Stockholm: The Gynocentric City

Sweden’s capital is a grand place to get acquainted with the country’s legendary ladies.

Stockholm Sweden | BCBusiness

Sweden’s capital is a grand place to get acquainted with the country’s legendary ladies.

Arriving at Stockholm Arlanda Airport, the “Welcome to My Hometown” posters that grace the walls of Terminal Five leap out at me. From 1970s Bond girl Britt Ekland to the gold-medal-winning 2006 Swedish Olympic women’s curling team, from jazz singer Monica Zetterlund to opera legend Kjerstin Dellert, the Swedish capital has certainly produced its fair share of female role models. Women worldwide have long admired their Swedish counterparts for pioneering equal rights in voting, education and employment.

I’m touring Scandinavia’s largest city with a gynocentric viewpoint, which nicely counterbalances my usual focus – as a hockey reporter – on Stockholm-bred hockey stars like Mats Sundin and Gabriel Landeskog. Yet, what I’m doing doesn’t lack cross-gender appeal because men, well, we certainly admire Swedish women, too.

Weather  Expect warm, mild weather in Stockholm in August, with sunny skies and an average daily high topping 20 degrees Celsius. Fall and winter bring chillier weather, with a low of five hours daylight and temperatures close to freezing

Best Bed  A former bank – the scene of 1973’s notorious Stockholm Syndrome robbery– is where you’ll find sleek suites with toiletries by Swedish fragrance house Byredo. From $250.

Best Meal  With dishes of crayfish, caviar and carrot salad, the 1926-founded Lisa Elmqvist delivers a legendary seafood dining experience in the Ostermalms Saluhall Market Hall.

Can’t Miss  Catch a play, such as Henrik Ibsen’s proto-feminist classic, A Doll’s House, at Stockholm’s Royal Dramatic Theatre (where Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman got their starts).

I take the Stockholm City Museum’s popular ABBA City Walk, which highlights downtown landmarks linked to the best-selling 1970s female-fronted pop group. Our guide points out the 1971-built Sheraton Hotel featured in ABBA: The Movie; the Royal Opera House, where vocalists Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad serenaded Queen Silvia and King Gustav with “Dancing Queen” before their 1976 wedding; and even an inconspicuous apartment where Anni-Frid and then-husband Benny Andersson once resided in Gamla Stan, the Old Town full of medieval cobblestone streets and yellow-walled buildings. It’s great fun, as our guide totes a portable stereo blasting “Waterloo” and “Money, Money, Money” for impromptu sing-alongs.

Fortunately, none of the 40-something women on this tour – who welcomed me, the sole male, with open arms – are sporting platform shoes, or we might not complete the excursion in two hours. (The City Museum also offers a The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tour, but that will have to wait for another day.)

Instead, I boogie off to the Museum of Dance, housed in a renovated 1918 bank building. The collection includes Russian ballet outfits and 1920s music hall posters from the famous Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on Avenue Montaigne in Paris. Those craving something less ladylike (perhaps guys who wouldn’t typically tour a dance museum) can gape at a mannequin of a wild-eyed Chhau dancer from India, or an intimidating monkey-skin headdress from the Ivory Coast.

With lunch beckoning as briskly as the Baltic breeze from Stockholm’s archipelago, I cross a nearby bridge to Djurgården, an island lush with foliage. Here, I savour meatballs (this is Sweden, after all) with potatoes and cream sauce at a communal wooden table in a café overlooking the water.

The island is home to children’s museum Junibacken, its exhibition focused on children’s author Astrid Lindgren. I enjoy the magical, narrated indoor train ride that rolls through dioramas of Lindgren’s novels, from the messy digs of Karlsson-on-the-Roof, who flies with a propeller on his back, to the cherry trees and monstrous dragon of The Brothers Lionheart. I even take the time to duck inside a reconstruction of the house of Pippi Longstocking, Lindgren’s red-haired heroine. The museum is pure nostalgia for anyone who has read the books.

Ramping up the estrogen experience, I stroll to nearby Gröna Lund, Stockholm’s amusement park. Stunningly attractive girls cluster around the outdoor stage, anticipating a Maskinen concert. Unfamiliar with the Swedish hip-hop duo’s hits, I elect to conclude my adventure at the adjacent open-air museum of Skansen, where I munch on a traditional sugar-coated doughnut from the bakery, as women glide past in 19th-century costumes.

Perhaps next time I’ll tee off at the Royal Drottningholm Golf Club, where golf stars like Annika Sörenstam have competed. So much female fun in Sweden, so little time.