Danielle is one of our food allergy trailblazers. She travelled to Sweden with peanut and soy allergies and it’s one of her favourite destinations.
Why did you travel to Sweden?
When I was really little, like six or seven, there was a movie I loved called Kiki’s Delivery Service. I’d literally start rewinding the tape as soon as it finished playing and watch it over and over. It’s set in a fantasy world, but it’s based on a town called Visby, which is on a Swedish island called Gotland. I had been living in Finland for six months and happened to find a really cheap flight and a really cheap, beautiful B&B there (more on that later!) and couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Honestly, I was so excited to find a cheap flight I didn’t even worry about my allergies at first! I stayed there for three nights, living my childhood dream in Kiki’s town, and then headed to Stockholm to check out the museums. I studied Nordic history in university, so Stockholm’s museums were a must-see while I was living over there. I went back to Visby this summer because I absolutely love it. I was there for eight days and I didn’t want to leave. It’s my favourite place in the world and I’d live there if I could. Everyone is so friendly, the island is beautiful…it’s like a dream world.
What were your allergy concerns?
In Visby, I didn’t know what food options would be available when I got ther, and that was my biggest worry. I knew there would be something I could eat, but I had to mentally prepare for a grocery shopping trip in another new country, in another new
language, with another new set of food brands, in another currency…there was a lot of uncertainty, translating, and converting. I had a fridge in my hotel room so I knew that, last resort, I could live off yogurt for a few days (joking but also not joking). It was my first solo trip to somewhere where I didn’t have someone meeting me when I got off the plane and I was really stressed out about the whole thing in general, allergies aside. And, I was more worried about Stockholm than the island! I’m not a city person at all. In Stockholm I didn’t have a fridge like I did in Visby, so I was worried about finding a restaurant I could eat at or having to plan extra time for a grocery run for fresh food every day. Not knowing anyone in Sweden and not being able to connect with anyone
with allergies who had been there was really stressful.
How did you get to Sweden?
I’ve always flown on SAS to get there, because I’ve flown from Finland and SAS has really good youth fares. When I fly to Visby/Gotland there’s always a layover in Stockholm. With the youth fare, you pay per leg of the flight – so whether I fly Visby-
Stockholm-Helsinki in one day, or Visby-Stockholm one day and Stockholm-Helsinki a week later, the price is the same. Travel hack! It makes an extra stop a lot cheaper, and SAS is great with allergies.
What were my first impressions?
Well, if you can’t tell already, I love Visby/Gotland. It’s absolutely beautiful. The old town is preserved from the medieval times and no one is allowed to change anything on any of the buildings. It’s like being transported back in time. Stockholm is very “okay” in my opinion. I’m not a city lover and this is the capital city. Both places were a lot sunnier and warmer than Finland was in February, and the architecture is beautiful. But going to Stockholm I was immediately hit with the rush of being in a big city.
Where did you stay?
Visby round 1 – I stayed at a B&B called Mullbärsgårdens. Since it was the off-season, the room was really cheap. I called the owner, Lennart, with some questions and he was really helpful. The room had a fridge and overlooked the sea, so I was sold. When I
told him I have food allergies and that if the breakfast included anything with peanuts to just not have any for me there, he emailed me back saying there were no peanuts in the breakfast he provides. I could eat everything! I still prepared to not be able to eat the
breakfast when I checked the labels upon arrival, but all of the labels were fine and the breakfast was great. Stockholm – I stayed at a “hostel” called M/S Birger Jarl. I use the term hostel loosely because I had my own private room and shower. Again, since it was the off-season I got the room for really cheap – 66% off the normal rate – which was the main reason I booked it. It’s in the Old Town, so I knew food would be nearby. They have a breakfast you can purchase, and the person in charge of breakfast walked me around to show
what was safe. Visby round 2 – This summer I lucked out and stayed in a local’s guesthouse during the annual Medieval Week, where I had access to her kitchen and fridge.
What did you eat?
Visby round 1 – I ate a ton of yogurt/skyr, sandwiches, bananas, cheese. Lots of fresh foods. I didn’t eat out at restaurants.
Stockholm – I can’t lie, I ate a ton of McDonalds and Pizza Hut. They were familiar chains with familiar menus and they don’t exist so much in Finland, where I’d been living for six months prior to going. So, I ate a ton of “North American” food and not many
traditional Swedish foods. Visby round 2 – Before I came to Sweden I asked my friend (who I was staying with) to
find this nut free granola, and she messaged me a picture with the price included and then showed me where the store was when I arrived. I also ate a lot of fresh ham and ham sandwiches, fruit, yogurt/skyr, and pringles. I could buy these in small enough portions to not need to worry about them going bad or not finishing them. Sweden is really good for small portions of food being available for reasonable prices. Just like last time, I didn’t eat out at restaurants. Restaurants have allergy menus with the posted menus outside, but I’d rather just build my own sandwich and go sit by the sea.
What was the coolest “can’t miss” experience?
Visby – the medieval town. Seriously. The whole thing. Just go. Okay, if I have to narrow it down to one thing, it would be going during Medieval Week. People come from all over to reenact how Visby would have looked during the Medieval Times, complete with a market, concerts, and jousting tournaments. It’s not an event where you have to dress up to go, though. It’s probably split 50/50. So, if you’re
interested in history but not in making your own medieval outfit (like me) you’ll have fun! Stockholm – the Vasa Museum. It’s this old ship that sunk in the Stockholm harbor in the 17 th century and stayed there until the 1950’s, when it was resurfaced and a
museum was built for it. There are various levels around the boat, so you can see it from all angles. Perfect for maritime history lovers like myself.
Would you go there again?
Visby – YES! Without a doubt. Stockholm – I’m very meh about whether I’d go back. It’s one of those “I’ve been there,
done that” situations. It’s definitely worth going to once, but it’s not somewhere I’d purposely book a week-long vacation to again. Must be the city thing. Gotland is more my pace. I also really want to explore other regions of Sweden, especially the more northern part.
Any travel tips for visiting Sweden with food allergies?
I’d bring a few travel-type snacks with you. You know, like granola bars or crackers or cookies. I always find trying to locate those types of snacks the hardest, and even though Sweden is really knowledgeable about allergies these types of snacks are no exception.