1. Take a boat trip in the archipelago
A boat trip is a must for the best views of Stockholm. And there’s quite a variety to pick from: you can jump on a hop-on hop-off boat, take a trip under the bridges or a tour of the canals, or just hire a rowing boat or canoe and go at your own pace. Or you can take a trip out into the Archipelago where you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the 30,000 islands where many Stockholmers have summer houses.
2. Visit the Vasa Museum
Setting out on her maiden voyage in 1628, the enormous Vasa warship sank in the middle of Stockholm just a few hundred yards from where she was built. The ship was salvaged in 1961 and has been magnificently restored. As you enter the Vasa Museum, you can’t fail to be struck by the size and beauty of the Vasa, and the accompanying exhibitions give a haunting insight into the lives of the people who embarked on her first and final voyage.
Opening Hours: 8.30am-8pm, 10am-5pm Sep-May
Tickets: 130 SEK per adult
Address: Galärvarvsvägen 14, 115 21 Stockholm
3. Stroll around Gamla Stan
Gamla Stan (‘The Old Town’) is where Stockholm began life in the 13th century. Situated on the tiny island of Stadsholmen, Gamla Stan’s medieval squares and narrow cobbled streets provide hours of exploration opportunities and are teeming with souvenir shops, bars and restaurants. Make sure you look out for Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, the narrowest street in Stockholm, which is only 90 cm wide at its narrowest point. Gamla Stan is also home to attractions such as the Nobel Museum and Royal Palace.
Address: Gamla Stan, Stockholm
4. Visit the Royal Palace
With over 600 rooms, making it one of the largest palaces in Europe, this is the official residence of the King of Sweden. Although confusingly he doesn’t actually live here – he resides outside Stockholm in his private residence, Drottningholm Palace, and the Royal Palace functions more as a sort of… well, massive royal office. Built during the 18th century, the Royal Palace houses five museums as well the Royal Armoury, which features an impressive display of armour, costumes and carriages. Try to time your visit to coincide with the changing of the guard for a colourful display of Swedish pomp and ceremony.
Opening Hours: 10am-5pm daily, 10am-4pm during winter
Tickets: SEK 160 per adult, SEK 80 per child
Address: Kungliga Slottet, 11130 Stockholm
5. Climb the tower at City Hall
If you have a head for heights, it’s worth going to the top of the 106 metre tall tower of the City Hall for a panoramic view of Stockholm. With its gilded three crowns – the Swedish national coat of arms – the tower is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city. With your feet back on firm ground, take a guided tour of the red-brick building to get a glimpse of the impressive interior, including the Blue Hall, where the Nobel banquet is held, and the Golden Hall, which is covered in 18 million gold mosaic tiles.
Opening Hours: 8.30am-4pm, closed on weekends
Tickets: 110 SEK per adult, you will need to book a tour to gain entrance to the City Hall
Address: Hantverkargatan 1, 111 52 Stockholm
6. Try some Swedish produce at Östermalms Saluhall
Opened in 1888, the Saluhall market retains many of its original features, including intricate carvings in the dark wood that separates its stalls and restaurants. In this food lovers’ paradise you can sample the best of Swedish produce, including all kinds of seafood, meats such as elk and moose, bread, pastries and chocolates. With Jamie Oliver naming it as one of his favourite places in Stockholm, you really have to go and try it for yourself.
Opening Hours: 9.30am-6pm
Address: Östermalmstorg, 114 42 Stockholm
7. Go back in time at Skansen
Visit the world’s first outdoor museum and see what life used to be like in Sweden’s towns and farmsteads. Set in a large park with over 150 buildings – the oldest of which dates back to the 14th century – Skansen lets you experience how people lived in times gone by. Children love this museum, where actors dressed in historical costumes show you around the farm settlements and the town quarter with its glassworks, pottery and shoe-maker’s house. You can watch demonstrations of traditional crafts and, as an added bonus, the park is home to a zoo featuring mainly Scandinavian animals, including brown bears, wolves, lynx and elks.
Opening Hours: 10am-4pm
Tickets: 120 SEK per adult, 60 SEK per child
Address: Djurgårdsslätten 49-51, 115 21 Stockholm
8. Check out Stockholm’s design credentials
Stockholm is the perfect place to check out the best of past and contemporary Swedish design. Whether you visit the Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design, the Nordiska Museet, which displays the development of house interiors over the centuries, or the National Museum’s design collections, you’ll be inspired to purchase a piece for your home in one of the many interior design shops around the city.
Opening Hours for ArkDes: 10am-6pm Wed-Thu, open till 8pm on Fridays, 11am-6pm Sat-Sun
Address: EXERCISPLAN 4, 111 49 Stockholm
9. Go shopping
Most of Stockholm’s shopping is concentrated in the central Normmalm and Östermalm districts, where you’ll find international Swedish brands alongside lesser known ones. Whatever you’re looking for – high-street labels, high-end fashion, interior design, antiques, Scandinavian craft or food items – you’ll find it somewhere in Stockholm. Former tennis star Bjorn Borg even has his own shops selling lingerie and men’s underwear – perhaps not your typical souvenirs, but certainly ones that will provoke interest back home.
Where to go shopping in Stockholm: Indulge in cafe culture and vintage shopping in Södermalm, Östermalm is where to stock up on Scandi style brands, and Gamla Stan is fun for shopping for trinkets and gifts.
10. Be a ‘Dancing Queen’ at ABBA The Museum
No visit to Stockholm would be complete without a visit to ABBA The Museum, where you’re invited to experience what it would feel like to be the fifth member of the band. As well as viewing lots of ABBA memorabilia, you’ll be transported back to the 70s, where you can sing along with holograms of the group, strut your stuff on the dancefloor and see what you look like in digital versions of their costumes, from precarious platform shoes to spangly jumpsuits. And you can record it all to watch at home later just by scanning your ticket. Cringeworthy maybe, but lots of fun.
Opening Hours: 12pm-6pm Mon-Tue, 10am-7pm Wed-Thu, 10am-6pm Fri-Sun
Tickets: 195 SEK for adults, 65 SEK for children
Address: Djurgårdsvägen 68, 115 21 Stockholm
11. Get your fix of fika
Fika is a word only used in Swedish, and it literally translates as having coffee, cake and a catch up with friends. Cafes actually specialise in this: the cold weather makes the hot chocolate (varm choklad) in Sundbergs Konditori all the sweeter, and Cafe String is perfect for sitting outside on a sunny day. Better still, visit on October 4th for National Cinnamon Bun day!
12. Picnic in Djurgården
Catching the Djurgården ferry boat from Gamla Stan is an experience in itself, and once you get here you’ll have the Abba Museum, Grona Lund (theme park) and Skansen within walking distance, so there’s plenty to do if you need to run for cover from the rain. If you want to pick up a picnic on the island, Rosendals Trädgård has an organic vegetable garden and greenhouse cafe – all food is seasonal, and veggie friendly.
How to get to Djurgården: There are regular ferries from all of the other islands, check out the timetables here.
13. Focus on Fotografiska
Fotografiska is a centre and museum for contemporary photography. Muddle through the contact sheets, burned rolls and cameras of the past 100 years in a Swedish designed modern gallery. The icing on the cake is the late night drink tastings for cava and rosé – rub shoulders with other travellers and Swedes just as excited about photography as you.
Opening Hours: 9am-11pm, open till 1am on weekends
Tickets: SEK 130 (£11.50) for adults, free for children under 12
Address: Stadsgårdshamnen 22, 116 45 Stockholm
14. Visit one of the worlds’ largest art exhibits
If you like the signage on the London underground, you’ll be bowled over at Stockholm’s metro. There are 100 stations, of which 90% have been illustrated, graffitied or carved into an art exhibit. The rainbow in Stadion and suspended dodecahedron in Tekniska Högskolan is well worth the day ticket.
How to catch the metro in Stockholm: You can purchase a ticket from any station, and the metro runs between 5am and 1am. A day’s travel card costs 115 SEK.
15. Celebrate midsommar, flower crowns and all
Prior to festivals taking full ownership of the flowercrown, it belonged to the Swedes. Making a krans (crown) from wild flowers is just part of the celebration for midsummer, but if you don’t fancy making it there will be plenty of places selling crowns during the festival. In the afternoon, take to the nearest park to find a maypole and dance around it whilst attempting to sing in Swedish. Stand close enough and someone will scoop you up into a spot of dancing. It’s worth noting that Midsummer’s Eve is treated as a holiday in Sweden, so many shops and restaurants may be closed.
What day is Midsommar? Midsommar is usually held on the Friday of the week with the longest day of the year (typically the end of June).
Tickets: No tickets needed. Just rock up for fika and flower crowns.
Address: Skansen, the open air museum, is home to a huge Midsommar celebration in Sweden.
How to get to Stockholm
Fly direct to Stockholm from Manchester, Birmingham or London. Connecting flights are available from other U.K cities. The flight will take around 3 hours.
The Flygbussarna bus is the best way to get to Central Station in Stockholm from the airport. It departs every 20 minutes, and takes 40 minutes to get to the centre.
Where to stay on a city break in Stockholm
If you’re looking for a hostel:
Keep it simple and stylish at Mosebacke Hostel in Sodermalm. Stockholm is a pricy city, so you can save money by opting for their comfortable dorm rooms.
If you’re looking for a hotel:
Frey’s Hotel is an amazing place to stay for weekends away in Stockholm. It’s located next to central station and their top floor room has a view of Gamla Stan.
If you’re looking for luxury:
The cosy sofas and heated rooms in Lydmar are very welcome after a wintery day out on Stockholm’s archipelago. Curl up with a good book in their library for fika at home!