Everybody who has lived in Stockholm has their own favorite neighborhood. For me it is a couple blocks centered on the little park in front of Centralbadet, a wonderful Art Nouveau (jugendstil) bathhouse from the turn of the last century, one of the city’s architectural jewels. Why is this my neighborhood? Because I lived for three summers at Drottninggatan 88, the headquarters of the Författarförbundet, the Swedish National Authors Association. They have a small apartment that they rent out to a lucky few writers and translators.

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Drottninggatan (Queen Street) runs through downtown Stockholm and intersects with Kungsgatan (King’s Street). It is a pedestrian street so you can stroll pleasantly and enjoy the shop windows and very diverse crowds. The many sidewalk cafes and restaurants give it a Parisian feel.

The part of Drottninggatan that I call home is uphill from Kungsgatan and starts at the Skandia Cinema, designed by the famous Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund in the 1920s and considered one of the most beautiful and historic movie theatres in the world. It has gone through its ups and downs over the decades but was recently restored to its original splendor. It is not usually open to the public but if you see people inside maybe you can talk your way in.

A few yards further on is Olof Palmes Gata. If you turn right and go across Sveavägen you come to the spot where the Swedish Prime Minister was shot in 1986 after seeing a movie with his wife. A bronze plaque marks the spot of the crime that has never been satisfactorily explained or resolved.

At Författarnas Hus (the House of Authors) Drottninggatan 88, you can see where I lived right above Restaurant Al Forno, a nice place to eat. As you go through the portal you see the lovely little park, all that remains of a seventeenth century farm. The bathhouse is in back to the left. The swimming pool with its colorful, flamboyant paintings is quite a place to visit (bring a bathing suit, a towel and 300 crowns! Half price for seniors). There are several restaurants in the park and a wonderful little antique pagoda where ice cream is sometimes sold. It is a great place to relax in shady peace, right in the heart of the city.

Across the street from the Författarnas Hus is another park that features the City Conference Center. This is the former North Latin School (Norra Latin). The school was embellished with art works by some of Sweden’s greatest artists, including Carl Larsson, Prince Eugen and Bruno Liljefors. It is only open when there are conferences going on - and so not usually in the summer - but if you see people coming and going, go down and walk around and enjoy some of Sweden’s greatest art treasures, various restaurants and cafes.

In this part of Drottninggatan there is a very unusual work of public art. It consists of quotations from the Swedish author August Strindberg and is made of stainless steel letters about seven inches high, set in the asphalt. Strindberg was chosen for this because his home was further uphill where the Drottninggatan street meets Tegnérgatan. As you could expect from Strindberg, the quotations are rather extreme and over the top. They are in Swedish but here are a few translations: “Your Mother was here and she leaves after her a smell like that of a snake beaten to death.” “And I don’t believe in God? Yes, I probably do, but I don’t like him since he destroyed my rose bushes.” “A smart rat has a lot of holes.” “To love is to give: Give.”

Continuing our way up Drottninggatan we take a left at the next street, Barnhusgatan, where we find at number 1 Eders Konditori and Bageri (café and bakery). This is a little unprepossessing place, but Dagens Nyheter named it Stockholm’s best bakery. Although it calls itself a konditori where you can sit and have coffee, there are only a few tiny stools so count on doing take-out. Next door at Barnhusgatan 3 is Studio B3 where they sell the most high end, prize winning, designer furniture.

Our next stop is Wallingatan, a short walk uphill. Turn left and stop at number 14, the Aether och Essens Fabrik. This is a store founded right here in 1889 - and it hasn’t changed a bit since then. You feel as though you’re back in the day of Oscar II. They sell herbs and spices, essential oils (like lavender that helps you sleep), extracts, flavorings for akvavit and vodka and eau de cologne. It’s definitely worth a visit. Buy cologne, extracts and oils (in small bottles) but not herbs, since they would surely be taken by customs when you return home.

Turn back to Drottninggatan and continue on Wallingatan till you come to Adolf Fredriks Kyrka. In the cemetery of Adolph Fredrik’s Church, close to the south transept, is the grave of murdered Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. It is very moving - an uncut block of Swedish granite with only his signature carved in the stone. Walk across the street and see Myrorna (The Ants), the Swedish Salvation Army thrift store. I load up on Swedish detective novels but you can buy clothes and fine Swedish crystal, china, pottery, etc.

Upper Drottninggatan is a great place to visit. There are lots of places to eat and shop, most of them bustling and full of people, but there are also cozy quiet nooks here and there where you can be at peace. Best of all it is my old neighborhood. This is the place I left in the morning to go to work and where I came back to at night. It was home.

By James M. Kaplan

For more info, see:
Författarnas Hus www.forfattarforbundet.se
Centralbadet www.centralbadet.se
Eders Konditori and Bageri www.ederskonditori.se
Studio B3 www.studiob3.se
Aether och Essens Fabrik www.essencefabriken.se