The art of fika, a reunion in Stockholm

The first time I travelled to Stockholm with my boyfriend was during a long weekend in December some years ago. The city was packed with snow and Christmas lights and it was utterly romantic. It was also very cold, so cold that every now and then we felt the need to enter a café and order a hot drink to warm ourselves up from the inside out. What we did out of necessity, we discovered later to be also a very cultural thing in Sweden: the art of fika.

Spending time together with friends or family over a cup of coffee and possibly also something sweet is one of Sweden’s most cherished cultural assets. It’s called fika, and it’s a pretty big part of Swedish culture. This is the reason why every city in Sweden usually hosts an abundance of cozy cafés. Apart from being safe havens to hide in when the weather is too cold and you’ve been spending some time outside, Swedish cafés are the places where people meet, relax and just enjoy each other’s company. Looking back at our first trip to Stockholm, I can see how our coffee stops not only provided us with warmth, but also with precious time to relax and focus on ourselves.

Cobbled streets of old town Stockholm
The heart of Stockholm is cobbled and uphill (Södermalm)

We had the chance to spend a weekend in Stockholm again recently, when we met with some friends from the time when we lived in Poland. With one of them it had been a few years since we last met, so all we really needed was just some time together to catch up and cherish our reunion. Stockholm was a great background for that. We spent the weekend strolling around the beautiful streets of the centre, mostly around Gamla Stan and Södermalm. No fixed plans or specific places to visit, just a very relaxed kind of sightseeing. We enjoyed feeling like being part of Sweden’s beautiful capital city, taking in the view of the historical buildings all around us. From time to time we would stop to enter a café and enjoy each other’s company over a cup of hot coffee. We were introducing our friends to the art of fika.

Fika in a Stockholm café
One person out of four drinks their coffee with milk. Cue: that person is also the owner of that Canon lens cap

There is one place that we discovered on our first trip to Stockholm together, one of the many cafés we visited during that cold December weekend. It’s called Muffin Bakery and it’s located on Drottninggatan 73. I am an avid muffin appreciator and when I saw the place from outside I was immediately lured in. My eyes read “Muffin bakery” and in I went, it took that little. Last weekend’s “café crawl” happened mostly in random places where we would just stop when we felt like having a coffee break. Except for one place, where we actually went on purpose.

The art of fika in Stockholm: the muffin bakery
Muffin Bakery, Drottninggatan 73

The Muffin Bakery’s biggest hit is the cheesecake brownie muffin. It’s a giant muffin made with brownie, cheesecake and a gooey heart. They warm it up for you before serving. It’s everything. Two of us went for it, and you can see the two giant cheesecake brownie muffins pictured below. I got tempted by the blueberry cheesecake muffin. It features the same cheesecake part that the cheesecake brownie has, but instead of being made of brownie the rest is actual muffin cake, plus blueberries. I love a good blueberry cheesecake and that was exactly what I wanted together with my café au lait.

The art of fika in Stockholm: the muffin bakery
Blueberry cheesecake muffin looks no less sexy than cheesecake brownie muffin

The art of fika is a very Swedish thing, and definitely one that visitors to the country should get to know and explore. Meals in Sweden can be rushed through, but if there is one food ritual that deserves time that is fika. This is the time for socializing and enjoying the company of other people. Swedish coffee is large and very hot, drinking it takes time. That time is precious because it’s the time you get to spend with your family or friends, savouring the pleasure of human interaction. We realized that Italy works the exact opposite way. Rushing through a meal in Italy is a capital sin – that is the designated occasion for family time; but coffee can actually be rushed. Espresso is short and usually downed without even sitting, especially in bars.

stockhom sweden, a great place for coffee
The beauty of Stockholm will never cease to amaze me

So it was over coffee, practising the art of fika, that we got to see again our friends from our previous life. Only those who have lived away from home and have created a network of friends in a different city can fully understand the power of a reunion. Getting to meet good friends after months or even years apart is priceless. Suddenly, all the time that has passed doesn’t matter anymore.

The last time the four of us met all together was when we were all still living in Krakow. My boyfriend and I were the first to move out, and have been living in Sweden ever since. Then one of them left for Luxembourg, while the other has recently relocated to Dublin (and we are visiting soon!). All four of us come from four different cities in Italy. Back in Italy, we would have probably never met. But we all happened to end up working in the same office in Poland, that’s where our paths crossed and even now, living in three different countries, our friendship lives on.

The art of fika: a reunion with old friends in Stockholm's cozy cafés

34 thoughts on “The art of fika, a reunion in Stockholm

    1. E’ stato proprio un bel weekend. Sarebbero da rifare più spesso queste cose. Per fortuna tra dieci giorni siamo da te!! Ci scalderemo con l’Irish coffee 😀

    1. I heard that there’s a Swedish bakery in London where you can “fika”. I think it’s actually called Fika! A former co-worker moved to work there 😀 You could try to look it up for those nostalgic moments!

  1. How nice is that – four people coming from Italy enjoying Fika in Sweden (so from ‘quick coffee drinking’ to ‘long stays’). A Swedish friend of mine introduced the to the conecpt of Fika and I really like their appreciation of meeting with beloved ones. As someone who has got her friends all over the globe I really understand the feeling of how the all the time that has passed doesn’t matter anymore!

    1. It’s a pretty awesome feeling. After all, it’s hard to find the time to meet also with the people who live near, sometimes. And after some time living far from your old friends you just get used to making the most of the time you get to see them. It becomes more precious.

  2. Åh, FIKA! The feeling in the winter when you hide from the cold in the café andnever want to go out again and in the spring when all the terraces is packed with people having fika and trying to catch some sunshine!
    As a Swede it always hard to explain fika for a forigner. People are like oh you mean grab a coffe and you just no. No, no, no. It’s no coffe, it’s not lunch, it’s not a snack, it’s FIKA! =)
    And how I miss the Swedish fika when travelling, kanelbulle, kladdkaka, or for christmas: lussebulle!

    1. I know, there is the combined pleasure of having it mysigt, hot coffee, delicious cake and the pleasure of human interaction – but the best of human interaction: the one with your dear ones. Fika is definitely an amazing thing. I’m so glad I’m living in Sweden, because I got to learn how wonderful that is, and how much more it is than just dismissing it as a simple “coffee pause” 😉

  3. When I visited I had no idea anout Fika but I love this idea and think its a great way to stop and connect with others. Also love the muffin bakery and that cheesecake brownie muffin. Looks so good and i’ll have to try it next time!!

    1. I think it’s really important, especially for people who have busy lives. Slow down and indulge on the carbs 😀 And of course on the company of other humans!

  4. Don’t know why but never heard about fika. Sounds so lovely! Time to go to Sweden, especially because lots of people think I’m from Sweden ;). And entering a café to warm up is the best!

    1. Then it’s definitely time to visit Sweden. Having fika with your life partner is really nice, so I’m sure you’re going to love it! 😉 This cozy time can really add up on romanticism – as if Stockholm wasn’t romantic enough.

  5. The Muffin Bakery looks and sounds amazing!! What a great place for a reunion. Although fika isn’t really a tradition in the UK it’s definitely one of my favourite ways to catch up with people. 🙂

    1. I believe that to some extent it’s a “feeling” that other cultures share, too. In Italy it’s mostly the sacred lunch time. But the Swedish version – the actual fika – feels also quite special when you think of the cold climate outside and the promise of the warmth that being in a cozy environment, with hot coffee and the warmth of being surrounded by friends that fika conveys. I love it 😀

  6. Cheesecake brownie muffins. Just the words make me drool. Being Swedish, I definitely know my fikas (plural). As a matter of fact, whenever I go home to visit my family it’s not uncommon to have 3 a day just in our own house! For a lot of these we will all sit down by the kitchen table just to have coffee and maybe cake together, no distractions. It’s definitely a part of Swedish life and personally, it’s one of my favourite parts about my own culture 🙂 Thanks for sharing your lovely posts and images! 😀

    1. I’ve been living in Sweden for three years now and I’ve been teaching my parents this habit. They got to really love it, too. They are big coffee drinkers, but the Italian coffee is too short to also enjoy the moment. So they have totally turned into true fika-appreciators and every time they are here want to set up a big pot of bryggkaffe in the afternoon and they *always* want to get pastries (mainly kanelbullar) at the grocery store!
      This year my mom gave in and bought a filter coffee machine to bring back to Italy. So she can have her looong coffee and indulge also when she’s not in Sweden with me 😀

      1. Haha I love that you’ve turned your parents into fika appreciators! To be fair, who wouldn’t like it? 😆 I hope you’ve tried all the must-have pastries in those three years ☺️ Prinsesstårta, kladdkaka, kanelbulle (saw you mentioned that), biskvier, rulltårta, sju sorters kakor, dammsugare, chokladbollar (personal favourite!). I could go on, you can tell what I like doing in my spare time 😂

        1. The only one I’m not familiar with is sju sorters kakor. Will have to look into that and expanf my knowledge of fika pastry material 😀

  7. Fika – I’ve never heard it before, but it sounds nice. I love cafes and muffins, that’s exactly my thing. I was in Stockholm a few years ago for business and I remember the beautiful streets. Very nice article and photos!

    1. Thank you! There are other pastries that are more traditional for fika, namely the very Swedish cinnamon bun. We had that, too (of course). But I will never say no to a good muffin!

  8. Wow, that´s definitely a tradition I love. We waste too much time on our phones and almost forget about the importance of socialising and enjoying the company of other people. Thanks for sharing.

  9. I had no idea visiting in a cafe like this was ‘fika’ – an official thing. I love that. We need more of this ‘slow down and be together’ in our cultures!

    1. You can have a fika also at home. As long as there’s coffee and cake and you actually sit down and enjoy the moment and socialise it is fika 😉

  10. I love this idea, life can so fast paced sometimes that it’s good to just kick back and relax with coffee and some lovely food. I really need to get back to Sweden asap, such a beautiful country. xx

  11. I went to Stockholm last year and I just realized I didn’t experience a proper Fika! I guess I was too blinded by my stay at the ABBA Museum and my fascination with Swedish meatballs lol 😀 I enjoyed my stay in Stockholm. What a relaxed and vibrant city!

    1. I haven’t yet visited the Abba museum! But I do love a good portion of meatballs!! Always!!
      Nest time you visit Stockholm make sure to indulge on some quality coffee time. Or just have a fika back home with friends!

  12. Åååååhhhh älskade fika! As an honorary swede (according to my friends – swedes and non swedes), I absolutely love fika. Fika är bästa tid! Ta fika varje dagar runt om hela världen. Taking a break in the middle of the afternoon is such a good way to refresh your brain. Chokladbollar, kanelbullar, prinsesstårta, kardemummabullar, bryggt kaffe. Yes! Stockholm feels like Home to me.

    1. I knew you would love reading this! 😀 And I can’t agree with you more. Fika is precious especially in the middle of a work day. It’s the time that allows you to just be a human, slower. And whe it gets dark early it’s so precious, coffee is all you need to keep you awake when your bodu is shutting down at sunset 😀

  13. I visited Stockholm about a month ago and not only did I LOVE it but a friend explained Fika to me and I am definitely making it a thing in Wellington now I’m back. Beautiful photos, really took me back to Södermalm.

    1. Do it! Export fika and the deeper meaning of having a slow relaxed coffee pause with beloved people!!
      Thanks, glad you liked my photos. And Södermalm is the cutest part of town!

  14. I think there used to be a Swedish restaurant in Singapore called Fika! I didn’t realise it was a ritual like this – what a cool practice. We could all definitely use some slowing down and catching up with friends over coffee! This should be more of a thing!

    1. That’s so cool, a Swedish restaurant in Singapore called Fika! Yeah, fika is a pretty big thing, and there is so much to it. Sometimes I wonder if the reason why the Swedish people are always so cool might depend on having a ritual like fika in their daily lives.

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