I visited Stockholm for the first time several years ago, in 2011, while traveling through Scandinavia on an Interrail trip after my Erasmus exchange. It’s hard to believe that so many years have already passed! I’ve been lucky enough to visit Sweden’s capital quite a few times over the years. Whether it’s for work conferences, fun weekend trips visiting my best friend who moved there, or romantic getaways with my boyfriend, there’s always something exciting to do and see in Stockholm.
When to go
If your schedule allows for some flexibility, consider planning your trip for late spring or summer months. It’s my favorite time in Scandinavia! During these times, the days stretch longer, offering plenty of daylight to explore the area. The weather is typically delightful, and everyone is outside, basking in the sun. One of my most memorable experiences in Stockholm was partaking in the Midsummer festivities, a time when the whole city comes alive with joy and celebration (but remember, everything is closed for that day).
On the other hand, visiting Stockholm in autumn or winter has its own unique charm. The autumnal season brings a tapestry of colorful foliage, while winter provides an enchanting backdrop, especially as the holiday season approaches. During this period, the nights stretch long, yet the city’s streets are beautifully illuminated by festive lights and decorations, creating a magical atmosphere as you stroll through.
What to see
A weekend in Stockholm barely scratches the surface of what the city has to offer. There’s so much to see and do that fitting it all into a 2-3 day visit might feel like a whirlwind. But hey, that’s just a great reason to come back, right? 😊
Gamla Stan, which means “Old Town” in English, is a neighborhood that forms the historic core of the Swedish capital. One of Gamla Stan’s most striking features is its architecture. The area is a colorful mix of Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic buildings, painting the streets in hues of yellow, rust, and red. Meandering through its labyrinthine lanes, you’ll discover an array of unique shops, art galleries, and cozy cafes, perfect for some fika (a Swedish coffee break).
There is so much to do and see in this area! Let me show you some photos and write down what I’ve seen.
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace of Stockholm, with its stunning waterfront view, is one of the largest palaces in Europe. You can experience the grandeur of the residence of His Majesty The King, immerse yourself in the regal atmosphere, and witness the splendor of the monarchy’s official reception rooms. The palace is open to the public year-round, inviting you to discover its rich history and marvel at its breathtaking beauty. Inside, you’ll find over 600 rooms and multiple museums, including Royal Apartments, the Treasury, featuring the crown jewels; the Tre Kronor Museum, which delves into the palace’s medieval past; and Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities.
Tre Kronor Museum
Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities
In the summer, you can also explore the Royal Chapel and the nearby Riddarholmen Church, which serves as the royal burial site. A combo ticket granting access to both the chapel and the church is available, and they’re just a short five-minute walk apart.
Once outside, don’t miss the Changing of the Guard ceremony, a captivating spectacle that draws crowds.
Changing of the Guard ceremony
One of the standout places I visited was the Royal Armoury, which offers an enthralling showcase of armours, historical outfits, and carriages from Sweden’s regal past. The Armoury itself was captivating, featuring displays brimming with authentic suits of armor, knightly regalia, and garments donned by the Swedish monarchy over the centuries. The intricate detail of the armor and weapons truly brought the pageantry of bygone eras to life.
Nestled in the basement, one can find an array of ornate carriages and sleighs, each bathed in gilded splendor.
Just beware, the Royal Armoury is not included in the Palace ticket.
Storkyrkan (Stockholm Cathedral)
Dating back to the 13th century, Storkyrkan is the oldest church in Stockholm. Known for its intricate wooden statue of St. George and the Dragon, the cathedral is a blend of Gothic and Baroque styles.
Dedicated to the history of the Nobel Prize, this museum is located in the former Stock Exchange Building. Interactive displays and fascinating exhibitions tell the story of Alfred Nobel and the esteemed laureates. Featuring documentaries, interviews, and virtual lectures, the museum uses a variety of media to make the information accessible and engaging.
While the museum was okay to visit, I don’t think I would have gone if my boyfriend hadn’t been so hyped about it. Not my cup of tea 🙂
Stockholm Medieval Museum
Situated beneath the Royal Palace in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan, the Stockholm Medieval Museum (Medeltidsmuseet) offers visitors a unique opportunity to step back in time. The museum is built around the findings from the largest excavation in Stockholm and transports you to the medieval city, providing a vivid picture of life during the 13th to 16th centuries.
While it was a coincidence we ventured there, it was one of the nicest museums we visited. What sets it apart is its interactive nature. Visitors can engage with hands-on exhibits, including replicas of medieval tools, crafts, and games. There are also miniature models of medieval Stockholm, offering a bird’s-eye view of the city as it once was.
If you are a fan of Vikings and would like to experience a pretty awesome dining experience, I can totally recommend visiting Aifur. It was one of the best theme restaurants I have been to!
Nestled in the winding cobblestone streets of Gamla Stan, the restaurant transports you back to the Viking Age, complete with roaring fires, wooden tables, and a menu that’s brimming with traditional Nordic fare. Don’t forget about the various types of mead available! The warm glow of candles and tunes of traditional Scandinavian music complete the atmosphere, making it an immersive experience.
And if you find yourself sandwiched between guests at the long table and need to make a swift exit, channel your inner Viking! Just clamber atop the table and leap with all the grace of a Norse god (or a slightly tipsy elk) to the other side! Just don’t spill the mead!
If you are a fan of museums, you should definitely visit Djurgården Island. Djurgården has been under royal ownership since the 15th century and has been open to the public since the 19th century. It was originally used for royal hunting grounds, which is where it gets its name (Djurgården translates to “Animal Garden”).
Nowadays, Djurgården is home to some of Stockholm’s most popular museums and attractions. This includes:
- The Vasa Museum, which houses the 17th-century warship, Vasa.
- Skansen: the world’s first open-air museum, showcasing Swedish life throughout history with historical buildings, artisans in period dress, and even a zoo with Scandinavian animals.
- ABBA The Museum: dedicated to the globally famous Swedish pop group.
- The Nordic Museum: Focusing on Swedish cultural history.
- Gröna Lund: An amusement park with rides, games, and concerts during the summertime.
- Rosendal Palace: While not strictly a museum, this royal pavilion offers guided tours that allow you to delve into Swedish royal history and admire its well-preserved Empire-style interiors.
- Tekniska Museet (National Museum of Science and Technology): A great place for families or anyone interested in technology, this museum features interactive exhibits covering everything from the history of machines to the future of technology.
- The Viking Museum: offering a detailed look at Viking history and culture through a mix of modern technology and traditional storytelling.
For those who prefer outdoor activities, Djurgården also offers beautiful walking paths, cycling routes, and canoe rentals to explore the surrounding waterways. You can take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront, enjoy a picnic in one of its many green spaces, or simply bask in the natural beauty of its flora and fauna. During my first visit, I was shocked by the amount of ducks walking among people in the park. Never had this happened to me in Poland before, and it was positively surprising.
There are so many wonderful museums to explore and experience. While I’ve been in a few, there are still so many more I haven’t managed to check out. So let me tell you about those I’ve been to.
Ready to dive into a piece of maritime history unlike any other? The Vasa Museum in Stockholm is a must-visit, offering an up-close look at the world’s only preserved 17th-century ship. This awe-inspiring vessel sank on its maiden voyage to fight in Poland in 1628 and was remarkably salvaged 333 years later. Today, it stands as an astonishing, near-complete maritime artifact, providing insights into naval warfare, shipbuilding, and life in early modern Sweden.
You might be curious why the Vasa ship was set to sail to Poland, of all places. Well, without diving too deep into Polish history, here’s a quick rundown. The Polish king at the time, Sigismund III Vasa, was actually half-Swedish by birth. He was the son of Sweden’s King John III and his first wife, Catherine Jagiellon, who was the daughter of Poland’s King Sigismund I. Raised in the Catholic faith—Poland’s dominant religion at the time—Sigismund found himself at odds with Sweden’s mainly Protestant population. After being elected the monarch of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1587, his grand plan was to merge Poland and Sweden into a single Catholic empire. This vision didn’t sit well with Protestant Sweden, leading his uncle Charles IX to kick off a war. Hence, the Vasa ship was built, which was the most powerful warship in the Baltic at the time of construction.
The real issue, the cause of the ship’s demise, lay in the ship’s construction. The Vasa was top-heavy, with a hull too narrow to properly balance the substantial weight of the artillery on its upper decks—major design flaws that made the ship unstable. Warning signs appeared during both the building and testing phases, hinting that the vessel wasn’t fit for open waters. Nevertheless, due to political or perhaps military urgency, the decision was made to go ahead with the voyage. Shortly after departing from Stockholm Harbor, the ship ran into a gentle breeze that caused it to lean sharply to one side. With its gunports left open, water began to flood in, sinking the Vasa within just a few minutes.
But the ship is not the only impressive thing you will see. The construction of the Vasa Museum is a feat in its own right, designed to both house and complement the grandeur of the Vasa ship. The design is both functional and symbolic, with a ship-like structure that echoes the form of the Vasa itself. Large, soaring spaces allow visitors to view the ship from multiple levels and angles, offering a comprehensive perspective of its intricate details. Climate-controlled conditions help preserve the delicate wooden structure of the Vasa, which, after more than three centuries underwater, requires a very specific environment to prevent decay.
The Viking Museum, also known as Vikingaliv, was another museum that piqued our interest. My boyfriend is a huge fan of Vikings, so we couldn’t check it out. Although the museum itself is not the largest, it offers a fascinating and informative exploration of Viking history and culture by combining modern technology with traditional storytelling.
The museum aims to dispel myths and present a more accurate picture of the Viking Age, which spanned from the late eighth to early 11th century. Visitors can explore interactive exhibits, lifelike dioramas, and even a dramatic ride that simulates a journey in the Viking era. You’ll also find authentic artifacts and replicas, from weapons and ships to household items, that bring history to life.
Skansen is a unique cultural treasure in Stockholm, Sweden, offering a blend of open-air museums and zoo. It was founded in 1891 by Artur Hazelius, making it the world’s first open-air museum. The museum aims to provide a living history of Sweden, showcasing how people lived and worked across various regions and historical periods.
At Skansen, there are over 150 historical buildings that have been moved from various parts of Sweden and reconstructed. These structures consist of farmsteads, manors, and a functional 19th-century town quarter with amenities such as a bakery, post office, and shops. Additionally, there are religious buildings such as churches and chapels. Each building is decorated with furnishings that reflect its specific time period. Often, actors dressed in period clothing can perform tasks, crafts, or music relevant to the time and location.
The museum is also a venue for traditional Swedish festivals such as Midsummer, Walpurgis Night, and Christmas. Back in 2011, when I first stepped into Skansen, I was immediately captivated by the lively and colorful Midsummer celebrations. The air was filled with an infectious sense of joy and celebration as people of all ages happily engaged in traditional activities such as dancing, flower wreath-making, and reveling in the festive ambiance. It was a lot of fun, especially as we were unaware of any activities beforehand 🙂
The zoo focuses primarily on Nordic wildlife. It houses various Scandinavian animals, including bears, moose, lynx, wolves, and reindeer.
Skansen Aquarium showcases exotic species from around the world, in contrast to the rest of Skansen, which focuses on Swedish history and Nordic wildlife. You can observe a diverse range of creatures from across the globe, including reptiles, amphibians, fish, and mammals. The aquarium offers a glimpse into the exotic world of colorful fish in coral reef ecosystems, playful primates on “lemur island,” and giant spiders and insects in their specially designed habitats.
It’s worth noting that the Skansen Aquarium is not included in the general Skansen admission fee and requires a separate ticket. You can purchase a combination ticket if you plan to visit both the open-air museum and the aquarium.
Stockholm City Hall, locally known as Stadshuset, is more than an administrative hub—it’s an architectural marvel and cultural icon.
As you step inside, you’ll be greeted by the opulent Golden Hall, adorned with 18 million gold mosaic tiles, and the Blue Hall, famous as the dining venue for the Nobel Prize banquet. If you’re after panoramic city views, make your way up the City Hall tower, a vantage point that offers a sweeping overlook of Stockholm and its archipelago.
For a deeper understanding, consider taking one of the guided tours that delve into the building’s history, architectural nuances, and cultural significance. And before you leave, don’t forget to spend a few tranquil moments in the inner courtyard, where an intricate wall mosaic serves as a backdrop to a charming café.
Pictures from 2011
Who says art should only be in museums? In Stockholm, even the daily commute is a cultural experience. Dubbed the “world’s longest art gallery,” spread across 90 of the city’s metro stations, the Stockholm Metro (Tunnelbana) is an underground canvas featuring jaw-dropping art installations, murals, and sculptures that turn each station into a mini-gallery.
- T-Centralen: The hub of it all, this station features a calming blue floral motif by Per Olof Ultvedt.
- Kungsträdgården: Part metro station, part archaeological dig, this station houses relics from Stockholm’s medieval past.
- Solna Centrum: This station is covered in a fiery red landscape mural that tackles themes of environmental destruction.
- Rådhuset: What sets Rådhuset station apart is its organic, cave-like architecture. While many stations in Stockholm’s metro system feature art, Rådhuset uses the city’s natural geological formations as its centerpiece.
Don’t forget to look up! Some of the best art is on the ceiling. And get yourself a day pass for unlimited rides and hop on and off to check out different stations. You can literally ride the rails from one art exhibition to another!
Explore Stockholm by boat
Stockholm is often referred to as “The Venice of the North,” and for good reason. The city is an archipelago made up of 14 main islands, interconnected by winding waterways and scenic canals. What better way to explore this unique cityscape than by boat?
Hop-On Hop-Off Boat Tours
One of the easiest and most convenient ways to explore Stockholm by boat is via the hop-on hop-off boat tours. These tours are great for first-time visitors and offer a panoramic view of the city’s famous landmarks, from the Royal Palace to the Vasa Museum.
For those looking to escape the city buzz, consider taking a boat trip to the Stockholm Archipelago. With over 30,000 islands, islets, and skerries, the archipelago offers opportunities for hiking, swimming, and picnicking in a serene natural setting.
Stockholm’s public ferry system is another excellent way to get around. For the price of a metro ticket, you can hop on a ferry and travel between islands like Djurgården, Skeppsholmen, and Slussen. Plus, the ferries are part of the city’s public transport network, making them both affordable and practical.
Private Boat Rentals
Feeling a bit more extravagant? Rent a private boat for the day and captain your own adventure. This option is perfect for romantic getaways or special occasions. Just imagine cruising through the canals with your own personal view of the sunset.
Looking to combine sightseeing with fine dining? Several companies offer dinner cruises that navigate Stockholm’s waterways while serving up gourmet meals. Enjoy Swedish delicacies as you sail past the city’s illuminated skyline.
Canoe & Kayak Tours
If you prefer a more hands-on approach, renting a canoe or kayak is a fantastic way to explore the city’s canals at your own pace. Paddle through peaceful waterways, past floating gardens, and under charming bridges for an intimate view of Stockholm.
Where to stay
Stockholm isn’t exactly a budget-friendly city, especially if you’re looking to stay downtown. I’ve scored some deals in Gamla Stan, the Old Town, but let’s just say you get what you pay for—like a basement room with no window. 😜
If you’re into unique stays, check out Långholmen (https://langholmen.com/en/). It’s a former prison turned into a hotel and hostel. You actually get to sleep in a cell bunk bed and tour the place. It’s a fun experience, and the hostel section is pretty wallet-friendly, especially if you’re a student on a tight budget.
Pictures from 2011
Another time, we found this affordable room on a boat. Since Stockholm is basically a city of islands, there are boats docked everywhere. While it was cheap, my then-boyfriend wasn’t a fan of the seasickness and constant rocking. So, yeah, boat stays might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
If you’re looking to save some cash, accommodations tend to get cheaper the further out from the city center you go.
How to get to Stockholm from Copenhagen
Sometimes flying seems like the best choice, but trains can be a great alternative to consider. Let me explain why: When it comes to ticket prices, planes and trains are comparably priced. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the airport is quite far from Stockholm’s city center, which is often overlooked.
There are various ways to travel from the airport to the city center, but the quickest and most frequent option is the Arlanda Express, which is quite expensive (nearly 300SEK). Alternatively, you could take the SJ Intercity trains, which are cheaper (around 190SEK) but have fewer departures. If you don’t mind a longer journey, the regular local train is an option that takes 40 minutes and costs around 170SEK. The most budget-friendly option is taking a public bus, which takes over an hour but only costs around 40 SEK.
A pretty good summary of options can be found here.
To sum up, on top of the flight ticket price, you need to add 40-300 SEK to reach the city center.
Now, let’s compare time. It takes around 5 hours to go from Copenhagen Central Station to Stockholm Central Station by train (with access to power outlets and internet connection for those who are addicted like me :P)
When you fly, you need to be at least 1 hour before the flight, with most people being comfortable with 2 hours. Plus it takes 15 minutes to get to the airport from the city center. It takes around 1h 10 minutes to take a direct flight to Stockholm Arlanda, which nowadays is usually delayed (but let’s say we are on time). Then, around 30 min of waiting to unload the plane, go through security, and find transport. And lastly 20 min to 1h transport time to the city center. If you add up all of the times, it comes out to be 4-5 hours, similar to a train trip’s duration.
So, when you plan the trip, keep that in mind.