Destinations

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The last imperial capital of Abyssinia and the capital of the modern nation of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa has only existed for a little over 130 years. As such, its name means “new flower,” and speaks to its flourishing as a center of power, culture, and influence in the ancient and storied Ethiopian highlands. Here, friendships and kindness abound, and Ethiopia’s enduring legacy of independence in the face of external attempts at conquest is a sense of majesty, tempered by humility, that makes visitors feel welcome and cared for.

Heran and I grab some coffee at an Italian-inspired coffee shop. Café-style coffee, pizza, and pasta are some of the culinary influences the Italians left after their short-lived occupation during World War II. That said, machine-brewed coffee has got nothing on the elaborate, traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
The juxtaposition of African and European design was evident in the halls of the former Imperial Palace, once home to Emperor Haile Selassie and now a museum on the campus of Addis Ababa University.
Getacho is trained as a medical lab technician. He left the field because of his aversion to the abortions he was required to help perform. I didn’t ask him about his stance on a woman’s right to choose; he just said he couldn’t bare the actual procedure. His other siblings all work in the medical field. He said to me, in much better English than he gave himself credit for, “All will work out. All will be okay.”
Students text and browse on cell phones at Addis Ababa University. The striking campus library was named in honor of former US president John F. Kennedy—a controversial figure in Ethiopia.
Women in bright colors walk past the verdant walls of an upscale residential district near the embassy zone. Some of the mansions house ambassadors and other dignitaries, guarded from—or kept from—the outside world by these high walls.
Traditional Ethiopian coffee (bottom left) compliments a platter of steaming, savory goodness.

 
-Ernest White II

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I arrived at Bamako, capital of the modern country of Mali, in the late afternoon under a hot and yellow sky. Outside the small airport terminal, greeters waited for friends and family, hotel drivers held signs aloft, and touts—quietly and at a distance—offered local SIM cards or to change currency at the black market rate. One of the touts, his hair cut in the newfangled mohawk so fashionable among youths under thirty around the world, asked me in English if I needed a ride or a guide. I had expected my hotel to pick me up, but we at least spoke for a few minutes about his long-ago trip to Washington. He impressed me with a few words of Spanish that slipped into Italian, which was even more impressive. Than a police officer shooed all the non-passengers away from the shaded terminal entrance and back across the virtually carless roadway into the sun.

After a while, when I guessed that my driver wasn’t on the way, I tried to call the hotel from my cell phone, to no avail and saving me the nearly $5 per minute charge. I asked a uniformed woman passing by if she spoke English—“Pardon, parlez-vous anglais?” being one of the scant French phrases I’ve mastered—and, upon receiving an excited “Yes!,” asked if she could help me contact the hotel. She took me to the baggage office where she worked to contact them and wait for the driver. She told me about her two daughters who live in Atlanta and how she worked for Air Afrique in the ‘90s.

Staring out from the wall of her office was a French fashion model, plump red lips parted by white teeth that protruded as if the model, as a child, sucked her thumb. The face was framed by a tempest of hair, capped by a beret, and the Eiffel Tower rose in the distance over one thin shoulder. “France is in the air,” read the airline poster, advertising the single daily flight from Bamako to Paris. The wan, pouting body in the image appeared lifeless, ghostly compared with the vivid and corpulent bodies in my immediate vicinity. From the taxi on the way to the hotel, I saw an Air France billboard advertising “royal shopping in Paris.” Economically, Mali is one of the ten poorest countries in the world.

Entering the outskirts of the city, tangerine-colored dust, reminding me of Tallahassee or Pietermaritzburg, glowed in the sunlight, and I looked at the faces of the people walking alongside the road, riding on Chinese-made motorbikes, or selling sundries in the scant shade: Auntie Rosemary, Tyrone, Keisha’s little sister, Deacon Jones, Dr. McLendon.

We crossed the River Niger during the afternoon rush hour, and I noticed the abundance of motorbikes and the abundance—not the majority, but a notable number—of women astride and driving the motorbikes in brightly-colored floor-length dresses, traditional West African headwraps, and high heels. Other women wore hijabs or hoodies protecting Beyoncé-inspired braids—blonde, of course—from the citrusy dust. The men, whose second-hand clothing spoke more to the relative economic standing of the country than did the ladies’, wrenched out any bit of style they could muster, be it a cocked and reversed baseball cap, an elegant knee-length shirt with a fedora, chic plastic-rimmed spectacles, or one of the stylish haircuts appearing in Belgian hip-hop videos. Whatever they wore, they wore it well.
I arrived at a clean, mercifully air-conditioned hotel run by an Ivoirian Frenchman and his daughter, had an unimpressive dinner, then read until jetlag sent me to sleep.

The next morning, I had plans to go out into the city after breakfast to take photographs and meet up with the American friend of an American friend for coffee. But at breakfast, I ended up meeting a middle-aged white man who had been born in the Belgian Congo sixty-five years ago. He was ten when the war of independence broke out in the Congo and took a children’s-only train to safety in Cape Town, with no news of the whereabouts or well-being of his parents for a year. They showed up eventually, and he grew into manhood in South Africa, marrying a Coloured woman, illegally. They had two children and could never live in one place longer than three months at a time because, just as surely as they had moved into a house, a neighbor reported the interracial marriage to the police, who took about three months to act on the complaint. He told me how he helped smuggle contraband to anti-Apartheid resistance fighters and about the karate dojo in the Indian section of Johannesburg where he took his children for lessons and where people of all four racial groups bonded under the shared love of a martial art and the ability to not think about race for a while, anyway. Eventually, Apartheid ended, Mandela was released, and the first general election was held in 1994. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Belgium, where his marriage dissolved. He then, finally, accepted that he was gay.

We remained wrapped—and I, rapt—in conversation for the entire day. It was Mandela Day.

The next day, not having seen very much of Bamako at all, but determined to return again during the five-year duration of my visa, I went to the airport around lunchtime to check in to my onward flight to Dakar. The airport was virtually empty of passengers, and three immigration officers stood behind the glass partition sharing a heap of barbecued ribs wrapped in brown paper, just like they do at Jenkins’ Bar-B-Q back home, except the ribs were covered in onions rather than mustard-based barbecue sauce. We all laughed; they offered me some, but I had just eaten lunch and didn’t want to get my passport greasy. One of the officers used his ungreasy hand to process me out of the country and stamp my passport.

My people.

-Ernest White II

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Human trade and culture have traveled through Central Asia for thousands of years. Throughout antiquity, traders, treasures, and tragedies threaded their way through the mountains and across the seas of the region in successive waves, mixing traditions and beliefs from East to West and back again. The modern country of Tajikistan sits high along the northern crest of the Himalayas, and its peaks and valleys have witnessed the rise and fall of religions and empires, from Zoroastrianism and Buddhism to the Mongols and the Soviets. Around each mountain pass is a story, through each tunnel, a tale. It isn’t the cities and settlements of Tajikistan that hold the secrets of time, it’s the places between the places where the whispers shout loudest.

World’s Second-Largest Flagpole, Dushanbe
Karotegin Province
Seven Lakes
Shakhristan Region
Khatlon Province
Zarafshan Valley
Karotegin Province
Seven Lakes
Iskanderkul, named for Alexander the Great. Yes, he was here, too.

Dushanbe (DYU), Tajikistan’s capital city and principal air hub, is served thrice weekly from Istanbul by Turkish Airlines, with onward connections to the United States.

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Russia got Hungary, ate Turkey, fell on Greece and broke China. We learned that little ditty in nursery school, and while it may not have happened in that order, there was obviously some allusion to the Soviet Union’s global sphere of influence during much of the 20th century. As menacing as that may have seemed, the glories of Mother Russia were still extolled to many a traveler, as evidenced by these lovely vintage travel posters. Добро пожаловать!


 

Have you been to Russia?

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Nickname: A Cidade Maravilhosa (The Marvelous City) | Population: 6.5 million cariocas/12 million in metro | Area: 486.5 sq mi | Airports: Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport – Galeao (GIG) and Santos-Dumont Airport (SDU) | Time Zone: -3h from UTC/-2h DST | Famous for: beaches, booties, samba, soccer, Cristo Redentor, crime

Rio de Janeiro is the official calling card of Brazil. No other city in Latin America has been photographed, sung about, or dreamed about more than the Marvelous City. With world-famous beaches, stunning landscapes, spectacular views, hip-swaying music, and scores of tall, tan young-and-lovelies, Rio is the one city that should be experienced at least once in every human being’s life. True, it’s got plenty of social problems and it may not end up being your favorite city in the world, but Rio’s palpable sensuality and peerless natural beauty make it a place that you will never forget.

On arrival: Use the free airport wifi to order a ride via Uber, or take a cab from one of the prepaid taxi offices closest to the terminal exit; insist that the driver uses GPS. The best and least-expensive way to get reais (Brazilian currency) is to withdraw money from the ATM; many Brazilian ATMs do not operate using the U.S. bank card network, but at least one or two will.

Best ‘hoods: Copacabana is the world’s most famous beach, still fun despite being well past its glory days. Ipanema and Leblon hold court as the city’s chic beaches. The beaches of Barra da Tijuca are calmer, but a bit far from the in-town action. Centrally-located Lapa is home to Rio’s iconic samba spots. Santa Teresa’s curvy, cobblestone streets evoke an artsy, bohemian vibe. Flamengo, Botafogo, and Urca offer affordable, interesting dining and lodging conveniently located between the beaches and Centro (Downtown), which is great for exploring during the day. These neighborhoods are part of the Zona Sul (South Zone), which is where most of Rio’s tourist-friendly attractions are located. Be street-smart everywhere.

Best beaches: Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon for swimming, sunbathing, and flirting; Arpoador for great sunset views; Barra da Tijuca for surfing; São Conrado for hang gliding; Prainha for peace and quiet.

Best sights: Christ the Redeemer Statue, Sugarloaf Mountain, Tijuca Forest, Santa Teresa, Selarón Steps, Municipal Theatre, Museum of Tomorrow, Museum of Modern Art, ferry to Niterói, Maracanã Stadium, tour of Rocinha, and the Sambadrome during Carnival.

Best eats: Churrasco (Brazilian barbecue) at Porcão Rio’s, feijoada (the national dish) at Casa da Feijoada, por kilo (Brazilian buffet) at Kilograma or Couve Flor, comida mineira (rustic Brazilian food) at À Mineira, açaí na tigela (frozen açaí) at Bibi Sucos, pork sandwiches at Cervantes, pizza at Mamma Jamma, sushi at Azumi, burgers at Comuna, Brazilian vegan/veg at Vegetariano Social Clube.

Best dranks: Juices at Dona Vitamina or Frutaria Oscar Freire, beers at Espaço Carioquinha or Lapa Café, happy hour at Astor or in the Arcos dos Teles area, views and friends at Bar do Alto, Palaphita Kitch, or Bar Urca.

Best hypes: Any samba school rehearsal, Lapa at night for live Brazilian music and a wild party vibe, upscale partying at 00, LGBT club nights at The Week Rio, Copacabana for New Years (Reveillon) and during Carnival.

Best advice: Remember to be street-smart at all times; leave unnecessary valuables at home. Try to speak a little bit of Portuguese; you’ll make new friends that way. Service in restaurants and other establishments can be slow; try not to let that ruin your trip to one of the world’s most enjoyable cities. Use condoms. Have fun!

And for the ultimate luxury experience in Rio, book an Up in the Air Life adventure today!

Image credit: Christian Haugen via Flickr

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With welcoming cultures, natural and urban wonders, and innumerable experiences to be had, Africa is an inviting, underrated place to visit. Possessing 54 independent countries, each with a complex political, social, and economic history, most places on the continent—in fairness—require US citizens to obtain a visa in advance of any trip. Still, some countries have extended a visa-free* welcome mat that lets Americans simply book and go with passport in-hand, and maybe a pre-trip vaccination or two (after all, in some places, it’s literally a jungle out there). And they’re all no more than one flight connection away from most major American air hubs. It’s time for Africa.

Leopard in Botswana by Gregory Slobirdr Smith via Flickr

Botswana
A nature-lover’s paradise where the river meets the desert, Botswana hosts some of the planet’s oldest landforms and lifeforms. The largest group of Bushmen—who, incidentally, constitute the world’s oldest human civilization—call the country home, roaming the vast Kalahari Desert into which the ancient Okavango River flows. The fertile soils of the resulting delta sustain one of the world’s largest concentrations of game animals, protected by several natural preserves that can be visited by safari.
Fly to Gaborone (GBE) from the USA via Addis Ababa and Johannesburg.

 

Sunset Near Bangui by Afrika Force via Flickr

Central African Republic
Located literally at the heart of the continent, the Central African Republic offers visitors a modest, low-rise capital city with bright marketplace and bustling riverfront, safaris with an immense array of wildlife—including elephants and lowland gorillas—and the lovely, 165-foot-high Boali Waterfalls. Be aware, however, that the country has had more than a few security issues over the past couple of years, leading the State Department to issue a travel warning that has been in effect since April 2016.
Fly to Bangui (BGF) from the USA via Casablanca and Paris.

 

Malabo Harbour by Wapster via Flickr

Equatorial Guinea
Tiny and tropical, this former Spanish colonial enclave has got oil money to spare and gleaming new high-rises and shopping malls to prove it. The capital city, Malabo, is a mix of colonial and modern architectural styles, reflecting its history as a strategic outpost for during the Triangular Trade; Malabo was also a haven for freed slaves during the 19th century. Outside the city, pristine beaches, jungle treks, and the lush Monte Alen National Park on the mainland pack a big punch within a small area.
Fly to Malabo (SSG) from the USA via Casablanca, Frankfurt, and Madrid.

 

Snow in Lesotho by Di Malealea via Flickr

Lesotho
Landlocked and entirely surrounded by the country of South Africa, mountainous Lesotho is called the “Kingdom in the Sky” for good reason. Living in one of the few places on the continent with regular snowfall every winter, the citizens of the kingdom wrap themselves in warm blankets and wear a distinctive conical hat, almost like a crown. Aside from spectacular trekking and horseback riding in dramatic valleys and gorges, Lesotho welcomes visitors with a friendly local culture and a flavor and atmosphere utterly distinct from its more renowned neighbor.
Fly to Maseru (MSU) from the USA via Johannesburg.

 

Essaouira by Caroline Granycome via Flickr

Morocco
One of Africa’s most easily-accessible destinations by virtue of its proximity to the air hubs of Europe, Morocco melds the cultures of Africa and Europe in an exotic, dream-like haze. Buzzing markets, striking architecture, and scrumptious food define cities such as Marrakech, Fez, and Casablanca, while the endless coastline and cool Atlas Mountains provide plenty of opportunity for outdoor diversion. And despite being at one of the world’s oldest crossroads, Moroccans still welcome visitors warmly.
Fly nonstop to Casablanca (CMN) from New York and Washington.

 

Ostriches in Namib Desert by Greg Willis via Flickr

Namibia
Sprawling along the remote, sun-drenched southwestern coast of Africa, Namibia’s ancient landscapes appear more out-of-this-world than down-to-earth. Indeed, the Namib Desert is the oldest on the planet and the country’s Bushmen are among the world’s oldest civilizations. Natural and manmade wonders collide on the Skeleton Coast, littered with the remains of innumerable shipwrecks along the beaches, while Etosha National Park shelters plenty of mammals and reptiles, including the endangered black rhino.
Fly to Windhoek (WDH) from the USA via Addis Ababa, Amsterdam, Doha, Frankfurt, and Johannesburg.

 

Dakar From Ngor by Jeff Attaway via Flickr

Senegal
With a capital city that is one of the most exhilarating and underrated in the world, Senegal serves up a hefty side of sophisticated urban culture along with its beaches and national parks. Dakar’s nightlife, markets, and art scenes are legendary, while historical sites like the “Door of No Return” at Gorée Island and the colonial capital of Saint-Louis harken back to Senegal’s importance during the transatlantic slave trade. Not only are the Senegal’s sites sublime, sunsets from along its 330-mile coastline are spectacular.
Fly nonstop to Dakar (DKR) from New York.

 

The Orbit Jazz Club Johannesburg by South Africa Tourism via Flickr

South Africa
One of the most beautiful countries in the world, South Africa offers up an array of experiences unmatched by any other part of the continent: the urbane pulse of Johannesburg, the natural splendor of Cape Town, the cultural gumbo of Durban, big-game safaris, coastal drives, affordable luxury, and a home-grown house music scene that rivals Baltimore’s and Berlin’s. No wonder one of ZA’s catch phrases is “Better, Together.”
Fly nonstop to Johannesburg (JNB) from Atlanta and New York; fly direct (same-plane w/stop) from Washington.

 

Elder Swazi Warriors by Robert Staudhammer via Flickr

Swaziland
The tiniest country in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, Swaziland packs plenty of experiences within its 6,700 square miles. Traditional Swazi ceremonies and celebrations are held proudly and prominently year-round, culminating in the Umhlanga Festival each August, where young women honor the Queen Mother in full regalia. Safaris and adventure sports also feature high on the country’s to-do list, rendering little Swaziland a memorable place to visit.
Fly to Manzini (SHO) from the USA via Johannesburg.

 

Tunis Sunset by Mashhour Halawani via Flickr

Tunisia
Struggling to recover from two tragic attacks against foreign tourists in 2015, Tunisia still offers broad beaches, thriving marketplaces, and affordable luxury experiences. Many Europeans still book packages to surf and sun destinations, including Monastir and Nabeul, both built on the ruins of settlements from the Roman Empire. The country’s millennia-old history is showcased at the museums and cultural centers of the capital, Tunis, once known as the ancient city of Carthage. Tunisia has indeed been around.
Fly to Tunis (TUN) from the USA via Amsterdam, Barcelona, Casablanca, Frankfurt, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, and Rome.

 

*Visa requirements are always subject to change. Check the US Department of State website for the most current requirements for US citizens.

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Today, I joined the good folks at Up In the Air Life, luxury excursion planners extraordinaire, for a four-day cruise along the Upper Nile River from Luxor to Aswan amid some of Ancient Egypt’s most spectacular sites. Aboard the five-star Sun Boat IV, operated by Sanctuary Retreats, a group of 66 adventurous American travelers mix relaxation with exploration, tackling the striking Temple of Karnak, the Valley of the Kings, the impactful Temple of Horus, while enjoying sumptuous meals, friendly service, and, yes, a DJ imported from New York. After the cruise, we’ll participate in a fabulous last-night all-white affair at Le Meridien Cairo’s elegant Sequoia Restaurant before returning to the States. Full disclosure: Up In the Air Life is covering my participation in the trip, but don’t think I can be easily swayed from writing the truth.

Be sure to follow my dispatches from the road—or rio, rather—here at Fly Brother and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

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This week, I’ll be heading east for an eclectic, exciting three-week sojourn to England, South Africa, and Egypt. The trip is ostensibly for work—I’ve got a media event happening in each place—but there’s obviously a bit of fun to be had as well. Here’s the rundown…

Transit Brunch in NYC with Oneika the Traveller
On Friday, I stop through the Big Apple en route from Miami to London just long enough to catch up with my girl Oneika the Traveller, who, probably against her better judgment, agreed to be a guest on the Fly Brother Radio Show. You can catch the episode this Saturday morning at 10AM Eastern on the Ndustry Entertainment Network.

World Travel Market in London
From Saturday til Tuesday, I’ll be hanging out in Londontowne at the biggest B2B travel fair on the planet, World Travel Market. There will be hobnobbing and schmoozing with tourism bureaus and travel companies from around the world, but also with journalists, bloggers, travelers, and the bartenders and waitstaff, too. It’s a great place for interaction and networking with decision makers in the travel industry, and the event is free.

Victoria Dock by Bill Tyne via Flickr
Victoria Dock from ExCeL London by Bill Tyne via Flickr

Essence Fest in Durban
After WTM and a few afternoons connecting with England-based friends, I’ll head down to the city of the Southern sun, Durban. The first international edition of the Essence Music Festival is happening there next week, which I’ll be covering for the Fly Brother Radio Show. Still, Durbs has other charms, including an intense culinary scene centered around Indian cuisine and a lengthy history as the center of Zulu culture. Quietly, sun-splashed Durban is one of my favorite cities in Africa.

central-durban-by-ernest-white-ii
Central Durban by Ernest White II

Nile River Cruise from Luxor to Aswan
Finally, I head due north to Luxor, site of the historic Egyptian city of Thebes and home to some of the greatest preserved temples and monuments of Ancient Egypt. From there, I’ll sail into Upper Egypt with a group of fly folks on a multiday Nile River cruise organized by travel collective Up in the Air Life, covering the trip in words and images here at FLY, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The cruise ends with a stop in the venerable market town of Aswan before I continue on to chaotic Cairo and home.

temple-of-luxor-by-vasenkaphotography-via-flickr
Temple of Luxor by VasenkaPhotography via Flickr

Be sure to follow along on all the social medias! Have you ever been to any of these places?

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In Venezuela, the Médanos de Coro fan across the northern coast of Falcón state like a scarf in a perpetual breeze. Rippling, undulating, incessantly moving waves of sand rise and fall with the crest and trough of every dune. Grains of sand sparkle in the tropical sun as the expanse of tan and beige and gold stretches toward the horizon, broken only occasionally by fingers of bright green shrubs in interstitial spaces where plants took root before the rainwater could dry. The Médanos lap dangerously at the edge of the crumbling town of Santa Ana de Coro, threatening to swallow the place grain by grain just as the sands of time swallowed the Colombian village of Macondo. Or did that only happen in a book?

Medanos de Coro _ Ernest White II

Medanos de Coro 1 _ Ernest White II

Medanos de Coro 2 _ Ernest White II

Medanos de Coro 3 _ Ernest White II

Medanos de Coro 4 _ Ernest White II

 

The Médanos de Coro begin just north of the town of Santa Ana de Coro, Venezuela, located three hours east of Maracaibo by bus. American Airlines flies nonstop to Maracaibo (MAR) from Miami.

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The beauty of Stockholm is most vivid in the city’s quiet interstices: the shush of an electric blue pendeltåg as it shoots down the railroad track and into a tunnel, the muted hum of designer baby stroller wheels on concrete, the hush of smoke wafting from a cup of coffee caressed in slender, pale fingers. Yes, train horns wail, babies cry, and coffee drinkers chat, but the quietness that permeates the noise in the Swedish capital wraps around you like a blanket against the Nordic air, something warm and sustaining, not stifling.

I experienced this quiet riot first hand, going into a local supermarket for a few grocery items—mjölk for my tea and coffee, and smör with which to cook the eggs and spread on the Wasa multigrain crackers I was also buying. Sweden has several different thicknesses of milk, the least desirable of which, in my opinion, having the consistency of Elmer’s Glue. But I’d learned the names of milk with acceptable levels of viscosity years ago and asked the tall, fashion-forward stockboy where I could find some in the well-stocked but shoebox-sized store. I prefaced my question with a humble, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Swedish,” and he prefaced his response a quiet, reassuring smile completely unexpected from a person under 30. I sensed a combination of pride in his own English proficiency and the surprise of an encounter with a wayward American with a voice vaguely reminiscent of Will Smith’s (so I’ve been told).

Once I scored the right milk, the stockboy peeked around the corner to ask if I’d found everything I needed, his calm, bright solicitousness another example of the quiet beauty that undergirds life in the north. He made me feel welcome in his store, his city, his country, as did the many other newsstand cashiers, coffee baristas, restaurant waiters, postal clerks, and airport bus service reps with whom I interacted in the city. Those quiet spaces between words are when the welcome is warmest.

That is the beauty of Stockholm.

 

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN
Fly | Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN) | nonstops from the USA on Delta, Norwegian, SAS, United
Eat | The Hairy Pig or Stockholms Gastabud (Swedish) | Chili Masala (Indian) | Farang (East Asian)
Stay | First – Nobis Hotel | Biz – Lydmar Hotel | Econ – Ånedin Hostel
See | Gamla Stan, Djurgården, Fotografiska, Historiska Museet, the Stockholm Archipelago
Play | Summer: Trädgården and Patricia for clubbing | Year-round: music and/or dancing at Södra Teatern, Stampen, Fasching, Marie Laveau, Bambaataa Bambaataa at Le Bon Palais, The Can Jam at the Hard Rock Café

 

Image by Thomas Fabian via Flickr.