There’s a certain art to (the altogether quite popular) fika, I found out.
It’s not simply about engulfing as much cake as possible within a 15-minute timeframe; it’s about finding a cosy space, perhaps even with a friend or a coworker, where you will indulge in Sweden’s love for everything sweet, take the time to appreciate the good things in life, laugh a little, and wash it all down with a cup of coffee that’ll keep you going for the remainder of the workday. That, ladies and gentlemen, is fika. One of the most cherished customs in Sweden. One that tourists are quite fond of, and, understandably, are quite quick to adopt.
Who in their right mind would willfully argue against having baked goods every day?
What’s The Deal With Fika?
Fika is technically a play on the Swedish word for coffee that emerged back when back slang was a thing (kaffi is Swedish for coffee) in the 19th century. The word even went on to become both a verb and a noun, which probably explains its omnipresence in contemporary Swedish society.
The setting is of little importance. You don’t have to be in the best bakery in town, or the hippest café – so long as you take some time to change gears, slow down, and take some time minutes to yourself. And because fika is normally experienced in a very informal setting, it’s a great excuse to break the notorious and proverbial Nordic ice with a Swede and get to know him or her a little better. Fika comes with no strings attached, and no expectations. According to Try Swedish:
Most Swedes would agree that the recipe for the perfect fika includes coffee, a cinnamon bun and a best friend.
For the Swedes, there’s nothing extraordinary about fika. It’s just coffee and cake, yo. It’s part of their daily routine, sometimes even part of their employee contracts. These mo’fos have no idea how lucky they are to 1, have coffee breaks (as a freelancer I am completely estranged to the concept) and 2, live in a country where it’s not only socially acceptable but encouraged to eat cookies on a daily basis.
Can someone sort out my Swedish visa already? #kthnx
Fika And Seven Cookies at Gubbhyllan
This place deserves a proper shout out. Located inside the famous Skansen open-air museum on Djurgarden, Gubbhyllan serves one of the last remaining “seven cookies fika” in the country. While not meant to be celebrated every day, this cookie ceremony of sorts is mostly used to highlight special occasions like christenings or house parties.
Why seven cookies, specifically?
It all goes back to the 19th century, right after coffee was once more legalised in Sweden. People were excited that they could enjoy their favourite beverage freely again (the fact that coffee was outlawed didn’t stop the Swedes from drinking the stuff quite profusely), and were eager to try new things to go along with it… like cookies. Rumour has it that the number seven comes from the fact that back in the 19th century, women and their small group of baes used to meet up in the afternoon for coffee and funsies (wait, this sounds familiar…), each guest bringing a homemade treat, more often that not cookies. For some reason, they often ended up being seven people for fika, for a grand total of… seven cookies. There you go! Mystery solved.
History aside, I will not be asked twice to eat seven different types of dessert in one sitting. And the ones I had at Gubbhyllan were delicious: potato cake, gluten-free brownies, hallongrottor or raspberry thumb print cookies, kolasnittar and their delicious caramel flavour, kanelbullar because obviously, oatmeal cookies called drömmar as well as deliciously good-looking checkerboard cookies.
Also, the dining room at Gubbhyllan is totes adorable, with fresh flowers on each table and wood everywhere. Definitely book fika there if you have entry tickets to Skansen or if you have a Stockholm Card.
Where To Have Fika In Stockholm
Like I said, the place where you choose to take part in fika matters very little. Hell, you could have it on the train, for all intents and purposes. But if you’re on holiday in Stockholm it might be nice to experience the custom in one of the city’s many beautiful cafés. Visit Stockholm has plenty of suggestions – and here are a few of my favourites.
- Snickarbacken – Snickarbacken 7 in Östermalm
- Fabrique – Lilla Nygatan 12 Gamla Stan
- Drop Coffee – Wollmar Yxkullsgatan 10 in Södermalm
- Gildas Rum – Skånegatan 79 in Södermalm
- Foam – Karlavägen 75 in Östermalm
- Cafe Pascal – Norrtullsgatan 4 in Vasastan