The haunt of loyal residents for 134 years, Zum Franziskaner stands as a bastion of historical authenticity in Stockholm’s now tourist-swamped old town. But tradition-seeking tourists are just as welcome through the doors as the locals are for a dose of conviviality, good food and assorted beer in the wood panelled interior of the institution’s bar and restaurant.

For well over a century, a perfectly-preserved institution has been dishing out honest food and foaming beer to its locals, right on the doorstep of Stockholm’s old town, Gamla Stan. Zum Franziskaner was opened in 1889, in a building erected back in 1620, when Skeppsbron – the street on which it lies – first began to serve as Stockholm’s quay. “The old building was torn down and Zumen, as it is known to regulars, moved back in around 1910,” says the restaurant’s current owner, Sten Isacsson.

Zum Franziskaner still features the original waterfront woodwork from that time. The building is listed and has recently been restored. The institution, as its name implies, was founded as a German-style beer hall. Today, though it now serves both German and Swedish classics, it has not forgotten its Teutonic roots.

Isacsson came to Zum Franziskaner five years ago, moving over from Akkurat, a beer bar across the bridge that had been showered with praise by critics from all over the world. Fed up with modern flavours and innovations, he moved to Zum Franziskaner to get back to pouring traditional tankards.

Back then, the restaurant was in desperate need of repair. Traditional German beer halls used to be ubiquitous in Stockholm, thanks to the two countries’ cultural and economic exchange, but today Zum Fraziskaner is one of the last remaining. “I felt Zumen needed attention from someone with passion,” Isacsson recalls. “It’s very dear to me and I think Stockholm deserves to have a place like this in mint condition.”

Zum Franziskaner: Stockholm’s timeless beer hall

Lilla Zumen and Bakfickan

The old beer hall is now used as a restaurant while, onwards through the bar and past the kitchen, you’ll find Lilla Zumen, a room that seats 15 to 20 guests. Importantly, the restaurant does not accept reservations, and if you’re a party of six or more, he recommends you arrive early and drink at the bar until a table is available. Lilla Zumen is the ideal hideaway to enjoy the company of friends, and guests seated here can order from Zum Franziskaner’s vast menu.

At Bakfickan, the institution’s popular tag-on venue that lies just beyond Lilla Zumen, diners will find a different offering again. Bakfickan’s style is distinct from the restaurant, falling somewhere between Art Deco and Functionalism, while the menu features aquavit, appetisers and smörrebröd (open-faced sandwiches), served from a compact, stool-lined bar.

Back here, the dining is a mélange of European influences, with Jansson’s Temptation and Toast Pelle Janzon representing Sweden, and veal liver, pork neck, duck confit and kippers with scrambled egg and sauerkraut from the German kitchen. Specials spring up throughout the week, such as pytt i panna (pan-fried chopped meat, potatoes and onions) on Monday, smoked sausage on Tuesday and black pudding on Wednesday. “Eating fish here with a beer, is timeless. It makes you feel like you’re an intrinsic part of Stockholm’s history,” says Isacsson.

This unchanged, if restored, heritage is what keeps loyal locals returning – and which also draws in the occasional curious visitor. For all its culinary offerings, Zum Franziskaner remains an old-fashioned beer hall at heart. “When a new barrel is opened,” Isacsson laughs, “we still ring a bell, and everyone applauds.” The institution has thirteen craft-beer taps, and they even brew their own beers – like the Zumen Schwarz, Märzen 2020 and Gamla Stans Porter – from scratch using their own recipes. These are poured alongside German imports, including smoked Rauchbiers sent up from Bamberg in northern Bavaria – a sumptuous pairing for both pork knuckle and Isterband sausages (a Swedish staple from Småland). The combination is, in true Zumen style, a Hanseatic mixture that’s hard to beat.

Zum Franziskaner: Stockholm’s timeless beer hall

Photo: Marcus Wärme

Instagram: @zumfranziskanerstockholm

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