When the cabin crew of the flight announced “Valkomen till Stockholm” (Welcome to Stockholm), I felt like goosebumps. Finally, I reached Stockholm – my dream city. During my teen age, I heard about Stockholm as a green city consisted by geometric and colorful structures. But I was amused to see the city was actually beyond my imagination.
The scenic port city spreads itself out across fourteen islands and possesses a ton of attractions, parks, museums and art to see while getting lost among the historic streets and colorful buildings.
During my eight months long stay in this fabulous city, I explored mostly by feet. I was astonished to see the city’s greenery, geometry, colours and charm. Moreover, Swedish people are famous for their design sense. This reflects to their public art and attire. Thus the city can be regarded as an art gallery.
Personally, I think, Sweden has been a country of its own in almost all seasons. However, in spring, summer and autumn the country becomes unique. Like other European cities, usually Summer is regarded as the best time to visit Stockholm for greenery and soothing temperature. But visiting the city early May, the colors of nature can be visible, because during spring, it will be literally ‘cherry on the top’.
Various travel agencies have identified the country as a ‘Summer Destination’. They provide various ‘tourist offers’ throughout those three summer months. So from May to August, tourists from all over the world flock to the country. Still I believe touring with the agencies is not a cup of tea for those who love to explore a place and moreover, invariably it becomes expensive. From my eight months experience to stay and explore, I can guide you to make your Sweden trip exciting at a reasonable cost.
Travel & Staying:
Staying in Europe is always expensive. Thus I prefer to stay in Hostels. Europe is safe and especially there is absolutely no concern about security in Scandinavia. Staying in the hostels of Gamla Stan, Normalm, Hotorget will be helpful to explore the major portion of the city by foot. To enjoy the Swedish delicacies and nightlife, it is suggested to stay near Medboraplasten.
The main attractions of the city are spanned in walking distance. During Spring and Summer, walking under the soft, cozy Sunlight refreshes the soul. However, availing a bike (in India, cycle) can be a good option. Bikes can be rented in an affordable cost.
But if the tourist is in rush, it is advised to get a Stockholm Card (for expats, SL cards). Stockholm Card not only provides the free transportation, but also covers city tour, free entry to museums and Archipelago trip. Stockholm Card is available for 24 hours or 72 hours, but the tourist needs to plan accordingly so that the card can be utilized at the most.
Experiences to have in Stockholm:
As I mentioned, the city provides most of the attractions at no cost, so I will mention the cost only when it is chargeable. Also, I would suggest to get a tourist map from the Information Centers. Language is not a barrier in Stockholm. Almost everybody can speak in English. So, let’s start exploring.
1. Wander the winding lanes of Gamla Stan (Old Town):
Every trip to any European city starts with a medieval town. For Stockholm, it is Gamla Stan – the ancient neighbourhood dates back to the 13th Century. Gamla Stan consists of medieval narrow alleys, cobblestone streets and colourful archaic architecture.
Taking a free walk is always suggested to the tourists and travellers. The one and half hour of strolling will cover the history of the town – the rise and fall of Swedish Kingdom.
Stortorget is the name of the scenic large square in the centre of Gamla Stan, which is surrounded by beautiful architecture, charming colorful aristocratic houses of old merchants including the Stockholm Stock Exchange Building. The square was the site of the Stockholm Bloodbath, where Swedish noblemen were massacred by the Danish King Christian II in November, 1520. In fact, the town was burnt by devastating fire many times.
The Nobel Museum and Sweden Post Museum are on the Stortorget. Details about the museum are described in the Museum section.
From Stortorget, visitors can get a true insight into life in medieval times with a walk down the oldest street in Stockholm, Kopmangatan. Dating back to the 14th century, the impressive street acted as the main connection between Stortorget and the Merchant Street.
Vasterlanggatan, Gamla Stan’s popular tourist street, is one of the best places to pick up a gift or souvenir, from beautiful fabrics to silver jewelleries and antique maps.
It is always suggested to witness the changing of guard everyday in the Stockholm Royal Palace at Gamla Stan.
Visitors are suggested to stroll along Riddarholmen and Stadsholmen islands. Also in Helgeandsholmen island, the fascinating architecture of Swedish Parliament House and Stockholm Medieval Museum are a must to visit.
Gamla Stan is the paradise for foodies. Den Gyldene Freden is featured in the Guinness book of records for being the oldest restaurant in the world to have the same surrounds, little has changed since its establishment in 1722. The restaurant is located on Österlånggatan. Please do not forget to have meat balls in this restaurant.
For nightlife, there are several nightclubs to give the visitor a feel of medieval ambience.
2. Refreshing at Skansen on Djurgården:
Celebrating a relaxing day in greenery inside the capital city, Djurgården must be the destination. The small green island is the picnic spot for all the Stockholmers. Etymologically, Djurgården means the animal park. This island is a mix of parkland and forest with both canal and harbor sides. Walking through the lush greenery, eating at a relaxing restaurant, enjoying the amusement park and visiting a historic Swedish village makes the trip memorable.
People enjoy picnics during summer in Djurgården. Even this place is great for a loner to choose a park bench and enjoy with a book and beer or coffee.
Skansen is the center of attraction at Djurgården. It is the first open-air museum in the world. It’s also a zoological garden specializing in Nordic fauna, such as moose, reindeer, bear, wolf, lynx, and wolverine. Entry is 125-195 SEK depending on the season. Discounts are available for seniors and students.
Djurgården houses ABBA Museum and Vasa Museum. Details about them have been described in the Museum Section.
Gröna Lund, or colloquially Grönan, is an amusement park in Djurgården. This is a small compared to other amusement parks, mainly because of its central location, which limits expansion.
Visiting Djurgården is fun. A single boggy, cute tram service is available from Kungstagarden. Though it is walkable, I would suggest availing the tram service. However, one can visit this small island by ferry services. Both options are free with Stockholm Card and SL card.
3. Sailing for Archipelago:
The Stockholm Archipelago consists of 28,945 islands, making it the fourth largest archipelago in the world (Source: The World Atlas). Baltic Sea, while approaching Lake Malaren via Stockholm, created all these small islands in the ice age. A Stockholm trip remains incomplete if the archipelago trip is not done.
There are various ferry services for archipelago trips. Enjoy a day in the boat. Lunch is available onboard. For people with SL cards and Stockholm cards, get a SL ferry service to explore a few of the islands.
To make the trip more exciting, choose an island, get down and look for AirBnb. But please be aware of the return ferry.
4. Going up the Stockholm City Hall:
The City Hall is famous for its grand ceremonial halls and unique pieces of art, and is the venue of the Nobel Prize banquet held on 10 December every year. The historic brick building that features daily guided tours for 110 SEK. Going up the tower from May-September (for an additional 50 SEK but complementary for Stockholm Card holders) is advised for amazing views of Gamla Stan and the city.
5. Exploring Södermalm:
Södermalm – Stockholm’s hottest neighborhood is the southern island of the city. The vibe in Södermalm is relaxed, creative and trendy. This neighborhood offers a myriad of vintage stores, eclectic shops, Swedish fashion, galleries and design stores, mixed with an abundance of places to eat and drink.
This area of Stockholm is a real gem. Breathtaking views of the city can be found from Zinkensdam or Slussen. In Zinkensdam, the older Swedish houses are observed.
Lovely architecture of KatarinaKyrka (Katarina Church) should be in the bucket list of the visitor.
Not only that, smaller boutiques and galleries are found in this region. Sweden’s Photography Museum is there. In addition to smaller boutiques and galleries there is an abundance of places to eat and drink. Many of the places are located in style-conscious SoFo (South of Folkungagatan), Hornstull and Mariatorget.
Fellow, Reader, if you are a foodie or a party animal, the Södermalmshould be your paradise. A deck party under midnight Sun can be the most valuable experience for everybody. Do visit Patricia for this.
Graffiti on the colorful walls must be observed while wandering in Södermalm.
6. Museum hopping:
Stockholm is the headquarters of Nordic countries. Moreover, since the ancient days, the city has been a business hub and cultural center for Northern Europe. Thus Stockholm’s museums are worth visiting.
The list of the museums and detail are as follows:
- Natural History Museum (Complimentary with Stockholm Card)
- Nordic Museum (Complimentary with Stockholm Card)
- ABBA Museum (Complimentary with Stockholm Card)
- Stockholm Medieval Museum (Free)
- VASA Museum (Complimentary with Stockholm Card)
- Nobel Museum (Free)
- Postal Museum (Free)
7. Touring Drottningholm Palace and Skogskyrkogården – Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
Stockholm’s two UNESCO World Heritage sites, though there is a distance between 8 kilometers, can be viewed in one day.
The meaning of Drottningholm is “Queen’s islet”. The palace was built in the 17th Century and became the summer residence of the Swedish Royal Family. Drottningholm Palace is built on a big garden and there are three major segments in the area – The palace, Palace Theatre and Chinese pavilion. The palace reflects the combination of 17th Century Italian and French architecture and also echoes the power of Sweden in Europe. Palace Theatre is still running and Summer Opera Festival is still a great event in Sweden.
Skogskyrkogården (Woodland Cemetery): The twentieth century cemetery contains a cultural influence of many countries in the world. Two young architects, Asplund and Lewerentz created the cemetery between 1917 and 1920. Skogskyrkogården is an example of a modern concept of architecture wholly integrated into the environment.
Details about these two UNESCO World Heritage Sites can be found in my post – UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Stockholm: Drottingholm Palace and Skogskyrkogården.
8. Making friends in Fika:
Fika is an integral part of Swedish culture. Friendship, dating, business deal, cabinet meeting everywhere Fika is a common term. Fika means coffee with desert. Swedish coffee is probably the best I have ever tested. For dessert, the most famous is ‘Kanelbulle’ (cinnamon roll). Also, Swedish Princes’ cake is a must try.
While in Stockholm, the visitor must have a fika.
9. Walking around Normalm:
The busiest neighborhood of Stockholm is Normalm. This is the business capital of the Nordic countries. Most of the biggest corporate organizations have their head office in Normalm. Apart from that, Normalm possesses fascinating baroque architecture of the city.
Obviously, Normalm houses famous restaurants, open air pubs and nightclubs.
For shopping, Drotingatan, Vasagatan are famous. Most of the famous Swedish garment brands like H&M, Ahlens, Borg have their show rooms in this area. Visiting the Hay market in Hötorget can make your shopping memorable.
10. Relaxing in a park:
Like the entire Sweden, Stockholm is famous for greenery. Everywhere a visitor can find a park to sit back, breath a fresh air and relax.
I would suggest to visit Stockholm in the first week of May for cherry blossom. The city becomes romantic during spring with cherry, apple and strawberry flowers. Kungsträdgården and Lumaparken are famous parks for cherry blossom.
11. Admiring the street art and the art of Metro stations:
Sweden are famous for design. Each and every Swedish is fond of art and aesthetics. Thus, graffities and murals are famous on Stockholm walls.
Stockholm’s metro system, known as ‘Tunnelbana’, boasts of varied and fascinating artwork in almost every station. Each of the one hundred stations possesses unique art on its platform, walls or waiting hall. So spending a day in Stockholm’s metro is basically like visiting the world’s longest art exhibition.
No European trip is complete without seeing an opera. For Stockholm, it is Kungliga Operan – Royal Swedish Opera.
- Sweden is a Schengen Country. So Schengen visa is required for visiting Stockholm.
- Please have a windcheater handy while in Stockholm. The weather can be changed anytime even without forecast. Also by virtue of geometric pattern, there are streets that remain always windy. The windcheater can save from chilling wind and sudden rainfall. For any trip on ferry, please carry the winter cloths as per your requirement even it is the month of July.
- Like other European countries, tap water is the only source of drinking water. Do not waste money by purchasing packaged water.
- Swedish culture believes in gender equality. Please behave accordingly. Even during night out, be sober.
- Sweden is safe. Even women can walk comfortably at night. But nowadays, some fraud people are visiting Stockholm with the intention of pick pocket. Keep your eyes open.
- Please keep your proof of age handy while purchasing alcohol or visiting a pub.