The stylish and lively Swedish capital, built over 14 islands, surrounded by Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea over recent years has become the most en-vogue Scandinavian city for international visitors. From cobble-stoned small alleys to historic houses and monuments, royal palaces, large green areas, a large number of museums and new hipster areas, Stockholm offers an unforgettable adventure for everyone.
In case you are asking yourself if it is worth to visit Stockholm or you already plan to visit but wonder what you should to do and see, here are the best 10 things you can easily include in two to three days.
Explore old town Gamla Stan
The cute district of Gamla Stan is one of Europe’s best preserved historic towns, dating back to the 13th century.
The small winding cobble-stoned streets are lined with colourful historic buildings and many small cafes and restaurants.
There are also a number of nice little shops selling art and crafts. Although to tell the truth, many shops are gift shops selling relatively cheap stuff.
The greatest attraction of Gamla Stan are no doubt the magnificent colourful buildings on Stortorget, the old town’s main square. It is actually the oldest square in Stockholm and it was here that the city took its beginnings.
Albeit a bit overshadowed by the colourful buildings is the nevertheless quite impressive stock exchange, built in the mid-1770s, which takes up the full northern side of the square. It is also home to the Swedish Academy, the Nobel Museum and the Nobel Library.
Storkrykan clock tower, one of the most iconic buildings in Gamla Stan can be seen from various angles in the maze of the small alleys.
Visit the Royal Palace of Stockholm
There are various beautiful palaces in or around Stockholm that you could visit, several of which are still used by the Swedish royal family.
The one definitely not to be missed is the one right in the centre of Stockholm. Build in the 18th century and located just a few steps from the alleys of Gamla Stan, the royal palace is one of the largest still inhabited palaces in the world and the official residence of the Swedish king.
Parts of the palace which boasts around 600 rooms is open to the public year-round, including a visit to the Royal Apartments and three museums: the Treasury with the regalia, the Tre Kronor Museum where you can see the medieval history of the palace and Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities.
Walk along Strandvägen avenue
Literally meaning ‘beach road’ this area is home to some of the most luxurious (and pricy) buildings in Stockholm. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes here let you sit down to enjoy a coffee or wine and watch the ships sailing by.
Take a Royal Canal Tour
Stockholm is build around water, which means you can’t escape the many canals criss-crossing the city. And why should you? In fact, hoping on a boat and taking one of the many options exploring Stockholm from the water is a wonderful way to spend some relaxing hours.
The two and a half hour ‘under the bridges tour’ is particularly beautiful and will lead you along the inner city, Gamla Stan, the islands Södermalm, Lilla and Stora Essingen, Hammarby Sjöstad and the green areas of Djurgården.
Visit Drottningholm Palace
Another royal palace you should not miss on your trip to Stockholm is Drottningholm Palace, the private residence of the Swedish royal family. The palace was built in the 17th century and today is Sweden’s best-preserved royal palace. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, so that tells you something.
Drottningholm actually means ‘queens islet’ and the name is derived from the original building standing at the site, a stone palace which was built in 1580 for Catherine Jagellon, the wife of king John III of Sweden.
Drottningholm Palace is located at Drottningholm on the island Lovön about half an hour from the centre of Stockholm. It can be reached by both the underground (Tunnelbana) and bus. However, if you go, I really recommend you take a boat from the ferry terminal Klara Mälarstrand in front of the city hall. The journey takes about 45 minutes and is already totally worth the trip of its own.
Explore historic Swedish life and Nordic animals at Skansen Open Air Museum
Located on the island of Djurgården, Skansen Open Air Museum is said to be the oldest open-air museum in the world, dating back to 1891.
This is a wonderful place if you want to learn more about life in Sweden in the past, exploring various types of life from an old Sami camp originally from the far north of Sweden, to Finn settlement, a town centre from the late 19th to the early 20th century and many other buildings and farmsteads highlighting different lifestyles through the centuries.
There is also an area home to a vast range of Nordic animals including elk, reindeer, wild boar, bears, and several others.
Keep in mind that Skansen is very popular with locals and tourists so it can get fairly crowded, in particular during the weekend. Therefore, if you can, time your visit to be on a weekday.
Head to Södermalm, Stockholm’s latest hipster district
Formerly an industrial and residential area for the lower income working-class, Södermalm has gone through a huge transformation driven by the arrival of students and artists which initially were attracted by the low rental prices. Later on, the quarter became more widely known thanks to the quite famous Millennium Trilogy by Swedish author Stieg Larsson which is playing out in Södermalm.
There are a couple of interesting sites, colourful historic buildings and beautiful small cobble-stoned alleys alongside the main shopping street Götgatan and the area called SoFo where you will find a lot of small independent shops, cafes and restaurants.
If you want to know more about Södermalm, read my recent post here.
Pay a visit to Östermalm Saluhall
The historic market hall dating back to 1888 was still under renovation at the time of my visit (which originally was scheduled to be finalized in 2018, but still it did not look the hall would re-open soon).
Thankfully, the many food stalls and restaurants originally located in the Saluhall were temporarily relocated to a place just across the street.
Full of the freshest products ranging from fish to meat, vegetables, fruits, cheeses, breads, pastries and sweets the temporary Saluhall is still nothing short of an amazing place to shop food or settle down at one of the several restaurants.
Eat the famous Swedish Kanelbullar (cinnamon bun)
OK, thanks to the well known Swedish furniture company (you know, the blue and yellow sign) Köttbullar (meatballs) might be the better known famous Swedish food. And you will find some really tasty ones in Stockholm.
That said, you really can’t leave the city without having had some of the ever so tasty Kanelbullar. I am not exaggerating when I say, I might have never eaten a cinnamon bun that tasted more delicious than within Sweden.
Hit Stockholm’s great museums
To be honest, we skipped the museums during this trip as we spend way too much time at some of the other places, Skansen in particular.
There are however quite a number of museums well worth a visit, so if you grave some culture you should definitely head to the Vasa museum, Fotografiska (the museum of photography), Moderna Museet (one of the best museums of modern and contemporary arts) and off course, the ABBA museum.
Have you been to Stockholm yet? What was your favourite part of the city? Let me know about your experiences.