It was a big day starting with the Royal Canal tour around Stockholm, a walk of Gamla Stan (in daylight), watching the changing of the guard, a visit to the palace armoury and then viewing Stockholm at sunset and during the dark afternoon.
Soren was awake by about 7am but Astrid decided to have a much needed sleep in so I took Soren down to breakfast with Alan and Mikl while Anto minded sleeping beauty. Since it was still dark as everyone headed to breakfast (and work for the non-tourists) the view to central looked much prettier from our hotel room!
It was our first morning of hotel breakfast buffet after self-catering for our first week away and it was a pretty good one. A fantastic make your own muesli station, Swedish pancakes, eggs, sausages and bacon and lots of cold meats, cheeses and breads. There was also unlimited coffee which was what I needed. By 8am Anto had to wake Miss A so she could eat before the day was underway. The kids both enjoyed the breaky.
Once we were dressed and organised. After the first couple of days we had the amount of stuff we were carrying during the day down to 2 bags – my camera gear with a few extra bits and pieces + one other bag for snacks, gloves etc. Four adults with only 2 bags and 2 kids to be carried for parts of the day was a much better ratio!
It was a grey morning and the ground was still very wet but it wasn’t raining so we walked from our hotel, back through the city and along the water towards the harbour. The plan for the morning was the Royal Canal tour. Alan had done a one day visit to Stockholm the previous year and Anto and I had done the 2 half day visits in 2012 but none of us had done the boat tour. The 18th of December was the last day it ran for the year so we wanted to do it today if the weather cooperated. The walk down was much more scenic than the previous night, and there was no rain and light (kind of, it was still pretty dark as the sun was only just up at 8.45am).
As we got close to the water we noticed hundreds of ducks, geese and white swans gathered under bridges hiding from the current. They had a pontoon to sit on (covered in straw with food troughs) so were obviously encouraged to gather there. The kids loved saying hello.
Just before 10.30am it was time to board the boat. It was a slightly bigger boat than our Copenhagen tour and as it had rained the night before the outside seats were all wet. We decided to stay inside on the comfy seats and in the dry. Both kids were excited to be going on a boat again. This tour was expected to be 50 minutes so a much more kid friendly length than the Copenhagen one!
The boat tour did a loop of the harbour and around the islands which Djurgarden, Vasa and Nordiska Museet are on. It was a good way to see the beautiful old buildings surrounding the water and learn a little more about the history of Stockholm and it’s buildings. We could certainly tell where all the expensive apartments were (not that much of Stockholm is cheap) and there were some impressive hotels and museums we sailed past. Stockholm is indeed very beautiful from the water.
As we sailed past the islands with the Djurgarden (a large park) and Skansen (the open air zoo) and Noridska Museet and Vasa Museet on it we got a different view from the water of where we were planning to head the next day. We also sailed past Grona Lund, the amusement park (similar to Tivoli in Copenhagen) but it is closed over Winter. The kids were most fascinated by a crane that was made to look like a giraffe. Never mind the many thousand-year old buildings, the giraffe crane was worth the price of the tour for them. It was pretty cool, I’ll have to admit.
This is where Soren started being a little grot (mostly due to being over-tired). You can tell by the look on my face I was less than impressed with his antics and looking forward to being off the boat, as scenic as it was. Luckily the tour concluded in under an hour, doing a loop of the harbour and the closer islands and giving us a good look at the famous parts of Stockholm from the water.
We hopped off the boat and planned to head up to the Royal Palace for the changing of the guard which is at 12.15. We had around 45 minutes so stopped past the outside of the Palace and noticed a statue all trussed up ready for ‘moving’.
We then headed through Gamla Stan for a bit of a wander in the daylight. When you only have 4.5 hour or so of daylight it’s prudent to use it! Everything looks very different in daylight compared to at night with all the lights on. Soren was starting to look very tired, but valiantly resisting sleep!
Then we found the Gamla Stan Christmas markets, for some Swedish market fun. Soren missed it all by finally falling asleep.
As it was approaching 12pm we headed back towards the Royal Palace to meet up with Bjorn and see some guards twirling their bayonets and playing with rifles. After a very mild morning (by Stockholm standards) the wind picked up and we were all a bit cold waiting for the action to start. As the clock struck 12 we all stood and waited in the cold wind…..
…and then an age later it was 12.15pm – and the guards marched out and did their thing. Since Anto, Astrid and I went to the guard changing in 2012 there has been an addition of a wall around the courtyard area and a roped off area to stand in to watch. Alan had been to a changing of the guard in Stockholm in 2014 and had promised horses to Astrid. Alas, today it seemed we had the ‘shortened version’ without the horse parade and marching band. That was promised for the following 2 days (if only we had of known!). We still had plenty of marching and bayonet twirling though (and some Swedish flags) so it was still worthwhile. Mikl was particularly impressed by the ceremonial handing over of the walkie-talkie.
Changing of the guard complete for the day, we headed into the Palace armoury for some fun with knights costumes. We decided not to do the whole palace tour and just visit the armoury as it was more likely to interest the kids and other people had recommended it. Bjorn came along with us for the visit but Alan had visited on his previous visit so decided to go off for a coffee and lunch in Gamla Stan.
There was plenty of funky armour for horses, armour for knights and elaborate clothes for royalty – both big and little. Astrid loved the head armour for the horses and the cute kids outfits.
The kids favourite bits of the armoury was the dress-up area where they got to be knights, princesses or anything else you desired. Soren was quite keen to grab his shield and sword and have a go too. I caught him saying ‘chop, chop’ as he waved the wooden sword around. Clearly we have been taking him to too many museums and giving him ideas!
The boys then decided someone needed to dress up in the armour and Bjorn volunteered. We can all attest that it was neither a quick nor painless procedure and the armour seemed oh-so quiet and flexible.Anto just put one of the helmets on and somehow looked like a Swedish Ned Kelly rather than a knight!
The kids then found the large wooden carriage to play on which we pretty much had to drag them off.
All a bit hungry we then met up with Alan and headed back to Gamla Stan for some lunch. We found a cafe and had some focaccia and hot chocolate, coffee and some of the traditional Swedish cinnamon bun and saffron buns.
After lunch it was my brilliant plan to walk around the city and head somewhere for some nice views of the sunset over the city. When the sun sets by 2.47pm you can head out for your sunset views right after lunch! We had seen this area by boat in the morning but it was a nice afternoon for a walk and we got to see all the lights coming on and the city coming alive.
Bjorn showed us a cool old street he had previously found, full of interesting buildings and then we tried to find a good spot to look at the sunset. Being a cloudy afternoon we didn’t get much of a sunset but we did get a good view of all the pretty lights.
We then headed back in the general direction of our hotel and walked past the giant Christmas tree we had spied earlier in the day from the boat tour. It was indeed quite large and the kids thought it was pretty impressive.
As we got closer to the hotel we found another Christmas market but only had a very brief walk past as the kids had been promised a swim at the hotel and needed some down time. We did see an ice skating rink, which looked rather fun but Astrid was convinced that a swim might be more fun (and easier for her parents).
Back at the hotel by 4pm the kids headed down for a swim with Anto and Alan. The Radisson Blu pool was still stuck in the 80’s with some viking Kitsch and a large plastic shark hanging on one wall, but the kids loved their swim. The previously tired munchkins were activated.
After their swim and showers we decided to head to Bjorn’s dad’s place to cook some dinner. That required some grocery shopping on the way, so we headed into a supermarket in central station to pick up supplies. This is where Astrid temporarily got lost (for about 20 seconds) and was a tad upset, but safe and well once she was returned to us. At least we now know she knows to do the right thing when lost, even in a foreign country. With groceries in hand (and a slight diversion for me to go back to the hotel and pick up cheese from our fridge) we picked up our 24 hour transit cards and headed on the train to our eating/cooking facility for the night. The kids were a bit tired. Astrid slept on the couch while Anto made everyone dinner, and Soren ran around like a crazy person fetching us all drinks. Once we were all fed and watered we decided to take the kids back to the hotel. Despite it only being 8pm-ish, it had been dark for a long time!
Astrid was so tired she ended up being carried back in the ergo, which meant I had to carry Soren in my arms since we’d only taken one ergo with us. He wanted to walk but his walking speed on cobblestones at that time of night did not meet my expectations for getting everyone to bed!
The kids crashed pretty fast once we were back at the hotel, and we hoped for a sleep-in before our last day in Stockholm and our late flight to Gotland the next day.
Stats for Friday the 18th of December 2015 – temperature 3 to 10 degrees with a mean of 6 degrees (it was a Stockholm December heat wave, seriously – it was the record high temperature for that date!). Walking for the day was just shy of 16km, again most of it in the dark and carrying two kids. Sausage and pastry consumption hit an all time low but we had plans to rectify that in the coming days/weeks.