Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

Exploring Stockholm’s Södermalm Neighborhood with Context Travel

With less than a week in Stockholm and a conference to attend, we had limited time to explore the city. We ended up joining a walking seminar with Context Travel for our conference activity. After a relaxing morning, we set off to meet our group to get a deeper look into Södermalm, one of Stockholm’s many islands.

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

Context offers a wide range of walking seminars with either private guides or a very small group. The walks are for “Intellectually Curious Travelers”, as they focus on diving deep into the local culture of the city you are visiting. The walks are led by local experts; private tours can be customized to your own individual interests or you can join one of the small group sessions with no more than six others. Context calls their local experts docents, as they are scholars or specialists in their field—most have Masters, Ph.D.s or degrees in their field.

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

The seminar we joined was called “Södermalm – Hidden Paths & Hipster Headquarters”. Our docent, Elisabeth, has lived in the Södermalm area for a large portion of her life, so she was very knowledgeable about the history and local culture of the neighborhood. Each tour is a bit different depending on the groups interest and interactions, so it was fun to see where the afternoon would lead us.

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

The Södermalm neighborhood is now a trendy part of town but this wasn’t always the case. Over the years the neighborhood has transitioned and grown—in the early 1900’s the area was very poor, filled with tobacco fields, and children worked in the factories. Then, in the 1960’s the subway system connected the neighborhood to the “Old Town” and new construction and a mall were developed. Today, you will find a trendy neighborhood with a hipster influence and style. Throughout our tour, we discussed how and why some of these changes occurred and gained insight into what it means for the residents of Stockholm today.

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

We started our tour in the Slussen area near the locks that connect the Södermalm and Gamla Stan islands. After an introduction and a rough outline of our afternoon, we made our way uphill towards the old streets of the “Häckelfjäll” neighborhood. You can find plenty of houses and buildings that were built in a traditional style well before the neighborhood became trendy. The city of Stockholm owns hundreds of these buildings and rents them out at a reasonable rate, but the city is still going through a housing crisis as many residents want to move out of the suburbs and into the emerging neighborhoods throughout the city.

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

As we wandered through the beautiful cobblestone streets lined with old houses and buildings, we were told stories about kings, queens, superstitions, beheadings and more. We learned that the streets in Stockholm were named after the people that lived on them and their jobs, and we found out why the buildings were all painted in similar colors. For example, one reason the wood was painted with red paint was because it was made from copper and it helped preserve the buildings.

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

When the neighborhood started changing and a mall was built in the 1960’s, many of the residents were unhappy, and the varied transitions over the years have certainly caused the Södermalm neighborhood growing pains.

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

During the tour, we chatted about the changes that have occurred over the years while walking and riding on public transportation. One of my favorite stops on the tour was the pillar in the Hotnstull subway station. This pillar was decorated with molds of various peoples’ body parts such as noses, lips, hands, arms, and more. The artist put up post it notes that said “if you want to become eternal, call me” and she cast molds of the people who contacted her to use in this piece of art. It was fascinating because you didn’t even realize what was covering the pillar until taking a closer look!

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

After getting a peek at Hotnstull, the area that once was tobacco fields and is now home to a mall, we made our way back to the heart of Södermalm.  The streets were lined with thrift shops, boutiques, parks, bookstores, and cafes perfect for an afternoon fika of coffee and treats. As we walked, I found plenty of stores that I made a mental note to return to after the tour. We were going to visit Pärlam for some traditional candy, but for some reason, it was closed on the day of our tour. Instead, we took a break and relaxed in a park while our dossier picked up some sweet caramel treats at a store nearby.

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

While I don’t want to give away too many specifics of the tour, I will say that it gave me a deeper understanding of how the city has grown and evolved over the years. Södermalm started out as an old and poverty stricken neighborhood, it then circled to a newer lifestyle with the construction of a shopping mall in the 1960’s, and now it is home to the trendy, hipster community which makes it one of the most sought after neighborhoods in the city. All of these transitions have created both good situations and bad situations for the residents of Stockholm, and we enjoyed going deeper to find out what those changes might mean for the neighborhood going forward.

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

After the tour, we couldn’t resist sticking around the area to browse in a few of the shops and boutiques. I was tempted to purchase several items, but our suitcase space wouldn’t allow for it, so we went out for lunch instead. We stopped at Kaferang, an adorable café, where we enjoyed a delicious lunch and spent time reflecting on everything we had just learned on our Context Tour.

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

Context Travel, Stockholm, Sweden

It was a great introduction to the beautiful city of Stockholm, and we couldn’t wait to get out and explore even more!

 

Special thanks to TBEX and Context Travel for organizing and hosting us on this kayaking adventure! As always, all opinions are our own.

20 Comments
  • Kavey at Kavey Eats
    Posted at 03:35h, 01 April Reply

    This is exactly the kind of tour we love to take too, one with small groups (or private) and with a real focus on understanding the history, the culture and lots of local insights and tips as well. I was thinking about where to go for an upcoming city break and Stockholm is now firmly on the list!
    Kavey at Kavey Eats recently posted…Travel Quote Tuesday | Augustus HareMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 19:57h, 07 April Reply

      Glad to hear you are considering Stockholm! It’s such a great city–we had a wonderful time exploring. If you do go, there are several different Context tours offered–they all sound pretty interesting!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: Nova Scotia, CanadaMy Profile

  • Megan Jerrard
    Twitter:
    Posted at 04:05h, 01 April Reply

    I love that Context travel offers tours for “Intellectually curious travelers” – that’s such a great way to describe their desired customers! I love that these tours dive deeper into the city than your regular walking tour – sounds like you really got to immerse yourself in the history of the city as you explored.

    The pillar in the Hotnstull subway station is crazy! How phenomenal that you can just call and become part of the art!! I haven’t been to Stockholm yet, though it sounds like it’s a pretty diverse and fascinating city, with some interesting neighborhoods.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 19:59h, 07 April Reply

      Yeah, we loved that they offer tours with such a deep look into a place! Always so nice to get a better context and perspective on a city. And yeah, isn’t that crazy about the pillar?! Would be so interesting to be a part of it!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: Nova Scotia, CanadaMy Profile

  • Raksha Nagaraj
    Posted at 05:00h, 01 April Reply

    First of all I would like to say such beautiful pictures, especially of the man sculpture and the pillar. And thank you for taking me through the journey of Stockholms. Hopefully I would visit this place some day and when I do, I would definitely revisit your article to take this as a guidance.

  • Danik
    Posted at 09:31h, 01 April Reply

    I been to Stockholm many times but never come across the Sodermalm district and now after reading this, I want to go. Thanks for sharing this post and amazing photos. 🙂
    Danik recently posted…Exploring the small Norwegian city of VardøMy Profile

  • Jenn Coleman
    Posted at 23:05h, 01 April Reply

    As always, I love your photography. This tour sounds fantastic. Love the Hotnstull Station pillar. It looks like it’s something straight out of GOT.
    Jenn Coleman recently posted…Glamping the New Wave of EcotourismMy Profile

  • carla abanes
    Posted at 19:16h, 02 April Reply

    I wonder if I am intellectual traveller, but I am pretty sure I am a curious one and loves walking tours with locals! The only way to know that characteristic of a destination.
    carla abanes recently posted…Your Ultimate Guide to Sarangani, PhilippinesMy Profile

  • Vicki Louise
    Twitter:
    Posted at 09:09h, 03 April Reply

    What a great tour! And I love they have academic experts on the payroll – I’m sure it would give an totally different feel to a tour having someone with such a deep knowledge about the place. The pillar in the Hotnstull subway station is crazy – and what a thrill to be able to call up and be part of the art!

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 20:04h, 07 April Reply

      Yeah, I loved that our guide had a deep knowledge about Stockholm and the neighborhood. Made for such an interesting tour! And I agree–would be so cool to be part of the art!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: Nova Scotia, CanadaMy Profile

  • Reshma Narasing
    Posted at 23:26h, 03 April Reply

    A great tour by Context travel! I love walking tours. I loved your tour with such amazing pictures! The homes and the cobbled street looks so wonderful. It saddens to know that mall came up. Hope the neighbourhood is well preserved. Thanks for taking me on this virtual journey.
    Reshma Narasing recently posted…Camping in Thar Desert – A Night Under The Stars in JaisalmerMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 20:32h, 07 April Reply

      Thanks! It was a great tour and interesting neighborhood filled with both old and new. We definitely found some pretty well preserved areas, so that was great!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: Nova Scotia, CanadaMy Profile

  • Guy Crotty
    Posted at 00:22h, 04 April Reply

    Love a good walking tour! So often they’re the cheapest, best option to get th inside word on a place. We went to Sweden a few years ago but don’t think we explored Soderberg much. Next time!

  • Jennifer
    Twitter:
    Posted at 16:00h, 05 April Reply

    I love the juxtaposition of old and new in this neighborhood.

    I haven’t been to Stockholm, but I have been to other parts of Sweden and I always enjoy it. They are definitely in to their candy and sweets. And fikka is brillant. Looks like you had a great time discovering Stockholm!
    Jennifer recently posted…The Perfect 3-Day Weekend in BristolMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 20:34h, 07 April Reply

      Thanks, we had a great time! We loved the contrast between the old and new, too–made for such an interesting tour with all the historical insights! Would love to check out more of Sweden on our next visit!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: Nova Scotia, CanadaMy Profile

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