Sweden Shopping and nightlife
Shopping in Sweden
Not for nothing has Sweden, its capital Stockholm in particular, built up a reputation as one of the world’s top destinations for all things fashionable. Cult label Monki stands for popular Swedish fashion, while its denim-focused sister label, Cheap Monday, and Gothenburg brand Dr. Denim, do some of the best jeans on the planet. Other brands to look out for include Fillipa K, Whyred, Acne and Minimarket. Sweden’s flair for design doesn’t stop at fashion either. IKEA is one of the country’s better known exports but rather than heading to one of its stores, hunt down hip locally designed homeware at leading department store, Nordiska Kompaniet or NK (tel: +46 8 762 8000; www.nk.se/stockholm/).
Sweden is justly famous for its fashion and very few places are without at least one branch of H&M. While H&M might be the best known of the Swedish fashion brands, it’s also one of the least special and its ubiquity means giving it a miss won’t leave you missing out. Instead, focus on the higher end labels, which not only are cheaper in Sweden, but also of significantly better quality. Key stops should be at Acne, Fillipa K and Whyred, as well as the boutique shopping centre Mood (www.moodstockholm.se). Cameras, mobile phones and glassware are all excellent quality and cheaper in Sweden than elsewhere in Europe. Also worth looking for are the traditional, brightly coloured Dala horse wooden toys, Sami handicrafts, traditional handknitted Nordic sweaters and Swedish aquavit (schnaps). It’s also easy to find brands originating in other Scandinavian countries, so if you aren’t travelling on to Finland or Denmark, don’t leave without picking up some bold printed clothes and bags from Finnish fabric designer Marimekko (www.marimekko.com) or fabulous minimalist pieces by Danish jewellery designer Georg Jensen (www.georgjensen.com).
In Stockholm, bypass Drottninggatan – the city’s main pedestrian shopping street, which is packed with international high street brands - and head to Götgatan in Gamla Stan, where you’ll find a throng of tiny boutiques selling some of Sweden’s edgiest labels and wonderful homeware.
In Gothenburg, make Nordstan (nordstan.se/en/), Scandinavia’s largest shopping centre – your first stop. Away from the shopping centre, try Magasinsgatan in the Innerstaden district, which is home to an eclectic mix of shops selling everything from fashion to food.
VAT (Moms) is refundable to visitors who are resident in non-EU countries on goods bought at shops participating in the Tax-Free Shopping scheme. The refund is payable to the customer when departing from Sweden at either airports or customs offices at ports.
Mon-Fri 0930-1800; Sat 0930-1400/1600. Some department stores stay open until 1900 or later. In larger towns, some shops have longer opening hours and are also open Sundays 1200-1600. In rural areas, shops and petrol stations close by 1800.
Nightlife in Sweden
Fashion isn’t the only element of Swedish culture that has made the world sit up and take notice; its music scene too has come a long way since the days when Abba ruled the airwaves. Today, Swedish music is as richly varied as its nightlife, proving that the Swedish musical milieu is alive and kicking. Out and about in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, you’ll find plentiful bars, cafés and clubs; many of which will be playing some of Sweden’s finest tunes.
For a more dedicated musical experience, try Stockholm’s Cirkus venue (tel: +46 (08) 5879 8700; www.cirkus.se), which benefits from an enchanting setting in a beautiful baroque building, and has attracted bands from all over the world. For a slightly more highbrow treat, head to a performance from the Royal Ballet (tel: +46 (08) 791 4400; www.operan.se). Outside of the capital, the country’s lyrical approach to nights out continues, with the Court Theatre of the Palace of Drottningholm (dtm.se), which puts on wonderful 18th-century operas.
While the capital’s 24/7 approach to parties wins the plaudits, Malmö is fast building a reputation for its clubs, while Gothenburg offers plenty of options in picturesque surroundings. Nonetheless, Stockholm remains Sweden’s number one destination for party people, with the Södermalm, Vasastan and Kungsholmen districts topping the charts at night. Clubbing is a big part of the Stockholm experience, with music catering for every possible taste, although be warned: death metal nights enjoy a Teflon-like popularity in the Swedish capital, so double check with the club’s website before you go, to avoid a wasted entry fee. Top choices include Berns (tel: +46 (08) 5663 2200; www.berns.se) - one of Sweden’s oldest clubs, Nalen (tel: +46 (08) 5052 9200; www.nalen.com), Mosebacke (tel: +46 (08) 531 99490; sodrateatern.com) and Debaser (tel: +46 (08) 462 98 60; debaser.se), which also has a second branch in Stockholm almost next door.
Away from Stockholm, Malmö has plenty for the hardened night owl to enjoy and as in Gothenburg and the capital, boasts clubs that remain open until three and even five AM. Slagthuset (tel: +46 (040) 611 80 90; slagthus.se) is Malmo’s and Scandinavia’s biggest club and offers three floors of party action, with revels lasting until the small hours, seven days a week. Also worth a look is Club Wonk (tel: +46 (04) 023 9303; www.wonk.se), Malmo’s number one gay nightclub, which offers free entry for drag queens.
Gothenburg, the city that brought Ace of Base to the world, isn’t short of party options either, although one must-try are the schlager clubs and bars, which focus on pumping out the sort of tunes most often heard during the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s hilariously bad taste but incredibly good fun and creates a really upbeat, cheerful atmosphere. At the other end of the spectrum, cool jazz clubs such as Nefertiti (tel: +46 (03) 1711 40 76; www.nefertiti.se) have plenty for hipsters to love.