Shopping in Stockholm
There’s an awful lot more to the Stockholm’s retail scene than plastic Viking helmets and ABBA knick-knacks. Shopping here is heavenly, thanks to the fact that the profits of Sweden's post-war prosperity have spent decades pouring into the city's boutiques and stores. The area around Biblioteksgatan has most major European fashion designers, while antique shops can be found around Odengatan.
For a more bohemian selection of clothing than you’d find downtown, as well as quirky design, vintage items and curios, head for Södermalm (particularly the SoFo district), Stockholm's new up-and-coming area, where you’ll find one-off shops and boutiques selling cool and creative items, as well as buzzing cafés, restaurants and hip galleries.
The pick of Swedish glass is on hand at Nordiska Kristall, Kungsgatan 9, established in 1918, or the arts and crafts emporium Konsthantverkarna, at Södermalms Torg 4. Norrgavel, Birger Jarlsgatan 27, has a great selection of cool home furnishings. Nordiska Galleriet, Nybrogatan 11, excels in furniture design, and Designtorget, Götgaten 31, in eclectic curiosities.
For those interested in combining novelty value with retail therapy, meanwhile, the world’s largest IKEA sits in Skärholmen, a short distance southwest of Stockholm proper. Since opening this store in 1965, the Swedish home furnishings giant has established a presence in 25 countries around the world. There are further megastores and shopping malls in the vicinity.
Open all day at Östermalmstorg, Östermalms Saluhall is one of nothern Europe's loveliest covered food market. Also of interest to gourmet travellers is, Glass Hus, Birkagatan 8, which sells some 50 different kinds of exceedingly good ice creams and sorbets, well worth a visit on a hot summer day. Marsipanbåt, moored along Nybrokajen in December, is the place to go if you're a marzipan fan.
Stockholm's best, and oldest, department store is NK (Nordiska Kompaniet), Hamngatan 18-20, which has over 100 departments, selling everything from crafts to health food. Gallerian, Hamngatan 37, and Åhléns City, Klarabergsgatan 50, also sell a bit of everything, from fashion to kitchen appliances, with lower price tags. For trendy fashion and innovative clothing and accessories, try PUB, Hötorget, where Greta Garbo once worked, or Sturegallerian on Stureplan, also home to Stockholm's most renowned spa.
Standard Swedish shopping hours are Monday to Friday 0900-1600 and Saturday 0900-1400. In Stockholm, however, many stores are open for longer and on Sunday.
You’ll find creative souvenir outlets selling everything from designer textiles to one-off ceramics, so while you might end up having to spend a fair bit, there’s exceptional choice. Top tip: check out the city’s numerous museum shops, which stock high quality fabrics, books, jewellery and stationery.
Visitors leaving the country may reclaim the standard VAT tariff of 25% within 30 days of purchase - only available at shops displaying the 'tax free shopping' sign and for purchases over SKr200. The receipt and unopened goods must be presented at the airport for a refund. Global Refund (tel: (04) 104 8450; www.globalrefund.com) can provide further information.