Nordic CharmsThe Nordic countries are often considered as just a single region but Stockholm, located in the southeast of Sweden, has always stood out. Its 14 islands have a strategic position on the Lake Mälaren, establishing it as an important city early on. Almost 60% of the city is comprised of either water or vegetation, making it Europe’s most breathable city. BusinessWeek magazine recently ranked the city as one of the best places in the world to live; goes without saying, it is an equally great place to visit. History and HeritageAlthough the definite source is not clear, ‘Stockholm’ may have come from ‘stock’ for ‘log’ and ‘holm’ for islet, which would correspond to the islet at the center of the city. Birger jarl (Earl Birger) founded the city in 1252 to protect the rest of the archipelago from invaders. It became an important trading post later that century, with valuable iron coming from nearby Bergslagen. By the end of that century, Stockholm had become the de facto political and commercial capital. Most of the city was destroyed in a major fire in 1625, prompting major rebuilding throughout the area soon after. Two big boulevards and several major roads resulted from the reconstruction, laying the foundations for the city’s infrastructure. It was also in this century that the population grew because of an influx of migrants. This population was key to the city’s prosperity in the succeeding centuries.Stockholm StopoversGamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old City neighborhood, is the starting point for many city tours. It has a lot of old world European charm, with some structures in the area dating as far back as the 13th century. The best hotels in the city as well as the Swedish stock exchange can be found there too. For even more history, there’s the Wasa Museum in Djurgårdsbro, housed inside the world’s only perfectly preserved 17th century ship. The city has a couple of its own UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Skogskyrkogården woodland cemetery and the Royal Palace Drottningholm in Ekerö. Buildings in Stockholm are also faithful recorders of the city’s history. Some pre-Industrial 15th century buildings still stand in Södermalm, while there are still Industrial-era structures like the Royal Swedish Opera. The Gärdet area is still home to buildings designed in the modernist style of the 1930’s. Despite being the birthplace of brands like IKEA and H&M, shopping in Stockholm is limited to either smaller boutique shops or medium to large markets. There are some higher-end shopping options in Norrmalm, where NK – one of the city’s largest department stores – is located. The Stockholm ScheduleStockholm is a busy and vibrant city for almost the entire year. Bonfires are a common sight in spring, while festivities like the Stockholm Jazz Festival and the Stockholm Pride parade are highlights of Stockholm summers. The Beer and Whiskey Festival is slated for September every year, and the Stockholm International Film Festival lights up mid-November. Candlelit choir performances and lively Christmas markets are hallmarks of winter in Stockholm. The city of Stockholm is unique because of its laid-back attitude and modern amenities. It’s a great destination for getting away from it all – without going too far away.