Leah Broad takes us on her journey of finding the best coffee in Stockholm.
On finding the best coffee in Stockholm – Learning Swedish, I was delighted to learn that there is a word for having a coffee break — fika, which encapsulates the experience of meeting a friend for a chat over coffee and cake. Coffee saturates Stockholm, with creamy cappuccinos and their attendant pastries a staple of the local culture. Between midday and early afternoon, it becomes almost impossible to get a table at any of the numerous cafés that populate the main streets as the whole of Stockholm, it seems, enjoys a fikapaus.
You don’t have to look hard to find a cup of coffee — Espresso House and Wayne’s Coffee are about as ubiquitous as Caffè Nero or Costa Coffee in the UK, and you’re never far from one.
But as a keen coffee addict, I was eager to try some of the best coffee in Stockholm that lies off the beaten track in search of a more individual caffeine experience. Hailing from London, I wanted to find the Foxcroft & Gingers and Scooter Caffès of Stockholm.
So I set myself a challenge — to visit a different coffee shop every day I was staying in the capital while on research. I found some delicious coffee but more importantly met some wonderful people, all of whom seemed keen to share their unique slice of Stockholm’s culinary culture (and humoured my terrible attempts to speak Swedish).
Perhaps the best place to start to find reliably good coffee is the roaster Johan & Nyström. Founded in 2004, they describe their slow roast process as being ‘a lifestyle and a passion’, committed to ‘tastier, more fun and more sustainable coffee.’ Their website has a helpful map of outlets who they supply to, making it easy to find a shop in whichever area you’re visiting. Bear in mind though the map is slightly out of date, so if you use this method do check if they’re still open before you set out.
Johan & Nyström’s concept store is in Södermalm, home of the hipster, and the most obvious coffee destination given its dense concentration of independent stores. But some of the best coffee I found from Johan & Nyström’s website lay further north, in Vasastan.
My favourite of these was Dahlgrens, a cute and cozy café with charming, friendly staff. They serve a rich, strong coffee, with a reasonably priced accompanying lunch menu. Their shop front is so unassuming you’d likely miss it if you didn’t know it was there, but it is worth seeking out if you find yourself this far north — it’s one of the few shops I returned to repeatedly.
Also in the north is Café Pascal, an altogether larger and livelier establishment. They have an outstanding lunch menu and are open longer hours than many other places, so it’s an excellent choice for a later coffee.
Pascal also holds cupping sessions, so if you are serious about your coffee and want to sample a range of flavours, this is the place to come to. Plus it’s right next to Stadsbibliotek, which has to be one of the most eye-catching public libraries in Europe and is well worth a visit.
Heading slightly further south took me to Snickarbacken 7. This was, for me, the stand-out amongst all the cafés I visited. I was looking for delicious coffee at an acceptable price, good food to go with it, quirky décor, friendly service and, ideally, room to spend a little time working. Snickarbacken 7 delivered on all of these.
Set in a modern art gallery just off Birger Jarlsgatan, theirs was the smoothest coffee I came across during my trip. While their food errs on the pricey side it’s definitely worth it — especially the soup, and vegan salad.
The only downside is that despite its cavernous interior Snickarbacken 7 completely fills up and sells out around lunchtime. While this is testament to the quality of its produce, it does mean that it is quite hectic between 12 and 2. The best time to enjoy this café is early morning, when it’s quiet.
Leaving Norrmalm and moving south again brings us to Gamla stan, the medieval part of the city. This is the area most heavily saturated with tourists, and it’s not difficult to see why. This is true picture-postcard Stockholm territory, with beautiful buildings and quaint paved streets.
It’s also home to the Royal Palace where you can watch the changing of the guard, attractions such as the Nobel Museum and Medieval Museum, and Stockholm’s largest sci-fi bookstore.
Most of the cafés use their surroundings to their advantage, resulting in a proliferation of Instagrammable interiors. I particularly enjoyed Kaffekoppen, conveniently located directly opposite the Nobel Museum in the central square. They serve thick, creamy coffees in chunky mugs that are perfect for winter weather.
As a bonus, their sister shop Chokladkoppen is next door, with a hearty selection of tarts, pastries, and other desserts.
Crossing the bridge to Södermalm lands you in the heart of Stockholm’s independent coffee movement. Drop Coffee is situated here, right next to Mariatorget station. This establishment’s reputation preceded it, having been recommended on a number of blogs and travel websites. It was just as good as I was hoping, the coffee light and nutty.
It is expensive — a cappuccino will set you back 40SEK — but this is a convenient spot for the London traveller with little Swedish. The shop has a distinctly American vibe, not least because the staff speak flawless if not native English.
For a more affordable cuppa of comparable quality, head further east to Espressino in Slussen. There’s very little space here so it’s definitely better for take away, especially as it is helpfully located near museums, art galleries, and bookshops like Hansson & Bruce and Konst-Ig which are treasure troves for culture lovers.
If you want coffee with a view, both SJÖ Caféet and Rosendals Trädgård provide a perfectly serviceable beverage, but their location vastly outstrips their coffee. Both are on Djurgården, the Garden Island, and overlook the ocean and the island respectively.
If you’re aiming for picturesque scenery though, you may as well head to Herman’s Vegetarian Restaurant, where they have an all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet for 189SEK, complete with (excellent) filter coffee included. The restaurant is on the north-east side of Södermalm, and they have a lovely garden for summer that overlooks the sea.
Finally, if you want a reliable takeaway with accompanying pastry, either Bröd och Salt or Fabrique are strong options. There are a few of these dotted about the place, both supplied by J&N, providing dependable caffeinated accompaniment as you explore the city.
Stockholm has so much to offer the slow traveller. Fika is unquestionably part of the city’s lifestyle, and these thriving cafes and restaurants offer not just coffee, but an entire social experience.