Encompassing 14 individual islands on an archipelago on the Baltic Sea, the capital of Sweden is one of northern Europe’s most distinctively unique cities.
Dubbed ‘beauty on water’ by natives, Stockholm 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. There are a vast number of things to see and do here, from galleries and museums to historic landmarks and quirky place of interest If you’re planning a trip, you might take inspiration from our selection below.
Explore an 18th century royal palace
One of Europe’s largest palaces, the Royal Palace is also among Stockholm’s most eye-catching buildings. Largely built during the 18th century in the Italian Baroque style, it remains the official residence of the King of Sweden but certain areas also open to the public, who can come to explore no less than five museums, as well as reception rooms and other spaces featuring such notable items as Queen Kristina’s silver throne. The place also houses the Armory, with royal costumes and armour, plus coronation carriages and magnificent coaches from the Royal Stable
Kungliga slottet, 107 / Mon-Sun 10am-5pm
Visit a fascinating 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.
Galärvarvsvägen 14, Djurgården / Thurs-Tues 10am-5pm Weds 10am-5pm
Created in 1891 by Artur Hazelius, a distinguished Swedish scholar and folklorist, the open air Skansen 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.
Embark on a guided cruise
Traversing the waterways of Stockholm is one of the city’s must-do’s and a great way to do so is on this magical archipelago cruise aboard a classic ship dating back to the start of the 20th century. Over 2.5 hours you’ll experience the untouched nature of the city’s unique archipelago as your guide tells you all about the history of the different sights you pass. There’s also a café on board serving drinks and snacks.
Take a look around a trendy neighbourhood
The district of Södermalm has undergone something of a transformation in recent years, growing from an inconspicuous neighbourhood to one of the most fashionable in the city. The ambiance is relaxed, creative and chic, particularly in the SoFo (South of Folkungagatan) area, where the bult of the district’s vintage stores, eclectic shops, and galleries can be found. There are also plenty of green public spaces, great places to eat, and vantage points offering panoramic city views.
Attend an action-packed festival
One of the most eagerly awaited events on the city’s busy calendar is Stockholm Culture Festival, which draws huge numbers of visitors every year. Free to enter, the fun-packed festival features a wide array of musical acts, activities and performances, all designed to showcase Stockholm’s cultural vibrancy. The event has also become increasingly family-friendly, in recent years adding a dedicated festival youth program to its offerings.
Central Stockholm / August each year
Now in its 20th year, the Baltic Sea Festival is a hugely popular celebration of symphonic music, serving as a meeting place for musicians from around the world to assemble and put on superb concert experiences for large audiences. The festival also has a strong philanthropic focus, with various projects and initiatives around sustainability and education, particularly in relation to the Baltic region.
The Berwald Hall, Östermalm / August-September each year
Join a walking tour of the Old Town
The cobbled streets and narrow passageways of Stockholm’s Old Town (‘Gamla Stan’) are a delight to stroll around and visitors keen to learn about the district’s long history can do both at once by joining a private Old Town walking tour. Over 2.5 hours, you and your small group of friends or family will traverse the area on foot, stopping off regularly at notable landmarks where your guide will regale you with fascinating facts and tales. The tour also includes a visit to the previously mentioned Vasa Museum, located a 10-minute ferry ride away on the small island of Djurgården.
Admire Stockholm’s best street and graffiti art
The ramshackle industrial district of Snösätragränd 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.
Head out on a kayaking adventure
See Stockholm from a unique perspective by joining a full-day kayak tour accompanied by a professional guise. After pick-up from the city centre, you and your group will be driven to the outskirts where your kayak will be waiting for you. Here you’ll be shown the basics of kayaking before heading out to discover the area’s incredible natural beauty. There’ll be a stop for lunch on a private island and to enjoy the surroundings before returning to central Stockholm late afternoon.
Immerse yourself in culture
At the heart of Stockholm’s rich cultural scene is Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, an arts and culture centre located within an imposing multi-story building in the city centre. Known as a symbol of Stockholm as well as of the growth of modernism in Sweden, the venue has something for everyone, including live theatre, exhibitions, libraries, seminars, events, and a cinema. It’s also a popular hangout spot during the day and has numerous restaurants and cafes.
Sergels torg, 111 / Mon-Fri 8am7pm Sat-Sun 11am-5pm
Take in some live jazz
Nowhere will you find better jazz in Stockholm than at Fasching, a renowned concert hall and nightclub that plays host to everyone from emerging jazz talents to international legends who come here to perform old school soul and funk. Centrally located on Kungsgata, the venue also has a restaurant and bar where patrons can tap their toes whole partaking of food and drink, including exotic cocktails.
Check out some modern photography
An internationally acclaimed institution dedicated to contemporary photography, Fotografiska is one of Stockholm’s most important cultural venues. It hosts several exhibitions of varying size throughout the year, all dedicated to the work and style of modern photographers. The venue also has a book and souvenir shop, and a top floor café and restaurant offering superb views across the city.
Stadsgårdshamnen 2 / Mon-Sun 10am-11pm
Learn about Viking history on a day tour
Anyone with an interest in Viking history in Sweden and its effects on modern Scandinavian culture can quench their curiosity by joining a full-day guided tour. With round-trip transportation provided from central Stockholm, the Viking History tour takes you to some of Sweden’s most important Viking sites, including Sigtuna and Markim-Orkest. Other highlights include visiting the Viking parliament where you can imagine the leaders of yesteryear making crucial decisions on that very spot, and crossing the huge Jarlabanke’s bridge built by the eponymous Viking leader centuries ago.
Enjoy a fika
One of the most quintessentially Swedish past-times is going for a “fika”, Translated to essentially mean a meet-up for a coffee and a piece of cake or pastry, these delectable rituals take place in a “fik” – a slang word for a café, bakery or pastry shop – and there are several dotted across Stockholm that are inviting to both locals and visitors a like, keen as they are to showcase the nation’s expertise when it comes to baked goods.
Marvel at the mosaics of Stockholm’s metro system
Most metro stops 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.
Stockholm City Hall
One of the Sweden’s most prominent examples of national romanticism in architecture, Stockholm City Hall is a major landmark that’s equally impressive inside and out. Built using a remarkable eight million bricks, the building’s magnificent facades conceal offices and session halls for politicians and officials, as well as stunning assembly rooms and unique works of art. Outside, the building’s 106-metre tall tower has three crowns – the Swedish national coat of arms – at its summit. Guided tours of the exterior and interior are held daily.
Hantverkargatan 1 / Mon-Sun 8.30am – 4pm
Dine like a Viking
Dine on food inextricably linked with Viking history at Aifur, a 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.
Västerlånggatan 68b / Mon-Thurs 5pm-11pm Fri 5pm-1am Sat 5pm-12am Closed Sun
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.
Sockenvägen, 122 / Mon-Sun 11am-4pm
Learn about Gamla Stan’s spooky history on a spine-tingling ghost tour. In the company of your guide, you’ll hear tales of spirits and vampires, myths and legends, poltergeists and plagues, and murders and unsolved mysteries as you walk through the atmospheric cobblestone streets and tiny courtyards of Stockholm’s oldest district after dark with the aid of a lighted lantern. The tour is suitable for children 8 and upwards.