This is simply the best café in Stockholm. The quality of the food, the attentive service, the constant happy hubbub of the room—it’s a near-perfect café. It’s known for its freakishly huge cinnamon rolls, but opt instead for a slice of one of the cakes (the French cheesecake is outstanding). During the week when it’s calmer, it’s an ideal place to idle away an afternoon with a newspaper or a book; at the weekend it’s more bustling and you’ll be lucky to squeeze in. Regardless of when you visit, it’s a pleasure.
Swedish chef Mathais Dahlgren’s most casual venue (his other two, Matsalen and Matbordet, are also located at the Grand Hotel) is a must-visit for all foodies visiting Stockholm. With a name that translates to The Food Bar, the one-Michelin-starred restaurant serves delightfully relaxed dishes in a welcoming dining room with an open kitchen, U-shaped bar and eclectic furnishings including bright red wooden chairs and a retro floor with blue, red and black tiling. Diners are greeted at their table with a parcel of crisps and butter, and paper placements detailing the day’s dishes, with sections devoted to selections “from our country,” “from other countries,” “from the plant world” and “from the pastry.” Rotating based on seasonality and the freshest produce, the menu might highlight such fare as Scandinavian ceviche and white asparagus and nettles with rye bread, grapefruit and brown butter. One standout item that often makes the menu (with some variation) is the steamed buns with fried chicken, avocado and coriander.
This downtown restaurant is fashionable, formal and fun for dinner before the opera or ballet or for a long, leisurely meal. Situated in the magnificent old Royal Opera House, it’s a portrait of traditional Stockholm style. For a more relaxed bite, the lively Bakfickan bar, popular with locals, serves light Swedish salads and salmon. The hidden Opera bar, in the upstairs warren of the house, is like a late-night club where opera singers and musicians drop in after the performance.
Stockholm locals have long valued fresh, organic ingredients, and most of the city’s neighborhoods feature at least one saluhallar (market hall). One of the first of its kind, Östermalms Saluhall opened in 1888 in the posh Ostermalm nave and has been a Swedish icon ever since. The stunning brick structure houses vendors (many of which are family-owned and have been there since the food hall opened) selling regional specialties like pickled herring, smoked salmon and lingonberry and cloudberry preserves. Those looking for a full proper meal can stop at one of the market’s restaurants, like Lisa Elmqvist.
A favorite with Stockholm’s fashion and art crowds, this institution has been around since 1893, having served as an exclusive club as well as champagne bar and restaurant, which it is now. The elegant bistro, modeled after Café Riche in Paris, lures a stylish mix of elite locals and visitors—making for spectacular people watching—and serves a lengthy menu featuring both French brasserie staples (truffle chicken, moules-frites) as well as traditional Swedish fare including meatballs with lingonberry cream sauce. Open for breakfast during the week and lunch and dinner everyday, Riche is best for a cocktail while taking in the scene or before heading upstairs to the livelier space with a DJ spinning tunes.
Designed with an open kitchen to encourage interaction between the chefs and patrons, Rolfs Kök focuses on husmanskost (“everyday Swedish cooking”). Commissioned to style the interiors, famed Swedish architects Jonas Bohlin and Thomas Sandell infused the dining room with an industrial aesthetic, with grey concrete walls that are lined with chairs instead of art (throughout the course of the night, the seats are taken down for arriving dinner guests). Meals at Rolfs Kök begin with the bread service—a heaping of rolls served one atop another on a skewer—and continue with homey classics like potato pancakes with roe from Piteå, red onion and sour cream and cavatelli with scallops, pork belly and chanterelles, all of which pair excellently with one of the over 450 wines in restaurant’s wine cellar.
This is one of the coolest places in town to grab a drink or some food, which is both good and bad. The good is that when the beautiful people of Stockholm assemble, it is quite a sight. On the other hand, service is wildly uneven. The room is attractive, and the outdoor seating in the summer months offers Grade A people-watching. Come for a drink before dinner elsewhere.
Located in Stureplan, a large square in the center of Stockholm, this Swedish institution is famous for its shellfish and offers consistently lovely food and a great scene throughout the year. The large terrace outside draws locals after work and late into the night (it’s open until 2 a.m. every day). Try to sample Swedish specialties such as herring, prawns or their famous Swedish crayfish (kräftor).
A fika is best described as the Swedish version of afternoon tea. Swedes are the second biggest coffee drinkers in the world (per capita), and love to sit down for an afternoon fika. Opened in 1920, Tösses bakery is considered to be one of the best in Stockholm. Make sure to try a Prinsesstårta (an extraordinary spongy cake filled with custard and cream and covered with a thin layer of marzipan).
The setting, overlooking the harbor, affords views of ferries coming and going to the archipelago and families out for a stroll in the lingering twilight. The décor is modern Swedish, with a soft color palette, airy atmosphere and fish sculptures on the walls. On the menu: impeccably fresh oysters, herring, grilled salmon, poached sole. For a summer dessert, the warm cloudberries with vanilla ice cream is a must. Lunch is served on weekdays.