With the rise of the New Nordic cuisine, it's Copenhagen that's gotten most of the love. But exciting culinary things are happening in Stockholm, too. In fact, with a focus on the freshest ingredients, including tons of exquisite seafood, it's rare to have a bad meal in this town. Sure, you'll often pay handsomely for the privilege—but check out our guide, below, for the best of the city's high-end and cheap eats.
In Stockholm, don't miss the market halls. These old-fashioned proto-supermarkets contain kiosks selling every kind of food: baked goods, cheeses, raw meat, charcuterie, produce, and of course, fish. Most of them also have some quick-service grub stalls and even a few sit-down restaurants. Ostermalms Saluhall is the best known example, though it's by no means only for tourists. For a taste of one of Sweden's most typical dishes, creamy, lemony shrimp-topped toast Skagen, garnished with dill and often fish roe, grab a seat a Lisa Elmqvist.
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K25, in the center of town, is a contemporary take on this concept. Sometimes called “the hipster food court” by locals, it offers 11 fast-casual eating options, with communal seating. You'll find everything from Beijing-style dumplings to traditional Swedish seafood to panini, burgers, or sushi.
The underground Hötorgshallen hall is another don't-miss, mainly because of one amazing lunch option. While you'll find plenty of great stalls offering everything from hummus to veggie burgers, only Kajsas Fisk sells “world famous” (according to its website, anyway) fish soup. The hearty stew, swimming with seafood and adorned with a generous dollop of cream, lives up to the hype; it's a bargain lunch at around $11, including unlimited salad and bread.
Trendy, lively B.A.R. has a pared-down industrial vibe with lots of big windows and natural light. Fresh seafood is the specialty here; you can even walk up to a fish counter setup and pick out your protein. Oysters are top-notch and sides are served family-style. The seafood platter appetizer is a great way to taste the specialties of the Baltic Sea, with langoustine, crab, herring with all the fixings, and incredibly fresh head-on baby shrimp. For dessert, the blueberry pancake is a nice fusion of American and Nordic comfort.
Michelin one-starred Gastrologik makes seasonal Swedish produce the focus, which doesn't mean you won't enjoy ridiculously high-quality meat and seafood as well. Make reservations a few months in advance and prepare for an 18-course parade of deliciousness in a warm, minimalist dining room. If $150 for that experience sounds a bit dear, you might prefer more-casual Speceriet, next door, by the same owner. The a la carte menu features dishes like roast chicken and a tarte-flambee with anchovies; no reservations needed here.
The restaurant of the moment may be Lilla Ego, a neighborhood favorite in Vasatan where two accomplished young chefs serve unfussy Swedish food in a casual, cozy dining room with bare wooden tables and exposed brick. Dishes like steak with root veggies and foie gras or mushrooms with chicken, dill and truffles reliably draw a crowd. Make your reservation well in advance or show up at 5pm, when the place opens, and hope for the best.
Famed chef Mathias Dahlgren has several concepts at the historic Grand Hotel, including the double-Michelin-starred Matsalen. A bit more accessible price- and seat-wise is Matbaren, which holds a few counter seats nightly for walk-ins, in case you haven't planned ahead. The menu at both spots is always extremely seasonal—produce, seafood, is served only at the most optimal time of year.
Much-loved Oaxen began life on Stockholm's archipelago and moved to its current waterside location two years ago. It's two restaurants in one (sense a trend?), including the bistro-style Slip on the ground floor, with a huge wall of windows and patio seating in warm months. The modern Swedish menu is hearty and uncomplicated: house-smoked and cured meats, deep-fried seafood, duck breast with chanterelles. Upstairs at the two-Michelin-starred Krog, it's a different story: On the 6- or 10-course tasting menus you'll find some of the same ingredients, prepared much more elaborately. If you don't want to head back to central Stockholm after your meal, hole up at Oaxen's hotel, the Prince Van Orangiën, an adorable B&B on a boat docked across from the restaurant (open seasonally from April 1 to November 30), where the elaborate and fully homemade breakfast is hard to top.
Fika is an institution in Sweden. The somewhat hard-to-translate concept is basically coffee and pastries with pals; that's where the quintessential Swedish pastry, the cinnamon bun, comes in.
You'll find these treats all over the city in various forms (usually more of bready bun than the icing-topped dessert you may be picturing), but the award for biggest buns goes to Cafe Saturnus, which is also just a charming local hangout great for breakfast, lunch or coffee.
You can't leave Sweden without trying the meatballs—the ones in the homeland are 10 times better than IKEA's. If you have a place to heat up food, Meatballs for the People in trendy Sodermalm sells takeout balls, sauce, and sides quite affordably from a refrigerated case. If not, settle into one of their tables to dine on the flavorful, hearty house specialty, cooked to order. Reservations are a good idea if you plan to dine in, since the place is super popular.
Before food trucks became a thing, there was the Herring Wagon, still a favorite across all social strata for workaday favorites like fried herring on rye bread. The cart is recognizable by its bright-yellow fish-shaped sign, and it parks conveniently at Slussen, where Södermalm and Gamla stan, not to mention tons of transit lines, converge. An open-face herring sandwich will run you under $5, while the works—herring, mashed potatoes, lingonberry, and other accoutrements—rings in at less than $9.
Vegetarians and bargain lovers should definitely hit up Hermans, a beloved local institution with an eclectic meatless buffet that runs about $20 on evenings and weekends and just $13-ish for weekday lunch The creative cooking roves from Asian to Indian to European cuisines, with tons of options at all times. In warm months, grab a seat on the terraced patio outside for incredible views of the harbor.