Mohan Zhang

The places that made me are the places I love 🗺


Stockholm, Sweden

Kungsholmen as seen from an escarpment on Långholmen—resulting in a panorama as expansive as my heart.

This lagom-sized island on the western side of Stockholm’s city center is my childhood home. I think it’s the best place on Earth.

Whispers, echoes

Paul Graham has this essay about the messages a city sends. Nowhere do I hear a clearer message telegraphed straight to my mind than when I wake up in Kungsholmen. It says,

“Du är trygg här. Ta lite chanser. Ha lite kul. Det kommer att gå bra, grabben.”

“You’re safe here. Take some chances. Have some fun. It’s gonna be okay, kid.‍”

I don’t know if anyone else hears that message, but for me, it’s one I can’t get enough of.


Much of my childhood outside of daycare and school was basically food, friends, public transit, and parks. Not surprisingly, these are the exact things I enjoy the most about my little island.

As an adult, I’ve since discovered that Kungsholmen basically has everything: the best views, the best food, the best gym, random little shops I care about, and pretty much everything else I use on a regular basis (ok, except a climbing gym). In fact, there’s some solid stretches of time where I never leave the island. That’s pretty impressive given that one can walk around the whole thing in about 2.5 hours.

Stuff I like doing around Stockholm

Generally speaking, everything is more exciting in Stockholm because of the language layer and cultural unknowns (yes I’ve bought shoes, but have I bought them in Swedish before? 80% of the time there is no difference, but the 20% curveballs really keep me on my toes as someone who is reintegrating into the culture).

Public transit

I also love riding around on public transit here. A lot of that is from childhood, but even as an adult, the T is just so iconic to me. Random stuff I like:

  • The scramble at T-Centralen where you walk from the blue line to the red/green lines. Most people think I’m crazy for liking this, but I feel such a rush when everyone’s cutting left and right.
  • Rådhuset is my favorite stop. It’s always empty and quiet even though it’s so central.
  • If you need to switch between the green and red lines, T-Centralen has them going in opposite directions on the same platform, but Gamla Stan (one stop away) has them going in the same direction on the same platform. This is to help accessibility (think strollers, wheelchairs) as the rider can simply wait an extra stop for an easy transfer that avoids stairs or elevators.
  • The T signs in Boston were inspired by the ones in Stockholm. The architect who did those in Boston visited Stockholm and liked how iconic they were.

Long summer days

My friends, is there anything better in life than Midsummer in Sweden? The days never really get dark in Stockholm during this time. I mean, there’s a deep dark blue between the hours of like 1:30 and 2:30, but I wouldn’t call it perfectly dark.

During these long summer days, everything feels possible and there’s a distinct feeling that the adventure doesn’t really have to end if you don’t want it to. It is sublime.

As dark as it gets~

Other mundane stuff I like doing:

  • Going to the gym. There’s a ridiculous number of gyms per capita here, and they’re always full, too—no matter the hour. Swedes take their physical culture seriously and so do I (when I’m there).
  • Going to the grocery store. The food quality in Europe is so much better than in the US. I’ve pretty much exhausted revisiting my childhood favorites by this point, but I love discovering new things to try.
  • Playing basketball at Rålis (or really anything at Rålambshovsparken—I just feel so at home there).
  • Walking by apartments on Norr Mälarstrand that I tell myself I’m going to live in someday.

I call this photo “Apartment Hunting” ;)


Recent photos from Stockholm, by year.