Beautiful, vibrant and cosmopolitan, Sweden’s capital is a by-word for cool in Europe for good reason. It also somehow manages to be hip, trendy, and 100% welcoming all at the same time – with plenty of photogenic spots thrown in for good measure.
Whether you’re spending a weekend, a week or a month here, it’ll definitely be time well spent. There are masses of amazing things to do in Stockholm, whatever your holiday style is. Lovers of the outdoors will adore the fact that the city is spread along islands at the Baltic sea, effortlessly incorporating the ever-changing water. This glorious location means you’re never far from nature and a chance to swim in a lake, walk in the nearby forests or hop on a ferry to an island.
If exploring history is more your speed, then Stockholm’s got plenty of cultural heritage to offer you. Its historic center is one of the best-preserved on the continent and you’ll be hard-pressed to find more charming cobbled streets. Then there’s the wealth of museums and galleries on offer. You might want to see an impeccably salvaged warship from the 16th century or the original ABBA costumes – you can do both here, as well as much more.
Despite its depth of history, Stockholm is definitely no stick-in-the-mud city that relies on its ancient past to entice visitors. It’s a thoroughly contemporary place where artists, designers, and creators are always pushing boundaries. You’ll see good style all over the place, whether it’s in the hip coffee shop down the road from your hotel or the outfits you see on people in the street. It’s a really inspiring place to spend time and you’ll leave feeling refreshed and creative.
Speaking of creative, we have to talk about the food. ‘Swedish cuisine’ might not mean anything to you right now, but it will after your time in Stockholm. It’s not all about meat and lingonberries, although these are sometimes incorporated. Classic dishes are given contemporary twists, or the hot chefs on the scene are creating something totally new. Wherever you’re eating, you can be sure that the ingredients are fresh, and often local. After all, when you’re surrounded with so much nature, you’ve got to do something with that abundance of produce!
We can’t pretend that it’s a cheap place, however, and with this much to see and do, it can be difficult to prioritize. We know you’ll want to soak up as much as you possibly can, which is why we’d recommend a tourist card to help you save money and time.
Especially in a city as packed full of attractions as Stockholm, using a tourist card is one of the best ways to see as many of these as possible without breaking the bank. This is where the Stockholm Pass comes in, a discount card that helps you see much more and go much further than you otherwise could.
Having said this, much of the joy of being in Stockholm will come from sitting in a trendy café watching the world go by, getting into the cultural practice of Fika. But in between Fikas, you might want to explore a bit. If you’re in need of some inspiration to plan your trip, here are some of our favourite fun things to do in Stockholm.
Stunning Gamla Stan has stood at the heart of Stockholm since the 13th century and has been incredibly well preserved. Gabled buildings painted yellow, gold and orange line atmospheric cobblestone lanes. Famously, Mårten Trotzigs Gränd narrows to a teeny 90 centimeters. The area stretches across three islands. It’s a gorgeous place to simply wander through, getting a sense of what Stockholm was like when it was one of the main ports on the Hanseatic trade route.
In summer, the houses seem to glow in the sunshine; on a snowy winter’s day Gamla Stan is astonishingly picturesque (although those steep streets are harder to negotiate!). Amongst the unique frescos, you’ll find various attractions including Stockholm Cathedral, the Nobel Museum, and the enormous Royal Palace. As well as these places to visit, there are also lots of renowned restaurants, cute cafes and independent shops to explore to your heart’s content.
The enduring appeal of this popular museum lies in its time-capsule-like quality. The 69-meter warship Vasa sank in front of hundreds of onlookers on its maiden voyage in 1628, dealing Sweden’s economy and navy a heavy blow. It’s now the striking centerpiece to the Vasa Museum, which is easily findable because of the three tall masts on the roof. How did a ship go from a wreck to the middle of a museum? Thanks go both to the pollution in the Baltic sea that managed to kill wood-eating micro-organisms for the 333 years Vasa was on the seabed, and to a painstaking salvaging process in the early 1960s.
Nowadays, visitors reap the benefits of these efforts as they get up close with its remains. 95% of the ship we see today is original and there’s constant work ongoing to preserve it. Vasa represents a huge part of Sweden’s past; it also tells us a lot about shipbuilding and the navy at the time. The exhibits include collections of items that were salvaged from the ship: the crew’s personal belongings, navigational tools, and decorations. It’s truly fascinating, even if you’re not a maritime nut!
There’s no way this enormous Baroque-style Royal Palace wouldn’t be on our list of things to do in Stockholm. Aside from the gorgeous rooms and five museums, it’s actually still the King’s official residence, so you could catch a glimpse of Swedish royalty (disclaimer: we are in no way guaranteeing this). With 608 rooms, this is the biggest palace in the world that’s still be used by the monarchy. It was built in the early 18th century, incorporating the ruins of Tre Kronor castle, which stood on the site and burnt down in 1697.
As you can imagine, it’s incredibly lavish both inside and out. Ornate gilded cornices decorate high ceilings, a silver throne looms over the Hall of State, and the Armory is full of armor (of course!), costumes and elaborate carriages. The Changing of the Guard takes place every day at about lunchtime and is well worth seeing. You could also see if you come across any of the ghosts that are said to haunt the palace, if you dare! Guided tours will give you more information in a lively way.
The 106-meter-high red brick tower of Stockholm’s City Hall (Stadshuset in Swedish) is an integral part of the city’s skyline. The golden Three Crowns at the top have soared above the waterfront since its completion in 1923; the building used over eight million bricks in its construction. On a calm day, the reflection in the water is striking and the warm red of the building against a blue sky is mesmerizing.
While it is still the workplace for civil servants and politicians, Stadshuset is probably best known for hosting the Nobel banquet in its lavish Blue Hall. Similarly, lavish events are held in the Golden Hall, which has 18 million gold mosaic tiles (home décor inspiration anyone?). Guided tours are the best (and only!) way to see around the interior of the building; you should also make time to stroll around the neighboring park. For an extra fee, climb to the top of the tower and drink in the incredible views.
After visiting both the Royal Palace and Drottningholm Palace, the royal residence on its own private island, you’ll be wondering how you can marry into the Swedish royal family and get to live here! Like many royal residences of the time, Drottningholm was originally inspired by Versailles. Sidebar: is it just us who loves the thought of all these 18th-century monarchs trying to ‘Keep Up With The Joneses’? Since then, Drottningholm has undergone many changes dependent on the tastes of Swedish monarchs over the years.
Now it stands as a gorgeous example of regal architecture, while also housing the royal family. It’s absolutely beautiful, as well as being very well-preserved; no wonder it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lavish salons, ornate bedchambers, a golden library, atmospheric galleries… all are on show to the public. For many, the gardens are the real attraction. The Baroque Gardens are landscaped in the French style, while the area around the famous Chinese Pavilion is wilder and more natural. Keep your eyes peeled for the King lurking around the hedge groves!
For fans of Sweden’s most-loved Eurovision entry, this museum one of the first things to do in Stockholm. A sensory abundance, the interactive exhibits and amazing collection of memorabilia is a gift that keeps on giving. As the website says, you’ll walk in and dance out. Even if it were only memorabilia here, we’d still enthusiastically recommend it. Seeing the platform boots, sequined jumpsuits and instruments in real life is fascinating and really puts the band’s achievements in a historical context.
But this isn’t only about looking at things, you also get to take part! You can join the group as their 5th member in a hologram experience, trying on a virtual costume; you can even wear a replica of the shiny outfits they used to don for their performances. If you’ve got time you can watch movies about their story and there are temporary exhibitions like ‘MAMMA MIA! Behind the movie magic’.
A ferry stop away you’ll find this magical fairyland packed with lights, color, and entertainment. It’s a purely summer place, open from late spring to September, and has those summer vibes. While it’s small, this simply makes it feel more intimate and almost like you’re in a retro fairground. It’s been around since the 1880s, making it Sweden’s oldest amusement park. The park was actually built around 19th-century buildings, giving it a unique feel.
There are about 30 rides. There are options for the adrenalin junkies – the Free Fall drops you 80 meters in six seconds so don’t eat before it – and for those of us who prefer something a little more chilled, like a pretty circus carousel. As well as these, you can go on classic rides like a tunnel of love or explore the funhouse. There’s even a rollercoaster built especially for families, the Kvasten. When you need a break, there are lots of places to stop and eat. The location by the water is also perfect for a stroll with some candy floss.
In Gamla Stan, situated in a building that was previously the Stock Exchange, the Nobel Prize Museum brings together the history of the famous prize along with stories about its winners. It was opened in 2001 to celebrate the centenary of the Nobel Prize and aims to be an engaging and thoughtful reflection on the achievements of the prize winners. In this aim, it definitely succeeds. We left feeling humbled and inspired by the intelligence, creativity, and compassion that exists in the world (we don’t know about you, but sometimes we need to be reminded of that!).
Cultures of Creativity is the permanent collection that looks at what encourages creativity, prompting visitors to analyze the reasons for themselves. Temporary exhibitions focus on more topical issues, like the 2018/2019 exhibition about Martin Luther King Jr. The Nobel Museum also hosts film screenings, debates, performances and workshops related to science. The kids’ Bubble Chamber gets kids engaged with the concept of the Prize. Being totally honest, the shop is also one of our favorite spots – there are tons of interesting things to buy, so it’s a great place for souvenirs.
Known in English as ‘The Woodland Cemetery’, this beautiful World Heritage Site is both moving and architecturally fascinating. Here is where life and death come together, as the tombstones rest quietly amidst green grass under pine trees. It was built between 1917 and 1920 after two young architects won a competition to design a new cemetery. You can imagine that at this time, towards the end of the First World War, death was on many people’s minds and it has been treated here with gentleness and respect.
The cemetery consists of pastoral landscape, a grove of pine trees, a large pond, a meditation hill, and chapels and a crematorium in a functionalist style. Every detail was designed by the architects and it reflects the development of architecture from Nordic Classicism to functionalism. There’s an arresting black granite cross that you see immediately on arrival which creates a vista based on a painting. It’s a unique place to visit, one where you can appreciate design but also take some time in the stillness to reflect on our mortality and what it means to be alive.
Hotel Berns is in one of those buildings that’s so gorgeous, you can’t believe you can actually stay there. But you can! This landmark hotel is right in the middle of Stockholm, in Berzelii Park and right on the waterfront. The classic building is in pleasing contrast with the contemporary, minimalist interiors that are brightened up with splashes of color, interesting photography and original features. The round windows give some of the rooms a ship feel, which we enjoyed!
All of the 82 rooms are exquisitely comfortable, well-designed and equipped with everything you could possibly need. If you’re feeling fancy, request the in-room bartending for a drink or two before dinner. The restaurant moves away from minimalist in interior design terms, boasting three extravagant chandeliers, a mirror covering a whole wall and plush velvety gilded chairs. Seriously, the breakfast dining hall has to be one of the best places to wake up in the world! To make it even better, the Asian-inspired food is also delicious. Summer guests can enjoy the added treat of music on the Terrassan bar (one of five in total).
With early breakfasts, long lunches and never-ending nights at one of three Berns nightclubs, this fun hotel invite you to be seduced by their buzzing and vibrating atmosphere. Welcome to the house that never sleeps! There are three full-time club venues operated by Berns, and one Stora Salongen – The Great Hall – offering one of the most stunning dance floor in Stockholm!
Stockholm’s archipelago is easily one of the most beautiful coastlines we have experienced. Some of it feels so secluded and remote that it’s hard to believe a capital city is only minutes away. Cute red houses dot the hillsides of the thousands of islands, wind rustles in the grasses and leaves, deep blue water laps the many shores.
You can enjoy all of these sights from the decks of a classic archipelago boat, built in the first half of the 20th century, for two and a half hours. A passionate and knowledgeable guide will add to the experience by telling you the history of the area and the different sights you pass along the way. The spectacular scenery combined with the interesting stories gives you a real taste of Sweden, particularly how people live outside the capital.
Being honest, when anyone thinks of Scandinavia, they think of Vikings (it’s hard not to when you get to Stockholm and you’re surrounded by tall, beautiful blondes, to be honest!). So why not embrace that association and actually learn something more about it at the same time? This 8-hour trip in the countryside surrounding Stockholm takes you into the wildness of Sweden and shows you some of the key relics from Viking history.
Bridges, runestones, grave fields and more are included as a guide tells you more about this significant historical period. Visit Old Uppsala, where the famous grave mounds of Viking kings are, and its nearby city, where you can see the biggest church in the Nordic countries. You can also go on a guided walk of the oldest town in the country, Sigtuna. There’s even a Viking parliament ruin where you learn about the system of governance at the time. Enthusiastic guides ensure this is an excursion you won’t forget.
Sweden’s best-loved foods, meatballs, can be found all over Stockholm – in fact, if you told us you were not able to find them, we would probably say you ended up in another Nordic capital – Copenhagen, Oslo or Helsinki perhaps. And even then, they are rather easy to find.
If you are stuck for time, you could head to the nearest IKEA and ticket two famous icon’s of Sweden off at one but to there are so many other places to try these deliciously flavored meatballs, smothered in the most amazing rich and creamy gravy. You could head to the famous Bakfickan, next to the Opera House, where each part of the dish is served separated so you can combine together for you preferred flavor profile – or head to the quirk Meatballs for the People with, well, meatballs served to perfection with in-season meat and sauces.
There is no one best place to go, but for our two cents head to Glashuset Restaurant and Bar in the hipster Södermalm area. Between the unique glass facade and the brick walls from the former metalworks, you’ll find hip spot where exotic flavors combined with updated Nordic classics – including meatballs – to tell a new story. Traditionalists be dammed, this is meatballs for the 21st century!
One of the wonderful things about Stockholm is how easy it is to get around. Naturally, the public transport is great, but we’re not talking about that. Cycling around the compact city centre is a lovely way to see the beautiful streets, pretty buildings and meandering coastline. This engaging bike tour takes that cycling experience and makes it even better. A local guide takes you around the main sights, making sure you don’t miss anything and telling you the stories behind all the places you glide past.
After meeting in the middle of the city, you’ll spend two hours exploring Gamla Stan, the islands surrounding it and the national port. It’s great to be able to ask questions about everything you see (no more Googling obscure facts!) and your guide is sure to tell you even more than you expected! The only difficult thing about the tour will be giving your bike back at the end.
We couldn’t reach the end of our suggestions for things to do in Stockholm without encouraging you to spend time up in the rooftops. It’s something that’s mainly possible for summertime visitors but is well worth doing. There’s nothing like chilling in the sunshine with a cool drink in hand, looking out over this spectacular city. Tak Rooftop Bar is one of the best places to do this, offering creative cocktails, beer, wine, and sake. This last option links in with its Japanese theme and raw food at its restaurant.
A bright, airy space with minimalist décor, it’s the guests that provide the vibrancy at Tak. There’s a chilled-out atmosphere during the day, while in the evenings DJ sets give things a livelier feel. You might think you’re only stopping in for one drink – don’t be surprised if you’re still there 5 hours later. There’s something hypnotic about the 360-degree view from this 14th-floor spot, especially if you arrive at dusk to watch the sun go down on the city. Oh, and did we mention the drinks were delicious?
Summer or winter, Stockholm is always a wonderful place to visit. If you can’t fit all of these things into one visit, simply come back again!
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Just add an adventurous attitude and plenty of smiles - they go a long way - and that about covers it all! Now go out, find your own path and don't forget to share your best inspiration stories with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram...I'd love to hear from you!