With only a week in a city as fascinating as Stockholm, you have to make choices. No easy task for a fangirl like me. There's the ABBA museum with its legendary stage costume, gold records, and flashing dance floors. There's Steig Larsson tours of Sodermalm that visit the haunts of Mikael Blomqvist and dragon-tattooed Lisbeth Salander.
But the hero I most wanted to visit was the red-pigtailed, superhuman nine-year-old named Pippi Longstocking. Heroine of the popular children's books by Swiss native Astrid Lindgren, Pippi not only has a pet monkey named Mr. Nilsson, a suitcase full of gold coins, and her very own lemonade tree, but she also lives fearlessly by her own rules, relishing nonconformity and regularly sticking bullies and other unreasonable, condescending adults up in trees. That's my kind of champion.
In the eleven books, Pippi's colorful home resides in the middle of a forest, but lucky for millions of her fans, Villa Villekulla has been recreated right in the center of Stockholm. It's on Djurgarden Island, just steps from the Vasa Museum, and easily accessible by bus and ferry. Although Junibacken, as it's called, is technically a children's museum, it is by far one of my favorite Stockholm attractions. The carrot cake alone is worth the visit.
The highlight of the museum is the Storybook Train that whisked us and other guests through miniature landscapes of Astrid Lindgren's many books. In wooden houses with lights twinkling in the windows, we met Alfie Atkins, Festus and Mercury Max, watched the Lionheart Brothers slay the dragon Katla, and of course, communed with Pippi and her friends, Tommy and Annika.
The 15-minute adventure is available in 12 languages and, if you happen to know Swedish, you can hear Lindgren herself reading the narration — allegedly the last text she ever wrote. Junibacken also has Sweden's largest children's bookstore, a children's theater that stages more than 150 shows per year and a restaurant with stunning views of Stockholm's Nybroviken Bay.
The most remarkable thing about the restaurant (at least if you compare it to the average junk food dispensed at most US children's museums) is that its entire menu is made fresh from locally-sourced, certified organic produce. Whether you want lingonberry pancakes or classic meatballs, just-picked asparagus or hearty chanterelles, Junibacken's restaurant prides itself in being sustainable, conscious, and worthy of its young customers and their parents. There are even dairy and gluten-free options available and a staff master baker who dishes up delectable bread, cakes, and pastries.
So, Pippi, thanks again for making my childhood — and now my adulthood — so memorable.