Sweden

20 unique things to do in Stockholm

by Paul Joseph  |  Published March 25, 2019

Encompassing 14 individual islands on an archipelago on the Baltic Sea, the capital of Sweden has a topography quite unlike anywhere else. Dubbed ‘beauty on water’ by its natives, it is both a living museum piece and a modern, dynamic city. A well-preserved historic centre teems with heritage buildings, cobblestone streets and ochre-coloured buildings, jostling for attention with a diverse contemporary art and design scene.

A view of the Riddarholmen, a small islet in central Stockholm (Photo: Thomas Fabian via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

There are a vast number of things to see and do in Stockholm, from galleries and museums to historic landmarks and quirky place of interest If you’re planning a trip and like the idea of getting off the well-trodden tourist path, you might take inspiration from our selection below.

Marvel at the mosaics of Stockholm’s metro system

Most metro stations around the world are relatively staid in their visual appeal. Not so in Stockholm, where the vast majority of its 100-plus metro stations feature elaborate art work that give them a truly unique appearance. Eye-catching mosaics, paintings, installations and sculptures adorn the stations, making the metro system a major tourist attraction as well as simply a mode of traversing the city.

Eye-catching artwork at Solna Centrum metro station (Photo: Tony Webster via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Step back into 17th-century Stockholm at Vasa Museum

Opened in 1990, the Vasa Museum is the permanent home of one of Europe’s most notorious ship wrecks. In the seventeenth century, ‘Vasa’ was built as the flagship of the new Swedish navy, featuring an impressive array of heavy firepower including 48 light cannons and six large howitzers. However, the vessel’s somewhat top-heavy design was to be is downfall, and in 1628, on its maiden voyage, it sank. The ship, along with thousands of artefacts, was rediscovered in the 1950s, and now reside in the eponymous museum.

LOCATION Galärvarvsvägen 14, Djurgården HOURS Thurs-Tues 10am-5pm Weds 10am-5pm

Take a dip in a historic bathhouse

A tidy, hidden bathhouse in one of Stockholm’s Old Town is open to everyone – all they need to do is find it. Nestled within a vault in the basement of a 17th century building, the bathhouse has gone through various guises down the years, including serving as a Dominican convent and a primary school, before eventually taking on the role that endures to this day. The venue features a shallow pool and several tiny tubs where visitors can sit and relax.

A photo of the Storkyrkobadet bath house from its early years (Photo: Storkyrkobadet)

LOCATION Svartmangatan 20 HOURS Sun-Tues & Thurs-Fri 5pm-8pm Closed Weds & Sat

Visit an underground nuclear reactor

Buried 25 metres underground, Sweden’s first ever nuclear reactor is one of Stockholm’s most unique attractions. Built during World War I, the reactor continued to be used for most of Sweden’s nuclear research until the 1970s, when concern over the reactor’s proximity to the city of Stockholm resulted in its closure. Today it opens to visitors for special events a couple of times a year.

LOCATION KTH / Royal Institute of Technology Drottning KristinasVag HOURS Special occasions only

Admire Stockholm’s best street and graffiti art

The ramshackle industrial district of Snösätra in the suburbs of Stockholm gives every impression of having been forgotten long ago. That was certainly the case until 2014, when it was transformed into one of Europe’s largest open-air graffiti exhibitions. Virtually every section of the walls that line the streets running through the area is daubed with graffiti, with striking images of people, animals, and objects adorning any space that happens to be available.

LOCATION 3 Snösätragränd

A street artist at work at Snösätragränd (Photo: Danny Qvarfordt via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Take control of a light installation at Telefonplan tower

Light installations that change colour are a common feature of buildings across the word, but the one at Stockholm’s Telefonplan tower has a unique difference – it can actually be controlled by anyone with a mobile phone. Designed to represent the power of democracy, the installation uses the windows in the upper portion of the 20-story spire to project whatever hue is requested by people via a dedicated smartphone app.

Traverse Stockholm aboard a Segway

Segways are a common presence in cities across the world nowadays and they’re particularly popular in places which abound with hills. This is just one reason why a Segway is such a great way to explore Stockholm, which certainly isn’t short of inclines and declines. OURWAY Tours host Segway adventures around the city, traversing routes that take in both natural and man-made attractions. From the majestic architecture of the Strandvägen to the lush, green pathways of Djurgården, you’ll enjoy numerous stop-offs along the way allowing you to soak up the views. You might even spot wildlife such as birds, horses, cows and sheep as you pass. Age requirement is 12-plus.

A guide speaks to guests during a Stockholm segway tour (Photo: OURWAY Tours)

Enjoy a window into the past at Skansen Open Air Museum

Created in 1891 by Artur Hazelius, a distinguished Swedish scholar and folklorist, this open air museum offers a fascinating insight into pre-industrial life in Sweden. Painstakingly re-created as a model village, it is home to a wide range of historic structures, including traditional buildings and homes moved here from other parts of the country, along with several detailed replicas.

LOCATION Djurgårdsslätten 49-51

A winter scene at the Skansen Open Air Museum (Photo: Brian Dooley via Flickr / CC0 1.0)

Take in some taxidermy at Biologiska Museet

Founded in the late 19th century by taxidermist and amateur zoologist, Gustaf Kolthoff, the Biologiska Museet became instantly famous for its trail-blazing use of a two-storey diorama to present animals in their natural habitat. To this day the vast three-dimensional model is well-stocked with taxidermy, including many Scandinavian mammals and birds. Other highlights include a curious creature known as a skvader, featuring the forequarters and hindlegs of a hare, and the back, wings and tail of a female wood grouse.

LOCATION Hazeliusporten 2

Book a night’s stay in a converted airplane

If you’re a fan of quirky accommodation options, there’s nowhere more unusual to spend the night in Stockholm than the Jumbo Stay hotel. Located within a converted 747 Jumbo Jet, the hotel’s attention to detail is exceptional, with staff kitted out in full flight-attendant outfits and dorm-style rooms lined with windows looking out over a runway and the “plane’s” engines. There’s even a cockpit suite for those happy to splash the cash.

LOCATION Jumbovägen 4

An interior shot of the Jumbo Stay Hotel (Photo: Jumbo Stay)

Connect with nature on a wildlife tour

Marvel at beautiful rural landscapes, spot indigenous wildlife and enjoy a traditional Swedish Midsummer Meal during this fabulous wildlife tour. Hosted by Stockholm Adventures, the fully guided tour begins with a minibus pick-up from central Stockholm which takes you beyond the city limits to lush forests and farmland, where Moose, Deer, Foxes and Wild Boar roam free. As well as keeping your eye out for such beasts, you’ll get to admire quaint red cottages, classic manor houses and historical rune stones from the Viking age. You’ll also sit down to an outdoor meal consisting of mouth-watering dishes such as herring, meatballs, sausages, boiled eggs with Kalles Kaviar and crispy bread with Västerbotten Cheese, all served with Lingonberry and Elderflower soft drinks.

Animals pose for the camera during a Wildlife safari tour (Photo: Stockholm Adventures)

Nose around a Royal Waiting Hall at Stockolm Central Station

It’s hardly novel news that a Royal Family would do all it can to avoid mixing with the hoi polloi – and at Stockholm central station this is indeed the case. Although rarely used, there is a hidden room at the station reserved for royal use only. Adorned with silk-covered furniture, chandeliers, and fine details in blue and gold, the room was moved to its current location in the south end of the main hall around the turn of the 20th century and is today open occasionally to visitors for events such as Open House Stockholm.

LOCATION Centralplan 15

Explore Medieval Stockholm

This fascinating museum takes visitors on a magical journey through Stockholm in the Middle Ages. Situated next to the King’s Castle in the city centre, it was created within an excavated space that was discovered by workers while building a new parking lot. Today it is teeming with intriguing exhibits and artefacts that tell the story of Medieval Stockholm, with highlights including a piece of wall that once defended the city from invaders, and the remains of an old Viking ship.

LOCATION Strömparterren 3 HOURS Tues 12pm-5pm Weds 12pm-8pm Thurs-Sun 12pm-5pm Closed Mon

An Egyptian mummy at the Museum of Medieval Stockholm (Photo: Ben Sutherland via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Dine like a Viking at Aifur

Dine on food inextricably linked with Viking history at this subterranean Stockholm eatery in the heart of the city’s Old Town. Once located, a sign covered with Viking runes lead down a staircase into a dark basement where you’ll discover a dining hall decked out with sheepskin-covered wooden benches and walls festooned with weapons and furs. Look out for dishes such as reindeer heart, while ales flavoured with bog myrtle and fir continue the Medieval theme.

LOCATION Västerlånggatan 68b HOURS Mon-Thurs 5pm-11pm Fri 5pm-1am Sat 5pm-12am Closed Sun

Hitch a ride in Stockholm’s last paternoster elevator

Anyone passing by the HSB main office in Stockholm could well be totally unaware that housed within it is the city’s last remaining paternoster elevator. Once the most common mode of transport for traversing the floors of high-storey buildings, they have since been replaced by more modern, and efficient forms of elevator. This particular version of the traditional style has been operating since the 1950s and is today the only surviving example anywhere in the city.

LOCATION Fleminggatan 41, Kungsholmen

Take a sombre look around a modernist woodland cemetery

Created by two modernist architects in the early-to-mid 20th century on 250 acres of pine-covered boulder ridge, Skogskyrkogården cemetery is a place of sublime, sombre beauty. Designed to deliver a rumination on Nordic philosophies on nature, life, and death, the cemetery has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1994 and is open for guided tours on Sundays from July through to September. The site is dotted with eye-catching tall pines that surround the gravestones, while a beautiful chapel and a visitors centre can also be found here.

LOCATION Sockenvägen, 122 HOURS Mon-Sun 11am-4pm

A gravestone at Stockholm’s Woodland Cemetery (Photo: Bas Schouten via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Get your game on at a Japanese arcade

Hidden in the back of a Swedish pool hall is Hey STHLM, an immersive Japanese video game arcade. Featuring around 20 arcade machines along with about 10 flipper machines, it is a veritable vortex of intoxicating sights and sounds that will enchant anyone passionate about gaming. There’s even an obscure game where the player flips a table at their family – which isn’t as dangerous as it sounds!

LOCATION Gyldéngatan 2 HOURS Mon-Thurs 5pm-1am Fri 5am-3pm Sat 3pm-3am Sun 3pm-1am

Embark on a Nordic culinary odyssey

Stockholm has a rich culinary history and this foodie heritage can be explored during a fully organised and guided tour. Taking place over 3-4 hours, the Nordic Experience is hosted by Food Tours Stockholm and offers guests the chance to sample a range of delicious and authentic Nordic dishes. Most of the tour takes places in Vasastan, a city centre district that’s home to a number of old traditional eateries as well as restaurants at the cutting edge of contemporary gastronomy. At least 10 stop-offs at restaurants and speciality stores are included.

One of the stop-offs on the Nordic Experience culinary tour (Photo: Food Tours Stockholm)

Pay a visit to the birthplace of Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm Syndrome is a commonly known phenomenon, but few are aware of its origins. They in fact date back to 1973 when a Stockholm bank fell victim to a robbery, which resulted in hostages being taken. During and after their ordeal, the hostages displayed notable sympathy for their captives, leading to the coinage of the condition now known as Stockholm Syndrome. Today the bank has been replaced by a hotel, called Nobis Hotel.

LOCATION Norrmalmstorg 2-4

The scene of the birthplace of Stockholm Syndrome in its modern guise (Photo: Nobis Hotel)

Delve into a real life Bond villain’s lair

This former nuclear bunker-turned data centre looks to have been lifted straight from a James Bond movie or sci-fi drama. Located some 100 feet below ground, the server-housing site is said to be able to withstand the strength of a hydrogen bomb. In fact, if the power goes down here, it requires a couple of German submarine engines to bring it back to life. Mock waterfalls, indoor jungle plants, and a low-lying fog add to the ambience.

LOCATION 37 Renstiernas gata