There’s No Place Like Stockholm


In search of happy places in the Nordic capital.

How satisfied are you with your life? Ask a Swede, and their answer to this question posed in global happiness surveys is usually well above average. The reason? “We tick the boxes for some very fundamental factors,” explains Micael Dahlen, the world’s first professor dedicated to happiness, well–being and welfare at the Stockholm School of Economics. His smorgasbord of factors includes high standards of living, equality, safety, opportunity and access to nature —elements that abound even in the urban capital. “Stockholm is a big city small town,” he says. “You can find everything you want from a big city, but in a small and rural package.” One of Dahlen’s happy places is Kungsträdgården, a central park once home to the royal palace, now known as the city’s outdoor living room thanks to its cherry tree–canopied gathering spots and a full program of events. “Boats dock right next to the park and, as part of the public transit system, head out to all the lovely nearby islands.”

June 5, 2024
A ferry on the open waters of Stockholm
Two women enjoying the sun streaming through the windows of the ferry onto their faces in Stockholm

“I’m always a bit surprised Sweden is one of the world’s happiest places because it is very dark here for a significant part of the year,” says Stockholm–born pop artist Eagle–Eye Cherry. In January, the sun sets around 2:55 p.m. By midyear, when daylight lasts up to 19 hours, Cherry beelines for the beaches of Tantolunden. “You can go swimming right in the middle of the city.”

A woman reclines on the wooden lounge chairs in the infrared sauna room at Centralbadet Spa
Dim overhead lighting gives off a relaxed vibe in the swimming pool of Centralbadet Spa
A woman rinses off under four shower heads while sitting on a tiled banquet at Centralbadet Spa in Stockholm
A woman in a robe from Centralbadet Spa relaxes with her eyes closed at a patio table with refreshments

The sun shines all day and all year at Centralbadet spa, where patrons replenish their vitamin D under solar therapy lamps in the orangery, on a small sundeck and on a rooftop terrace in the summer. Thermal waves replace rays in the full–spectrum infrared sauna, where individual heaters emit light over loungers. The salon “is an art nouveau oasis,” says local interior architect Tekla Evelina Severin.

The Moderna Museet overlooks the canal in Stockholm

With views of the canal, the café at the contemporary art museum Moderna Museet – one of Cherry’s happy places – is an ideal place to practise the Swedish art of fika. More than a coffee break, the cherished custom involves taking the time to savour a warm drink, a sweet treat and a conversation.

A woman from Rosendals Trägård shielding her eyes from the sun in the greenhouse
The dining area of greenhouse café Rosendals Trägård
A man doing food prep in the kitchen of Rosendals Trägård
Mini sandwiches on a baking tray from Rosendals Trägård

Fika is a big deal in Sweden,” says Severin. One of her favourite spots for the ritual is Rosendals Trädgård, a greenhouse café and biodynamic garden on Djurgården Island. Warmth radiates here in all seasons, due in part to the 16–tonne wood–fired oven that churns out seasonal pastries like semla, wheat buns filled with whipped cream and almond paste.

A bartender speaking to a woman seated by the bar at Bonnie's
Personnel at Bonnie's holding a small hammer over a chocolate piggy bank

For dinner with a bang, Lina Nordin Gee, founder of Swedish shoe brand Deuxième Studios, heads to Bonnie’s. “The dining tables are inside the halls of what was once a grand old bank,” she says. While named for half of the Bonnie and Clyde duo, dining and dashing isn’t advised. Instead, “smash” the signature dessert, a chocolate piggy bank served with ice cream.

Ice cream like decorations cover the ceilings at Mörby Centrum in Stockholm

At Mörby Centrum, one of Severin’s preferred metro stops, “the ceiling melts like ice cream over the tiles.” Designed by Gösta Wessel and Karin Ek, the walls change colour based on where you stand. Severin recommends taking a tour of Stockholm’s underground art, including Thorildsplan station’s homage to 8–bit Nintendo.

Diners at Woodstockholm enjoying a conversation with a man behind the bar
A dirt bike sits in the window of the interior of restaurant Woodstockholm in Stockholm
A female server at Woodstockholm beside wine glasses on a counter

If there’s no place like Stockholm, then there’s absolutely no place like Woodstockholm, a furniture shop turned thematic bistro. “Everything from tableware, wine, music and decor changes between menus,” explains Severin. Under the sports theme, wine is cooled in ski boots, oysters are served in trophies and head chef Ida Johansson’s menu pays tribute to legends like Paul, the octopus who predicted eight World Cup matches in 2010. Up next? Japan.