spotlight

¡Hola Barcelona!

[trip style = urban + beach & sun]

Mention Barcelona to Europeans and the response will be Ahh... Barcelona! I love Barcelona! The beach, the food, the city... Mention Barcelona to North Americans and the response will be Watch out for pickpockets! I traveled to the largest city on the Mediterranean Sea with high hopes and street smarts, ready to conquer the city on my own before meeting up with friends. Follow along for my Do / Eat / Stay recommendations.

DO // Walk along the waterfront and out to the beach in  La Barceloneta .

DO // Walk along the waterfront and out to the beach in La Barceloneta.

DO // Neighborhoods so charming that I didn't mind getting lost in them: El Born, Barri Gòtic and El Raval. Explore the Ciutat Vella {old city} by foot and always remember to look up.

DO // Neighborhoods so charming that I didn't mind getting lost in them: El Born, Barri Gòtic and El Raval. Explore the Ciutat Vella {old city} by foot and always remember to look up.

El Born

El Born

DO // Visit Gaudí's  Park Güell  to experience art nouveau architect Antoni Gaudí's curvy mosaic masterpiece/public park.

DO // Visit Gaudí's Park Güell to experience art nouveau architect Antoni Gaudí's curvy mosaic masterpiece/public park.

Casa Trias, Park Güell

Casa Trias, Park Güell

DO // Don't miss the architectural centerpiece of the city, Gaudí's  La Sagrada Familia , and if you plan on going inside, buy tickets ahead. The detail will blow your mind! No wonder it's still a work in progress.

DO // Don't miss the architectural centerpiece of the city, Gaudí's La Sagrada Familia, and if you plan on going inside, buy tickets ahead. The detail will blow your mind! No wonder it's still a work in progress.

Six-story human tower {castell}, Catalan festival

Six-story human tower {castell}, Catalan festival

DO // All Gaudí all the time? Marvel at the mind of Spain's most famous architect inside  Casa Batlló   and  Casa Milà .

DO // All Gaudí all the time? Marvel at the mind of Spain's most famous architect inside Casa Batlló and Casa Milà.

DO // Trek up to the highest point in the city for incredible views and  amusement park rides  at Mount Tibidabo. Best reached by bus or metro and 1901-built funicular. Bonus points for re-enacting scenes from  Vicky Cristina Barcelona .

DO // Trek up to the highest point in the city for incredible views and amusement park rides at Mount Tibidabo. Best reached by bus or metro and 1901-built funicular. Bonus points for re-enacting scenes from Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Sagrat Cor church, Tibidabo

Sagrat Cor church, Tibidabo

EAT //  Bar Lobo  is a fun indoor/outdoor restaurant with memorable fried eggplant and tuna tataki near the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art {MACBA} in El Raval.

EAT // Bar Lobo is a fun indoor/outdoor restaurant with memorable fried eggplant and tuna tataki near the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art {MACBA} in El Raval.

EAT // "Come for one and stay till two" as the expression goes at one of the city's cheap, cheerful and tiny cava bars —  El Xampanyet  in El Born or  Can Paixano  {La Xampanyeria} in La Barceloneta.

EAT // "Come for one and stay till two" as the expression goes at one of the city's cheap, cheerful and tiny cava bars — El Xampanyet in El Born or Can Paixano {La Xampanyeria} in La Barceloneta.

EAT //  Luzia  is the perfect hideaway off Las Ramblas for delicious cava sangria and tomato salad.

EAT // Luzia is the perfect hideaway off Las Ramblas for delicious cava sangria and tomato salad.

EAT //  Café Cometa  is a colorful rest stop for a coffee or a juice in Sant Antoni.

EAT // Café Cometa is a colorful rest stop for a coffee or a juice in Sant Antoni.

STAY // I stayed at the budget-friendly and stylish  Praktik Garden  in the Eixample neighborhood. It's close to the metro, shopping street Passeig de Gracia and Gaudí's Casa Batlló and Casa Milà.

STAY // I stayed at the budget-friendly and stylish Praktik Garden in the Eixample neighborhood. It's close to the metro, shopping street Passeig de Gracia and Gaudí's Casa Batlló and Casa Milà.

Things to know

  • Many residents speak only Catalan and Spanish
  • Aerobús is the easiest way to travel between the airport and the city centre
  • The best times to visit are Spring and Fall
  • The city is very walkable with a good transit system
  • Be vigilant with your wallet/handbag in busy tourist areas
  • Many shops are closed on Sundays
  • Dinner is traditionally eaten after 9pm
  • If you have time, leave the city limits to visit Monserrat or Sitges or Figueres and Cadaqués
     

This post is written by Trip Styler's Assistant Wayfarer/Editor Heather.

Related
Hola España
Spotlight :: Amsterdam

[images by @heatherlovesit, 12hrs.net, airbnb.com, parcguell.cat, sagradafamilia.cat, lapedrera.com, anekdotique.com]

Spotlight :: Stockholm

[trip style = urban]

Stockholm is hands down one of the coolest—and most scenic—European capitals. Situated on the Baltic Sea, Stockholm is spread out across 14 islands. If you walk from historic Gamla Stan to upscale Östermalm to picturesque Djurgården you'll see that each island has its own identity and all are worth visiting. {Check out our Södermalm Guide.}

I traveled to Stockholm this summer with friends and it was a highlight of my Scandinavian vacation. With a historic yet modern feel and a hip yet friendly vibe, it's a city—like New York—that will no doubt have you—like me—saying "next time..." I'm already dreaming up my return.

Eat

Make no mistake: Stockholm is expensive. Cocktails are $30 each. A running joke during my trip was that we'd go out for cocktail—singular—because they were too expensive to order more than one. After an evening at the photography museum, my friend and I met up with our Swedish friend and host for late-night cocktail and tapas at AG, a meat-focused restaurant and bar tucked away on a side street in Kungsholmen inside an old silver factory.

Some popular and pricey eateries have smaller, casual restaurants attached to them called bakficka, which translates to back or hip pocket. One such restaurant combo that I'd love to visit is Oaxen Krog & Slip on Djurgården. Dine at Krog for a fine dining experience and Slip for casual fare, with both menus focused on seasonal Nordic cuisine.

Another money-saving tip, besides going out for cocktail and eating in bakfika, is to look for restaurants that serve dagens rätt, a daily lunch special that typically includes a main course, salad, bread and coffee. I met up for a $15 dagens lunch with friends at meat-centric Köttbaren in Vasastan. For additional affordable lunch options, try one of the stylish restaurants at Mood Stockholm.

Do

Walk around the harbour and over to Djurgården, a beautiful island dedicated to the pursuit of recreation, culture and fun. The island is home to many of Stockholm's museums, as well as beautiful parkland. My favorite oasis in the middle of the city is Rosendals Trädgård, a garden and cafe in an idyllic setting. Buy a kanelbulle from the cafe and take it into the apple orchard for fika, where you can sit amongst locals sprawling out on blankets or picking wildflowers from the u-pick garden. Rent a bike at the entrance to Djurgården and cycle along the water's edge.

When the weather is warm, escape the city and spend a day or more on an island in the Stockholm Archipelago. It takes only 30 minutes to reach Fjaderholmarna, where you can visit a brewery and enjoy a meal of freshly caught fish.

Rub shoulders with stylish Swedes who could be mistaken for Alexander Skarsgård and Lykke Li at the Acne Studios flagship store. While you can buy Acne anywhere, what better place to pick up their famous Canada scarf than the flagship store housed in a former bank building that was the location of the 1973 bank robbery and hostage situation that gave rise to the term "Stockholm Syndrome"? For outlet pricing, visit Acne Archive in Vasastan.

More must-visit Swedish shops include Byredo for unique fragrances, Rodebjer for progressive women's fashion, Lotta Agaton for housewares {open thursdays only} and H&M-owned brands & Other Stories and COS.

Stay

Check in to one of the many stylish yet pricey hotels around the city. While I stayed in an apartment, I'd stay at any of the Design Hotels properties or either of the Story Hotels. {See our Södermalm Guide for more hotels.}

Photos

Fika in the orchard at Rosendals Trädgård

Café at Rosendals  Trädgård

Café at Rosendals Trädgård

Greenhouse seating area at Rosendals T rädgård

Greenhouse seating area at Rosendals Trädgård

Street cart liquorice on Djurgården

Street cart liquorice on Djurgården

Köttbaren restaurant

Köttbaren restaurant

Oaxen Slip restaurant

Oaxen Slip restaurant

Vintage café tram on the No 7 Djurgården Line

Vintage café tram on the No 7 Djurgården Line

When to Go

The city is at its best and brightest from May to September, and summer kicks off at Midsummer, when you can join locals in a dance around a maypole and wear a flower crown on your head at the bestand most bohemianparty of the year.

Getting There

Stockholm's Arlanda Airport is located about 40 kms from the city centre. The easiest ways into town include the Arlanda Express train {20 mins/$39} or the Flygbussarna bus {45 mins/$18}. Taxi fares are posted on the side of the cab, but vary according to the taxi company. Look for the best rate instead of the closest cab.

This post is written by Trip Styler's Assistant Wayfarer/Editor Heather.

Related
Stockholm :: Södermalm Guide
Spotlight :: Helsinki
Spotlight :: Copenhagen {Part 1}
Spotlight :: Copenhagen {Part 2}
Jetset Style :: Scandinavia-Inspired Jackets

[images by @heatherlovesit except oaxen slip via restaurant]

Stockholm :: Södermalm Guide

IMG_4339 copy.jpg

[trip style = urban]

"I have found my people" I announced on social media after spending just one day in Stockholm, roaming around the city's hippest hood with friends. Popular with young, creative Stockholmers, Södermalm is an urban island known for its trendsetting shops and restaurants heavily influenced by Swedish design. It also has the benefit of being home to some of the most picturesque postcard views of the city. 

Do
Visit Fotografiskaa photography museum housed in an early 1900s industrial building next to the cruise ship docksand one of Stockholm's most popular attractions for both tourists and locals. I visited on a Saturday night, which turned out to be date night in the dimly lit gallery, evidenced by the couples staring more longingly at each other than the photographs. Stay for brunch or dinner in the restaurant or, during the summer, in the outdoor grill with live music in the evenings.

Browse through carefully curated racks of Swedish clothing and accessories at Grandpa, where I could have spent an hour trying on leather bags by Sandqvist and jackets by Carin Wester, and at Bruno Götgatsbacken, where I found some great pieces by Hope. Don't miss other Swedish shops around the neighborhood like Stutterheim Raincoats, Nudie Jeans, Filippa K, Whyred and Acne Studios.

Eat
The best thing about Sweden, besides the beautiful blondes, might be fika, an afternoon coffee break accompanied by a lil' somethin' sweet. The perfect treat for fika is a kanelbulle {cinnamon bun}, also known as kardemummabulle when the dough contains cardamom. Less sweet than North American cinnamon buns, kanelbullar are topped with pearl sugar instead of icing sugar. Drop by Fabrique {next to Grandpa} to try one. I might even suggest that you stop at every bakery you see for some comparative kardemummabulle shopping. Skip the metro and walk off the calories as you navigate the cobblestone streets to Old Town.

Speaking of sweets, I loved Pärlans Konfektyr, a charming caramel shop inspired by the 1930s and 40s, where you can peek into the kitchen and watch the caramel makers hand wrap flavors like vanilla sea salt, salty licorice and rose.

For something more substantial, pull up a bright yellow and hot pink stool at Urban Deli or one of the other restaurants and cafés surrounding Nytorget Square, like Edith, Gildas Rum or Sardin.

Stay
I was fortunate to stay with a friend in Stockholm, but I spied a few hotels around Söder, like ABBA member Benny Andersson-owned Hotel Rival and more budget-friendly Scandic Malmen. Exploring the city for more than a couple days? Stay in one of the many spacious and stunningly decorated apartments for rent on airbnb.

This post is written by Trip Styler's Assistant Wayfarer/Editor Heather.

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Jetset Style :: Scandinavia-Inspired Jackets
Spotlight :: Copenhagen {Part 1}
Spotlight :: Copenhagen {Part 2}
Spotlight :: Helsinki

[images by @heatherlovesit except fotografiska via museum website, grandpa via store website, parlans via lillenord]

Spotlight :: Helsinki

[trip style = urban]

Helsinki is a modern and forward-thinking city of design, culture, history and harbour. Design is as intrinsic to Finnish identity as saunas, which are a source of national pride {and public nudity}. The Finns roast themselves to a boiling point before jumping into the Baltic Sea and then repeat the process all over again.

In a country that borders Russia and stretches into the Arctic Circle, Helsinki feels one part Scandinavia and one part Eastern Bloc. It's both edgier and friendlier than its Nordic neighbors, which is admirable in the winter when it sees as little as five hours of daylight. You may want to visit in the early summer, when it sees up to 19 hours of daylight. Don't forget your eye mask!
 

DO
Everything is within walking distance in Helsinki. Charming cobblestone streets connect the must-see churches, parks, art nouveau buildings and design shops. But you'll need an umbrella in a city that sees an average of 191 days of rainfall every yearthat's more than Vancouver, but less than Twilight-famous Forks, WA. During my four-day mid-August visit with friends, I experienced sun, rain and hail but I didn't let the weather rain on my parade. As the Finnish say, there's no bad weather, only bad clothing! {Check out our stylish rainwear picks!}

The most engaging and colorful afternoon of our trip was spent at Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. The best part of the experience was that it was so tactile; we were encouraged as visitors to touch many of the installations, which made us feel like we were breaking the rules. Helsinki's quirky and contemporary cultural scene is so strong that the city is in negotiations to become the next outpost for the Guggenheim Museum.

Architecture enthusiasts will appreciate the churches of Helsinki. The statuesque Helsinki Cathedral sits high above Senate Square and its steep steps are a popular gathering place when the sun is shining. A minimalist escape from the chaos of the city, Kamppi Chapel is a small space made from curved wood and designed for silent prayer and contemplation. Temppeliaukio Church {Rock Church} feels more like a Bond villain's secret lair than a Lutheran church; quarried out of natural bedrock in the 1960s, this famous church welcomes visitors year round.

Don't miss the Design District, an area of 25 streets with 150 boutiques, galleries, antique stores and cafes ripped from the {web}pages of Etsy. Next, stop by tiny Finnish design shop Salakauppa for a modern twist on traditional Finnish footwear, Artek for innovative furniture and Marimekko for housewares, textiles and clothing in the Finnish brand's iconic graphic prints.


EAT
The Finns are the highest consumers of coffee per-capita in the world. In an effort to blend in with the locals, coupled with a bout of bad weather, we had an especially caffeinated visit to the Finnish capital. Our Helsinki motto was "But first, coffee", which led us to multiple cafes a day. Since man cannot live on macchiatos alone, I've included restaurant suggestions to dampen the coffee buzz.

Freese Coffee Co // Friendly staff, fantastic coffee and fresh food can be found at this delightful coffee shop a stone's throw from the Rock Church. This cozy cafe was a haven from a freak hail storm; we shared cakes and thumbed through modern periodicals like Cereal and Lucky Peach while waiting out the storm. {Note: hours are limited, so check before you go!}

Old Market Hall  // Eat at Story in the renovated food market or grab some candied salmon skewers, freshly baked bread and lingonberry jam and step outside to hop a ferry for Suomenlinna,  an 18th-century island fortress that's popular with both locals and visitors.

Old Market Hall // Eat at Story inside the newly renovated food market or grab candied salmon skewers, a loaf of bread and lingonberry jam and step outside to hop a ferry for Suomenlinna, an 18th-century island fortress popular with locals and visitors.

Sandro // Middle Eastern fare in Finland? Why not? This laid-back restaurant in the hipster Kallio District, born out of a food truck and into a brick and mortar, serves dishes like confit duck burger with pomegranate yogurt and za'atar fatan salad with avocado mousse. After the meal, pop next door to Good Life Coffee for the neighborhood's best brew.
 

STAY
I stayed in an apartment a short tram ride outside the city center {there are lots of cool spaces on airbnb}, but if a boutique stay is more your speed, try Klaus K or Glo Hotel. Whatever you choose, look for accommodations close to the harbor in the Punavuori, Kallio or Centrum districts.

This post is written by Trip Styler's Assistant Wayfarer/Editor Heather.

Related
Spotlight :: Copenhagen {Part 1}
Spotlight :: Copenhagen {Part 2}
Jetset Style :: Scandinavia-Inspired Jackets
Roam+Board :: Hotel Kakslauttanen
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[images by @heatherlovesit & @graceyvr except freese coffee co via kinfolk & story restaurant via retail design blog]

Spotlight :: Copenhagen {Part 1}

[trip style = urban]

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen / Friendly old girl of a town
'Neath her tavern light / On this merry night
Let us clink and drink one down

"Wonderful Copenhagen"

Cocktails and coffee in Copenhagen almost sums up my two-day trip to the Danish capital, where as the lyrics go, I clinked and drank one down. While I'd recommend a few more days to explore, two days were just enough to get a taste and know I'd be back for seconds.

Today I'll cover where to drink and shop and next week I'll recommend what to eat and do. And yes, it involves bicycling, because when in Rome {except in this case Rome feels more like Amsterdam of the North}. In a city of 570,000 people and 650,000 bikes, I wonder if their biking habits contribute to their nation's ranking as the happiest country on earth? It could be the fresh air and exercise, but it could be the cocktails and coffee.
 

Drink

The Union Bar
Head towards the charming yet touristy Nyhavn Street, turn right down a side street and look for an unmarked black door, ring the golden bell above the sign that says "Nordic Fitting Models" and wait to be buzzed in. In this dark, dimly lit speakeasy, innovative and approachable bartenders serve killer cocktails. The prices are steepabout $25 cadbut the drinks are strong and the experience is unforgettable. That is, if you can find it. {Neighborhood: Nyhavn}

Mikkeller Bar
If you like boys with beards or girls with topknots, you will like this bar. If you like neighborhoods formerly known as red light or meatpacking districts, you will like this bar. If you like communal picnic tables and cozy industrial-styled basements, you will like this bar. And if you like imaginative beer dreamed up by a gypsy brewer, you will like this bar. {Neighborhood: Vesterbro or Nørrebro}

The Coffee Collective
My morning coffee fix was satisfied at The Coffee Collective in Nørrebro, on a street occupied by small boutiques, progressive restaurants and cool dads out with their kids. If the sun is shining, sit at a long table outside this compact coffee bar and roaster and enjoy a cortado and vibrant street scene view. {Neighborhood: Nørrebro, Torvehallerne or Frederiksberg}

Den Plettede Gris
You don't have to ask me twice to visit the tiny cafe attached to the workshop of my favorite Danish designer—especially one as eccentrically appealing as Henrik Vibskov. A three-minute bike ride from the Opera House, on an island that's home to a science museum, a food truck hall and several design businesses, Den Plettede Gris is an ideal escape for coffee and a peek into the designer's creative center. {Neighborhood: Paper Island}

Shop

The city's main shopping area centers around Strøget, one of the longest pedestrian streets in the world at over 1 km. Look for department stores, high street chains and design shops on the main drag, and specialty and high end shops on the side streets.

Every good shopper knows you start in the sale section. Don't miss the deals at the Acne Archive outlet store, where I spotted an impressive selection of denim, and the Wood Wood Museum outlet, where I spotted stylish Japanese sneaker collaborations and discounted Common Projects sneakers.

More shops worth your time are the flagships of Danish womenswear brand Ganni and Danish menswear brand Norse Projects, as well as lifestyle concept stores Storm and Normann. Keep an eye out for Danish brands like Rains and Ilse Jacobsen, whose rain jackets and boots will keep you dry in style.

Finally, mentally furnish your dream home with contemporary Danish designs from Hay House. Even if you can't fly home with a sofa, you can pick up a neon geometric tea towel or brass kitchen tool from the gorgeous shop on Strøget. And set aside time to browse the massive Illums Bolighus, purveyor to the Royal Danish Court and temple of modern Scandinavian design.

This post is written by Trip Styler's Assistant Wayfarer/Editor Heather.

Related
Jetset Style :: Scandinavia-Inspired Jackets
Spotlight :: Copenhagen {Part 2}
Spotlight :: Amsterdam

[images by @heatherlovesit & @graceyvr except union bar via stirred.dk, mikkeller bar via their website, hay house via joelix.com]