Fourteen islands. Eight centuries of history. One Stockholm.
The cobblestone streets and ochre-coloured buildings of Gamla Stan (the old town) are home to the 13th-century Storkyrkan Cathedral, the Kungliga Slottet Royal Palace and the Nobel Museum, which focuses on the Nobel Prize. Ferries and sightseeing boats shuttle passengers between the islands
Here’s are my tips to get the most from the Scandi Capital where tradition and technology collide.
With a city based across a whole chain of islands, you can be sure that you won’t run out of things to do in Stockholm. Make sure you make the most of your Scandi city break by doing, eating and seeing these 12 Ace things across the scattered Swedish capital.
Tip One: Take a Boat Trip
As Stockholm is built across 14 islands with almost the entire city on the water, taking a boat trip is the perfect way to see the Swedish capital. Tour operator Stromma have several different adventure options, depending on how strong your sea legs are. Choose shorter canal tours through the centre of Stockholm to see the city at a glance, or stray from the city for a more in-depth exploration of their incredible 30,000 islands archipelago – the second largest in Sweden.
Tip Two: Explore the Old Town
The tiny island Gamla Stan is Stockholm’s ‘Old Town’, where you’ll wander around centuries of history nestled among picturesque, pastel architecture. Here the Swedish royal family’s palace, Stockholm Cathedral (Storkyrkan) and the Nobel Museum are all within a few minutes walk of each other. Stop for coffee and cake on the square before attempting to squeeze into Mårten Trotzigs gränd – Stockholm’s narrowest street at only 90cm wide, decorated with Swedish graffiti. On second thoughts, best save the Fika for after!
Tip Three: Walk Queen Street/ Parliament Building.
The best way to explore central Stockholm on foot is by walking down Queen Street (Drottninggatan). The street stretches from the city centre in the Norrmalm district all the way along to the district of Vasastaden. Considered one of the main bustling ‘high streets’ of the area, the road is lined with lots of stores, cafes and restaurants. The majority of the street is car-free, so you can take in the sights of central Stockholm without having to dodge traffic as you stroll.
Tip Four: See Art Underground
I was wowed at the display of talents by Artists when I traveled with the Metro underground.
As well as being a convenient way to travel around the city, Stockholm’s metro system houses what’s been described as ‘the world’s longest art gallery’ – over 90% of stations display work from over 150 artists. Travel to Kungstrӓdgåden station for one of the most impressive installations: it has a display of genuine remains of an old palace that used to stand at that spot, a ceiling of piano keys symbolising the nearby academy for music and modern day ‘cave paintings’ across the jagged granite tunnels. And that’s just one station.
Tip Five: Visit Fotografiska.
Although relatively new, photography gallery Fotografiska has made a name for itself as one of the go-to art spots in Stockholm. Swedish artists and famous names including Patrick Demarchelier and Annie Lebowitz have exhibited here, with the gallery space being re-designed and invented around each artist ensuring a unique experience each time. After you’re conked out on art head upstairs to the award-winning restaurant at Fotografiska – home to one of the most photographed windows in Stockholm thanks to its lovely waterside view.
Tip Six: Get the best view in Stockholm.
With its blend of historic European architecture and impressive modern developments, it’s almost difficult not to get a nice view in Stockholm. But the absolute best viewpoint in the city can be found at Fjällgatan. High on top of a cliff-edge, you’ll get an incredible uninterrupted vista across Stockholm’s islands. You can also go back in time on the other side of the viewpoint, inside a community of traditional wooden Scandinavian houses preserved from the 1700’s
Tip Seven: Visit The Royal Palace.
This is one of the largest palaces in Europe!
The Royal Palace is the official residence of His Majesty the King of Sweden, with over 600 rooms.
The Palace is open to the public and offers no less than five museums. The Palace was largely built during the eighteenth century in the Italian Baroque style, on the spot where the “Tre Kronor” castle burned down in 1697. Visit the reception rooms with splendid interiors from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Rikssalen (the Hall of State) with Queen Kristina’s silver throne, and Ordenssalarna (Halls of the Orders of Chivalry). You can also see Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities, the Tre Kronor Museum and the Treasury.
Tip Eight: Refuel with Fika.
Fika is a concept meaning to have coffee, usually with a cake on the side. It’s an important part of Scandi life, like the siesta is to Spain or pub culture is to England. So do as the Swedes do and head to Cafe Saturnus for a large latte bowl and a legendary cinnamon bun – its take on the traditional treat are as big as your head and the best you’ll find in the city.
Tip Nine: Visit the Vasa Museum.
For a relatively small capital city, there are a huge amount of museums in Stockholm: at the moment there are around 80, with new ones opening all the time. If you can only visit one, make it the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was once the most powerful warship in the Baltic but it sank in Stockholm, and was later raised from the seabed 333 years later. It’s now the only preserved 17th century ship in the entire world, so it’s no wonder it’s the most visited museum in the whole of Scandinavia.
Tip Ten: ABBA MUSUEM is a must see for music fans.
Spend some time with Sweden’s greatest export after IKEA at the ABBA Museum. Based inside POP HOUSE, the exhibition follows the group’s history from folk singers to international icons and includes interactive elements including performing on stage with the band and mixing a studio recording. Even the hardiest of visitor won’t be able to resist its charm, fun and impossible to shake catchiness – just be prepared to have ‘Dancing Queen’ stuck in your head for the rest of the trip.
I can help you plan your next Scandi Break. Contact me for further Details.