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Area guide: Södermalm's trendy SoFo district


Södermalm’s up-and-coming SoFo area is so much more than a hipster hang-out, Hannah Lewis discovers

Hannah Lewis / © Katie Wilson-Ells
Hannah Lewis ,

In the last few years, the beautiful island of Södermalm has grown from a quiet residential area into one of the most exciting parts of Stockholm. In particular, the area south of Folkungagatan – nicknamed SoFo – is now a hive of activity. Comprising just seven blocks, this is undoubtedly one of the trendiest places in an already extremely hip city and, if proof were needed, it was recently named one of the 15 ‘coolest neighbourhoods’ in the world by Vogue magazine.

With everything you could expect from a metropolitan shopping district, visitors can happily spend a whole day here, exploring everything from Scandinavian food to the best in Swedish luxury fashion.

In keeping with its hipster reputation, SoFo sleeps late. Many stores don’t open their doors until 11am or even midday, giving visitors the perfect excuse to visit the area’s charming cafés and bakeries before going shopping. Espresso bar and café Gilda’s Rum on Skånegatan is a stylish and welcoming place. Take in its eclectic interior design, which features vintage furniture and ornaments, while enjoying your morning coffee and a traditional cinnamon roll. And if you’re in need of refreshment later on, a short walk away on Nytorget is Urban Deli, which shows that the spirit of modern Manhattan eating has found its way to Stockholm. Serving three meals a day from an ever-changing menu, with various options for take out, Urban Deli is a must-visit for anyone who enjoys simple food made using seasonal ingredients.

As well as offering a great choice of food options, SoFo is also undoubtedly one of the best places in which to discover local designers, explore independent stores and get a feel for the real Stockholm. Julia Nielsen opened Hipp in 2013. A graphic designer and illustrator, she started with a small line of handmade jewellery which proved so popular that she branched out into bags, stationery, small home accessories and other items. ‘I chose SoFo as the location of Hipp because it felt like the place where we fit in best,’ she says. ‘Enough people are passing through but it's never swamped. It’s a great environment to hang out in every day: trendy yet relaxed and cosy.’

Sofo has proved a favourite place for creatives, having long been seen as an area open to newness and experimentation, and is a natural home for many of the city’s artists, musicians and designers. Keramikerna, a small ceramics studio run by two female ceramists, is a wonderful place in which to discover local design. Spaces like Art Concept Store, an artist-run gallery supporting young and emerging creatives, offers art lovers the chance to discover new names and immerse themselves in Stockholm’s contemporary art scene.

It’s not only independent stores and labels that have made their home in SoFo, however. As its prestige has grown, some of Sweden’s most successful brands are opening shops in the area. Nudie Jeans, a premium denim brand that has turned heads with its minimal Swedish style and ethical approach, has had a flagship here for eight years. ‘When we chose the location, it was a neighbourhood that we felt really had potential,’ explains store manager Eliina Brinkberg. “A neighbourhood that has a touch of the alternative but was and still is commercial. It attracts many different people and the atmosphere is friendly and often inspiring. It's one of those areas where you can spend a whole day - you have everything you need here.”

Whether it’s a newly launched pop-up restaurant or the monthly SoFo Nights shopping events, the area always has something exciting going on. While it might have gained a reputation for being a hipster hang-out, SoFo is actually one of the best places to explore in Stockholm, truly welcoming everyone – visitors and locals alike. Much like the premise of one of the area’s most popular restaurants, Meatballs for the People, which aims to bring a Swedish classic to a wider audience, SoFo is shrugging off its exclusive vibe and welcoming new visitors with open arms.

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