With hip fashion boutiques and stylish vintage shops, organic cafés, candy stores and laid-back pottery studios, Stockholm’s SoFo, located on Södermalm south of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town, is where innovative and eclectic meet and creative and kitsch collide. The seven block square area is a short subway ride or walk from most hotels. The Medborgarplatsen metro stop on the northern fringe is just four stops from Central Station and three from Gamla Stan. From there it’s a two-block walk to Folkungagatan where the neighborhood begins but if it’s a pleasant summer day and you decide to walk from Gamla Stan, go via Slussen, which connects the Old City to Södermalm, then head about 10 blocks south. The area extends south to Ringvägen, west as far as Götgatan and east to Renstiernasgata.
To immerse yourself in the scene, book a room here. The deluxe Clarion Hotel Stockholm is steps from the Skanstull metro stop on the southern border and the first-class Scandic Malmen is near the Medborgarplatsen stop. The revamped Hotel Columbus and trendy Hotel Söder are both near Katarina kyrka, the 1656 yellow-and-white domed church where a young Greta Garbo was confirmed in 1920.
Some SoFo businesses are open six or seven days a week; others only a few days midweek. As for hours, SoFo sleeps late. Most shops don’t open until 11 or 12, though they usually don’t close before 6 or 6:30. On SoFo Night, the last Thursday of the month, shops stay open until 8 or 9 p.m., offering live music, free coffee, drinks, snacks and discounts of 10-50%.
Photo By Monique Burns
Early risers can have a leisurely breakfast before shops open. Bakverket, an organic bakery, serves breakfast all day while around café-lined Nytorget, take your morning meal at Café String (where everything from the tables and chairs to the art on the walls is for sale), Gilda’s Rum (serving delectable baked goods in a flashy red and pink-and-purple striped parlor) or Nytorget Urban Deli (the internationally known supermarket-deli-bistro).
Photo by Monique Burns
SoFo has several fine galleries as well, but kitsch is really what makes it tick. At Coctail you’ll be blinded by the hot pink walls and the array of trinkets and tchotchkes, including garish Mexican Day of the Dead figurines. At nearby Grandpa, pick up a 60’s globe (or something smaller) along with vintage and retro clothing. Not far from Greta Garbo Square, vintage furnishings are displayed in various rooms at Garbo’s Café.
Fru Lotta Diversehandel stocks both new and old, everything from lamps to garden hoes. But the shop prides itself on its environmentally safe Villa VIKINGSHILL household products, including soaps and organic quilts. Silvia Design has colorful bowls and cups from Nordic designers like Marimekko, the famous Finnish design house.
If none of these tickle your fancy, then prowl through SoFo’s three erotic shops: the Aphrodite Pharmacy, the Love Store, and the Martin Shop, where one big object of desire is the We Vibe in brash colors of purple, red and turquoise.
SoFo is also a fashion capital. The flagship shop of Nudie Jeans Co. has organic wear as well as pint-sized jeans for kids 6 months and older. Here, too, is the boutique of Matilda Wendelboe, an “ecodesigner” recognized for her classy draping as well as her use of organic fabrics.
Vintage is big here, too. Lisa Larsson is the top shop for reasonably priced second-hand designer clothes. Also popular is Beyond Retro, a Stockholm outpost of the British chain and Sivletto which stocks 40’s and 50’s clothes in rockabilly, tiki, surf and hot rod styles. There’s a café, too, and—I’m not kidding—three hair stylists who’ll give you a cut to match your new outfit.
Multi-use spaces gibe with SoFo’s philosophy of global sustainability. Not only does 6/5/4 stock casual clothing, but it also sells Stockholm’s finest selection of wetsuits and surf gear and it also has a café, to boot. For hip, casual threads in black and grey, check out The Local Firm and Tjallamalla. For well-tailored clothing, drop into The P Concept Shop or the deceptively named Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair.
Photo by Monique Burns
What about real art? In keeping with its humble, working class roots, SoFo has long been a paradise for potters and other down to earth artisans. At Krukmakeriet Anne Junsjö, the sweet curly-haired grandmother gives pottery lessons to both kids and adults. At Keramikerna three potters share the shop and studio. Shop for pottery at manos, then put ceramic decals on them. Drejstudion Kursverksamhet gives evening and weekend pottery classes. Browse through ceramic, glass, fabric, wood and wrought-iron crafts at 125 Kvadrat, a venerable artisans’ cooperative founded in 1984.
SoFo also showcases fine Scandinavian furniture. Stalands, one of the city’s largest showrooms, is a textbook of Swedish design. Skattkammaren (The Treasury) has 50’s and 60’s furniture. For contemporary furniture, visit Monica Förster or Adesso Showroom.
The “fine arts” are represented at the Art Concept Store and Talent Gallery cooperatives for new and emerging artists. There’s also Gallery Darling for Lena Derning’s colorful works, Gallery Nytorget 13 for contemporary art, and The Scarlett Gallery for fine prints that are signed and numbered.
Photo by Monique Burns
If browsing stirs up an appetite, drop into Gilda’s Rum or Skåningen Kaffebar. Throughout the day, Nytorget Urban Deli serves hearty fare like fish stew or glazed ribs with root vegetables. Another good choice for dinner is Roxy, where the three female owners dish-up hearty international fare like roast goose with gnocchi and Spanish sausage and bean stew.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, buy organic caramels at Pärlans Konfekyr or handmade chocolates at Chokladfabriken. For stronger stuff, try Pet Sounds Bar or Snotty Sounds Bar. Classy Och Himlen Därtill offers cocktails in a more refined environment. And, if you want to dance the night away, head to Debaser Medis. Don’t worry about getting home early. Like SoFo, you’ll have energy to burn, but you can always sleep late.