Stockholm, Sweden: Välkommen

Stockholm is arguably the most gorgeous of the capital cities in Europe. Surrounded by water, Stockholm itself is made up of 14 different islands with 50+ bridges. The summers in Sweden are gorgeous. June through mid-August is probably the best time if you want to spend more time outdoors. Be careful though, the Swedes also like to take their holidays during this time, so don’t be surprised if you go out to dinner and its closed with a sign saying, “We will re-open in a couple weeks.” If you’re visiting in the summer (which I highly recommend), you must check out the archipelago. This is the area just outside of Stockholm made up of 30,000 islands! This is a tradition to the natives of Sweden. Since Stockholm is so close to the Arctic Circle, the summer days are nice and long. Sunsets won’t start till around 2330 and the sun comes up around 0300.

Getting into the city:

Unless you’re taking a domestic flight, or flying from Brussels, you are most likely going to land at Arlanda Airport. This is actually quite a ways from the center of Stockholm but there is an express train that will take you there in about 20 mins. From there, Stockholm has a great/safe public transit system that can get you to your destination. Explore on foot! If you happen to catch some great weather, the “Stan” or city center is beautiful and very walkable.

Neighborhood guides:

Gamla Stan:

If you know anyone that’s been to Stockholm, chances are they’ve been here. To the locals, it’s considered a tourist trap but with good reason. One, um well you are a tourist, and two it is beautiful and filled with history. Gamla Stan means “Old Town” as it was founded in the 1200’s and this is the center of Stockholm. Here you will find the Royal Palace and its Royal armory, the Nobel Museum, one of the narrowest streets in the world (Mårten Trotzigs Gränd is only 90cm or 35in wide) and sites of historical importance like the Stockholm Bloodbath. You will be surrounded by cobblestoned streets, traditional Swedish restaurants, and multi-colored buildings.

 

Södermalm:

This is you “hipster” part of Stockholm where imagination and creativity run free. In terms of how old the city of Stockholm is, this is a relatively younger part of town really getting developed in the 1800’s. Here you will find trendy bars, artistic shops, and bars as well as a wide variety of fashion shops.

Vasastan:

Considered one of the most desirable areas of Stockholm to live in, Vasastan has both the architecture of old Sweden with the livability of modern luxuries. If you looking to get away from the touristy areas, this is a great section of town to visit. A very walkable area with trendy restaurants and bars and a huge park in the middle of the area. Make sure to stroll down Rorstrandsgatan, which has many great restaurants to grab a dinner, drink, or fika.

Djurgården:

No trip to Stockholm is complete without taking a trip out to this island. You can easily take a bike here or even walk, but it is kind of fun to arrive by water taxi. Here you have lush green parks and very cool points of interest. There is a fun little amusement park Gröna Lund which also hosts a variety of concerts throughout the summer. There is also the world’s largest open-air museum and zoo, Skansen, the ABBA museum where they encourage you to “walk in and dance out”, and one of the coolest attractions in Sweden which is a MUST see, in my opinion, the VASA museum.

Östermalm:

Arguably the poshest area of central Stockholm. It is where all the nice shopping,  excellent restaurants, and upscale nightlife. This area is also great for people watching since it is situated around the water. Östermalm has nice greenery and a local feel. Its where you want to be if you’re looking for the coolest bars and clubs. Make sure you dress to impress if going out at night. The Opera house is here, many churches as well as a good launching point if you are looking to head out to the archipelago.

 (Note: not usually this crowded, but I was here when Sweden was playing Switzerland in the World Cup. It was a party, to say the least. SWE won!!)

Day trip suggestions:

If you have a few days in the Stockholm area and are looking for a nice day trip out of the city center, here are 3 ideas for you:

1) Take a trip to Sigtuna. It is said that Sigtuna was the original capital of Sweden. To get here is about a 30 min car ride or you can take a ferry. Today you can still see ruins of a church from the 1300’s and was the first stone building ever built. The small main road still has its antique feel. Original houses from hundreds of years ago have been preserved and restored and turned into coffee shops and cafés. Watch your head as you enter as some of the doorways are only 170cm tall (5’ 7”).

2) Visit Drottningholms Slott. First built in the late 16th Century, this is the private residence of the Royal family and one of Stockholm’s three World Heritage sites. Guests are allowed to walk the grounds and explore some of the rooms (make sure to grab a map when you arrive). Public transportation is available to get there, but I recommend booking a spot on a boat which will take about an hour. You can order some wine and have some traditional Swedish food as you cross Lake Mälaren.

3) If visiting in the summer, you have to take a trip out to the archipelago. It’s common for Swedes to own a home in the archipelago for a get-away from the city. These are only accessible by boats and most islands don’t have cars at all. You can buy your tickets on the boat but for more information here check out Waxholmsbolaget or Srömmma. (Note you can also buy your tickets once on the boat, but these will be good references for departure times.)

Stockholm is an amazing city with lots of culture, history and very innovated. From the creation of the Nobel prize to the creation of the music app Spotify, Sweden is always known to be ahead of the curve. Make sure you take some time out each day to experience the most abundant Swedish tradition of Fika. This is where you sit with some coffee and dessert in the middle of the day with your friends. If you’re here between April to November, make sure to check the Allsvenskan schedule (which is the name of the professional futbol league) to see if there is a game in town. Go AIK!

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