The Northern Lights – What are they?

What are The Northern Lights?

Nature plays its own games. It surprises us in ways unimaginable. One such experience exists far beyond in the north, in the sub-zero temperatures of the Arctic Circle. The Northern Lights have seized human fascination for thousands of years. Now I don’t really have a bucket list of my own, but I have always wanted to experience this phenomenon for myself, absolutely first hand, which is why I headed about 217 miles north of the Arctic circle (Tromso – a quaint city in Norway, to be precise) to watch the enigmatic Auroras throw a dance pattern for me. The Aurora Boraelis is what these whimsical natural lights commonly known as.

The Northern Lights

Are you one of those who wanted to know more about the science of the Aurora? Well, back in school I was terrible with both science and geography (Don’t judge me!), but as I spotted the magnificent green curtains form across the sky, I couldn’t hold back the curiosity in my pretty-much-blown-out-mind. So I spent some time educating myself with the tour agents at Chasing lights and learnt all I could about nature’s most spectacular event – The Northern Lights.

The Northern Lights

The northern lights are natures very own spectacular light show. These dancing curtains of light sway with the wind right around the magnetic field of our Earth. They occur about thirty to forty hours after the sun tosses its particles in the earth’s magnetic field. These charged solar particles then collide with atoms of oxygen and nitrogen in the earth’s atmosphere, therefore releasing flashes of light better known as the Aurora. This happens somewhere between 20 miles to 200 miles above the earth.

There are approximately four different colors that the Aurora borealis creates. Each of these depends upon the type of atom collision and the altitude at which the collision happens. The color Blue occurs under 60 miles above the earth’s surface. The color purple shows visibility from over 60 miles above the earth. Ironically Green, the most common color seen actually occurs 100 miles above the earth’s surface while Red, the most distinguished and rarest of all colors appears over 150 miles above the Earth’s surface.

Northern lights will probably remain nature’s most magical, luxurious and distinguished experience ever. People have been chasing them for years now and years to come. I can run after them time and again. That is how enlightened I am with this nature’s activity. I am already making plans for my next Aurora adventure across the Arctic!

The Northern Lights

 

Have you seen the Northern Lights yet? Don’t you want to pack already?

I enjoyed writing this post. If there is anything you want to know about Aurora Borealis shoot up on the comments section below and I will get back ASAP! If you have an experience to share, send me the link and delight me with your adventure!

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Stay tuned for some extra Aurora magic on my blog!

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Fotografiska

There comes a point where science becomes poetry. When a strictly objective gaze creates an image that allows us to imagine a beauty greater than which we can express. That’s where photography turns more life-like. 

 

I am not  a professional photographer, but of what I learn and believe in photography and by following great artists of the time, I understand photography as one of the strongest art forms existing today. Right from the time of Ansel Adams to all the current gen Instagram-worthy photographers trying to make their space in the ever so saturating field, one thing goes without saying – it is very important to find your subject that you’d love to shoot rather than just focusing on being a good photographer. But it is equally important to find your creative. And nothing in the world can possibly mirror creativity better than the pieces of work in this art-fled studio.

Facing the islands of Kastellholmen and Djurgarden, this museum, Fotografiska – mainly known as the photography museum of Stockholm is built-in a former customs house. It is a massive three storey photo gallery where one can find worlds top photographers works exhibited on rotation.

Credits: www.svt.se

One such opportunity came my way when I was traveling in Stockholm during the last week of December. Honestly Fotografiska wasn’t on my list before I looked up the website and read about the photographers who were exhibited there at the time. In no time the camera enthusiast in me decided to find a way to reach Djurgarden. I stayed very close to the central station and it took me a direct metro rail to Slussen and a quick 12 minute walk hence to reach this beautiful building. I had the Stockholm pass which helped me skip lines and saved up on my entry fee. That’s the one thing I absolutely love about the Stockholm pass – it includes almost everything one would want to see in Stockholm, and it sure is cost-effective.

If I have to describe my experience at Fotografiska in one word, I’d say – Fascinating. Right from the moment I walked into the gallery and laid eyes on hassleblad camera bodies and lenses, I knew I was in for a treat throughout. It took me about 3 hours to read through each photograph, the colors, the angles, the details. The artists that month on exhibit were Nick Veasey, Chen Man, Asa Sjöström and Ida Borg. Each of them echoing their meraki through their own unique cutting edge photography, took me through an extraordinary journey in the making of state of the art masterpieces. Staring up at these daedal photographs, I was in awe of the complexities of art and the simplicities of human life and materialism.

Here I will be taking you back to Stockholm’s December journey. Tip-toe with me through Fotografiska and go speechless at the possibilities of art and creativity.

Nick Veasey

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“I can preserve a child’s smile, make any woman feel beautiful, bring a grown man to tears, fifty years from now and freeze time – What’s your superpower?”

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Most artists claim to delve beneath the surface of their subjects. Most artists fail. And of what I experienced of Nick’s photography technique is that no one can go to such intricate depth of ones core. This man has the imagination, power and creativity to dig deep into the possibilities of daily objects. And what’s crazy is – he seems UNSTOPPABLE. In an unmatchable spirit, Nick Veasey works in his X-ray studio in a rural area outside Maidstone, England. He does not focus on capturing beautiful landscape over shining horizons, nor does he focus on painting portraits. Instead, he has mastered the art of penetrating deep inside any object – living and non-living. The X-ray technique. Look, observe, learn the magic created by Nick Veasle’s X-ray photographic technique. Read as deeply as you want. unravel a photo layer by layer, till there’s nothing left to it – and yet everything.

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I have never seen detailing so closely my entire life. Neither would you.

Chen Man

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Redefining the fine line between Fashion photography, Art, Painting and Graphic design, Chen Man masters the art of photo-manipulation technique. She was the first one to learn, use and master Photoshop in China. She would spend months on her computer creating and recreating one image.

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Flying with fearlessness and sitting at the edge of the curiosity-cliff, Chen Man shocked the chinese art world bringing in a whole new revolution to the visual world single-handedly.

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Ida Borg

Taking on life simple pleasures and building art off them, is a skill many possess. But the sheer perfection and elegance is what defines Ida Borg’s work of art. In – Hygiene – A circle of life, Ida captures the daily emotions of the life cycle of a lay man. In the mindset of educating people about the importance of Hygiene, Ida says, ” No matter where you find yourself in the cycle of life, hygiene is what stays with you, and your health should be of primary concern”.

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In her series, Ida has captured people of different ages and nationalities, from across the world to bring together the basic necessity of one thing that unites us all – Hygiene. Photography is an all-inclusive art form which is why it has the power to reach the mind, body and soul of anyone hence provoking newer perspectives.

Asa Sjöström

“I see myself in those I photograph and I often wonder what it would be like if their lives had been mine. The connection feels personal, as if we share a story, but one that is not my own”.

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Asa captures the story of a silent land. A land she walked into and fled herself with overwhelming emotions. Moldova, sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania, is the poorest country in Europe (2005). On her 3 month long trip, she captured faces of prisoners, victims of human trafficing and domestic violence. Feeling incomplete even after capturing the souls of what made Moldova, she realised that she hadnt looked close enough. That was the moment when she put herself in the place of the locals, observed the details and encountered in the people of Moldova, strong integrity, will power and a fierce sincerity. She saw people, the poverty and the dignity; the brutal yet fragile life experiences of the people.

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Its a fearlfully dangeorous stunt to put yourself in place of such severity just to capture the heart and soul in a photograph. Asa’s ‘The silent land’ series are a line of brutally honest inhuman realities of this wildly materialistic world we live in.

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Fotografiska introduced me to art like I have never seen before. The multitude of possibilities one can learn just by using a lens, the levels of photojournalism and the numerous ways of visual storytelling is what I take away from this beautiful art museum in Stockholm. If you are a photography enthusiast, take my word for it – YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS PLACE! Go, unlearn everything you have been taught about photography and look at art in a whole new perspective.

FOTOGRAFISKA MUSEET

Stadsgårdshamnen 22
116 45 Stockholm

OPENING HOURS

Sun – Weds 9:00 am – 11: 00 pm
Thurs – Sat 9:00 am – 1:00 am

TICKET PRICES

Adults SEK 135
Students and Seniors SEK 105
Groups (minimum 20 visitors) SEK 105
Children under 12 years free
NB This museum does not accept cash; cards only

When Art meets Life

Have you been to Fotografiska yet? What did you like best?

I enjoyed writing this post. If there is something in specific you would want to know about Stockholm or want me to write about, mention in the comments below and I will get back ASAP. Got any other amazing must-do must-see option in Stockholm? Share me the link and I will read it up too 🙂

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Fika – Lets brew it!

Shhhh… my coffee and I are having a moment. I will deal with you later.

FIKA. BECAUSE. COFFEE. FRIENDS. CONVERSATIONS. RELAX.

 

Halla friends!

As promised, out of my sheer love for cultural learning and oh, COFFEE, this blog’s dedicated to a momentary romance with coffee, or as the Swedes call it – FIKA!

Somewhere on the Island of södermalm, I found a little café on the corner with a board outside that said – FIKA! The word in itself was so sweet to read I was intrigued to google it up. “OK google! What does Fika mean?” “Fika is a coffee break”. My heart the next hyper second – “Wait, coffee? Did I hear Coffee?”

It took me a conversation with three Swedes to understand that Fika after all isn’t ‘JUST’ a coffee break. It’s so much more than that. And boy, do the Swedes hate it being called a coffee break!

My ever so curious mind didn’t stop till I learnt all about Fika (Because, well… coffee). So in my own words I’d define Fika as – a moment of meditation with coffee! More like a concept, a state of mind or a feeling. And feelings have no definite terms of description, aye? (Yup I just got a little philosophical here!)

Fika is a Swedish obsession. The swedes are one of the highest coffee consuming nations in the world (Ranking in the top 10 list). Which is why, Coffee is more than having a break or a pastime for them. Coffee for them is weaving moments of bliss and light hearted conversations with friends and family leaving all your problems behind (nop, they do not discuss problems on the coffee table). And this, my friends, is an integral part of their culture (Fika – every single day! yup.)

So how do you… Fika? You wonder?

I will help break it down for you.

  1. You get yourself coffee.
  2. You add a pastry or a muffin (anything baked basically!)
  3. .. you just FIKA!

The art of Fika is all about leaving all your problems behind and having a moment of bliss and relax. The Swedes believe (and you and I would second them on this), the world is getting busier by the passing minute. Problems are never ending and our hair is graying faster and sooner than ever. It would do no harm to set aside everything and enjoy a happy conversation with a friend… and just FIKA! This, as I said before, being more of a Swedish tradition and obsession, the employers even give their staff a Fika break (maybe even two sometimes). That’s how entrenched it is in the Swedish culture.

Now, as I sit back and sip on my cup of coffee while I write this piece of article here, I think how coffee really is just a ‘to-go’ option for everyone around the world (yes even me!). We all have so much on our plates every single day that a coffee break really means discussing work issues or holding up client meetings. At work a coffee break means heading to a vending machine or the cafeteria and buying yourself that use and throw cup, sipping on it while you are driving or taking the subway. When I was studying in the UK, most of my mornings were filled with coffee on the side while getting dressed or finishing an assignment. Even at the university, I would get myself coffee from the 1 pound coffee maker and run with it to the lecture theater (multitasking, please!). But ever since I got back from Sweden, mum and I try to inculcate this Fika culture in our daily routine. We are both crazy coffee lovers and we sit with our coffees in the balcony and watch the sun rise up every morning. It really is the best moment of my all-so-busy day! A rather relaxed kick start.

What are the rules of FIKA?

One of the many beautiful things about this art is there aren’t really stated rules to fika. Not a coffee fan? Drink tea instead. Don’t like a muffin, pick a croissant or a sandwich. Whatever suits you? You don’t even have to head to a café, you can Fika literally anywhere, even in the comfort of your home.

Sweden and Coffee?

If we go down the road of civilization and walk down the streets with Swedish history, Sweden and coffee have been in a rather complicated relationship from the start.

Coffee entered Sweden like a breath of fresh air in mid-16th century under King Fredrick I. However, he was never a fan of these brown beans and tried to tax the shit out of it to kick it out of their culture. With eventual failures, he then banned coffee. Over years and subsequent successors, King Adolf Fredrick levied heavier taxes on coffee, which lead to coffee smuggling and these bean babies went underground. With secret coffee shops in hidden corners of cities, the Swedish became hitched to coffee. It became an ingrained part of them. They wanted someone to build this as a culture. And hence, enter King Gustav III, from where things got creative and interesting. After several attempts of brainwashing his people against the contents of coffee, failures of PR campaigns downgrading the effects of coffee, the swedes just did not let go. He even ran an experiment where he picked twin brothers (criminals) and tried to prove the harmful effects of coffee. He fed one brother with tea and the other with coffee, each thrice a day to prove that the coffee drinking criminal would die a caffeinated death rather faster than the tea drinking criminal. Not only did both of them survive the test, they also outlived the king (in fact, the coffee drinking criminal even outlived the tea drinker).

The ban on Fika was lifted in the mid-19th century when the youth was high on rage and caffeine. Ever since, coffee and Fika has taken over Sweden like a storm and is now a cool tag.

Let’s all raise a toast to the warrior that lies in the Swedish coffee (wink!).

If you head to Sweden, DO NOT call Fika a coffee break. Just call it… Fika!

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Every day, I try to have a Fika. It helps to sit back on my chair and breath fresh air in the balcony and read a book or listen to music with my strong, dark coffee. That is my Fika!

What is yours?

 

I enjoyed writing this post. If there is something in specific you would want to know about Stockholm or want me to write about, mention in the comments below and I will get back ASAP. Tell me about your Fika experience in the comments below. I would love to read them <3

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The artists paradise – Stockholm

Are you headed to the Venice of the North? Read on to see things you absolutely cannot miss in Stockholm. (For the love of Art and Culture)

6 of my most exclusive Experiences in Stockholm!

6 most amazing things to experience in stockholm

Are you headed to the Venice of the North? Read on to see things you absolutely cannot miss in Stockholm.

It’s been about 2 months since my Scandinavian travel and I still cannot get enough of how beautiful the Northern part of Europe is. Yes you read that right. Scandinavia in the Winters (yep, I know your eyes are wide open in sheer surprise or shock :P). Experiencing a white winter was always on my list right from my years in the UK. Terrible luck as I’d call it, I spent 2 December’s in the UK and never saw a single snow flake (sigh!). But as crazy as it sounds, Scandinavian winters are insane only if you are an absolute winter lover. Peak winters, knee deep snow and below freezing temperatures, Scandinavia is white heaven on earth.

Credits: Ola Ericson /www.stockholmsfoto.se

I started off with Stockholm or as they call it “The Venice of the North”. Almost a week in Stockholm, spending the whole of Christmas week there, I saw some incredible places and experienced some of the best Swedish traditions. Not to miss, the city that was lonely on Christmas eve (no body on the streets and most of the stores were shut), caught up to a running life soon after. Right from fancy museums to watching the gloomy sky change colors over all of Stockholm, I had some off the track experiences or what I’d rather call as “The Artists Galore”. Think of it! If you just end up visiting the main streets of the city or the headlined museums or touristy spots what new have you done? It would feel like ‘just another European city’ with nothing different to mark. I am among the ones to learn of the history of a place and watch out for the rarer experiences. After all travel is about indulging in newer experiences! Delve a little deeper and you’ll find each city has a soul of its own.

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If you are especially an art lover, I’d suggest DO NOT miss this list!

HERE WE GO!

1. Fotografiska: The artist living in abundance

Credits: www.svt.se

Open: All seasons

Entry fee: 145 SEK (Free on Stockholm pass)

Often referred to as the “Photography museum” in Stockholm, this place has photography exhibitions on rotation. Every few weeks they showcase the most exclusive set of photographers across the world. I visited this museum in the 3rd week of December and experienced photography very unlike what we see every day. Watching works of photographers Nick Veasey, Chen Man and Ida Borg, I couldn’t believe photography of such kind even existed. These photographers are the epitome of creative photography.

I am dedicating an entire blog to my most favorite museum (Fotografiska) soon! Stay tuned.

2. Get moving on the waters – Winter Archipelago boat tour.

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Open: All Seasons (Kindly check site for Christmas/eve)

Entry fee: 295 SEK (Free on Stockholm pass)

The city of Stockholm is virtually surrounded by 14 islands. The reason why its called the “Venice of the North”. Boat tours in summer ring a bell to beachy outfits, free flowing gowns and some ice popsicles. But I visited Stockholm in dead peak winters and wasn’t too sure of how a boat tour would turn out be on semi-frozen land (lol). Alas, I fell in love with city even more. There is just something fulfilling about heaters and socks and mufflers combined with gloomy views on the outside and a really hot cup of dark chocolate wrapped by your fingers.

Was it freezing outside? Hell ya-ha! I did a 3 hour Archipelago ride. It was big boat beautifully decorated with all things Christmas. Tiny reindeer pelts hanging on each window, small Santa’s kept on the corners of the boat. Everything was red and oh so beautiful.

Do this tour and get in tune with the historical grounds of the Archipelago.

3. Travel back in time – Skansen

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Open: All seasons

Entry fee: 180 SEK (Free on Stockholm pass)

This beautiful open air museum located in the Island of Djurgården is about 15 minutes by bus or tram from the city center. Relive the 19th century Swedish lifestyle here. It consists of 150 homes and farms. The employees in Skansen play roles of people from the past explaining Swedish art, craft and culture.

4. 360 degree view – Ericsson Globe

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Open: All seasons

Entry fee: 150 SEK (Free on Stockholm pass before 12pm)

This beautiful structure – The Globen Skyview – gives you an unobstructed view of all of southern Stockholm. The Globen is Sweden’s national arena and the largest hemispherical building in the world. The building has 2 spherical gondolas that take you up to the top of the building which is the view point in about 30 minutes of riding time. Secret tip – carry a wide lens or a go-pro for this place 😉

5. Because you never say no to coffee – FIKA!

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Not many people know about this beautiful Swedish tradition. Fika is the art of taking a coffee break. Sounds too mundane? Its significance is much more than that. Fika is the art of meeting your loved ones over a coffee break with sweet conversations and cake or a pastry. But Fika is more than just coffee. In fact its almost offensive to call traditional Fika JUST a ‘coffee-break’. It is more of a Swedish obsession. Sweden is one of the highest coffee-consuming countries in the world. So coffee here is more like a lifestyle in itself.

Being a coffee-addict myself, you can only imagine my obsession in learning what Fika really is all about. I am going to write an entire article on Fika. Stay tuned!

6. Art at its best – Stockholm Underground

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Once again for the art lovers of all kinds, I’d recommend you carry a good camera so you can get some lovely shots of Stockholm’s underground rail. Trust me when I say, the art under here is fantastic.

Stockholm metro was opened in 1950. Right from beginning, a group of local artists have been involved through the construction process. The Swedes wanted travel to be an experience and not just a mode of commute even for the locals.

Around 150 odd artists have contributed to the art of Sweden’s underground metro. It is more like a permanent art exhibition down there. Sculptures, mosaics, paintings, gardens etc. are some of the highlights of the metro. Look out for T-centralan for some fancy deep blue under water feels; Kungsträdgården for some ancient sculptures, dungee cave feels; Rådhuset (court house) for some natural cave and lava colors; Solna centrum for a feel of walking straight into the colors of the burning sun.

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Stockholm really surprised me. I knew I would love it but I had no idea how much I’d fall in love with it. This was just winters, my eyes would sparkle with bliss with Scandinavian summers. There is so much more to Stockholm when you put on your traveler shoes and dirty your shoe laces a little, walk around the city and explore parts like no one else can explain. After all, each traveler has his own eyes, a different perspective and an urge to explore like no other. I cannot wait to come back here with lesser layers on me 😛

Have you been to Stockholm? What did you like best?

I enjoyed writing this post. If there is something in specific you would want to know about Stockholm or want me to write about, mention in the comments below and I will get back ASAP. Got any other amazing must-do must-see option in Stockholm? Share me the link and I will read it up too 🙂

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Stockholm – a dreamy December’s journal

As light rain and snow tumbles down the city of Stockholm, I walk on the street of Strandvägen spotting thin layers of snow on the many wooden benches at the banks of Lake Mälaren. I spot some words written on each of those benches and decide to leave my own mark for however long they remain.

As light rain and snow tumbles down the city of Stockholm, I walk on the street of Strandvägen spotting thin layers of snow on the many wooden benches at the banks of Lake Mälaren. I spot some words written on each of those benches and decide to leave my own mark for however long they remain.

There is something very nostalgic about the air in Stockholm, something that reminds me of my sweet-somethings. It tingles little smiles across my face and as I gaze across the wide archipelago stretched across the many islands that surround the central part of the city, my heart is filled with happiness undeniable. A December visit to Stockholm surely needs some guts and willpower to face cold winds and ankle deep snow (at least in the beginning). Almost every travel agency I went to discouraged me to head for my Scandinavian adventure. Their reply – “Ma’am we are too ‘Indian’ to face such extreme winters”. And my only response to their words – Rolling eyes and several smirks later – “just gives me an estimated quotation please”.

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And after 2 weeks of endless planning (sipping on coffee by the edge of my balcony and of dreaming of white winds and snowflakes) I headed straight to Stockholm with my family (parents and brother). Everyone I knew told me that Scandinavia is better off travelling in the summers. European summers are pretty pleasant, I know of that as I have traveled to Europe in different seasons before. But as utterly gorgeous and happening Scandinavia is in summers, there is something magical about its winters. A visit in the winters brings the city under different lights altogether and a big white blanket of snow. And this very few tourists know about.

In my further posts I will be giving you tips about Scandinavian winter travels. For now put your gloves, woolen socks and ear muffs on, HERE WE GO!

Hotel Tegnérlunden

This is where I stayed. Located about 12-15 minutes walking distance from the Central Station, this little boutique hotel was filled with tiny details, a cosy environment and a beautiful garden to wake up to every morning.

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The view from my hotel. Stockholm at its gloomy self.
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Endless cups of coffee, Swedish history books, this was my cosy corner in Stockholm.

Daylight would spread across Stockholm sky after 8:30 am. The beautiful view from the glass walls of Tegnérlunden were worth the little day-light spread across Stockholm’s sky.

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Subtle breakfast mornings in Stockholm

Strandvägen

A boulevard in central Stockholm, Strandvägen stretches for over 1 km in distance. With footways paved in granite and lamp-posts and benches lay’d at the corner, this place is the departure spot for many cruises in the city. I did the famous Archipelago winter cruise right from here.

One of my favorite spots in Stockholm, Strandvägen.

Nordiska Museet

The very first museum I entered in Stockholm was the Nordic Museum. This museum holds the cultural history and ethnography of Stockholm. I learnt some fantastic insights on different aspects of Swedish life and architecture over a period of 400 years. And thank lords for Christmas eve, I ended up spending more than three hours at this museum getting dressed as Santa and fairy.

Gamla Stan

Another favorite spot in the city. This is an old town which consists mainly of the island Stadsholmen. Gamla stan has some of the most colorful buildings in the city of Stockholm and some of the most narrow lanes across eastern Europe. The whole of old town is filled with tiny cafes and boutique shops selling authentic Swedish vintage wear. Slightly expensive, for me Gamla stan will probably be one of the many picturesque spots in the city.

Kungsträdgården

One of the busiest squares in Stockholm, Kungsträdgården is a centrally located park which turns into an ice skating ridge by the end of December, all through winters.

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Christmas decorations, Kungsträdgården

Drottninggaten

Drottninggaten is the biggest, most famous shopping street in Stockholm. But the foodie in me stopped for this amazing ice-cream.

Ice cream shop, Drottninggaten

Skansen

Being an open air museum, Skansen during its gloomy December season seems like a haunted forest in itself (don’t worry their ain’t no ghosts here). My pictures seem even more gloomy and haunted as I captured them with barely any daylight left. I missed most of the interior of Skansen, but if you are there, Please look through this beautiful place completely (and click LOTS of pictures).

Ericsson Globe

And last but not the least, Skyview. If you want to see the whole of Stockholm (and I mean almost all islands) from a birds eye this is the place you should absolutely not miss. Not many people know about the globan. Ericsson Globe is an indoor arena located in the globe city of stockholm (on the outskirts). It is the largest hemispherical building on earth which has a small glass globe attached to it. You step inside and it takes you to the top of the Globe from where you see all of Stockholm’s beauty.

This is just a glimpse of all the beautiful things I saw in Stockholm. There is so much more to Stockholm than what is seen in mere photographs. One has to be there to experience the truest sense of Swedish culture.

In the next few posts I am going to talk more about my journey across Scandinavia and how to survive the below freezing temperatures. STAY TUNED 😀

If there is something in specific you would want to know about Stockholm or want me to write about, mention in the comments below and I will get back ASAP. Got any other amazing must-do must-see option in Stockholm? Share me the link and I will read it up too 🙂

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