Stockholm has a lot to shout about: a world-renowned work-life balance, some of the best fika (coffee breaks) in Sweden and a supportive environment in which to raise a family. But, as a city built across 14 islands surrounded by waterways, it is also a gateway to some of the country’s most stunning hiking.
Despite its high cost of living, the Swedish capital is an excellent city in which to raise a family. Parents are allowed 480 days of parental leave between them when a child is born or adopted and can claim 80 per cent of their pay for 390 of those days. They also have the legal right to reduce their working hours by 25 per cent until their child turns eight.
Stockholm is a progressive city that leads on gender equality and it is common to see stay-at-home dads pushing prams round the city’s 26 green parks on weekdays. Parents with prams travel for free on buses, and there is a monthly allowance to support the cost of raising children up to the age of 16.
There is also free schooling and free tuition for all EU residents at Swedish universities such as the Stockholm School of Economics, the Karolinska Institute for medicine and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
Work hard, play hard
Swedes are masters of work-life balance and nowhere is this clearer than in Stockholm. As Sweden’s financial centre, the city is a hub of productivity responsible for a third of national GDP. Large employers include technology companies Ericsson, IBM and Electrolux, and the start-up scene has produced music-streaming company Spotify, online payment firm Klarna and games developer King.
But relaxation is also a priority. During the long summer months, many businesses simply close their doors and the city empties so that employees can take advantage of their five weeks of annual holiday allowance and the incredible 18 hours of daylight in June.
Freedom to roam
The right of public access, or Allemansrätten, is written into the Swedish constitution and allows free roaming, camping and foraging, even on private land. And you don’t need to stray far from Stockholm to exercise this right: a bus ride north of the city takes you to Trehörningsskogen nature reserve, with its birch and spruce forests, and small lakes that warm up nicely for wild swimming in the summer.
About 20km south of Stockholm is Tyresta national park with its vast pine forests, hiking trails, stunning lakes and overnight shelters. East of the city is Björnö, a reserve on a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. Besides the hiking trails, Björnö’s popular beaches can be explored by kayak.
Develop a Swede tooth
Stockholm is the spiritual home of fika, the Swedish take on the coffee break. This ritual pause brings together the trinity of people, caffeine and, crucially, a sweet treat such as a cinnamon bun or cardamom roll. Those wanting stylish fika can enjoy the minimalist decor and freshly roasted coffee at the Johan & Nyström café in Södermalm, or a Spanish-influenced Scandi minimalism at Café Foam in Östermalm.
Family-run konditori (Swedish patisseries) around the city offer a more traditional fika experience. One of the oldest is Sundbergs Konditori in Stockholm’s old town. Founded in 1785, it still serves coffee from a copper samovar.
Until last year buyers had found it difficult for the best part of a decade to get a foothold on the Stockholm housing market. Prices soared as a result of cheap credit and a buoyant economy. This all changed in 2017, however, when prices started to dip for the first time since 2008. A combination of new mortgage rules, a dip in economic sentiment and a large supply of new homes meant prices fell almost 10 per cent from their peak in summer 2017.
This could provide opportunities for buyers previously priced out by the pace of growth. Since the correction, however, prices have started to stabilise and, in some cases, rebound.
Photographs: Getty Images/iStockphoto; Alamy; Dreamstime; Johan & Nyström/Jonatan Låst