When I visited Stockholm for the the first time, one of the first and most important words that I learned was fika (fee-ka). This is the Swedish practice of taking a break with friends and family and savoring a cup of coffee or tea and pastries. It might sound like the American coffee break or British tea ritual, but it really represents the significance of family and friends more than just drinking coffee or tea.
Stockholm is covered with cafes and bakeries for just this purpose, and you'll see them filled at all times of the day, because fika can be enjoyed at anytime and anywhere. It's such an important cultural phenomenon that special cakes and treats are baked for it, called fikabrod.
I was extremely lucky that my friend Lola Akinmade Akerstrom, the editor for Slow Stockholm Travel and the city's unofficial ambassador, guided me through my first fika experience. I joined her and another Stockholm insider, Germaine Thomas, in a busy cafe on a Sunday afternoon. We sipped chai tea and tackled the Lenten treat of semla, a fluffy bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream. They demonstrated how to use a tiny spoon and scoop the cream out of the bun and two hours later, we were still in the cafe, eating and talking.
I learned that coffee tea, and talk are the foundations for fika, along with a decadent collection of pastries including kanelbullar, a light roll covered with cinnamon and cardamom and kladdkaka, a rich and gooey version of a brownie. That set the standard for me as I set out to find the best cafes for long and sweet-filled fikas. Here are my suggestions:
When a local designer told me that the most beautiful place to fika in Stockholm was at Citykyrkan, I knew I had to check it out. Located on the third floor of the old city church, it's also an unusual cafe, which made me immediately love it. Sinking into rose-colored chairs in a room edged in gold leaf, I felt like I was transported to another century. Coffee and tea is served in delicate cups and saucers, and the pastries are baked from scratch.
But the real test came when I was joined by a fellow journalist and we were able to fika for hours, undisturbed by loud music or clamoring customers.
Stockholm's old town of Gamla Stan is dotted with crowds and cafes on every corner, so I was leery of falling into a tourist trap but this popular eatery is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Housed in a buttercup yellow building, what I enjoyed most about this cafe was perching on one of the large wicker chairs and people- watching.
Noted for giant kanelbullar, the place was packed with customers and action. It's a good place for a fika with friends who enjoy people watching.
There's nothing fancy about this tiny, cash only spot, but that's the charm. You won't find an extensive menu or hipsters and tourists here, just locals enjoying fika and a super friendly staff. I ducked in here to check out the excellent tea selection and ended up chatting with the barrista for 30 minutes over a dense kladdkaka, for an impromptu fika.
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