Stockholm is filled with shop after shop of dazzling merchandise -- often at dazzlingly steep prices that reflect the high esteem in which Swedish craftspeople are held.
Bargain shoppers should proceed with caution. Some good buys do exist, but it takes a lot of searching. If you're a casual shopper, you may want to confine your purchases to handsome souvenirs and gifts.
Swedish glass, of course, is world famous. Swedish wooden items are works of great craftsmanship, and many people like to acquire Swedish functional furniture in blond pine or birch. Other items to look for include playsuits for children, silver necklaces, reindeer gloves, stainless-steel utensils, hand-woven neckties and skirts, sweaters and mittens in Nordic patterns, Swedish clogs, and colorful handicrafts from the provinces. The most popular souvenir is the Dala horse from Dalarna.
Shopping Hours -- Stockholm shops are open Monday to Friday 10am to between 6pm (for large department stores) and 7pm (for smaller, boutique-style shops). Saturday shopping is possible between 10am and somewhere between 1 and 4pm. Once a week, usually on Monday or Friday, some of the larger stores are open from 9:30am to 7pm (July-Aug to 6pm).
Avoiding Mr. Taxman -- The value-added tax in Sweden, called MOMS, is imposed on all products and services, but you can avoid MOMS if you spend a total of at least 1,200SEK ($240/£120) in each shop. Just give the store your name, address, and passport number and ask for a tax-free check. Don't unwrap your purchase until after you've left Sweden. The customs official will want to see both the tax-free check and your purchase; you'll be given a cash refund, minus a small commission, on the spot. If you're departing by plane, hold on to your luggage until after you've received your refund, and then you can pack your purchase in your bag and check it (or carry the purchase with you, if it's not too big). At the Tourist Center, Hamngatan 27 (tel. 08/508-285-08), you can pick up a pamphlet about tax-free shopping in Sweden.
Shopping Streets and Districts
Everybody's favorite shopping area in Stockholm is Gamla Stan (Old Town). Site of the Royal Palace, it even attracts such shoppers as the queen. The main street for browsing is Västerlånggatan; many antiques stores are found here, but don't expect low prices.
Skansen is most fun to explore in the summer because many craftspeople display their goods here. There are gift shops (some selling "Skansen glass") as well as individuals who offer their handmade goods at kiosks.
In the Sergels Torg area, the main shopping street is Hamngatan, site of the famous shopping center Gallerian, at the corner of Hamngatan and Sergels Torg, and crossing the northern rim of Kungsträdgården at Sweden House. Big department stores, such as NK and Åhléns, are located nearby.
The Kungsgatan area is another major district for shopping, stretching from Hötorget to the intersection of Kungsgatan and Vasagatan. Drottninggatan is one long pedestrian mall, flanked with shops. Many side streets branching off from it also are filled with shops. Hötorget, home to the PUB department store, is another major shopping district.
Since around the turn of the millennium, a new shopping district (SOFO) has been identified on the rapidly gentrifying island of Södermalm, to the south of that island's busy Folkungatan. Streets that have emerged since this neighborhood's gentrification include Götgatan, Kokgatan, Bondegatan, and Skånegatan. Expect a youth-oriented, funky, hipster consciousness within the SOFO district, where there has been an explosion in housing prices on an island (Södermalm) where 60% of all households are composed of a single person.
Funky Items for Counterculture Shoppers -- Hornstullstrand Street Market -- often known simply as "Street" -- is a funky, battered market positioned at the western waterfront on the rapidly gentrifying island of Södermalm. This relative newcomer to Stockholm's punk underground scene is often compared to London's Camden Market.
In cold weather, its booths are confined to the impersonal perimeter of a city-owned, cement-sided former parking garage that evokes a penitentiary. Dozens of stalls here sell costume jewelry, secondhand clothing, and budget-conscious products of struggling, up-and-coming designer wannabes. In clement weather, the venue expands into rows of outdoor booths.
For an organic food break in between shopping, we like to drop into a nearby pub and restaurant, Hornstulls Strand 4 (tel. 08/658-63-50), where main courses cost 155SEK to 255SEK ($31-$51/£16-£26). Hours are Monday to Tuesday 11:30am to 11pm, Wednesday to Friday 11:30am to 1am, Saturday noon to 1am, and Sunday noon to 6pm. The market (www.streetinstockholm.se; T-bana: Hornstull) is open year-round Saturday and Sunday 11am to between 5 and 6pm.