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Stockholm’s once-gritty Sodermalm district – the setting for author Stieg Larsson’s popular Millennium Trilogy – has turned into some of the hippest real estate in the Nordic world. The Hornstull neighbourhood, at its western edge, is the latest area to brush off a murky past and reinvent itself.
Once dubbed “knife-soder” because of its rough reputation, an influx of restaurants, cafés and bars to Hornstull has changed that to “knife-and-fork soder,” and it’s definitely worth a visit. Here you’ll get a different taste of Stockholm, because few of Hornstull’s restaurants feature traditional Swedish fare. Instead, the focus is on international flavours.
Unlike the shops selling Viking helmets in Stockholm’s old town, or the glitter of the ABBA museum, Hornstull is a vibrant, workaday neighbourhood that can easily be explored in a day. Despite the modernizing changes in the area, many of its historic aspects have been retained, as has the sense of community. Long-time residents still congregate outside to discuss the latest news and families push strollers along busy streets.
Hornstull is a major commuter hub from the southwestern suburbs into the city centre, and it’s not surprising that some of the recent changes can be seen as soon as you leave the subway. You immediately walk into a small shopping mall and, just outside, see the new Hornhuset building, which opened last year. Each of its three storeys offers a different dining option focused primarily on Mediterranean fare. The soccer-loving Enzo’s Trattoria adds some Italian flavour with classic Neapolitan pizza on the top floor and excellent views from its terrace. At night, Enzo’s becomes a lively bar.
Nearby, you’ll find a memorably named restaurant, Taylor & Jones with the Twist, where English-style sausages and sandwiches are paired with a selection of on-tap beers from Sweden and beyond.
Around the corner, a space known as Tjoget is home to a barbershop, a florist that sells only locally grown plants and flowers, and a restaurant. Hipsters can get their beards trimmed at Roy & Son, while Linje Tio restaurant offers New York-meets-Paris chic. Its menu celebrates mostly southern European flavours, including Spanish chorizo, Italian salami fenocchio, French boeuf braisé and a few vegetarian dishes.
Hornstull boasts more than interesting new restaurants, bars and shops, of course. Artists enjoy places such as Parallel, a combined gallery, café and workspace, where you can buy work from local artists or create your own in a 3-D print shop.
The district is also home to one of Stockholm’s best music venues, Debaser, which has two connected restaurants, Calexico’s (Mexican) and Bar Brooklyn (its menu includes American-style sliders).
Despite the changing neighbourhood, older Hornstull shops continue to thrive, such as Mickes Serier CD & Vinyl. For 17 years, it has been selling music finds such as rare vinyl from the Beatles and early Joy Division singles. The store recently opened a second shop, just across the street on Langholmsgatan, focusing on hip-hop and reggae. Owner Micke Englund has lived in Hornstull since 1999 and is happy with the area’s new spirit – and the fact that it still attracts the creative types that keep it lively. “I’m here seven days a week,” he says with a smile.
A short walk away is the historic Liljeholmsbadet, a floating bathhouse dating to 1929. During its early years, people would come here to wash because showers and baths weren’t common in apartments. Now you can swim here in every season except summer, when most residents simply dive into the waters surrounding the city.
After their long winters, Swedes like stay outside as much as possible in warmer months. One such destination for a summer night might be Lasse i Parken, a snug café in the middle of one Hornstull parks that offers outdoor seating, live music and Swedish fare – think fresh trout with dill, new potatoes and lingonberries.
One of Hornstull’s greatest assets is its beautiful Liljeholmsviken waterfront, with its abundant green space. In the summer, it also hosts a Sunday market with everything from used CDs to vintage clothing. The market is also becoming known for its varied food trucks, where you can sample international treats such as Vietnamese sandwiches and American-style barbeque. The colourful trucks are a fitting symbol of Hornstull’s busy, melting-pot atmosphere.
WHERE TO EAT
Modern, but warm and cozy, Enzo’s serves fantastic Neapolitan pizza, is wild about soccer, and has great views from its terrace. Langholmsgatan 15B, enzos.se
With a menu heavily influenced by southern European cooking and the stylish interior looking more like an industrial-tinged Parisian brasserie, it’s easy to forget you’re in Stockholm. Hornbrukstgatan 24, linjetio.se
Taylor & Jones with the Twist
It’s hard to argue with good sausages straight from the butcher and a selection of international beer. Langholmsgatan 17-21
Judit & Bertil
Named for the owner’s grandparents, this eatery offers an international menu and a relaxed atmosphere. A good place to enjoy a cocktail with the locals. Bergsundsstrand 38, juditbertil.se
Lasse i Parken
A charming café in the middle of a park may be the only place you’ll find a typical Swedish meal in Hornstull. Stop in for fresh fish and grilled steaks, or enjoy an afternoon fika, the traditional Swedish coffee-and-cake break. Hogalidsgatan 56, lasseiparken.se
WHERE TO STAY
Hornstull is a true working-class neighbourhood, so most hotels are located just outside the district.
A former cinema turned chic hotel, partially owned by former ABBA member Benny Andersson. Double rooms start at $300 a night. Mariatorget 3, hotelrival.se
Hotel Hellstens Malmgard
This former royal hunting palace offers a pleasant mix of classic charm with modern style. Double rooms start at $185. Brannkzrkagatan 110, hellstensmalmgard.se/en
Housed in a 1905 residential building, this hotel offers simple, but charming rooms. Double rooms start at $160; most, however, have shared bathrooms. Hornstgatan 66b, hotelhornsgatan.se