The area around Mosebacke Torg is an unassuming hub of creativity. An artistic oasis just around the corner from commercial Götgatan, it abounds with fashion studios, art galleries, and what is probably the biggest concentration of cool indie record stores in town. Moreover, there’s a bit of a “le petit Paris” vibe going on with wine bars and dealers, along with a crêperie, that line the two streets leading down from Mosebacke square.
The square is one of the rare places in the city where Söder hipsters and Stockholm tourists mix naturally. The beer garden of Mosebacke is frequented by both breeds and the peaceful park is visited by all sorts of Stockholmers spending a quiet lunch hour, as well as travellers resting their legs and consulting a map after hiking the many hills of Södermalm.
During my visit to the quarter I encountered a sizable crowd of teenage girls gathered outside number 8 of Svartensgatan. The sight reminded me of that time I happened to cross through Forks, Washington, completely oblivious to the fact that it was the home of the Twilight sensation. Here, the draw is One Direction, in town to record some new material at the prestigious Kinglet Studios.
History and Notable Buildings
Back in the 17th century, a man named Johan Hansson Hök owned two windmills located on the hill – Moses Mill and Hökens Mill – and the name Mosis Backe dates back to 1734. During this era, Mosebacke was a well-known leisure centre frequented by pleasure seekers. The “Stockholm Vapen” Inn was at the core of the merrymaking and C.A. Wallman was something of Söder’s arch-hipster of the time, promoting plays, puppet shows, concerts, vaudeville acts, carousel rides, bowling tournaments, acrobatics, and everything inbetween. And last but not least, he built Södra Teatern, which today is the oldest privately run theatre in the country.
It was perhaps appropriate that the theatre would get the spot occupied by the popular Stockholms Vapen when the inn was torn down, but sadly, the area was largely destroyed by a great fire shortly after. Re-built just a couple of years later, and designed by Johan Fredrik Åbom, the current Södra Teatern was inaugurated in 1859. But misfortune seemed to follow the theatre: in 1873, the theatre’s funds ran out and when then theatre director Ludvig Zetterholm couldn’t pay his actors, he committed suicide. Legend has it that his ghost still haunts the building. And in 1890, Sweden’s first flight-related death took place on the site when actor and parachute jumper Victor Rolla lost his life in a balloon accident.
The square dates from the same time as the theatre, but the statue in its middle, “Systrana”, was a later addition. The marble sculpture was designed by Nils Sjögren in 1945 and was inspired by a tragic and well-known incident where two young women tied themselves together and plunged into Lake Hammarby in 1911. In modern times, the sculpture has come to be recognized as a reminder of difficulties for homosexual relationships in the past and has seen various LGBT-themed installations.
Beneath the park lies Katarinabergets bomb shelter, dating back to 1957. When built, it was the world’s largest atomic secure shelter, as well as Europe’s largest parking garage. A hidden entrance to the shelter can be found in a corner of the park. And rising above the square is the Mosebacke watertower, a grand octagonal brick structure designed by Ferdinand Boberg in 1896.
Shops and Services
Konstart Ateljé & Galleri + Snickars Records
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Jessica Mihai’s background is in fashion, but after having worked for H&M and relocated to Hong Kong to work within the fashion industry, she decided it was time to do something else. But she brought something valuable with her from Hong Kong: the idea for a gallery where you could buy a canvas and rent paint, becoming an artist for a couple of hours. Konstart is an amalgam of an art shop, gallery and studio, mixing street art, photography, paintings, and textiles. Not to mention the record shop in the back, Snickars Records, run by Jessica’s boyfriend, Mika Snickars.
Mika is a bit of a legend in the clubbing industry. His CV includes not only the shop, which he’s been running in different locations since the mid-90s, but also a long DJ career churning out hiphop, funk and disco beats, a championship title in turntablism, and heavy involvement with the early rave scene in Sweden. The shop has a distinct street feel: graffiti art, black and white Polaroids of musicians, a row of turntables for sessions, club posters from way back when, and a painting Mika´s mom made for his first shop. “There’s a lot of direct contact with the artists both in the gallery and the record shop and we tend to build exhibits around record releases,” says Jessica.
“This area is fantastic. Even though Götgatan is just down the street it’s not at all commercial here like it is there. It’s nice to have Södra Teatern as our next-door neighbours and we collaborate with them for our nightclubs. The type of people you see here are culture-minded Stockholmers and tourists strolling around and catching a glimpse of the beautiful views.”
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This newly opened hole-in-the-wall shop recalls East Berlin of the 1980s: The German vocal punk/techno sounds connect the dots between the paintings of Kraftwerk and the industrial-inspired clubbing posters hanging beside them. Particularly pleasing is the image of a white-clad and well-gelled Depeche Mode during the height of their 1980s heyday.
“We decided to start up our store here since there are already a lot of record stores nearby and usually when people go shopping for records they go to more than one shop,” says owner Mattias Anger. “There’s a lot of movement around Götgatan and more alternative people here than elsewhere in the city. What’s perhaps most interesting about this little part of town is that there are a lot of small specialized shops around here.”
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“Our vision is to bring out the inner beauty of the woman who’s wearing our garments, allowing her to fully express her individual personality and femininity,” says Elin Nyström, who started Stylein in New York City when she was studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology over a decade ago. Södermalm was her number one choice for her base when she returned to Sweden, and she’s grown to love the area around Mosebacke over the three years she’s been there. “The mix here is more vibrant then in any other part of the city. I guess the wide range of different cultures and creative people makes this a very special area. You particularly notice it when day turns into night and the young hipster party crowd shows up.”
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Poplin keeps the retro flag flying high with their jazz music and polka-dot dresses, and it possesses a kitsch touch in the form of plastic flowers and picnic flags looping around colourful garments and screaming green décor. The shop is run as a designers’ collective and several different designers have passed through the doors over the years. Today, the line-up consists of Nina Färdig, in charge of Green Laces shoes, Karolina Svensson, founder of 50s-60s inspired Orkan Lia clothing, Ruth-Hannah, dealing in hats and accessories, and Thérèse Svenér of Mandalou Design, specializing in colourful and creative children’s clothing. “Our product range is typically cool, colourful, sustainable and eco-smart,” says Nina, a former roller-girl with orange hair, red tights and tattoos with an attitude.
“This area is vibrant and full of interesting artists, designers and also a lot of ‘good old normal people’. In a way that’s what we are too – a little bit arty-farty, punk rock and ordinary hard-working people. What’s really nice about this area is the relaxed feeling that is hard to find in other places of Söder. People who come to our street do not necessarily live in this part of Stockholm and don’t feel that they have to live up to any expectations.”
Anders Herdenstam has a PhD in wine tasting (yes, you read that correctly), having studied in some of the best wine regions in the world and published articles in a handful of renowned wine journals. “I was interested in how one could understand passive experiences better and how to communicate that with words. One of the things you learn is to create another understanding of the experience, similar to what we do when we try to explain art – we use metaphors for something that is otherwise hard to grasp.” His wine shop/tasting room feels relaxed and very hip: you’ve got your traditional red velvet drapes, but mixed up with old barber chairs, vintage record player and a collection of soul and hip hop 12 inches displayed on the wall.
“I’ve lived in many places on Söder but this is my favourite. It’s such a beautiful and peaceful place, full of history. I grew up close by and my father still lives around the corner. Back in the day, there used to be a lot of small specialized shops around here, but they started to disappear when the international chains appeared. But now we’re noticing a return of those shops which is great to see.”
Cornelia Webb has established her line of jewellery on the international market, with her brand gaining widespread popularity among stylists and celebrities, and in 2011, she received the Best Accessory Designer award from ELLE Sweden. “My background is actually in medicine but eight years ago my fascination for the human body and our anatomy took a new turn. Today I celebrate our natural shape by moulding and draping it.”
“Svartensgatan has become more of a destination rather then just a way up to Mosebacke. I like the contrast between the busy Götgatan and the calmness of Mosebacke Square. The boundless views up there are inspiring to me and the historical and creative vibe of this area affects us in some way. People stick around here; I like that it’s not ‘out with the old and in with the new’.”
Eating & Drinking
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Melt is all about bohemian Montmartre and the speakeasy feel of the “Roaring Twenties”. The mood is set with black velvet mixed with wine-red floral wallpaper and is completed with shimmering chandeliers, golden candle holders and framed mirrors, red roses, black feathers and lace gloves, and Vaudeville music to top it all off. The cocktail names lend themselves well to the image and here you can drink Garbo, Valentino, Gatsby, Can-Can, and Charleston.
“When visiting New York last year we got inspired by all the speakeasies there, and the more we thought about it the more we felt that Stockholm needed a place like this” says owner Sofia Sohlberg, a concept developer who worked at Stureplansgruppen for several years. “Too many places just miss the atmosphere. We wanted to create something warm and friendly that would celebrate people coming together. We also wanted that local feeling and this location is a perfect spot for our concept as it’s a bit off the beaten path. The average person loves wine but many wine bars make the experience too complicated and snobby. We wanted to come up with fun ideas how to serve wine and champagne and our cocktails come in crystal bowls with straws so you can share with your friends. There is so much you can do with wine if you just use your imagination.”
When Martin Sandström got diagnosed with MS ten years ago he started seeking alternative methods to stay healthy. Through his quest he’s learned more and more about nutrition and found out that the cold-press method of juicing really makes a difference. Now he’s given up his successful career in industrial design in order to introduce Stockholmers to his methods; in fact, his newly opened shop is the first of its kind in Scandinavia. “Cold-pressing results in much higher nutrition yield, as you get all the essential nutrients. After chopping up the produce, you press it very slowly with a heavy press. It’s like if Superman were making apple juice.”
Martin is originally from Skåne but moved here from Copenhagen a few months ago. “I basically walked around the city for a couple weeks to get a feel for the different areas before settling on this location. There’s a great vibe on this street and everyone’s very friendly and has made me feel welcomed.”
Creperie Fyra Knop
This French oasis is the oldest crêperie in Stockholm, having prepared galettes and crêpes for over 20 years. The secret ingredient is the buckwheat that comes from a family-owned mill in Brittany, the home of the crêpe. The courses are then accompanied by apple cider from the neighbouring region of Normandy. The maritime mood of those regions translates well here amongst the fishing nets, lifebelts, and wooden benches in the dark and candlelit-charming basement locale, and even the name itself refers to sailing.
Restaurant manager – Lives at Mosebacke Square
“I have lived here all my life and have to say the area hasn’t changed at all. It’s always kind of crowded because of the theatre and the outdoor services, but you get used to it. I feel like I’ve become more outgoing by growing up here as there are always people around. Living here is a huge advantage as it’s so central, but it still feels very calm. There’s a good mix of people that hang out here, depending on what’s happening at the theatre. The big square is a favourite of mine as it’s nice seeing people walking their dogs and having coffee at the little coffee place they have there now. It’s a good feeling going out of your house and seeing all this life directly.”
Has been running Club Outernational at Södra Teatern since 2006
“It’s a very special and historic location with the perfect view of Stockholm. It has started to develop more and more in the last two-three years with new shops opening up. People who live here are a mixture of older people who have lived here a long time and newer inhabitants who are quite wealthy, as it’s one of the most expensive areas in Stockholm. We have anything from hip nightclubs to intellectual seminars to family events so it’s a very mixed crowd here at the theatre, but it’d say the average visitor is a female in her thirties with a university degree.”
Senior Producer at Södra Teatern
“I’ve been with the theatre for ten years. Being the oldest theatre in Stockholm it’s quite a place to visit – the view is great and the building is beautiful. There are more small shops opening up around here nowadays and the atmosphere has become a bit bohemian. The whole area is developing and it feels like there are only going to be more things happening around here. This includes us, as we have doubled our operation in the past decade. It helps that Götgatan is a pedestrian street now so there’s a lot people just walking around here.”
Owner of Kinglet Studios, former partner of Max Martin and responsible for a great deal of popular music since the 90s (Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys etc.)
“I live around the corner so it was a natural choice for the studio to open up here when we moved the operation back to Stockholm from LA. It was a studio before and I took over from friends who were running it. This is like the cool, funky part of town. There’s a Soho atmosphere here and it doesn’t feel very Swedish, but more like being abroad. It’s artsy, you have painters living here and people playing guitar on the street. It’s a credible neighbourhood. Every month we get a mob of teenage girls who think One Direction are recording, but they’re cool and they don’t bother us.”