I always knew I would visit Stockholm. Ever since I was a child, there were three cities spread across Europe that I held a distinctive, tangible connection to. Paris, Vienna, and Stockholm were my trifecta, and after three years of traveling I’ve finally come upon the end of that journey. There’s a bittersweet feeling in ending that pursuit, but in the midst of experiencing these three cities, I’ve discovered new places to yearn for. Because even though we don’t like to admit it, there is so much beauty in “one day”. Anticipation is what drives human nature - as we close one chapter, we will surely construct another to follow. I’m off to places I never thought would be possible to travel to as a child - cities I didn’t even know existed. And while a part of me feels nostalgic for the ten year old girl who would have given up everything she had to simply walk through the streets of Stockholm, I’m eager to have the ability to see the world through wider lenses. I’m excited to take surfing lessons in Bali, to go on a safari in South Africa, and to learn how to tango in Buenos Aires - to set new goals for myself and have new dreams with a scope much larger than that of a kid who only saw the world through novels and movies. But most importantly, I’m excited to go back to Stockholm. To revisit the city I felt utterly and wholeheartedly in sync with. I think it’s rare to find a place where you feel truly at home - like maybe a part of you was always supposed to be there. For me, Stockholm is that place.
The Swedes have a word they refer to as “Lagom”. As it struggles to have an exact English translation, it means something like balance; to not have too little, and not too much - to be just right. In so many ways, Stockholm is just that. Stockholm is the perfect mixture of busy city life, old town charm, and outdoor wilderness, each neighborhood giving you a unique and exciting personality. Want to enjoy a stroll through cobblestone streets with colorful German-style buildings and cozy coffee shops? Head to Gamla Stan. Looking for hipster bars and vintage clothing stores covered in art murals? Södermalm is your place. More interested in luxury shopping and a busy city center? Check out Norrmalm. Need to get out of the city for the day? Take the ferry over to Djurgårdens bokskog for a bike ride through a tree-lined forest. Stockholm has something for everyone and is impossible not to fall in love with no matter what you look for while traveling. Here's how I spent a perfect seven days in this Scandinavian oasis.
Where To Stay
We stayed in Stockholm's "Old Town" known as Gamla Stan. This island between Södermalm and Norrmalm is the perfect base to get everywhere we needed to be while in Stockholm.
We stayed in a gorgeous apartment on the southern end of the island with views overlooking a historical square and Lake Mälaren for around $100 a night. Interested in staying with Fredrik? Check him out on Airbnb!
Take your first day to get situated with the city. As this may be a half day for you due to your flight/train arrival, run all your errands so that they don't interfere with your trip schedule. For us, we took this time to get our international sim cards at Tele2 and to do some last minute shopping in Norrmalm for anything we forgot to pack (one of the people I was traveling with forgot a winter coat. It happens). This is also a great time to go food shopping for those of you who are staying in an apartment and plan on cooking in a few nights. We stopped by Östermalms saluhall and the grocery store, Coop, for this.
End your first night in Stockholm with drinks and appetizers at Corvina. This is one of my favorite wine bars in Stockholm, and their bruschetta is some of the best I've ever had (and that's coming from someone who has spent a substantial amount of time in Italy). Some other things to try at Corvina include their charcuterie board, mushroom risotto, and a glass of Le Macchiole Bolgheri.
Fika Like a Swede
Head out for brunch (or what the Swedes call "Fika") at Sara's Art & Coffee before taking the ferry to Djurgården. From Gamla Stan, you use the Slussen kajen ferry terminal.
Visit the ABBA Museum & Vasa Museum
Spend your morning visiting the Mamma Mia exhibit (on display until April 2020) and singing ABBA karaoke in their interactive museum. If you're an ABBA or Mamma Mia fan, this is a must do activity.
Afterwards, walk over to the Vasa Museum to see a real war ship that only made it fifteen minutes into Stockholm's harbor before sinking. Although this ship may seem to represent a failure, it is one of the symbols of Sweden and something Stockholm locals are very proud of. This isn't a museum that takes a significant amount of time to tour, but it's impressive to see the tremendous size of this ship in person.
Dinner at Oaxen Slip
After viewing the museums, get dinner at Oaxen Slip for a Michelin Star winning restaurant experience with reasonable prices. I highly recommend the mussels in cream and the deep fried brussel spouts.
An Afternoon at Skansen
Head back to Djurgården to spend your early afternoon at Skansen - the world's largest open-air museum. Although this a great place to bring kids, I recommend this for all ages. The museum encompasses an aquarium, zoo, farmhouse, and interactive museums throughout the 75 acre property. This is a great way to get a sense of the Swedish countryside without ever leaving Stockholm.
Lunch at Rosendals Trädgård
After Skansen, head over to Rosendals Trädgård for lunch. Eat garden-to-table offerings inside their greenhouse cafe or out in their fully operating garden. With a mission of sustainability and organic eating, this is one of the coolest places I've ever ate at. Although their menu is seasonal, based on what they're growing, I had chicken breast over pumpkin puree that was excellent.
Shopping in Gamla Stan
Head back to Gamla Stan for a late afternoon stroll through the shops in Stockholm's old town. Although most of the stores on Västerlånggatan street are souvenir shops, this is a great place to go for grabbing gifts for those back home. We were able to find a really great shop to buy local paintings of Stockholm.
Go for Swedish Meatballs
Don't miss out on dinner at The Opera Bar for their famous meatball dish. Although almost every traditional Swedish restaurant offers meatballs, this is the place to get them. This meal was my favorite I had while in Sweden, if not my favorite meal I've had...ever. If you're looking for something a bit more casual, you can dine at their neighboring restaurant (with the same menu), Bakfickan, which is walk-in only. At The Opera Bar, you'll want to reserve seats beforehand.
Shopping in Södermalm
After two fully packed days, take your third day in Stockholm to view the different neighborhoods and to dive into the European fashion scene. Start in Södermalm, going to their many vintage shops and trend-setting stores. A few of my favorites in the area are Gina Tricot, Weekday, POP Stockholm, and Monki. Stop into Meatballs for the People for lunch to try an array of reindeer and moose meatballs in a fun and quirky setting.
Norrmalm and Nationalmuseum
After hitting Södermalm, head over to the Nationalmuseum to view Sweden's fine art collection. This museum is free to enter, so you can spend as much or little time here as you'd like without feeling guilty.
Make sure to hit the third floor to view Wertmüller's Queen Marie Antoinette. Even for those not interested in history, this is a really remarkable painting.
If you have extra time after, stick around in Norrmalm to stop into Sweden's famous department store, Nordiska Kompaniet.
Try a Nordic cocktail at the Icebar
We chose to cook in this night, but afterwards headed to the Icebar at Hotel C. For 20 USD, your ticket includes a forty-five minute visit to a bar made completely of ice. Even your delicious Absolute cocktail is served in an ice glass. This years theme was the mass Swedish migration to the United States, but they change the installation every April.
Didn't bring a thick coat? Don't worry, you're given a parka poncho and gloves upon entry.
Brunch at Steninge Slott
Okay, as I'm sure most of you aren't 18th century Swedish history junkies, you probably don't know what Steninge Slott is. Even so, you still NEED to make this an absolute must on your trip to Stockholm.
Steninge Slott is a a Baroque style palace that once belonged to Axel von Fersen (think Jamie Dornan in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette) about 45 minutes from Stockholm, between the towns of Märsta and Sigtuna. While the palace is privately owned, you can enter the gardens that overlook Lake Mälaren between noon and 5pm. However, what makes this day trip worth doing is the weekend brunch at their restaurant built inside the original stables on the property. For 30 USD you can enjoy a massive brunch buffet cooked over a traditional Swedish fireplace at Steninge Bruk. Also inside the stable is a clothing store, garden store, and kitchen supply center. Make sure to book online reservations before visiting!
How to get to Steninge: Take the commuter rail (known as the pendeltåg) from Stockholm's Centralstation to Märsta. From the Märsta Station you can either take the 584 bus to Steningebadet if it's running, or simply Uber from the train station right to the palace. It cost us about 14 USD to Uber from Märsta Station.
Enjoy a late afternoon in Sigtuna
After Steninge, take an Uber (there are bus route options, but we found that since there was multiple of us it was more cost efficient and easier to just Uber) to the historic town of Sigtuna. The town's main street is known as Storagatan. This is where you'll find quaint little shops and restaurants if a late afternoon fika is in order.
Make sure to visit the ruins of St. Olaf's Church that date back to the 12th century while you're there.
From Sigtuna, take the #570 or #575 bus back to Märsta and the commuter train back to Stockholm's centralstation. You can buy all the tickets you'll need right on the SL app or at the ticket booths inside the station.
Drinks at Pharmarium
After a busy afternoon at Steninge and Sigtuna, spend your evening at Pharmarium for a unique alcohol concoction in a 1920's themed cocktail lounge. They're famous for their smoked cotton candy "Rainmaker" cocktail and birch wood infused "Night Howler" drink.
Archipelago Boat Tour
If you're not familiar with Stockholm, it's important to know that the city is built upon fourteen islands within Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea, connected by bridges and ferry routes. However, just outside of the city lies around 30,000 more islands and rock formations that make up the Stockholm Archipelago. This is where the locals spend the summer months in their camps and holiday homes.
From Stockholm, you can take a guided tour through the Archipelago to learn more about the area. Although multiple tours are offered, I recommend the Stromma lunch cruise. For only an additional 10 USD, they serve fantastic lunch courses on your two and a half hour journey to Vaxholm and back. This is another activity you'll want to pre-book online.
View Stockholm by Scooter
Upon arriving to Stockholm, you'll realize something very peculiar about the city - everyone is traveling by electric scooter. This isn't something kids are doing for fun in parks and designated areas, but a means of transportation for business professionals and tourists alike. Not only is this a great way to see this city, it's actually really fun.
Renting these electric scooters is fairly simple. You start by downloading the app of one of the multiple brands offered around the city (including Vio, Lime, and Tier), use their locator to find the closest scooter to you, and lastly scan the QR code on the scooter you want to use. The scooters cost between 15 and 30 cents per minute with a 1 USD rental fee depending on which brand you choose. Scooters can be used on all of Stockholm's bike paths and side walks. To learn more about what scooter company's offer rentals in Stockholm, check out Thatup's Scooter Guide to Stockholm.
This is your last day in Stockholm (I'm not crying, you're crying), and this day is set aside to do all the last minute things you haven't had the chance to do yet while on your trip!
Some recommendations are:
Take a day trip to the Drottningholm Palace, which is known as Sweden's Versailles and is still a residence of Sweden's royal family.
Visit Stockholm's photography museum, Fotografiska.
Take a nature walk through Djurgårdens Bokskog, a beech tree forest with walking trails.
Ride to the top of the Ericsson Globe.
Watch sunset at Monteliusvägen - some of the best views of Stockholm
We used this time to get tattoos at Evil Eye Tattoo in Södermalm. If you're thinking about getting a tattoo while in the area, make sure to check this place out and request Jens. He was super friendly and helpful.
Things To Know
Is Stockholm expensive?
Stockholm gets a bad reputation for being one of the most expensive cities to travel to in Europe. Although it's not a cheap city, I found it inexpensive compared to American cities such as New York City or Boston.
Best time to visit Stockholm:
The best time to visit Stockholm is up for debate. I visited Stockholm in early October and thought it was a dream. With orange and red foliage and the weather at the perfect temperature for afternoon fika, I can't imagine the city getting anymore beautiful. However, If you ask the Stockholm locals, they'll swear that visiting the city in the summer is the most opportune time as water sports and Archipelago activities are in full swing. As for winter, the city takes full advantage of the holiday season, hosting massive Christmas markets.
Overall, it seems that the best time to visit Stockholm is totally up to your preference. Just remember, Sweden is a Nordic country and gets cold in the Winter. Like really cold. Don't plan on visiting in December with a leather jacket and a pair of open-toed booties because it's not going to cut it.
(1 SEK = about $.10 as of October 2019)
Get a current exchange rate here
Keep in mind that Stockholm is working towards becoming a cashless city. Make sure to notify your credit card companies that you'll be traveling as you'll be using your card at most places in Stockholm.
In order to avoid expensive international surcharges and roaming fees, get an international sim card at Tele2 after arriving in Stockholm. There are multiple stores around the city.
Be mindful that Tele2 does not operate all over Europe, so if you're traveling outside of Sweden, you may want to look into other phone plans.
Type C and F
Although walking (or scootering!) is the most efficient way to get around the city as you can get almost anywhere in under 30 minutes, the city has a vast and simple public transportation system including:
NOTE: If you'll be purchasing single-journey tickets, make sure to download the SL app to purchase tickets. You can also purchase a 7-day pass for all of Stockholm's public transportation for 33.50 USD (must be purchased at the station with a reusable access card that costs 2 USD). As single journey tickets purchased on the app run around 4.50 USD, it will definitely be worth purchasing a 7-day pass.
Uber and taxi's are also available in Stockholm.
Getting to and from the airport:
We chose to Uber to and from the airport due to our amount of luggage and people. It cost us 48 USD per way, but we were able to split the cost between three of us and get a direct drop-off at our apartment, making this our best option.
Using the Arlanda Express (train) and the Flygbussarna (bus) are other ways to get to Stockholm's city center from the airport. The Arlanda Express costs about 12.50 USD per way and the Flygbussarna costs about 10 USD.
What are your favorite things to do in Stockholm? Let us know in the comments below!