Heletranz owner and expat Swede Sofia Ambler gives the lowdown on her hometown.

What do you miss most about Stockholm?

First and foremost, I miss my friends and family. Then it's got to be Filmjolk, which is a type of runny sour yoghurt or kefir. Keeping on the food trend, I also really miss the traditional cheese that comes in big triangular chunks with holes. Square cheese just doesn't quite cut it for me.

Why is it a great place for Kiwis to visit?

Stockholm has great food, amazing design and culture. Also, much like New Zealand, Stockholm has breath-taking natural surroundings — green, crisp, accessible and stunning. The archipelago is a must-visit, only a few minutes from the city is this cluster of 24,000 islands, with ancient fishing villages, coves, cliffs and beaches. There's also amazing skiing in the north. The weather is a bit like Auckland, unpredictable, but Swedes have a saying that many live by "there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes".


When is the best time to visit?

Either for a white Christmas just to change it up from the amazing Kiwi Christmas, or in summer, June-August.

What are the locals like?

Friendly, but quite busy, possibly not as relaxed as the typical Kiwi.

It has a reputation as being an expensive city — is that true?

Not today, although I know beer is more expensive — but then there's always wine.

What are three free things you could do in Stockholm?

Swim in the middle of the city, go for a walk in Old Town "Gamla Stan" and enjoy the incredible surrounding nature.


What's a traditional local dish, and where's the best place to eat it?

Well I guess you would have to say meatballs, salmon or herring, all of which is beautifully served at the classy Bakfickan, aka the back pocket to The Royal Opera. It's frequented by famous Swedes as well as visitors. You can't make a booking so be there early for lunch.

And what are some of the best restaurants for modern Swedish cuisine?

Oaken is amazing and a lovely walk out at Djurgarden.

Where's the best place to "fika" (a Swedish tradition of meeting up for coffee and cake)?

The best place is out in the archipelago on an island called Sandhamn and at a bakery called Sandhamns Bageriet. In Old Town, you have a great gluten-free option called Under Kastanjen and on Vasagatan is Vete-Katten.

Where would you go for a night out with friends?

Either one of the gastro pubs on Soder or for people watching, around Stureplan.

What is your favourite neighbourhood in Stockholm and why?

I love Saltsjobaden, where we lived, as it's right by the sea. The town of Soder is also great as it overlooks the city.

What are some of your must-dos for first-time visitors to Stockholm?

Go out in the archipelago. Then you must see the ship Vasa; it is amazing. If you have kids, go to Junibacken and Skansen.

Where would you recommend for clothes shopping?

The luxury department store NK.

And how about homeware/design stores?

Svenskt Tenn is my favorite, Norrgavel and Design Store are good too.

Where should visitors go to learn about Stockholm's history and culture?

Both Historiska Museet and Skansen are excellent for showing how we used to live in Stockholm. Skansen is outdoors and has a zoo.

What's a good day-trip outside of the city?

The archipelago.

What would we be surprised to learn about Stockholm?

That not all women are blonde.

Any other insider tips?

Picking mushrooms in July-October is the best mindfulness experience in the world.

Sofia Ambler, director of Heletranz.
Sofia Ambler, director of Heletranz.

Swedish expat Sofia Ambler moved to New Zealand in 2013 and is the owner of Heletranz.