Travel doesn’t always have to be far away; sometimes you can explore your own area through the eyes of a tourist. As you know, I have been living and working in Stockholm since May 2012.
To me it’s home. To you it’s a destination! Let me show you around my neighbourhood.
If you’re planning a visit to Stockholm this summer you should make time in your itinerary to check out SoFo: a district of the city known for retro thrift stores, vintage fashion, designer boutiques, artisan workshops, organic health food stores, and cafes galore – think Swedish, international, vegetarian, and vegan cuisine – all catering to Stockholm’s hipsters.
Formerly a working-class district on the island of Södermalm, the name SoFo is an abbreviation referring to the area ‘South of Folkungagatan’—with the main streets being Bondegatan, Skånegatan, and Södermannagatan. During the long white nights of the Swedish summer, the streets of SoFo come alive with Stockholm’s hipster crowd—whether rifling through a battered box of vinyl records, or finding a bargain 70s dress; enjoying fika at a street side café, or hanging out in cool bars like Pet Sounds and Vampire Lounge.
On a summer’s evening in the streets of SoFo people over-spill the bars and restaurants to mingle in the street—and it is not an uncommon sight to see youngsters pull a mattress, cushions, or even a threadbare sofa out onto the pavement in order to make street socialising that little bit more comfortable.
Those who say that the Swedes are cold and isolated have clearly never visited SoFo!
It’s not just Swedes who tend to frequent SoFo’s hotspots: tourists and expats alike hang out to enjoy the chilled back vibe—creating a dynamic multicultural vibe that buzzes late into the night.
The neighbourhood is not without fame: Hollywood actress Greta Garbo grew up just outside of SoFo at the start of the Twentieth Century, back when Södermalm was still a poor working class district, and she is honoured in Greta Garbo Torg in SoFo.
No longer a poor district, SoFo still maintains a working class feel with artists, hippies and bohemians seeking out a bargain or two in the boutiques, but the increasing number of homeless beggars along Folkungagatan and Medborgarplatsen (an uncommon sight in most of Stockholm) suggest there is plenty of wealth to be found in the area these days, or maybe the inhabitants of SoFo are just more giving?
So next time you are in Stockholm, by all means visit Gamla Stan—the pretty old town—but make sure you visit a real Stockholm neighbourhood too! To get to SoFo, take the green line on the Tunnelbana to Medborgarplatsen and take the exit onto Folkungagatan. Or it’s a 20-minute walk from Gamla Stan. The last Thursday of every month is SoFo Night, when shops are open later and special events take place in the area.
I think I’m pretty lucky to live in such a colourful and vibrant neighbourhood. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!