By Erin Huebscher
There are many must-do's when visiting Sweden, but there is one custom you really shouldn't (and won't want to) skip: the much-loved social activity known simply as "fika"—which, when loosely translated into English, means, "to have coffee and cake." Affectionately used as a noun or a verb, it is the time to catch up with co-workers or friends but it also counts as a perfectly acceptable first date. Nowadays in Sweden, you can fika just about anywhere and at any time, although most choose to fika in the late afternoon.
While there are plenty of excellent places to fika in Stockholm, here's a short (and sweet!) list of our top five.
Flickorna Helin Voltaire
Located on Djurgarden, which is one of the 14 islands that comprises Stockholm, Flickorna Helin Volatire is a little gem of a café and restaurant that is luckily open all-year round. In the winter months, take advantage of the romantic ambience and snuggle up to a loved one by the fireplace with a velvety-rich café latte or sit outside with friends on the terrace in the summertime that overlooks the picturesque Djurgården canal. With an in-house bakery that delivers fresh bread and pastries to businesses all around the city, you can always rely on this spot to satisfy your coffee and sugar addictions.
A traditional bakery that both tourists and native Swedes have flocked to for years, Sturekatten is located just off of Birger Jarlsgatan in the ritzy neighborhood of Östermalm. When you walk in, it almost feels as though you've entered a life-sized antique doll house, complete with matching furniture and waitresses who are all dressed in matching white blouses, black skirts and white aprons. This is the perfect location not only for an intimate catch-up but also for some alone time where you can easily curl up with your favorite book and sip a cappuccino.
If you stroll along Hornstulls Strand in Södermalm and make your way to Tantolunden for an afternoon picnic in the summer, you must first stop at Cafe Vurma (pictured above) for a fika fix. Although vegans have fully embraced this charming café and restaurant chain (vegan lattes and cookies, anyone?), Vurma is honestly suited to anyone who revels in seriously delicious food. While those with a savory tooth can delight in their fresh array of smörgåsar (sandwiches), those with a hankering for something sweeter can savor in their cinnamon or cardamom buns, all while drinking out of massive, mismatched coffee cups.
What turns into a packed bar at night with DJs on the weekend is also where, during the day, many of Södermalm's coolest inhabitants choose to fika—Babylon. The menu may be small–think sandwiches, omelets, and a selection of sweet cakes–but the food is fantastically fresh and the service is unusually attentive. Plus, in the dreary wintertime, the colorful chairs and modern décor are sure to brighten up anyone's mood.
Tucked away on the quiet street of Erikbergsgatan, Cafe Saturnus is the ultimate spot to try American-style portions of the "kanelbulle"–also known as the cinnamon bun. Even with cinnamon buns on order, everything about this place screams French–from the intimate booths to the tiled floors with the daily menu written in cursive on a black chalkboard. So it's no wonder that it's packed with Stockholm's finest nearly every day of the week.
Thinking of a trip to Stockholm?
For up-to-the-minute hotel and restaurant recommendations, as well as the best planning advice, check out our Stockholm Travel Guide.