BROWSE After the United States and Britain, Sweden is the third-largest exporter of music in the world. Yet a single act still looms staggeringly large in its pop mythology, and in April, ABBA--which is estimated to have sold more than 400 million records worldwide--will be appropriately honored, when an eponymous museum (abbathemuseum.com) opens May 7 in the capital of Stockholm. Boasting '70s stage capes and leotards as well as interactive holograms of the pop icons, the 5,000-square-foot museum will be integrated with the Swedish Music Hall of Fame on the island of Djurgarden.
It closely coincides with the release of the new album, "Shaking the Habitual," by cult sensation the Knife, the brother-sister duo that perhaps represents Sweden's new musical pinnacle. Aesthetically, it can be said with certainty that Stockholm is like no other city in the world, spread as it is across 14 islands, connected by 57 bridges. Music plays a central role in everyday life, and as Grammis Award-winning Swedish rapper Adam Tensta puts it: "It is a tastemaker heaven. If you manage to rock a crowd here, you're probably good anywhere in the world." Hipsters and bohos trod the streets of Sodermalm, particularly the SoFo area, home to the vinyl snob Pet Sounds (petsounds.se) record shop and its corresponding bar.
STAY For ABBA geeks, the Rival hotel (rival.se), a former Art Deco cinema, is actually co-owned by Benny Andersson. Centrally located in Sodermalm, it regularly hosts screenings and fashion events. The Lydmar (lydmar.com) was formerly central to the Stureplan nightlife scene, but moved to a mellower location in 2008. It's still a magnet for stars like Gavin DeGraw and Lady Gaga. And the sleek Hilton Stockholm Slussen (Guldgrand 8, 517 353 11), by way of its proximity to legendary venue Debaser, attracts the hipper music types. Its Eken Bar boasts stunning views across the water to Gamla Stan and also pulls in top DJ talent.
EAT Stockholm's restaurant scene reflects its overall internationalism. Tensta enthuses about "Seyhmus [seyhmus.se] in Hornstull. It's a Persian joint that serves the best vegetarian food in town, and they have a ginger drink that you would kill for." Singer/cellist Christine Owman (whose new album, "Little Beast," features guest performances by Mark Lanegan) recommends Kafe 44 (kafe44.org) for "vegan-friendly food and great atmosphere, with concerts and a nice crowd." Philip Ekstrom of Gothenburg's Mary Onettes (whose new Labrador-released album Hit the Waves evolves their post-punk ethereal rock) suggests "spending a whole day at Landet [landet.nu]. See great art, grab a few beers, then eat a cozy dinner." And then catch "live acts or DJs one floor up." For a more gourmand experience, try celeb chef Mathias Dahlgren's Matbaren or Matsalen at the Grand Hotel (grandhotel.se). Or go for a truly classic Swedish meal (including those famous meatballs) at Den Gyldene Freden (gyldenefreden.se).
PARTY Stockholm is a stay-out-all-night city, especially in spring and summer. Tensta mentions Sodermalm's Marie Laveau (marielaveau.se) as "having the best bartenders." Owman's favorite places are "Debaser Slussen and Debaser Medis [debaser.se], both for live shows and DJ'ing." Ultra Records electro stars Rebecca & Fiona say that "Berns [berns.se] is a big, beautiful venue and great place to play." It's located in the boutique hotel of the same name. Those looking for cutting-edge indie sounds can check out Mosebacke Etablissement (sodrateatern.com), attached to Sodra Teatern. Glamour seekers head to F12 (f12.se), attached to upscale Normalm restaurant Fredsgatan, and to Cafe Opera (cafeopera.se), which has hosted the likes of Madonna, OutKast and Lenny Kravitz.