“People always have secrets. It’s just a matter of finding out what they are…” So says hacker heroine Lisbeth Salander of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame. But with its glittering harbour, stylish locals, cutting-edge cuisine and buzzing nightlife, it’s no secret why Stockholm has been dubbed Europe’s coolest city.
Now with the highly anticipated release of the fourth Millennium thriller due on 27 August, there’s yet another reason to check out the Scandinavian capital. A tour of Lisbeth’s Stockholm will take you around the hip island of Södermalm, a must-see for book fans and culture junkies alike. Here are five ways to explore Stockholm in Lisbeth’s shoes (or studded leather boots) – dragon tattoo optional.
1. Million-pound view
The first thing that Lisbeth does after stealing millions of pounds (£300m to be precise) at the end of the first book is to purchase a luxurious 21-bedroom apartment on the top floor of Fiskargatan 9. Sadly, the lock on the front door of this imposing white structure with its quirky green roof prevents curious visitors from entering the building but this exclusive address is worth a trip nonetheless for its charming cobbled streets and breathtaking view. Get there by trekking up Mosebacke (Moses Hill), a cultural hub that houses a theatre, park and terrace overlooking the entire city. In the middle of the park lies Södra Teatern, Stockholm’s oldest theatre and the perfect spot to relax with a cold Åbro beer (£4.40) on the outdoor veranda, as Lisbeth does with her lawyer at the trilogy’s conclusion after (spoiler alert!) winning her court battle for independence.
2. Fika time
Swedes are one of the world’s biggest consumers of coffee and often meet friends or colleagues over fika, the everyday ritual of enjoying a cup of java and an accompanying sweet treat. Before stealing her millions, Lisbeth meets journosleuth Mikael Blomkvist (aka Daniel Craig from the Hollywood flick) for coffee at Kaffebaren on Hornsgatan 78, just around the corner from her apartment building, to ask him for a loan. But there’s no need to break the bank here; this cosy café does excellent frothy lattes (£2.80), sticky cinnamon buns (£1.80) and open-faced sandwiches (from £4) at reasonable prices. A large outdoor seating area means that you can comfortably indulge in some people watching while getting your caffeine fix. Kaffebaren (formally known as Mellqvist’s) was also late author Stieg Larsson’s favourite hangout while he was penning his novels.
3. Rock out
When Lisbeth isn’t hacking into the world’s computers or bringing justice to the streets of Stockholm, she heads to Kvarnen on Tjärhovsgatan 4, one of the city’s oldest watering holes. With wooden panelling, high ceilings and stained glass windows, this trendy but laid-back beer hall welcomes all types. Kvarnen is Lisbeth’s favourite Tuesday night hangout for drinks and live music from female rock band Evil Fingers. Unfortunately Evil Fingers are a Stieg Larsson fabrication, but Kvarnen boasts a steady stream of live acts throughout the week. Hungry? Grab a chair by the bar and tuck into some köttbullar, Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry sauce (£14) or Biff Rydberg, cubed beef, potatoes, onion and egg with mustard sauce (£22), washed down with a shot of Swedish Schnapps (£2). Skål!
4. Late-night munchies
Too many schnapps? Head to the 7-Eleven on Götgatan 25, open till 3am on weekends. This is where Lisbeth regularly stocks up on frozen Billy’s Pan Pizza (£1.90), pickles, cartons of Marlboro Lights and other essentials. Pizzas come in a variety of flavours – pepperoni, Hawaii, veggie, chicken taco – and only require a quick three-minute blast in the microwave. Don’t worry if you don’t have access to one, every 7-Eleven is equipped with its own. This late-night convenience store is just a five-minute walk from Lisbeth’s swanky pad, and on one of Södermalm’s busiest shopping streets.
5. The official tour
Less than five minutes down Götgatan towards the waterfront, is Slussen (the lock), a busy junction where the Baltic Sea and Lake Mälaren meet. Much of where Stieg Larsson’s protagonists live, work and play takes place on Södermalm, the trendy southern island behind Slussen, whereas most of the trilogy’s baddies live in the northern part of the city. There is a straightforward and efficient metro and bus system in Stockholm, but if you want to save your precious pennies you can easily walk around the whole city. Overlooking Slussen are rows of glass and steel buildings, one of which is the fictional Milton Security, where Lisbeth works as a freelance investigator. Across the street is the City Museum which provides official Millennium tours in English for hardcore fans.
The girl with the dragon tattoo
Of course if you did want to get a tattoo – dragon or otherwise – you needn’t go too far. Evil Eye Tattoo in the heart of Södermalm is popular with locals. Now that’s a travel memory you’ll never forget..