Whether you are planning your first trip to Stockholm or considering the city as a potential destination; this travel guide to Stockholm will help you discover the top sights and brag-worthy experiences. Stockholm has trendy restaurants, a historic old town, and sightseeing boats that will spoil you for any future trips to come. Strap in and get ready for this extensive guide!
Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and is made up of 14 islands. The archipelago lies on the Baltic Sea and is one of the most populated cities in the Scandinavian countries. When I arrived in Stockholm, I was shocked to discover how scenic the city was and the multitude of things it had to offer. In this guide, I am going to break down the top sights, must have experiences in Stockholm, neighborhoods to check out and meals that will change your life.
Let’s begin with the top sights in Stockholm
#1 Gamla Stan is the old town in Stockholm. The town dates back to the 13th century, with cobbled streets and iconic buildings. Because Sweden declared itself neutral during WW2, many historic buildings were spared the damage that much of Europe encountered. Walking through these narrow streets, you feel like you are back in time. It can become crowded with tourists, but strolling Gamla Stan is a must.
#2 Drottningholm Palace is on my list of hidden gems in Stockholm. It is a must see! Ferry to the palace (home of the Swedish Royal family). The gardens, fountains, and palace decor is stunning.
#3 Skansen is the world’s oldest open-air museum. Located on Djurgarden, it is excellent for children and adults. The museum showcases the customs and traditions of Swedes in history.
#4 Grona Lund is the amusement park, on the same island, but what I considered more of a carnival. They also host concerts there so be sure to check for the upcoming act before you visit.
#5 Vasa Museum is also located in Djurgarden. It was one of my favorite naval museums. Vasa was a warship built in 1626 that sank shortly after going out to sea because of its top-heavy weight. The lavish Vasa ship was recovered and restored from its sinking voyage over 300 years later! You won’t be bored at this museum. It is a must see in Stockholm.
#6 Royal Palace–Changing of Guards In the summer months midday there is a changing of guards. It is a free show with horses, a full band, and soldiers all participating in this ritual. This is something you don’t want to miss. Check times before you visit to witness this unique tradition.
#7 Stockholm Cathedral is one of Stockholm’s oldest buildings and houses magnificent works of art. Be sure to take sometime observing the legendary St. George and Dragon sculpture.
#8 Subway Metro Yup, some of the most impressive artwork is in the subway station. Make sure to venture underground and snap some cool pictures.
Some additional things to do in Stockholm: Nobel Museum, City Hall, and ABBA Museum
Stockholm has many distinctive neighborhoods among their 14 islands. I chose a few that I felt were important to highlight when visiting Stockholm for the first time.
Djurgarden “Garden” Island is my favorite island in Stockholm! Having once been the kings hunting grounds, it is now a national park. It has the Skansen museum, Grona Lund, historic buildings, and an epic forest. You can plan to do all three in one day.
Sodermalm is an island in the center of Stockholm. This is an artsy neighborhood which is typically a term used to describe a dicey “up and coming” area. So I was a bit hesitant when I booked my hotel in Sodermalm. Boy was I wrong! Apparently in Stockholm “artsy” translates to trendy and absolutely fabulous! I loved staying in this neighborhood, and it was the perfect location to get anywhere in Stockholm. This island has many trendy hipster cafes and eclectic restaurants. Aside from eating the best dishes in Sodermalm (will get to that later), there are things you should do on this island. Walk to the water and enjoy the view! In the summer Sodermalm has the best pop up bars right along the water.
Norrmalm is a bustling district with parks, shops, and cultural events. Drottninggatan is the place to be if you love shopping, from department stores to boutiques this is where you can buy the latest fashion.
Ostermalm is east of Stockholm’s city center. This neighborhood has the most expensive houses in Stockholm. Upscale shopping, restaurants, and bars are plentiful here.
Time to eat or just drink coffee.
If you haven’t heard, Swedes are coffee addicts. Fika is enjoyed all day and offered everywhere. Once you try coffee in Stockholm, you will understand why it is adored. My favorite was Drop Coffee in Sodermalm. Make sure to check it out along with these other poplar fika stops: Fabrique, Snickerbacken 7, Johan & Nystrom.
If you had your fill of coffee and are now suffering from jitters, then it is time to eat.
I honestly loved everything I ate in Stockholm. Italy may steal the heart of many through their classic pasta dishes, but Sweden wins hands down when it comes to seafood. Surrounded by the beautiful, clean Baltic, the cities seafood is incredible! Stockholm also has some other unique dishes if you are feeling adventurous.
Here are my top pics for food in Stockholm:
Toast Skagen– I melted in my chair when I first tried this dish. Toast Skagen is a combination of sauteed bread, prawns, roe, and dill. It is outstanding and was my favorite dish in Stockholm!
Swedish meatballs– Just because you tried them at IKEA doesn’t mean you should pass on Swedish meatballs in Stockholm. They are much better here and are topped with a thick creamy gravy.
Salmon -Are you ready for the best salmon of your life? Fresh salmon in Stockholm is a must eat!
For the brave soul, try Reindeer. It’s lean, full of flavor and tastes just like chicken, just kidding. Seriously, try the traditional Swedish cuisine during your visit.
We covered things to do, neighborhoods to visit, and what to eat. Lastly, here are some general tips for your first visit to Stockholm.
Tips for Stockholm
- Visit in the summer months unless you have fur 🙂
- Take the Arlanda Express Train to get into the city quickly
- Bring your credit card, it is accepted just about everywhere, and you won’t have to do currency exchange
- Use the local ferry to get around the islands; it is a cheap and easy form of transportation
- Be sure to visit one of the pop-up bars on the water (summer months only)
- Look online for music events ahead of time for Djurgarden (Skansen and Grona Lund)
- Have fun in Sweden!
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