There is something special about the cool, ordered, mature beauty of Stockholm. The city at dusk, with its church towers and bridges, is a sight that will stay with you. And beauty, for sure, is one of Stockholm’s trump cards: the beauty of its people, of its buildings, of its waters and parks. But there are other reasons for Stockholmers to be proud of their city. “I’ve lived in Stockholm for 13 years, and I think the quality of life is constantly getting better,” says Per Gudmundson, an editorial writer for the Stockholm daily Svenska Dagbladet. “When I moved here, bars closed at 01.00. Today, the whole restaurant sector is much more diversified. Then, we of course have the problem that Stockholm is bloody cold in winter – but for me, coming from the north, it’s not too bad.”
Stockholm is a small big city. Although the range of restaurants and entertainment is wide, distances are short and nature is never far away. It offers challenging work opportunities in some of the world’s leading companies and has a vibrant community of artists, designers and film-makers: by the latest count, 40,000 of the city’s 800,000 inhabitants worked in the creative industries. Living in the inner city is, however, becoming a luxury only few can afford. According to the leading estate agent Bjurfors, flat prices in central Stockholm have risen by 400 per cent since 1992, and today the average price per square metre is well over €5,000.
“We must build more flats,” says Stockholm’s mayor Kristina Axén Olin. “We’ve pledged to build 15,000 within the next three years, including both rental and privately owned ones.” But the biggest challenge facing Stockholm today, Axén Olin says, is segregation. The city is multicultural, but unemployment among immigrants is high. “We haven’t succeeded in integrating everyone. We have to get better at including our immigrant families,” she says.
International flights: there are 1,700 flights to 135 international destinations a week from Arlanda airport.
Crime: murders, 20; domestic break-ins, 1,695 (2006).
State education: all education is free and of a high quality. Stockholm also has several respected universities.
Health care: OECD’s Economic Survey of Sweden in 2005 praised the healthcare system for its high quality care, being well funded and efficiently managed – but also concluded that access should be improved.
Sunshine: annual average, 1,981 hours.
Temperature: in January, the average temperature is -3C, in July, 17C.
Wired: in central Stockholm, most cafés and hotels have Wi-Fi. Mobile coverage is very good. You can even use your mobile phone on the underground.
Tolerance: there are many gay-friendly restaurants and clubs, and the city is generally tolerant. However, studies have shown that immigrants are often discriminated against in job interviews.
Drinking and shopping: bars are open until 02.00 at weekends, but the beginning of the week is quiet. Convenience stores are open until 23.00; some 24 hours a day.
Transport: within the city centre, taxi fares don’t usually exceed €15. The cabbies are professional, as long as you choose the right company. Public transport works well.
Local media:Dagens Nyheter (independent liberal), Svenska Dagbladet (independent conservative), Aftonbladet (independent social democratic) and Expressen (independent liberal) are Stockholm’s daily newspapers.
International media: there are several well-stocked newsagents, which sell a selection of international newspapers and magazines.
Green space: around 13 per cent of the inner city is parks and other green areas.
Access to nature: swimming in the city centre at Smedsuddsbadet and Långholmen is popular in summer as the water is very clean. There are forests just a short drive away and boats take people to the archipelago (a set of 24,000 tiny islands off the Stockholm coast) all year around.
Environmental initiatives: Stockholm has an environmental programme that addresses transport, responsible consumerism, energy consumption, planning, waste processing and indoor environment. A congestion charge will be introduced in August. The city aims to abandon the use of fossil fuels by 2050.
Monocle metrics: well-designed funkis flats, the dazzling archipelago, dinners at PA&Co, villas in Södra Ängby and a stunning local gene pool.