I can not express how much I love Stockholm. I had the chance to spend 3 days in the capital city of Sweden in March 2018 and as I was disembarking a cruise ship I took from Helsinki, I was instantly in love with the city. Its amazingly designed architecture, the interesting history of the Swedish empire, and the countless fascinating things you can do in the city, Stockholm is hands down, my favorite city in Scandinavia.
Within this guide, you will find all the most interesting, beautiful and stunning things to do in and around Stockholm. From a day trip to Gripsholm to the Viking ship museum of Vasa, let's explore this beautiful city together.
Things to Do Map
When to Go
June to August is the best time to visit Stockholm. As with most Scandinavian countries, the weather can get extreme even if it is a little bit off season so it would be best to stick to mid-summer, despite most of the things being pricier and more crowded. If you don't mind the weather and you want to save cost, you can go in late April or Early September. The weather might be colder with less sunlight throughout the day but you will save some money and experience the city without as many tourists around you as in mid-summer.
Where to Stay
Stockholm - City Backpackers Hostel - 44.00 USD/Night (Good location near the Drottninggatan shopping street where all the restaurants and cool cafes are, good facilities all around)
How to Get Around
Most of the attractions are concentrated in and around the Old Town so you can cover every attraction I suggested here on foot.
To cover further distance in Stockholm, the metro is the way to go with a single ticket costing only 44 SEK (5 USD). You can see the metro map here.
For reaching other cities like Mariefred (where Gripsholm castle is located), you can take the train from the Central Station shown on my map. The train runs every hour between Stockholm and Läggesta Station and from the Läggesta Station, there will be buses (302, 304 and 642) to take you to Gripsholm every hour (schedule may change depending on the season). The entire trip should take you no more than 1:30 hr, one way. Google Maps work really well at finding the right train and schedule for you so you can punch in your destination there.
If you are coming from Helsinki via Viking Line cruise, you will be dropped off at the Stadsgården dock. Viking Line does provide a bus transfer from its dock to the Central Train Station for 7 USD and it will take around 15 minutes. You can buy the transfer ticket at the information desks on board the ship.
Things to Do in Stockholm
Go up the Stockholm City Hall
On your first day, a visit to the old town is recommended so you get the feel of the city from its roots. Start off at the City Hall which is located on the same side as the hostel I recommended above, a perfect stop on your way towards the Old Town.
The beauty of this City Hall is its location as it stands on the tip of Kungsholmen island, facing the islands of Riddarholmen and Södermalm where the Old Town is. From here, you can get a stunning view of those 2 islands especially during sunset.
With its spacious layout, it makes the platform a great place to enjoy the sun, the sound of water and people-watching.
You can also go up the 106 meters high tower via an elevator or a 365 steps stairs for a stunning view of the Old Town from above. Walk up for a perfect morning exercise with a rewarding view at the top.
Learn the History at the Royal Palace
From the Town Hall, you can make your way towards Gamla Stan (the Old Town) through Helgeandsholmen island and you will be greeted with a gigantic Italian Baroque style structure of the Royal Palace, one of the largest palaces in Europe and the official residence of His Majesty the King of Sweden. There are several museums you can visit in the Palace alone so take your time here.
The outside is impressive but it is nothing compared to the inside. I encourage you to buy a ticket to get access to the palace so you can really appreciate how magnificent the royal palace is.
Also, if you are around the Royal Palace around 12:15 pm (check seasonal schedule here), you will be able to witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony which includes a military marching band and parade that goes for 45 minutes around the palace and ended at the entrance of the Royal Palace. I accidentally stumbled upon it and it was interesting to see the band although I wouldn't recommend you sticking around for the whole thing as it involves a lot of walking and nothing else.
Admire the Storkyrkan, the Mother of all Churches in Stockholm
Right around the corner of the palace, there is a medieval church called Storkyrkan, one of the oldest church in Gamla Stan. It was built in 1279 and still hold as a great example of the Swedish Brick Gothic style of architecture. Entry is free and makes a perfect stop in between exploring the many things to do in Gamla Stan.
Hangout at the Stortorget Square
The Stortorget is the oldest square in the city and acts as the center square of the Gamla Stan area. Surrounding this square are colorful facades of historic houses built in the 17th and 18th century, possibly one of the most photogenic sight of the Old Town.
Make your way through charming alleyways to the German Church
All the small alleyways leading up to the Stortorget Square are worth exploring in themselves. Be sure to get lost for a bit going through these small alleyways before making your way towards one of the landmarks in the Old Town, the German Church. The church itself is nothing special except the spire marks the highest in Gamla Stan but it is a great reminder of the dominating influence of the Germans in Stockholm during the medieval time. It also makes a great endpoint for your exploration through all the charming alleyways.
Stroll around the island of Riddarholmen
Riddarholmen is a small island that forms part of Gamla Stan where you saw it from the City Hall. One of the landmarks of this island is the Riddarholmen church. Stroll along the side of the island for a rewarding view of the bay Riddarfjärden, and a perfect view of the symmetrical town hall we visited before. It is also a great spot to stop, sit and enjoy the sunset.
Hang out at the Drottninggatan shopping street
If you are looking for a place to go shopping, eat out or simply people-watching, Drottninggatan street is the place to be. I would recommend you walk through the street in the evening as that is the time where it is most lively with cafes and restaurants for you to indulge in. If you are looking for a nice cafe with an excellent vibe in this area, I would recommend Kaferang, a great place to sit, work, meet up with friends, or simply enjoy a great cup of coffee. The location of Kaferang is shown below:
Check out the Gilded Crown on the Skeppsholmsbron bridge
For your second day, we are going to take it slow and started off with a stroll through the city to the Skeppsholmsbron bridge where you can find the famous Gilded Crown facing the Gamla Stan and the Stadsholmen island. This would be a perfect place to take a photo early in the morning when it is not too crowded and the light still amazing.
Explore the real Viking Ship of Vasa at the Vasa Museum
We leave this amazing museum for the second day since it is a little out of the way from the old town but since we were making our way to the Skeppsholmsbron bridge, the Vasa museum is a great next stop on our second-day itinerary. This museum will blow your mind away. If you ever dream of seeing a real Viking warship with your own eyes, well here it is. The Vasa, a retired warship built in the 16th century, sunk and fallen into the sea near Stockholm harbor pretty much intact until its rediscovery and restoration in the 1950s, 350 years after.
The 4-stories high museum is built around this warship and you get to see each recovered parts one by one as you go through the museum. You also get to learn about how it was built, why it was capsized, and how it was recovered from the seabed. You can spend at least 2 hours here, learning about this one great reminder of the great power of the Swedish during that time.
Learn about the Nordic History at the Nordic Museum
The Nordic Museum has one of the most impressive architecture in Stockholm and even if you are not interested in the history of the Nordic people, the exterior is worth seeing in itself. But what impresses me about this museum is not the exterior but the content inside. It is one of the most interesting museums I have been to so far.
It started off talking about light, which made me skeptical at first but then it got interesting once they explained how light was important to the Nordic people given that there is not a lot of light in this part of the world. They go on to explain how the culture evolved around perfecting the interior so that they can work longer hours even without daylight. The museum goes even further and explains what the northern light meant to the Nordic people with interactive visual and experience to go with it.
They also explain how the lighting evolved over time through each period, just like fashion. There are 4 floors consisting of different part of the Nordic history from furniture to fashion. I spent almost 3 hours alone just learning about the Nordic culture through this museum.
Go up to the Monteliusvägen viewpoint for sunset
I would have never discovered this scenic lookout point if it wasn't my good friend Susan, whom I met back in Peru last year, who showed me around one evening when I was in Stockholm. Crossing the bridge through the Riddarholmen island to the Södermalm island and walk up a hill through all the beautiful houses and you will find a 500-meter long walking path with a magnificent view of Lake Malaren, the City Hall, and the Riddarholmen island. The best time to come up here is either during the sunrise or the sunset.
I was lucky enough to be there during sunset, and my god, Stockholm has never looked more beautiful!
A day trip to Grisholm castle in Mariefred
Now, on your last full day, I would recommend you go out of Stockholm a bit and see what Sweden is like outside of the capital. Only an hour train ride away, the small town of Mariefred where the stunning castle of Gripsholm is located, is a great place for a nice day trip from Stockholm. Even if you were there during off seasons and the castle is technically closed, it is still worth a visit as you can still walk inside and around the castle freely with absolutely no crowds.
This red brick Renaissance castle by the Mälaren lake was built in 1709 and has belonged to the Swedish Royal Family until the 18th-century where it was turned into a museum and a National Portrait Gallery one of the oldest portrait collections in the world. I was unfortunately there during winter and so the museum was closed but I still had a wonderful time there and I would recommend you to visit no matter which season you are there during.
In order to get to Gripsholm castle from Stockholm, you will have to get a train from the Central Station to Läggesta Station and from the Läggesta Station, you can take buses number 302, 304 or 642 and get off at Gripsholm. The entire trip should take you no more than 1:30 hr, one way and you can spend half a day there exploring both the castle and the small quiet town of Mariefred.
Looking for a nice cafe in Mariefred for a FIKA (swedish work meaning to have coffee) break? Två Goda Ting is a nice small cafe where you can grab a delicious latte and their pastries. The location is shown below:
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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