Swedish stereotypes: The residents you’ll meet in Stockholm’s districts

Curious about the cultural ins and outs of the Swedish capital? Well, look no further! This is writer and marketing professional Mikael Barclay's insider’s guide to central, and quite central, Stockholm.

Swedish stereotypes: The residents you'll meet in Stockholm's districts
Inner-city Stockholm and its adjacent districts may seem like they're all "the same", but there are different nuances of posh, semi-posh and we're-just-pretending-to-be-posh. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Östermalm: Posh people 

This is “the right side” of Birger Jarlsgatan. If you sport a coat of arms on your Sunday china or want to declare that you have made it, this is your go-to area. A comfortable labradoodle stroll from the Royal Game Park, Djurgården, it is as close to Mayfair or le 16e that you will get anywhere north of Berlin. Another perk for the true Östermalm resident is that one will constantly bump into aunts of one’s old school chums who will tell one that they saw one’s mother just the other day. 

If you feel that good park benches are the hallmarks of any first-rate local entertainment scene, and are confident that your surname won’t dilute the prominence of the nameboard in your building’s entrance, Östermalm might just be the perfect neighbourhood for you.

Gärdet: Poor posh people 

Gärdet is somewhat of a natural child of Östermalm, and although part of the same district, local etiquette has residents specify Gärdet or Östermalm “sort of”, whenever asked where they live. From being lower middle-class, Gärdet is now the home of Dowager Countesses and cash poor children of polite society. The former will invariably insist that a modest ceiling height is no reason not to keep hefty family heirlooms such as chandeliers and large ancestral portraits. 

If you feel that vast open fields are about as exciting as it gets, then surely this is the ideal neighbourhood for you.

Vasastan: The middle class 

With its imposing buildings and chic parks, Vasastan is the bourgeois version of its aristo’ neighbour Östermalm. If the latter is an elderly colonel, the former is a multitasking young career mum, living the middle-class dream. With a well-groomed husband, Instagram-friendly  breakfasts, smart looking children, a holiday home near the sea, regular yoga sessions and a beautiful kitchen, this is everything one needs to be happy, it really is! 

If you love Swedish minimalist clothing brands and go “deliiish!” when you think of overly complicated lattes-to-go, Vasastan might be your perfect match. And, oh come on, it really is! 

Vasastan. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

City/Klarakvarteren: Youths 

Untouched by the Second World War, it was decided that the centre of Stockholm nevertheless ought to be demolished to make room for a more modern and bold architecture. To this very day the new buildings continue to be admired and cherished by tens of people, most of whom are architects living in Södermalm. Others have abandoned the area in favour of tourists, pickpockets and youths in tracksuits. 

If you are one of the people who believe that eventually all architecture will look good, this area might be your ideal pick.

Kungsholmen: Practical people 

People who live in Kungsholmen enjoy stressing that Kungsholmen is part of inner Stockholm, a notion underlined by the naming of the anonymous shopping mall Västermalmsgallerian*. This is an island where tendencies of any particular neighbourhood character are deemed unnecessary or pretentious. Instead residents emphasise the closeness to nature and how convenient it is to live so very very close to the city centre (did we mention that Kungsholmen is part of inner Stockholm?). 

If you have yet to come to terms with not wanting to live in a city in the first place and love interior design magazine inspired done up kitchens, this could very well be the island for you.

* The name Västermalm refers to the western inner Stockholm district, harmonising with the already established names of its southern, eastern and northern counterparts.

Stora & Lilla Essingen: Sturdy islands upon which a motorway rests 

No one really cares.

The motorway on Lilla Essingen. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Gamla stan: Tourists 

At some point it was decided that this historic gem would be best used for the vending of historically inaccurate miniature Vikings and bad coffee. A predicament that has skewed the tourist-to-local ratio, making it nearly impossible to stereotype its residents (who most probably exist… most probably). 

If you love history and are no taller than a 17th century cobbler, an apartment in Gamla Stan might just be for you.

Södermalm: Journalists 

This former working-class district is long since gentrified. Cockneys will still come over for the weekend pint although most of the island now caters for middle-aged journalists and young hipsters. While some residents secretly pretend to live in Berlin, others will swear on their vintage Vespas to be living in Palermo. Solidarity is a hallmark to this island and locals would gladly consider inviting members of the poor into their homes (just not this weekend when the parquet floor is being refurbished). When in the neighbourhood, why not swing by the local Farmers Market, an event yet to be visited by an actual farmer. 

If you think “what is that supposed to mean?” when you hear the expression “liberal elite”, you too might want to consider moving to Södermalm.

Södermalm. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Danderyd: Business class passengers 

This prestigious suburb is the dream of CEOs and other members of the mercantile classes. In fact, it is so prestigious that young people growing up in its crown jewel, Djursholm, regularly state that they live north of the city, in an attempt to avoid getting judged. And who could  blame them? Apart from its exclusive golf club, stables and huge villas, the area has its own country club, called Djursholm Country Club, in English!

Solna: The common man 

Trying to characterise Solna is like trying to characterise the Swedish cheese hushållsost. It’s not so much a particular kind of cheese as a cheese. But despite not being able to articulate exactly why, locals remain highly sentimental about their borough. A predicament that has led it to be not only Stockholm’s premier producer of common men and women, but also of football hooligans.

Solna, home to venues like the Friends Arena football stadium and shopping centre Mall of Scandinavia. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Bromma: Petite bourgeoise & bourgeoisie 

This is suburbia. Lush, idyllic, conveniently close to the city and during the winter months filled with branded down jackets. Houses range from large seaside bourgeoise to small formerly working class but now shut-up-mortgaged-middle class. Unlike people from Danderyd, residents will take every opportunity to mention where they are from. They are from Bromma and they are homeowners. 

Söder om Söder (south of Södermalm): The Marimekko middle class

This down-to-earth type area is ideal for everyone from subtenants from the north who put down “craft beer” under “interests” in job applications, to ordinary families and homeowning bobos (bourgeois-bohèmes). The common denominator being a profound appreciation for teak furniture and the modest lines of Scandinavian 50s design, a style invariably referred to as “good taste” (god smak), by Swedish architects. 

Nacka: People in sailing shoes 

It simply doesn’t get more New England than this in Stockholm. People in leisure class Nacka strive to look like they just got off their sailing boat. And if they are from Saltsjöbaden, or “Saltis”, they might actually just have. Good to know is that local regulation stipulates ladies to wear crisp pastel canvas sailing shoes and men worn down leather ones. 

Nacka is close to the water. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Lidingö: Homeowners with premium priced watches 

With its characteristic French sounding i-vowel, the name Liiiidingö has become synonymous with Swedish wealth. Just like Danderyd, Bromma and Nacka, Lidingö, residents prefer local trains (bana), running on separate tracks from the rest of Stockholm’s commuter trains and underground system. This keeps family members’ watches safe. As an extra precaution, Lidingö is surrounded by water.

Mikael Barclay is a marketing professional, keen social observer and serious dabbler in writing. Born in Stockholm to a Swedish mother and a British Jamaican father, he felt destined to have a go at living abroad for himself. After venturing to Milan, Tokyo and London he is now based in Stockholm. 

Member comments

  1. Love the dry humor of this article. As a jaded New Yorker who, pre-covid, has visited Stockholm every year since 2009, it really made me miss my little getaway city that I love exploring so much. Can’t wait ’til we vaccinated Americans are allowed back in! 🙂

    1. And as a New Yorker living in Sweden who is hoping to bring his girlfriend to experience American Thanksgiving, I can’t wait until vaccinated Swedes are allowed in to the US! 🙂

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


How to show your parents a good time in Gothenburg

Gothenburg, Sweden’s unassuming second city, lacks the self-evident tourist attractions of Stockholm, so it can be hard to know how to impress visiting parents (or friends or partners for that matter). Here’s how to convince visiting loved-ones that moving to Sweden’s drizzly west coast it wasn’t such a bad call after all.

How to show your parents a good time in Gothenburg


DaMatteo was voted the best coffee shop in Gothenburg in 2015 and has several branches all across the city. The spacious location, with charming outside seating, at Magasinsgatan includes a roastery and a bakery. It’s the perfect location for a traditional Swedish fika (the somewhat platitudinous ‘coffee and bun break’) with a bit of an untraditional twist.

They serve all the classic ‘bullar’ (buns), such as the world-famous kanelbullar cinnamon rolls, but DaMatteo spices them up with something unexpected – like sourdough, or cardamom. And if you’re tired of fika, DaMatteo also serves artisanal pizzas, sandwiches and salads.

People chatting in the courtyard at DaMatteo. Photo: Superstudio/Götebord & Co

Cigarren is an unpretentious, unhip yet friendly cafe on the Järntorget square. They serve excellent coffee (the non-filter kind) and simple but gratifying toast, with lots of butter and melted cheese. As the name suggests, there’s also a wide variety of cigars on offer (but there are plenty of reasons to visit this bar as a non-smoker). Järntorget is a magnet for interesting characters, so make sure to hang around around for a while if like people-watching.

Viktors Kafe is a trendy, hipsters-with-beard type of place near Götaplatsen, a square you’ll probably pass because this is where you’ll also find the Gothenburg Museum of Art (Göteborgs Konstmuseum), Göteborgs Konsthall, Göteborgs Konserthus and the public library. Viktors Kafe is a paragon of Swedish sophistication: Scandinavian design, pour-over coffee and avocado on toast.

READ ALSO: How to show your parents a good time in Stockholm


Both DaMatteo and Viktors Kafe (mentioned above) offer varied and affordable midday meals. Generally expect to pay between 90-130 Swedish kronor for a decent (warm) lunch. It’s not uncommon for restaurants to offer lunch deals that include soup or salad and coffee, for example at the vegetarian (but truly delicious) En Deli Haga.

If you’re all undecided on what you want to eat, head to the market hall Stora Saluhallen or its less crowded equivalent Saluhall Briggen. You’ll find something for everyone: from Vietnamese to Greek to the Swedish catch of the day or the classical west coast räkmacka (a mountain of shrimps on rye bread with egg and mayonnaise).

Another great lunch spot away from the crowds is the Röda Sten cultural centre. It’s a square, brick building along the Göta Älven canal hosting cultural events and housing temporary exhibitions, as well as an artsy, family-driven restaurant on the ground floor. On weekdays you can choose between a (changing) vegetarian, meat and fish dish.

The Stora Saluhallen is perfect for indecisive guests. Photo: peter Kvarnström/Göteborg & Co.

Dinner and drinks

In the same building as the Gothenburg Museum of Art, a stone’s throw from Poseidon’s statue, you’ll find the dim-lit but lively restaurant Mr. P. The food is served in small or medium-sized portions and is a fusion of different cuisines. Many dishes have recognisable ingredients but come in a slightly upgraded form, like salmon sashimi with kimchi or roasted beetroots with smoked goat cheese and almond dukkah, a crunchy Moroccan spice mix.

If your parents fancy both jazz and refined dining, be sure to make a reservation at Unity Jazz. This intimate bar offers concerts with your food. Imagine sitting only metres away from the musicians while enjoying a glass of (natural) wine and a starter of burrata, an entree with vongole and tarte tatin for dessert.

An all-time favourite – especially with eccentric film lovers – is Hagabion, an arthouse cinema-cum-restaurant. This colourful venue has a changing menu with around five different entrees. The portions are generous and one main course should leave you satisfied. If adventurous, try a local beer from Stigbergets with your dinner.

There are also plenty of good options if you or your visitors are looking for a non-European fare. Simba, across from the Opera, is an Ethiopian restaurant with great ‘injera’ (a type of sourdough pancake made from teff). Be, however, prepared to witness your parents eat with their hands. Daawat is a classic, barely Swedified, Indian diner. Its founder was the first to open an Indian restaurant in Sweden, in 1971. Daawat is centrally located, close to a popular (very student-heavy) nightlife area. You’ll find relatively cheap drinks around Andra Långgatan, but don’t necessarily expect class.

The Hagabion cinema is popular. Photo: Beatrice Törnros/Göteborg & Co.


Whether you’re a car fanatic or not particularly, Gothenburg undeniably owes at least part of its existence to Volvo. It therefore makes sense to pay the brand’s museum a visit, even if only to pay your dues (admission costs 160 kronor, with discounts for pensioners, students and children). You’ll find, well, a lot of old cars. Which, if no one else – and I apologise for the un-Swedish, gendered comment – your father might be excited about. 

If your guests are more into art than engineering, I urge you not to skip the aforementioned Gothenburg Museum of Art (Göteborgs Konstmuseum) at Götaplatsen

Admission costs 65 kronor, but you can also choose to pay 130 kronor for a museum card that is valid for a year in The Gothenburg Museum of Art, Museum of Gothenburg, The Maritime Museum and Aquarium and The Röhsska Museum. 

It has a wonderful collection of fin-de-siècle, art nouveau and impressionist artworks by internationally famous artists such as Picasso, Rembrandt, Monet and van Gogh. Various preeminent local artists are represented as well, like the 18th century artist Alexander Roslin, the 19th century artists Anders Zorn, Bruno Liljefors, Carl Larsson, and the 20th century modernists. Drop by the next door Göteborgs Konsthall (free admission), with contemporary art exhibitions, on your way out. A five-minute-walk away is the Röhsska, a stylish museum for design and crafts.

A parent and child-friendly museum is Universeum. It’s a public science centre that is divided into six sections, each containing experiment workshops and a collection of reptiles, fish and insects (265 kronor admission, discounts for children, pensioners and students).

The Röhsska is a stylish design museum showing everything from the most cutting-edge design to ancient Japanese bronzes. Photo: Marie Ullnert/Göteborg & Co.

Activities and sights

One obvious parent-friendly activity is to take a stroll in the Botaniska Trädgården, Gothenburg’s splendid botanical gardens. And, to be honest, its quite lovely for someone of any age or stage in life. The hilly, well-manicured terrain is an outdoor museum for flowers, trees and plants and has rotating exhibitions, following the season.

There’s a total of 175 hectares to stroll around in, if you include the next-door Änggårdsbergen nature reserve. The garden is host to some 16,000 different species. Sights especially worth seeing are The Rock Garden, The Rhododendron Valley, the Japanese Glade and the greenhouses. 

Another natural environment within the city is the Delsjön lake and its surroundings. In summer, Delsjön is the perfect place to go to escape the city heat and take a swim, rent a canoe or read a book by the water. In every season, the path around Delsjön makes for a relaxing walk (It’s10 kilometres, but relatively easy terrain). 

To get there, it just takes a few stops on the tram from buzzing Körsvägen (where you’ll find the Liseberg, amusement park, which is also worth a visit if your parents prefer adrenaline over serenity). Start or end your hike with waffles at Kaffestugan Lyckan.

Gothenburg Green World. Photo: Jennie Smith/Göteborg & Co.

Another must-see place to visit (although admittedly I’m biased as I live there) is Gothenburg’s southern archipelago. Take a ferry from the harbour at Saltholmen to one of the many islands. These car-free oases are scattered with coloured wooden houses, rocks and mosses, apple trees, blueberries in summer, and ocean views year round.

On many of the islands you’ll find hiking trails. On some of them (like Styrsö, Vrångö and Brännö) you’ll find a restaurant, café or shop. During the summer holiday you’ll want to pay a visit to Brännö’s brygga, or jetty, where on Thursday evenings there’s live music, dancing, and picnicking by the sea. 

You can’t really visit the Nordics without sweating in a sauna (with or without your parents – I leave that up to you).

In the area of Frihamnen there’s a spectacular, free sauna overlooking the Göta canal (note that the sauna is closed for repairs until early 2023). If your guests are in want of a more luxurious spa experience I’d recommend Hagabadet in Haga, which is housed in a historic, Art Nouveau-style building (700-800 kronor). You and your company can easily spend half a rainy day in Hagabadet’s saunas, warm and cold baths, its egg-shaped swimming pool or in one of the many cosy chambers where you can sprawl on one of the chaise longues to rest or leaf through a magazine.

Brännö island in the Gothenburg Archipelago. Photo: Göteborg & Co.