Caroline Martin of Project Travel is our November winner in the ITTN Budding Travel Writer competition – and hence receives a €100 One4all voucher, an invitation to the 23rd Irish Travel Trade Awards at the DoubleTree by Hilton Dublin on Friday 28th November 2014, and the chance to win on the night – along with our six previous monthly winners – the overall prize of a cheque for €1,000 from Travel Counsellors Ireland!
Our seven monthly winners are: May: Kerstie Costello, Grogan Travel; June: Irene McCaffrey, Travel Department; July: Blaithin O’Donnell, Carlson Wagonlit Travel; August: Shane Cullen, Killiney Travel; September: Kathryn McCarthy, Australia Travel Centre; October: Deirdre Sweeny, Sunway Holidays; November: Caroline Martin, Project Travel.
Caroline won a prize of two return flights to Copenhagen, Oslo or Stockholm from SAS at a travel trade event on 12th June 2014 co-hosted by SAS, Hurtigruten and Tumlare, and flew to Stockholm in October. Her winning entry was as follows:
Stockholm: a Super City Break
If you are looking for a new destination for a quick city break, Stockholm comes highly recommended.
To get the journey off to a good start, treat yourself with an upgrade to SAS Plus. This offers all the enjoyment and old-fashioned comforts of flying: a decent baggage allowance, plenty of legroom (you also get those in Go Class), lounge access, complimentary and tasty inflight catering, and complimentary drinks. It’s enough to restore your faith in airlines!
On arrival in Stockholm the options into the city are a one-hour coach journey (approximately €13), a 20-minute express train ride (€29) or a 45-minute taxi (€55). The first two offer the best value and both terminate at the central train station.
We stayed two nights in the Radisson Blu Strand Hotel followed by two more in The Diplomat, both of which offered good travel agent rates. Both hotels face each other across a picturesque quayside with several distinctive, white tour boats moored along side. Many of the cafes and bars, as well as some tours – such as the popular archipelago boat tours – had closed for the season when we were there in late October. It is probably just as well. We found out that three days is just not enough to even scratch the surface of this great capital.
Stockholm is a superb walking city. There are bridges linking its many islands and you quickly get a feel for the layout. We headed along the waterfront to Djurgården, a national park on an island within the city limits and home to several museums, including the amazing Vasa Museum.
If you do nothing else while in Stockholm, visit the Vasa (approximately €14). An original 16th-century galleon (think ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’), she sank on her maiden voyage after sailing just 1,300 metres out into Stockholm Harbour. She lay undisturbed on the seabed for 300 years before being rediscovered, raised to the surface, dry docked and restored. Restoration continues today and, while you can’t go onboard, you can get really close and watch the craftsmen at work over four levels in the specially constructed visitor centre.
Nearby is the ABBA Museum. Tickets (approximately €22) must be booked online in advance for a particular time-slot and the entire venue works on a cashless, card-only basis. If, like us, you just drop in, you should be able to book your tickets there and then using the computers in the foyer, or, for a slight surcharge, at the ticket desk.
Exhibits include original costumes, an interactive video screen where you can sing backing vocals with the group, a recreation of their recording studio (which includes a piano remotely linked to one in Benny’s home which plays when he does) and a telephone which only four people in the world have the number for … so the sign encourages you to answer it if it rings! You would probably want to be a die-hard fan to purchase anything in the museum shop, but the whole experience is great fun and you’ll be humming ABBA tunes for days afterwards.
The old town of Gamla Stan is on its own little island and maintains its original mediaeval layout. Lots of narrow cobbled streets and tall buildings make this a great place to spend a morning, exploring the souvenir shops and cafes. There’s a great buzz at night in this area, which has a bit of a Temple Bar feel to it. If you’re lucky, you might see the changing of the guard at the massive Royal Palace, which takes up an entire corner of the island. Tours are available to certain public rooms and, judging by the crowds, is a popular attraction.
Stockholm is by no means the most expensive of the Scandinavian capitals, but prices can quickly add up if you don’t keep an eye on your budget, particularly if you are heading out for a drink. If you have planned your trip well in advance and know that you’ll be visiting several attractions, it’s worth considering getting a 48-hour Stockholm Card (from around €75). This will cover all your transport costs as well as entry to 80 of the city’s most popular museums, attractions and excursions. Travel agents can apply online for up to three nights for two people at a range of hotels to include the Stockholm Card and airport transfers all for just €70 per night. The deal is offered all year round, subject to your chosen hotel’s availability, on http://traveltrade.visitstockholm.com.
The best tip we got was to eat our main meal at lunchtime. Many places offer a selection of ‘plates of the day’ for around €9 – €11 per person. These usually include a generously sized main dish as well as all-you-can-eat extras such as salads, bread, coffee/tea and in some places a beer or soft drink too. It is far better value than having a similar big meal in the evening.
If retail therapy is your thing there’s plenty to choose from in Stockholm, both high-end luxury brands and a good range of high street stores in a selection of excellent shopping centres. Instead, we spent a day at the Stockholm Open watching the impressive tennis pros. Without a doubt we could have explored the city more: every time we went out we passed more interesting looking museums, galleries and attractions.
Stockholm has loads to offer and one thing is for certain: one visit is not enough. The phrase we found ourselves repeating most often was: “When we come back to Stockholm”, and it definitely won’t be long before we do. For more information, check out www.visitstockholm.com.
Finally, here’s a piece of Irish/Swedish trivia for you. The three-masted ship seen on the home page of that website, the AF Chapman, was originally a trading ship called the Dunoyne built by a Dublin merchant in the 1880s. She is now permanently moored in central Stockholm and is used as a youth hostel.