stockholm offers a wide array of lodging choices. If you want to savor luxury for less, book a room in winter at the Grand Hotel, arguably the city's most elegant property. Built in 1874, the hotel, across from Old Town and near the National Museum, offers oversized rooms as well as Matsalen, a new restuarant that has already earned one coveted Michelin star.

The Nordic Light Hotel, near the Central Train station, features contemporary rooms and offers light therapy (sun under a light box). Book a Mood room and you change the lights from red for energy to blue for rest.

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