Big City Tales

Island Hopping in Stockholm

March 20, 2013
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Stockholm is a city of connected islands and islets.

As capital cities go, Stockholm ranks as one of the world’s most beautiful but an even greater claim to fame is its highly unique geography.

Spread over a series of 14 islands connected by 57 bridges, the mix of natural waterways and lush green spaces, along with a temperate climate makes island hopping in Stockholm a ‘must-do’ activity!

While some islands are mainly residential hubs not worth a look-see, others are full of attractions that shouldn’t be missed.

Stadsholmen/Old Town

A good place to start is Stadsholmen, Stockholm’s City Centre, which is literally located on the water in Riddarfjarden Bay. Along with three smaller islets, Riddarholmen,  Helgeandsholmen, and Stromsborg, this area is designated as the Old Town of Stockholm (Gamla stan) and is home to a plethora of historical buildings. Here are three to check out:

  • Stockholm Stock Exchange – Before entering the peaceful halls of the Nobel Library and Museum, take a stroll outside through Stortorget Square where the site of the 16th century Stockholm Bloodbath paved the way for revolution and the coronation of King Gustav I.
  • The Royal Palace – The elaborate Baroque design of Kunliga slottet is befitting of the Swedish monarchy, serving as both its official residence and administrative offices.
  • Stockholm Cathedral – Famous for its Brick Gothic architectural style and statue of Saint George and the Dragon, the cathedral is also the oldest church in the area.
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The Royal Palace in Stockholm’s Old Town district.

Djurgarden/Royal Game Park

Popular with locals and tourists alike, Djurgarden is the place to go for all sorts of recreational fun. As part of the Royal National City Park, which extends into the municipalities of Solna and Lidingo, this island features scenic footpaths and waterfront promenades along with a host of museums, an old-fashioned amusement park (Grona Lund), and a public garden (Rosendals Tradgard) noted for its rose blooms.

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A swan graces the waters of Royal National City Park.

Kungsholmen/Functionalist Style

Once considered to be primarily an industrial district, Kungsholmen underwent a significant transformation in the early 20th century. Residential complexes and public institutions replaced factories creating a new vitality and a new architectural style, functionalism, was also introduced. According to the principles of functionalism, buildings should be designed based on their purpose. The series of residential buildings along Norr Malarstrand are a good example of functionalism at work.


Sodermalm/Bohemian Alternative Culture

Fans of Swedish mystery/crime writer Stieg Larsson will want to head to Sodermalm, where many of the events contained in his Millennium series of books take place. The island has also provided fodder for other distinguished Swedish writers and poets, and the famous actress Greta Garbo hails from this area.  The Sodra Teatern is the oldest theatre in Stockholm and with seven functional stages is able to offer a diverse range and large number of cultural events.

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A charming store front in Sodermalm.

Here an island, there an island…

Whether you visit all 14, or just one or two, island-hopping is part of the Stockholm experience (not to be confused with Stockholm syndrome!) and should be fully embraced. For those who do, the reward is a copious amount of gorgeous landscapes and the best possible views of the Capital of Scandinavia…’Yo ho ho, an island hopping we will go!’

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The citadel on Kastellholmen Island.

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Far More than Fine: San Diego is Truly Divine

March 6, 2013
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Ahh San Diego…birthplace of California, home of the world-famous San Diego Zoo, land of beautiful beaches and copious amounts of sun – this is truly a city that lives up to (and surpasses!) its nickname. Yes, ‘America’s Finest City’ is no misnomer, San Diego is truly divine!

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The lily pond is one of many lovely sights at Balboa Park.

Come for the Weather, Stay for the Fun

With an average daily mean temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit, San Diego is one of the world’s warmest climates and the city also enjoys over 200 sunny days, making it a popular year-round travel destination.

The temperate climate facilitates plenty of outdoor activities, including sailing, golfing, surfing, and cycling–to name just a few–and San Diego’s public beaches and parks are the perfect spots to enjoy the great outdoors.

Whether it’s taking in a baseball game, sailing along the harbor, walking around Balboa Park, or admiring the city’s naval fleet and historic hotels, San Diego is a city that offers up plenty of fun!

A Who’s Who of Wildlife in the San Diego Zoo

Renowned for its conservation efforts and progressive animal care, the San Diego Zoo also boasts a highly diverse range of species – much to the delight of visitors of all ages.

Frolic with flamingos, trek with pandas, monkey around with gorillas, or engage with elephants in wide-open spaces that allow you to observe animals in carefully crafted habitats intended to create as natural an experience as possible.

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The San Diego Zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals, covering 100 acres in Balboa Park.

Soar with Shamu at SeaWorld

If creatures of the sea are more your cup of tea, SeaWorld San Diego is the place for you to be!

Open year-round, SeaWorld offers its patrons such unique experiences as diving with sea turtles, feeding and petting dolphins, snuggling up with belugas, and watching killer whales soar through the air in the ever-popular Shamu show.

There are also a host of amusement park rides that add another level of thrills and chills for guests to experience, including Journey to Atlantis, Shipwreck Rapids, Wild Arctic, and Manta, a multi-media roller coaster that mimics the motions of a manta ray in full flight.

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The Shamu show at SeaWorld thrills viewers with high-flying killer whales displaying their amazing moves!

Soak Up Spanish History at Old Town

Thirsty for a margarita? Hungry for a fresh tortilla? Longing for a mariachi serenade? The best place to satisfy your cravings for all things Mexican is at Old Town.

After you’ve had your fill of Mexican fare, you can work off your calorie intake with a jaunt through no less than 17 museums and historical sites, a haunted house, as well as art galleries and boutiques.  If you’re just too stuffed to walk around, hop on the Old Town Trolley for one of San Diego’s best sight-seeing experiences.

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Enjoy some Spanish fare at Old Town, one of San Diego’s quaintest historic districts.

More Blasts from the Past in Gaslamp Quarter

The Victorian era is on full display in the Gaslamp Quarter, where historic buildings hold their own against modern skyscrapers and the multi-level outdoor mall, Horton Plaza.

You can see the sights and shop by day, or grab a meal and see a show at night. The Gaslamp Quarter combines the best of the past with the best of the present in a true cosmopolitan experience that should not be missed.

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History meets the present in the Gaslamp Quarter.