Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town, unlike the newer parts of the city, is cozy, close, busy. It’s old and inviting and a bit mysterious. After you’ve wandered through its curvy climby narrow streets and stairs for a while, you’ll likely want a break for a bite to eat or something warm to drink—or cool in the summer. You can’t do better than to head to Gamla Stan’s main square, Stortorget. You’ve probably seen its graceful buildings, its fountain and its sidewalk cafes on a hundred postcards for sale around the city. When you arrive in the square, head straight for the tall and narrow mustard yellow building across from the Nobel Museum. Chokladkoppen, which means Chocolate Cup, is spelled out on the awning, and they’ve got just what you need.
Menu: As the name implies, chocolate, cold or hot, white or brown, is the main drink here, although you can also get coffee or tea, soft drinks, juice or the local 3.5 beer. Or order a chai soy latte. Pair your drink with a rich and seductive pastry for a perfect “fika,” the Swedish word for a coffee break with friends. Not everything on the menu is sweet, though. There are savory dishes that make for a nice lunch or light supper. Huge sandwiches served with salad, soups, lasagna and other pasta dishes and pies, like salmon and spinach or broccoli and bleu cheese. You can order baked potatoes with a couple of different toppings. There are lots of vegetarian options, and the pesto pasta is popular with vegans.
Thoughts: After two stops at Chokladkoppen, I was sorry I was leaving Stockholm so soon. I would have come back again and again. Mostly to drink hot chocolate. There are a couple of options and they will likely appeal to different tastes. The regular hot chocolate is like you fell into Willy Wonka’s chocolate river. It’s creamy and rich with a smooth chocolate flavor, but less sweet than you may be used to in the US. Order a mochaccino, and it will come with a shot of coffee in it. At the other end of the chocolate scale, the White Hot Chocolate, my personal favorite, is very sweet and creamy, like a melted white chocolate bar. Your drink comes in a heavy stoneware bowl, like a Japanese soup bowl. Wrapping your hands around it on a chilly day feels luxurious. On a warm summer day, you can order their cold chocolate drink with a scoop of ice cream.
Like almost everywhere in Stockholm, the pastries at Chokladkoppen are excellent. For a very traditional fika, order your drink with a kanelbulle, a huge cinnamon roll. Don’t expect a gooey, bready Cinnabon-style iced bun. Swedish cinnamon rolls are dense and flaky and heavily swirled with cinnamon, flavored with a touch of cardamom, and lightly dusted with sugar. If you want to stay completely on the chocolate train, the Valrhonaboll Chocolate Ball or the White Chocolate Cheesecake are both purely decadent and kind of overwhelmingly good. The traditional Swedish Princess Cake, made with layers of airy sponge cake, pastry cream, marzipan and whipped cream on top is almost worth the flight to Sweden for.
My second trip to Chokladkoppen was for lunch with a friend, and we were both delighted. I had the pasta salad with chicken and pesto; she had the Healthy Garden Platter with Smoked Salmon. We were both well satisfied with our plates and enjoyed swapping tastes. The portions were large. We were also offered a taste of the vegetarian lasagna and it was also delicious, the sauce rich and flavorful. The soup of the day comes in a very large bowl, with sliced crusty bread. The sandwiches, with a side of salad, are also huge.
Remember that Gamla Stan is the tourist heart of Stockholm and can get crowded. But it also makes Stortorget a very lively square. If it’s not too cold, I recommend sitting on the terrace outside, which has some of the best people-watching in Stockholm. Even in chilly weather, they offer blankets to wrap around your shoulders or drape over your lap. If the terrace is too crowded or it’s too cold, opt for a table inside. It basically defines cozy. Small, dim, with a low beamed ceiling, candles on the tables and some funky art on the walls. The small wooden tables, matched with wooden benches and chairs, are set very close together, which may or may not add to the atmosphere, depending on your degree of claustrophobia. I actually liked it very much. Service was friendly and efficient. The people who work here seem to genuinely enjoy their jobs.
Notes: Chokladkoppen is especially gay-friendly and welcoming to everyone. However, with its tiny space and its raised terrace, it is NOT handicapped or stroller friendly. Also, there is no WiFi. There are menus in English. There’s a small window in the front wall, much like a hatch on a ship, for to-go orders. Sipping a cup of white hot chocolate while strolling the old streets of Gamla Stan could be a memorable experience to take home with you from Stockholm.
Price Range: Stockholm is one of the most expensive cities in Europe, and Gamla Stan, a tourist area, is dearer yet. So Chokladkoppen’s prices are at the high end of café normal. But they seemed fair to me. A huge bowl of chocolate, brown or white, will cost under 50 Swedish kroner (about US $6.00). An American coffee is less than US $2.50. The excellent pastries run from US $4.50 for a cinnamon roll up to US $7.75 for the Princess Cake. Sandwiches are US $12-14 or up to US $20 for a shrimp cocktail sandwich. Soup or salad of the day runs US $8-10. Main dishes run from US $11-18.
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