One of the most picturesque cities in Europe, Stockholm stretches breathtakingly across an archipelago of 14 islands. You’ll find enchanting and ancient lanes filled with museums, restaurants, parks, fun fairs and seemingly non-stop nightlife.
The combination of cultural attractions and buzzing after hours action makes it a great destination for all ages, from the young and energetic to those seeking a quieter break. Best of all, Stockholm never seems to be overrun with tourists making for a truly laid-back city break.
Getting there, getting around Stockholm
International flights arrive at the Stockholm-Arlanda Airport which is just over 40km north of Stockholm. There are several options for getting into the city. There are many car rental companies on site or you can take a taxi, bus or train. Buses are probably the most popular method of transport as they leave every 10 minutes. However, there’s also a high-speed train which whizzes into town in a little over 20 minutes.
Once you’re in your hotel, the best way to get around Stockholm is probably on foot, although the public bus, train and subway systems are excellent for slightly longer journeys.
Sightseeing in Stockholm
Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town, is incredibly beautiful and it’s worth taking at least a day to stroll around the atmospheric eastern side, a medieval maze of lanes, arches and stairways. It’s also home to the city’s busiest street, the Vasterlanggatan, which is lined with shops.
Also worth seeing is the splendid Royal Palace with its Royal Armoury and Treasury and Gustav III Museum. Gustav, an eccentric monarch by all accounts, collected all of the Mediterranean treasures displayed there.
Sergels Torg, the centre of modern Stockholm, isn’t quite as charming as the old town, but it’s full of wonderful attractions. As well as numerous beautiful churches and museums, there’s the Strindbergs Museum – the apartment where the playwright spent his last years – and the Musikmuseet, where you get to handle musical instruments used by great musicians of the past. The art and design at the National Museum and the fabulous Gold Room at the Historiska Museet are also interesting.
Family activities in Stockholm
There are several good attractions which the whole family will enjoy. Top of the list is the Grona Lund Tivoli fun park which can get very busy but has lots of top rides and amusements. Nearby is the Skansen open-air museum, a zoo, a huge aquarium and a forestry pavilion.
If you have any Abba fans in your family, you’ll enjoy the Muisikmuseet, which has lots of original and interesting pop paraphernalia. Finally there’s the Junibacken, which recreates the world of Astrid Lindgren’s children’s books, in particular Pippi Longstocking.
Day trips in Stockholm
There are lots of good excursions from Stockholm. In the summer, join the locals in hiring a boat and visiting one of the thousands of islands surrounding the city. Bjorkvik has a sand beach, good for sunbathing and with a nice view of the archipelago.
Vaxholm is another beautiful city about 40 minutes outside Stockholm by car. It’s right by the sea and has an interesting old fortress. Or you could try Sigtuna, a small town full of wooden buildings which has a fantastic traditional Christmas market.
Eating Out in Stockholm
In the mornings, you can join the locals in the practise of fika, which is basically enjoying a good strong coffee and a pastry. Other traditional Swedish food centres on fish – with herring and potatoes the staple. Herring with cheese is popular, as is fermented herring, a particularly pongy dish, so just follow your nose to a nearby cafe. Another dish, palt, is made of potatoes and flour and eaten with pork and lingonberries and the Swedish are also very partial to the odd meatball or two.
Good places to eat include any kvarterskrog or krog (local pub) and the city also has some excellent, if pricey, restaurants serving modern-European-style cuisine.
Nightlife in Stockholm
There’s a thriving club scene in the Swedish capital and your first port of call has to be Stureplan, where venues such as the Laroy, Koket and Spybar are the places to see and be seen. Most clubs and bars stay open until around 5am, but a word of warning – many clubs have a dress code and a minimum age limit (usually 20) and stag groups are unlikely to get into the swankier clubs where the bouncers are particularly picky.
If you’re the more cultured sort, you can often catch a classic Chekov, Strindberg or Ibsen play at the Royal Dramatic Theatre. If you’ve got ballroom dancing fever, go for a waltz at the Mlarsalen or the Gota Kallare.
Shopping in Stockholm
Despite the fact that the Swedish gave us megastore chains such as Ikea and H&M, retail therapy in Stockholm focusses much more on smaller and more intimate shops. Handicrafts, glass work and interior design generally are specialities of the local boutiques and the best knives and textiles carry the Duodji label.
As already mentioned, the Vasterlanggatan has lots of good shops, or you could try the main shopping area of Norrmalm where there’s also a huge mall, NK.