A vibrant, colourful city of contrasts, forward-thinking and ultra-modern, breaking boundaries and setting standards, set among centuries-old buildings and a rich history. Stockholm is a buzzing hive of activity, a beacon of change, peace, love and acceptance. Streets adorned with quaint cafe’s and fika-loving locals, modern design and ancient architecture. It is, without a doubt, a feast for the senses and a city well worth exploring. More than that, the Swedish culture is one well-worth experiencing first-hand. To help you do just that, here are 26 things you absolutely must do in Stockholm!
1. The Vasa Museum
I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Vasa Museum but it totally blew me away! Marvel at the impeccably preserved warship, salvaged from the ocean floor after sinking on its maiden voyage 333 years earlier. Over 95 per cent of the ship is original and it’s impossible not to have a ‘wow’ moment when you first see it. The exhibition is done really well, allowing visitors to see the ship from all different angles and really get a sense of the history behind it.
2. Gröna Lund
If you love fun rides and spending a day at the fair be sure to make time to visit Gröna Lund, situated in Djurgården. Here you’ll find a whole host of amusement park rides and activities like roller coasters, the Giant Drop and one of those huge swings that’ll perch high up over Stockholm for the very best views of the city and beyond.
3. The Royal Palace
It wouldn’t be a visit to Europe without seeing at least one Palace, am I right?! (Although technically we’re talking Scandinavia, but you know what I mean!) You’ll find The Royal Palace in Gamla Stan and while it isn’t the most heart-pumping of activities it’s still worth checking out, even if you skip the crowds and just ogle it from the outside, snapping a few obligatory photos. After all, it is one of Europe’s biggest palaces.
4. Explore Södermalm
Spend a few hours exploring the bohemian, hipster neighbourhood of Södermalm or SoFo as the locals call it. Here you’ll find the streets alive with boutiques, art galleries, record stores and totally unique stores selling vegan leather goods, eco-friendly wares and vintage clothing. There’s a distinctly laid-back atmosphere and you’ll have no trouble finding a cheap bite to eat or a great coffee if the mood strikes. Be sure to wander the newly established Moseback Design District, home to emerging artists, designers and musicians.
5. Join a food tour
Love food? A great way to get your teeth into the best food Stockholm has to offer is to join a food walking tour, where you’ll be taken to some of the city’s best spots and introduced to must-try meals. It’s a great way to cut the guesswork out of it and make sure you don’t miss out on any great food memories. It’ll also ensure you eat ALL the Swedish meatballs!
My favourite museum in Stockholm has to be Fotografiska, the modern photography museum. Situated along the water it houses beautiful photographs from Swedish and international photographers and is really well curated, offering a fantastic mix of images aimed at sparking the imagination as well as provoking discussion and thought. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did but it ended up being a real highlight for me! Also, if you’re keen to try some local sweets, the gift store is home to some ‘nostalgic’ candy and chocolate.
7. Viking Museum
If you’re interested in Sweden’s Viking history, you can’t go past Vikingaliv. Here you’ll find an informative exhibition sharing a wealth of knowledge and insight into the world of Vikings from what they ate and how they lived to what they wore and more. There’s also a ride you can take that tells the story of a Viking’s journey and shares some insight into their world. If you’re keen to try some really good Swedish meatballs be sure to eat at the museum’s restaurant, Glöd.
8. Wander Royal Seaport
There’s a good chance you’ve already heard about the Swede’s focus on sustainable living. If you’re keen to see it for yourself I’d recommend checking out Royal Seaport, an urban development area pushing the boundaries of sustainability. It’s a great way to see how the locals live and get a glimpse into Stockholm’s future.
9. Millenium tour
Fan’s of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy will love the Millenium Tour which takes visitors on a tour of Södermalm. You’ll explore some of the most beautiful parts of Stockholm while spotting key locations from the books and movies.
10. ABBA the museum
I was hesitant to visit the ABBA museum only because I’m not a huge fan of ABBA and didn’t think I’d enjoy myself because it’d be too much ABBA. I ended up having a really good time! While there is a lot of ABBA going on (I mean, it is their museum) it’s actually really well done and enjoyable even for those who just know the songs and aren’t ride or die fans.
11. Go shopping in Östermalm
If you’re looking to experience Stockholm‘s more exclusive fashion, art and design district make a beeline for Östermalm where you’ll find all manner of high-end stores. This is a great spot to peruse luxurious jewellery and clothing, art, furniture and design stores. Even if you’re a little light in the pocket, there’s no harm taking a lap of the neighbourhood and soaking in the culture.
12. Boat Ride around Stockholm
Whatever you do, make sure you see Stockholm from the water at least once! Even if it’s just a ferry ride from one side to the other, it really does make for a great angle and affords the opportunity to snap some really gorgeous photos. We climbed aboard the Royal Canal tour and loved it, especially as they provide headphones for you to listen to a guide pointing out important sites. That said, there are quite a few boat sightseeing tours on offer.
13. Explore Old Town / Gamla Stan
We spent a few hours just wandering the streets of Gamla Stan, the Old Town, and loved getting lost down winding, cobblestone streets. Aside from being beautiful, these winding alley’s and the crooked old building also form part of one of the best-preserved medieval city centres in the world so you’re literally walking on history. Find a cafe that takes your fancy and stop in for a coffee or ‘Fika‘ then continue on, finding hidden spots, cute boutiques and tiny alleys.
14. Go swimming
Obviously, this one only applies to the warmer months, unless of course, you’re a purveyor of polar-bear plunges. If you do find yourself visiting during the Swedish summer you might like to visit popular swimming spots like Tantolunden, Smedsuddsbadet and Långholmsbadet for a dip. No need to write those names down, I’m sure you’ll remember them… right?
15. Skansen Open-Air Museum
Make your way to Skansen in Djurgården where you can step back in time and experience the Sweden of old. Sort of like a historic theme park or village, Skansen offers traditional Swedish dancing, Nordic animals, cafes and restaurants serving traditional bites and beautiful gardens. Wander the village and pop into old-world stores showing how trade was done as well as glass blowing and traditional food preparation methods. It’s a nerdy tourist activity and a bit tourist-cliche but it’s also pretty dang cool, especially for little ones.
16. Moderna Museet
If you’ve ever wanted to see a Picasso, Dalì, Matisse or Derkert then you absolutely must visit the Moderna Museet. A haven for art-lovers, Moderna Museet is home to one of the most prominent collections of modern art in Europe.
17. Rent a kayak
Baby got ‘yak! Slide your big tourist booty into a kayak and set off for a paddle along the water. The Swedes love their sailing and water activities so make like a local and get your kayak on. It’s a great way to see the city from a different angle and will afford you the opportunity to get some pretty stunning photographs too (the reflections of buildings off the water are insane!) You can hire a yak for yourself or join a guided kayak tour of Stockholm City.
18. The City Hall
You’ve heard of the Nobel Prize, right? Well, each year the Nobel Banquet is held at Stockholm’s City Hall, an impressive building inside and out. Once you step inside you’ll find yourself marvelling at the huge ceiling and grand staircase, not to mention the incredible artworks adorned with gold in the upstairs hall. If you’re keen for great views, be sure to visit the top of the tower. If you’re short on time, a quick walk around the outside will do.
Keen to take in some stunning views of Stockholm? Head directly to SkyView, located at the top of the world’s largest spherical building, Ericsson Globe. The gondola tour will take you around 20 minutes and you’ll be treated to unbeatable views of Stockholm, high above the city and surrounds. Be sure to check the weather forecast and aim for a nice clear day if possible and pre-purchase your tickets online to skip the queues!
20. The Archipelago
I didn’t quite realise this before I visited, but Stockholm forms part of an incredible group of 30,000 islands known as The Archipelago. It’s surprisingly easy to explore the Archipelago and, if you have the time, I really recommend you do so as it affords the opportunity to see a different side to Sweden and really experience the country’s natural beauty. You can make a day trip out of it by catching a bus or ferry to a different island or stay for one or two nights, which I think is the best way to do it.
21. Explore the city on bicycle
Another easy way to see Stockholm and cover a lot of ground is to either join a bicycle tour or hire a bike and take yourself on a DIY tour. Those savvy Swedes are all about sustainability and energy efficiency so you’ll find plenty of locals cycling around and more than enough spots to chain up your bike at each stop.
22. Drottningholm Palace
Go full medieval and visit Drottningholm Palace, Sweden’s best-preserved royal palace. Dating back to the seventeenth century this incredible site is now home to Sweden’s genetically gifted royal family (seriously, they’re a bunch of lookers!) and a great spot to spend a couple of years marvelling at the gorgeous grounds, snapping photographs and soaking in Sweden’s history.
23. Rooftop Tour
Join a guided tour with a difference and sign yourself up for Stockholm’s rooftop tour. Don’t worry, you’ll be accompanied by certified guides with plenty of experience and safety expertise. You’ll also be guided above Stockholm’s rooftops, treated to unbeatable views of the city and able to spot unique and interesting part of the city’s history.
24. National Museum of Science and Technology
A great spot for little kids (and big kids too) Stockholm’s National Museum of Science and Technology offers a world of excitement and adventure. Spend your time playing games, challenging your mind, exploring the latest exhibits and learning about Sweden’s innovate approach to technology.
25. Day trip to Sigtuna
Located quite close to the international airport, Sigtuna is a great spot to take a day-trip or round out your trip to Stockholm. Spend a night in this ancient town then head out to the airport and catch your flight. Sigtuna offers a fascinating glimpse into Sweden’s history, particularly the lives of Vikings. Wander around and discover stone ruins, ancient little wooden houses all rickety and crooked and delve into the history of a town founded in 970AD! I’d also recommend, to make the most of it, you join a guided tour and have at least one meal at Hotel Kristina.
26. Ultra-nerdy, super-touristy bus tour
Uh-oh, I hate to be that tourist but I’ve really rekindled my love for the good ol’ hop-on-hop-off bus tour of late. If nothing else, they’re just a great way to see all the major sites of a city with very little effort. You can just climb aboard, sit there and see all the ‘must-see’ spots, checking off your ‘I’m a good tourist’ list and feeling like, even if you didn’t get off and explore properly, you still got to see all the major stuff.
Useful travel resources for your trip to Sweden
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Skyscanner – our go-to for booking flights
Agoda – one of our go-to sites for booking hotels
Booking.com – another of our go-to sites for booking hotels
RentalCars.com – a great search engine for renting a car
TourRadar – a great search engine for booking tours