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My City_My Life

Capturing the pulse of cool Stockholm

  • Story Highlights
  • Culture-vulture David Bartal has lived in Stockholm for more than 20 years
  • Nature is close by but Stockholm still maintains a big-city feeling, he says
  • People may be a bit shy, but there are also "lots of extrovert, crazy Swedes"
By Mark Tutton
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(CNN) -- David Bartal is a journalist who grew up in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden after marrying a Swedish woman. He has lived in Stockholm for more than 20 years and writes the blog "Cool Stockholm," which looks at the hottest trends in the Swedish capital.

Blogger David Bartal describes Stockholm as "progressive, quite tolerant, somewhat reserved and beautiful."

Blogger David Bartal describes Stockholm as "progressive, quite tolerant, somewhat reserved and beautiful."

CNN: What is your favorite thing about Stockholm?

David Bartal: Nature is close and accessible. Even if you live in the middle of the city you can get to a forest in a short time, but you still have that big-city feeling.

CNN: Swedes have a reputation as being cold or hard to get to know -- is that fair?

DB: I wouldn't say they're cold, but they are shy. People aren't especially keen to talk to strangers -- they can do quite nicely without them.

People are a bit more reserved than in the U.S., which may not be a bad thing, but if you take the initiative they may be delighted to get to know you and become good friends. And no people are entirely homogenous. There are lots of extrovert, crazy Swedes -- and many of them are my friends.

Video Watch ABBA songwriter Bjorn Ulvaeus take CNN on a tour of Stockholm »

CNN: What is Stockholm like in the winter?

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DB: Between December and March the winter can get a bit long. It's not the cold as much as the dark -- it can make people glum. In the winter, the sun sets at four o'clock, but in summer you get incredibly long, beautiful days. It's one of the most beautiful cities on earth and it's fun to be here in the summertime.

CNN: What do Stockholmers like to do in the summer?

DB: In the summertime many will go to their country houses, they want to get out of the city. If they have a boat they want to be on the boat.

In early August there are crayfish parties. People get together in groups and put on conical hats and paper napkins and eat crayfish, drink hard liquor and sing drinking songs. I've become quite assimilated, but not assimilated enough for crayfish parties! Foreigners just shake their heads in wonder.

Photo See photos of Bjorn Ulvaeus in Stockholm »

CNN: What areas are good for nightlife?

DB: There are two options: Stureplan has glitzy clubs and fancy restaurants. Party people might typically start their evening at the "little bar" at Riche, which has good DJs and attracts an arty crowd, then shift to Berns at midnight for flirting and dancing, and if they know the doorman or are feeling lucky, party in the early hours at celebrity hot-spot Spy Bar.

There's also an area on the south side, mainly up on Mosebacke. It's funkier, a little more bohemian and a little more mellow, with clubs and music venues.

You have to trudge up a steep cobble-stone street to get to the top of Mosebacke, but it's worth the climb. The view of the city at night is amazing and there are some cool nightspots. One of them is Kägelbanan (which means bowling hall). I danced my socks off not long ago there to some high-energy Turkish pop.

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CNN: Sweden is known for its design -- are Stockholmers a fashionable bunch?

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DB: They are fashion conscious -- people follow trends quite slavishly. This season men are wearing red pants and women are wearing gladiator sandals -- it's almost mandatory.

CNN: What are the latest trends in the city?

DB: There's a lot of variety in coffee shops that didn't exist previously. There are imitation New York coffee shops, but there is also some innovation. Ljunggren Cafe, on the south side of town, is very designed. It has low, gray couches spread over a large area creating a very social environment; it's great for people watching.

Also, when it comes to coffee shops I recommend Vete-katten at Kungsgatan 55. It's authentic and retro, furnished like your great-aunt's parlor. They make a delicious open-faced shrimp sandwich and awesome pastries.


CNN: If Stockholm were a person, what would he or she be like?

DB: Progressive, quite tolerant, somewhat reserved, and beautiful.

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