ABBA, IKEA, Björn Borg, the chef from the Muppets and meatballs: these are the things that come to people’s minds when they think about Sweden. ABBA have broken up, Borg has long retired, the Swedish chef sounds nothing like a real Swede and IKEA is so global it no longer really feels Swedish. Meatballs, though – they have stood the test of time. There are many wonderful places to taste this cultural food icon in Stockholm. Some are reviving or working with traditional recipes, while others are finding new and innovative ways to serve the classic dish. Here are nine of the best.
This is a restaurant that focusses on making classic Swedish food, in the most uncomplicated way, using only high-quality ingredients. Tradition aims to make unfussy food without adding any unnecessary touches. It is located, appropriately, in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. They have a great tasting menu, as well as an à la carte menu featuring many Swedish favourites. All of their dishes are lactose-free, meaning that is the perfect place for anyone who doesn’t eat dairy. Each dish comes with a wine pairing recommendation as well.
Moderna is one of Stockholm’s best contemporary art museums. It is located on the beautiful island of Skeppsholmen and has free entry to its permanent collection. It includes works by Picasso, Matisse and Braque. It also has a superb restaurant, which serves excellent meatballs in a beautiful location. It is the perfect place to get meatballs and soak in some culture at the same time. Do make sure to check their daily menu, as they don’t always have them.
The starting point for anyone wanting to learn more about why meatballs are so beloved in Sweden, as well as to try some of the city’s best and most innovative varieties of the classic dish. They have a different variation on meatballs every day, made with different kinds of meat. Alongside their classic ones, they have, in the past, served moose, reindeer and wild boar. They also have takeaway ready meals, which you can eat at home. It is the perfect place to experience one of Sweden’s national dishes made with only organic ingredients.
IKEA is one of the largest chain of shops in the world and one that is enduringly associated with cheap but stylish furniture (and hours of fighting over putting up a chest of drawers.) IKEA, in Sweden, is also a great place to get food, with some lovely lunches and brilliant brunches to sample. They have an all-you-can- eat brunch buffet that is one of the best value for money meals in all of Sweden, and it contains their legendary meatballs. Throughout the day they serve regular meatballs, chicken meatballs and vegetable balls. The meatballs at IKEA are a bit of a cliché, but they are excellent and great value.
Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town, has a number of exceptionally lovely restaurants, and Fem Sma Hus is one of them. It is located in an ornate cellar with vaulted ceilings, built in the 17th century. It is very cosy and charming, the kind of place that is perfect for a special meal. Its menu combines Swedish and French fine dining to create a menu that has something for everyone. It is one of those rare restaurants where the food and the atmosphere combine perfectly to create an unforgettable experience. Their excellent meatballs are served in their terrace bar and are really worth sampling.
Sweden’s first open-air museum was opened in 1981 and has been delighting people ever since. It is on the lovely and charming island of Djurgarden, which also features an excellent park. Skansen aims to show off the different ways that people lived before the Industrial Revolution and has a full replica of a 19th-century town. There is a restaurant at the museum which serves all kinds of traditional Swedish food, including delicious meatballs. Skansen provides high-quality food along with a great day out. Its opening hours vary depending on the season, so make sure to check them on the website.
Meaning ‘the hip pocket,’ Bakfickan has been around since 1962 and represents a more simple time in Swedish cuisine. They focus on classic Swedish dishes, like meatballs, raggmunk (a potato pancake) and lightly salted salmon. Their meatballs come with all the traditional trimmings and are very tasty. It is located adjacent to an old opera house called Operabaren, which itself contains three other superb restaurants. Bakfickan aims to have a cosy neighbourhood vibe and only has space for 28 diners.
Pelikan dates all the way back to 1664, and has a rich history and tradition. The modern version of the restaurant opened in 1733 and has been delighting diners on the beautiful island of Södermalm ever since. Pelikan exists to serve uncomplicated food in the Swedish plain style of cooking, where things were meant to be easy to make and preserve, but still taste delicious. Pelikan is a real blast from the past. Their meatballs are an outstanding example of this and come with some of the city’s best sauces.
One of Gamla Stan’s oldest, finest and most beloved restaurants, Den Gyldene Freden holds a world record as being the oldest restaurant in the world with an unchanged interior. This means that when you step into the restaurant, you really feel as if you are stepping back in time to 1772, when the restaurant was opened. It is a landmark location and is owned by the Swedish Academy, the group that nominate the laureates for the Nobel Prize. The academy holds a weekly dinner at the restaurant on Thursdays. It is a one-off and one of the jewels in Stockholm’s culinary crown. Being a traditional Swedish restaurant, it serves classic Swedish fare, including some of the best meatballs in town.