Trotting up and down Tegnérgatan, it becomes apparent that the street should be declared the culinary belt of Stockholm. One could spend a delicious month eating and drinking one’s way down the street, sampling every corner of the world in the process; it could be the only authentic Polish blinis in town, ale from Stockholm’s first Irish pub, whisky in a Wild West style saloon, French crêpes, gastropubs, Cuban cuisine, yummy delis, American burgers, Michelin-starred Rolfs Kök, or hipster hotspot Köttbaren. Tegnérgatan also feels like the city’s Little Tokyo, with its many Japanese markets and sushi haunts.
The street ties Birger Jarlsgatan and Barnhusbron together, with Sveavägen figuring heavily around its centre, and Tegnérlunden serving as a green oasis along the way, and the stretch between the two actually makes up one of the steepest hills in Stockholm. The street was named after the Swedish poet, professor and bishop Esaias Tegnér and contains some of the city’s finest examples of 19th century urban architecture.
Quarters and notable buildings
Tegnérgatan begins in the quarter of Spårvagnen, getting its name from the late 19th-century tram halls that are prominent in the area. In the early 1990s, an extensive renovation of the neighbourhood was carried out and the run-down houses restored to their former glory, including a re-creation of the original façades. Some of the tram buildings were then rented out to the Modern Museum, and today they house different advertising agencies.
Next in line is the quarter Hälsan, which includes a notable building owned by the missionary congregation of the Immanuel Church and features Sgraffito paintings on the top floor. The ecclesiastical presence in the district is considerable, with the Swedish Mission Church headquarters and Johannes Church to be found here as well.
August Strindberg’s last residence, the Blue Tower, is located further along the street, close to the intersection with Drottninggatan. The turreted building was constructed in an Art Nouveau style at the beginning of the 20th century and Strindberg lived here during the final four years of his life, until his death in 1912. In the small hilltop park of Tegnérlunden, statues of Strindberg and fellow writer Astrid Lindgren (who also lived close by) can be spotted.
The final stretch of Tegnérgatan contains many well-preserved examples of turn-of-the century architecture. One of those is the Adolf Fredriks Music School, erected in 1907-10 and designed by GA Nilsson, who also developed the nearby Adolf Fredrik Church.
To get there
As Tegnérgatan cuts right through the core of Stockholm, there’s no shortage of ways to get there. You can either ride the green tunnelbana line, getting off at Rådmansgatan and walking down one block which lands you around the centre of the street, or hop on one of many busses that stop nearby Tegnérgatan. Main route 2 goes down Birger Jarlsgatan for example and stops right by the beginning of the street.
Eating and drinking
Köttbaren – Tegnérgatan 32
Köttbaren is so hip it hurts. Probably the most hyped-up lunch hangout in the city, it totally lives up to its reputation through the impeccable style. I’m already in love with the place before having a proper look around due to the simple fact that Joy Division is playing on the soundsystem, followed by a bopping 50s rock ‘n’ roll track. This is my kind of place all right.
In line with the name, the staff sports white slaughterhouse coats, the walls are adorned with framed posters of different cuts of meat, and the screeching sound of the meat saw seals the deal. The interior is a perfect mix of raw and rustic: copper panel paired with dark wood and white tiles, hefty iron chairs and ceiling lights that call to mind a big freight ship. These are contrasted with flickering candlelight, made even more cosy by the winter darkness on the other side of the windows, and heavy skillets and big pharmacy-style bottles filling the shelves. There’s even a little deli by the entrance, enticing the many epicureans that wander through these doors with fancy oils and seasonings.
“We get huge crowds here every day, and as we have big tables everybody mixes up,” says store manager Peter Johansson. “People come for the vibe and we’re absolutely full every night of the week. People hang around in the bar and wait for a table for up to an hour. The atmosphere we’ve created is definitely a big attraction, there’s great bar food, good music and everyone’s happy. And as we specialize in meat we get a lot of costumers from all over Stockholm that just want to buy meat from our store section.”
“The people I talk to think the street is getting better and better each year, especially in regards to the food selection. Wherever you go on Tegnérgatan you’ll find good restaurants.”
Rolfs Kök – Tegnérgatan 41
Rolfs Kök holds a special place on Stockholm’s culinary map. Not only has it been vouched for by the renowned Michelin guide (the delicious sounding French-inspired courses give a good clue as to the validity of this choice), it also has a unique and fresh flair with a playful teal and tan interior where rows of chairs hanging from the walls play a central role. The youthful staff buzz back and forth along the stretched bar, flames blaze from the open kitchen at steady intervals and soulful tunes underline the hustle and bustle.
“We were the very first restaurant in Stockholm with an open kitchen when we opened up back in ’89,” says current owner Klas Ljungquist. “We are also known for our special interior design which hasn’t changed over the years. The location was perhaps influenced by the fact that Rolf’s father owned the restaurant Tranan up by Odenplan, so it was logical to go with something near by.”
“We get a very mixed crowd here, for lunch it’s mostly people that work around here but for dinner it’s all sorts, from locals to people who are interested in good food and wine, and we get people from all over the world as we’re in most of the guide books. This area, around the top of Drottninggatan, is a lot more crowded than it was just a few years ago. There are more cafés and restaurants around here now which is attracting a different crowd, it’s much more hip these days while before it was mostly just people passing by. I like the fact that we’re very much in the middle of things, but still off the beaten track. It’s great to be so close to everything but still feel a bit secluded.”
Stinas bageri – Tegnérgatan 18
Stinas bageri reminds me of a hole-in-the-wall Brooklyn bakery, with its brick wall, high ceiling and black and white checker floor. Stinas manufactures everything from scrumptious princess cakes to packaged muesli and knäckebröd and passers-by low on sugar can pop in for some colourful macaroons and mazarines to go.
Stina Rundqvist started the original bakery in 1924 and the company has since changed ownership and branched out to include two more stores in the area. “We’re still using some of the original recipes and we also have many clients that have been with us since the old days,” says Jessica Lindström of Stinas. “Our clients are mostly people that work in the area, and they come by for either breakfast or lunch, or to grab a loaf of fresh bread to take home after work. It’s a very friendly atmosphere here and a lot of people stop to chat.”
“The nice thing about this street is that it’s small and a bit hidden away and this combined with the fact that it’s a one-way street makes it much calmer than the busy car streets around here. You’ll find all kinds of small shops and companies on Tegnérgatan, and diverse cultures as well as you can see with all the Japanese shops around here.”
Café Piastowska – Tegnérgatan 5
Café Piastowska is not your average restaurant, but it could very well be your average Polish grandmother’s living room. It’s five minutes past opening and the place is already full. A short, white-haired woman is skilfully taking care of all the tables and the chatter of costumers is nicely accompanied by old jazz music. My eyes overdose as I scan the little candlelit room consisting of carved wooden figures and polish dolls, old sewing machines and folk costumes, golden trays and crystal port glasses, paintings of imposing military figures and family photos from across the ages, antique furniture and polish books. The walls are half-wooden, half-wallpapered, the timber floor is creaky and covered with heavy rouge rugs, and the green ceiling, red stained-glass windows decorated with icons, and copper ornaments and chandelier creates a bit of a Christmas feel in the dark and cosy room.
“We fell for this old house and its wonderful history,” says owner Halina Sandell, one half of the Swedish-Polish husband and wife team that started Piastrowska over 30 years ago.
The name was taken from a line of Polish royal family that married into the Swedish royal family around the year 1000. “I’m very interested in preserving everything old that has to do with culture, and this house with its ancient basement really got our imagination going in terms of the decor and atmosphere,” says Halina.
“We’ve always kept a good balance between Swedish and Polish culture and in the early days, when we were young, we had a lot of things going on here, poetry nights and so on.
“Through the years we’ve built up a great base of regular customers and have met some fantastic people. It’s so friendly here that some of our regulars have even gotten up and worked on evenings when we’ve needed extra help!”
Shops and Services
Gösta Wahlberg – Tegnérgatan 16
Gösta Wahlberg looks as much as a museum as a shop. The store has been here for 126 years, making it the oldest shop on the street and one of the oldest in the entire city. Gösta’s son, Carl, has himself been here for almost half a century, taking over from his father who ran the shop for over 60 years, starting out as an employee with the original owner. “The shop has barely changed at all over the years, although the street certainly has,” says Carl.
The irony is that such a timeless place is nevertheless so full of timepieces. Carl is surrounded by glass cases filled with antique watches and walls covered with big ticking clocks. There’s a bit of a marine theme going on here as well, supporting Carl’s big sailing enthusiasm, and miniature sailboats, lighthouses and glass fishing floats are in good company with the clocks. Carl shows me black and white photographs of the Tegnérgatan of yesteryear, of watchmakers clad in white lab coats, female customers wearing elegant coats and hats over their immaculate locks, and horse carriages parked outside the shop.
“Tegnérgatan has always been very lively, both with it being a thoroughfare from Kungsholmen and because it once had trams running up and down the street. The biggest change is perhaps that there used to be a lot more shops here, and back in the day I had many friends in the area that also ran shops – we were like a gang. But nowadays it’s mostly cafés and restaurants, or offices and hairdressers. There weren’t that many restaurants in Stockholm in those days and I don’t understand how there’s enough people to fill all the restaurants you find today!”
“We still get customers that remember me as a boy. Many of our regulars may have passed away, but their relatives are still loyal to us. And as we’ve specialized in big wall clocks and have been in the business for so long we sometimes get work from as far away as other countries in Europe or even the US. And in the summers we get busloads of Japanese tourists that just come in to take photos!”
Syster Lycklig – Tegnérgatan 12
Colourful and cute with a kitschy edge and a hint of the romantic French countryside, Syster Lycklig is jam-packed with lace ribbons and decorative birds, polka-dotted drawer handles and wax table cloths, tins referring to the cafés and patisseries of Paris, rose patterned tea sets and kitchen towels, and harlequin cup cake forms and coffee mugs. It’s like being in a candy store, just without the candy but no less sweet.
Sisters Anna and Tina opened up their interior design shop eight years ago. “We try to select the most unique items from diverse dealers and our selection is a bit different,” says Tina. “We get a lot of regulars that live or work in the area. Tegnérgatan is a very convenient location as it’s near the metro and bus and is at an easy walking distance from the city centre. It’s a nice little street in the middle of the big city.”
“There’s been a lot of changes in ownership of the shops around here over the years, and unfortunately many have had to close down because of tough times. As the stores help each other in drawing customers to the area we feel a bit sad about this. We know a lot of the people that work on the street since we buy our lunches from all around here, and there’s been some attempts in getting together a network of companies and collaborate more.”
Halléns Antikvariat – Tegnérgatan 17
Halléns Antikvariat is one of few trusty used bookstores left in town. Friendly and without fuss, Halléns is one room packed with books of all topics in mismatched wooden shelves. Old Swedish comics and drawings of birds lend a personal touch to the collection, but the eye-catcher here is the big cash register dating from 1901 that Johan Hallén still uses as backup if the more modern system fails.
After getting his PhD in literature, Johan started his first antiquarian bookstore in Gamla Stan in 1976, moving to Tegnérgatan in ’85. “We used to specialize in Strindberg and Stockholmiana, nowadays it’s more general, especially fiction and history. I chose Tegnérgatan because of its great location and its many pedestrians of all ages and professions. Tegnérgatan is not a specifically profiled street; it’s an ordinary central Stockholm street with a lot of passing traffic. The street hasn’t changed so much over the years; only there were four antiquarian bookshops before, now I’m the only one. My relationship with other businesses on the street is good, although there are many shop owners I don’t know due to the frequent coming and goings of shops.”
Eat! Ekoaffären – Tegnérgatan 3
Eat! Ekoaffären has Sweden’s largest assortment of environmentally friendly products. At Ekoaffären you’ll find everything a regular grocery store has, with the big difference that everything here is organic: Saltå Kvarn products in their stylish packaging, goji berries, locally-made ice-cream, whole milk by the bag, cashew butter, fig marmalade, mint soda, fine chocolate from Africa, Celtic sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, and even salt from the Dead Sea. The checkout has a little café attached to it offering smoothies of all colours and cookbooks to browse through and get inspired by.
“We see all types of people here as a lot of people are buying organic now,” says manager Cecilia Lundblad. “People have started to care more about animals and the environment and we’ve noticed a big difference in the growth of our costumer base in just the four years we’ve been open. It’s not just a specific group anymore.”
“There’s a kind atmosphere on this street with a big variety and it’s really nice to work here. It’s sad to see so many shops closing down, like the antique store Apollo which has been here for 40 years. That seems to be the trend now as more and more restaurants open up, supporting the many offices on the street. Although the restaurants are good I’d rather see more shops as we help each other out.”
Jon Berggren – Housing association chairman
”I’ve lived here for 18 years now and think what’s special about Tegnérgatan is that people actually chat on the street, unlike in Östermalm where I lived before. It’s a much nicer atmosphere in this area and we’re more like a family.
The big change I’ve noticed is that the shops keep changing owners and there’s a lot more cafés and restaurants around here than there used to be, no doubt because of the student population around here. The downside of Tegnérgatan is that the prices have gone up a lot in the past years so most of the people you see here nowadays are high-income people in their mid-30s. It’s a bit hard on us oldies as we can’t really afford living here anymore!”
Filippa Edholm – Domestic help
“I didn’t really choose Tegnérgatan but was in a queue for youth apartments and since I had been in it for many years I finally got one this summer. But I like the street anyway! It’s quite a calm street and I like the style of the houses. My neighbours are mostly students and musicians, since there’s only apartments for people under 30 in my house.
A very nice thing about Tegnérgatan is the small park Tegnèrlunden, just around the corner from where I live. And the fact that you live in the middle of the city, so it takes no time to get anywhere!”
Per Särnqvist – Manager of Apollo Antik
“There’s a very local feel here on Tegnérgatan. It’s a street with a pulse and a lot of pedestrian traffic. It hasn’t changed that much over the 40 years we’ve been here, many shops have come and gone but it’s always been similar stores, a lot of antique stores and so on.
“It’s a very exciting mix here on the street with all sorts of people, from office workers to tourists from the many good hotels around here. And then there’s of course all the excellent restaurants.”