The capital city of Sweden may look like a puzzle of some kind from a satellite view owing to the fact it is spread across 14 islands. This country has given the world quite a few gems which vary from the iconic group ABBA and minimalism to the furniture company, IKEA. Stockholm is the largest city not only in Sweden but the entire Scandinavia. This city is best experienced by foot or on a bike you see, cars are just so passé. Once you read this list, you will realize there is so much more to the city than the famed term ‘Stockholm syndrome’. Here are 30 best things to do while you’re in Stockholm:
Check out the Vasa Museum
This is the top pick for this list due to its uniqueness, the Vasa Museum contains a ship from the 17th century in all its past glory. The Vasa is a 64-gun warship which unfortunately sank during its first voyage in 1628 then, more than three centuries later in the year 1961, the ship was recovered and restored for an exhibition at the museum. The Vasa belongs to the reign of King Gustavus Adolphus and I can hear him gloating from the skies above. This is Sweden’s version of Titanic.
Relive Your Childhood at Junibacken
Another one of Sweden’s prized treasures are its authors of children’s books, one among them is Astrid Lindgren who also happens to be one of the 20 most translated writers in the world. Her legacy is showcased in a children’s theme park which is home to her iconic characters such as Pippi Longstocking, probably the only name from Sweden I can pronounce without difficulty. Here, you can also visit Sweden’s largest bookshop.
Live the Good Life at the Royal Palace
Owing to its name, the Royal Palace is home to the King of Sweden and his family. This lavish palace has architecture mostly from the 18th century and has 600 rooms which is a lot considering the low population rate of the country. Here, you can visit five exhilarating museums, the royal apartments and the Hall of State. It is a perfect amalgamation of architecture and royalty, at its finest.
View Life From a Lens at Fotografiska
If you are tired of visiting the more typical tourist spots, Fotografiska feels like a breath of fresh air. This is an archetypical photographic gallery which has four high profile exhibitions every year accompanied by 20 smaller shows and by the design of the gallery, one can leisurely enjoy the art without any disturbance. Fotografiska also has an award winning restaurant to satiate your taste buds.
Let the Artist in You Escape at Prins Eugen Waldemarsudde
This 13th century royal estate belongs to Prince Eugen who held art in high regard and in his youth had gone to Paris to learn more about it. His palace houses a collection of marvelous paintings as he was also a patron of the arts and one is also delighted to appreciate the Prince’s own landscape paintings. In the summer, a visitor can enjoy at the flower garden and the sculpture garden is open all through the year.
Live a Little at Grona Lund
Have you ever heard of an amusement park which witnessed concerts by Paul McCartney, Bob Marley and ABBA? Well, if you hadn’t then you have now. This is the oldest amusement park in Sweden having been opened in the year 1883. Here, you can either spend your time being held upside down in mid air or swing from 120 meters high. If it is good enough for a Beatle then, it will be good enough for you.
Feel the Culture Thunder at the Nordic Museum
This museum will be you’re A to Z guide of all things Nordic. With the help of a guided tour, you can be transported back to the 16th century and this tour includes an exhibition of Nordic fashion and lifestyle influences from Britain as well as an exhibition about the only indigenous community of this country, the Sami. This museum is Sweden’s largest cultural museum and it definitely cannot be missed.
I Stan, You Stan, We All Stan, Gamla Stan
Gamla Stan is arguably the most authentic spot of Stockholm owing to its colorful buildings and cobbled pathways which take you on a tour of 17th and 18th century’s architecture. A visitor is recommended to spend at least one entire day of their journey here as it is home to the Storkyrkan cathedral and the Royal palace. You can also spend a lovely afternoon at one of their elegant bistros and at night, party like a true Swede at an old school pub.
Skansen, Not Your Regular Museum
When there are too many museums on someone’s travelling list, it is easy to tell that they weren’t very popular in school but not when the museum is the world’s oldest open air facility. Here, you don’t have to stand inside a congested room in order to look at a relic behind a glass box but instead, you can roam freely and view the changing Swedish culture and history as if it were a movie set. The fun doesn’t end there, the museum also has a children’s zoo as well as an aquarium. This is what dreams are made of.
Follow the Footsteps of Legends at the City Hall
If you’re a book worm just like me then, the city hall is going to tug at every chord of your wanderlust. This building has grand ceremonial halls and just so happens to be the venue for the Nobel Prize banquet (including the Nobel Prize in literature!) held each year in December. Here, you not only get to survey the stunning architecture but also unique pieces of art. The city hall can also be booked for wedding ceremonies and it houses the office of the Municipal Corporation, a Government job doesn’t seem so boring now, does it?
Learn While Dancing at Abba: the Museum
“Mamma Mia, here we go again, My! My! Another museum…”
Fine, I’ll admit, I wasn’t very popular in school but when the website of a museum reads ‘Walk in. Dance out’ how are you supposed to ignore that? This is an interactive museum where a visitor can virtually try on costumes worn by the band and become the fifth member of Sweden’s musical pride. The museum also has a cinema hall as well as an exhibition of memorabilia from the band. You can also see how much work was put in to make the movie ‘Mamma Mia’ starring Meryl Streep. Only in Sweden, could a museum feel like a dance club.
Ferry-go-round at the Archipelago
Straight out of a Disney movie, the archipelago of Stockholm is made up of a total of 30,000 islands and is best travelled in a ferry which is easily available as it runs multiple times a day. To enhance your experience of the majestic Baltic Sea, you can book yourself one of the 50,000 holiday homes and cottages. Here, the world is literally your oyster because of the vast varieties of sea food you can consume by catching your own fish.
Party Like a Swede at Tradgarden
This is basically Sweden’s version of Coachella as it is a popular spot for teenagers and young adults to sweat profusely as they dance to the latest noise, our generation calls ‘music’. This is easily one of the most hated spots by parents of unruly teens but for a tourist, it is a treat. This is an atypical tourist spot to experience an evening of partying like a Swede and living life Nordic size. Tradgarden is situated under the Skanstull Bridge in Sodermalm.
Enjoy a Day of Leisure at Sofo
SoFo is not only the trendiest neighborhood in the city but also an approved hangout place by the hipsters of Stockholm. Despite not being very large in size, SoFo contains a number of lovely restaurants and cafes such as Meatballs for the people and Café String. Hipsters may be an urban bearded phenomenon but they like their history as much as the next person, SoFo is home to the Katarina Kyrka church as well as The Stockholm transportation museum. You can also have a picnic at Vita Bergen, a park on the hill.
Versatility at Its Best at Södermalm
Södermalm is a part of the city which is as versatile as the Academy award winner, Meryl Streep as it contains everything from restaurants and hotels to shopping areas and food trucks. The most recommended shopping area is called Hornstull Marknad which is an outdoor market selling new and used goods at affordable prices. Some of the most unique shops include Sivletto and Teatern. If you begin to get tired of the concrete jungle, you can put your legs to work and hike the cliffs of Sodermalam and witness breathtaking sites.
Hear the Whispers of Past Crimes at Långholmen Island
This idyllic island holds a past darker than one can tell just by looking at it. The island used to be a prison complex until 1974 and was later converted into a museum and a hostel. This place is perfect for a city getaway because of its lush green parks, sandy beaches, café’s and gorgeous buildings from the eighteenth century. A tourist can also visit The Malaren Yard which is Stockholm’s oldest shipyard. A recreational spot endowed with history, that’s Stockholm for you.
Appreciate Nature at Hammarby Sjostad
Hammarby Sjostad was an underdog among the various areas of a magnificent city but like any good underdog, it surprised everyone and made its way to the top. This is the most prolific residential and industrial area of Stockholm and is an example for the world in sustainable development by using methods such as using solar power and practicing waste water management. This environment friendly place has a mix of 19th century buildings and modern architecture which makes it one of the most unique areas of the city.
Cinema With a Pinch of Lemon at Bio Rio
What would you like to have with your breakfast? Perhaps a movie would be a nice accompaniment. Bio Rio is one of the few remaining single screen theatres in this city and is the only one with a bar. This cinema hall also contains a restaurant called Bistro Rio. Mostly, the films played here are independent movies as well as live opera and children’s films. So, even if the movie is bad you always have the choice of a drink to make your day better.
Cinema Lovers Unite at the Stockholm International Film Festival
While we’re on the topic of cinema, let’s take a look at a summer film festival which takes place for five nights in the month of August. The festival is in an outdoor screen in the park of Ralambshovsparken. Remember to start typing in the name of the park in your Google maps an hour early in order to get there in time. This is the perfect place for a date and you can bring your own blankets and buy some popcorn on the site. This is so cheesy that it would put your popcorn to shame.
Leave the City Behind at Monteliusvagen Cliff Path
Monteliusvagen is situated on the northern shore of Sodermalam island and at first may not look like anything extraordinary as it is just a narrow pathway on steep cliffs but there is more to it than meets the eye. While walking along the rail looking across the Malaren Lake, you will be left mesmerized with the views you will encounter here. This walk could be for a couple to enjoy some quiet romantic time away from the city or for a singleton who wants to be left alone with their thoughts. It is recommended to not visit during the winter season as the pathway can get very slippery and this is especially for single people, who will pick you up when you fall? The snow is not a Nicholas Sparks novel.
Get Inspired at the Metro Art Gallery
The daily hustle of public transportation is not an exciting experience for most people, the crowded stations and the sweaty bodies bumping into each other after a long day is what most of us witness but this is not the case for Stockholm. Their subways happen to be the longest art exhibit in the world, 110 km long to be exact. At Ostermalmstorg, artist Siri Derkert uses her creative expression to highlight the issues of environment as well as women’s rights. At another one, you can view the remains of the Makalos Palace. Why would anyone want to buy a car in Stockholm?
Clear Your Head at Stortorget
Today, a visitor can enjoy a quiet afternoon at one of the many lovely café’s in the area as well as admire architecture built in the 17th and 18th centuries but this idyllic spot in the city holds an unfortunate past where the Danish King Kristian II had conquered the country in the 16th century and had all the Swedish dignitaries who had opposed him arrested and beheaded in Stortorget. This area also houses the old building of Borshuset which was the former stock exchange building built in the 18th century. The combination of blood and money never fails to amuse the human conscience.
Educate Yourself at the Stockholm Public Library
This library is the quintessential example of Nordic culture and architecture as it intimidates its viewer but at the same time remains accessible enough for admiration. This is a 360 degree building stacked with books, approximately 2 million as well as 2.4 million audio tapes. This is the holy grail for book nerds around the world and don’t worry about not finding a book in your mother tongue as it is home to books of more than a 100 languages and the best part of a library is that its free! (Conditions apply).
Live Like a Royal at the Drottningholm Palace
The Drottningholm palace houses the King and Queen of Sweden in the Southern Wing of the palace and the rest of the area is open to the public all year round. The main attractions of this palace are its vast green gardens, the exotic Chinese pavilion pleasure palace and the palace theatre. A day spent here will leave you with the sweet taste of royalty on the tip of your tongue and don’t be surprised if you begin to despise your own house after visiting the palace. After all, Lorde was right “We’ll never be royals.”
Sunset Boulevard Has Nothing on Strandvagen
By now, we’ve learnt that most of the magnificent places of Stockholm were phoenix’s which rose from their own ashes. One such phoenix is a boulevard named Strandvagen where a visitor can walk along the coast and look out at the vast water body as well as enjoy the sight of picturesque nineteenth century architecture. This is also a spot for some iconic hotels such as Hotel Esplanade and Hotel Diplomat, don’t they sound like they should be a part of the James Bond films? Anyway, this was once a place so dilapidated and unappealing, it would have put an alcoholic’s liver to shame.
Remember the Past at the Swedish History Museum
This museum will be a cherry on the top of your travelling list as it will comprehensively tell you every important detail of the country but even then, this is not your regular museum. The Swede’s take their history with a side of fun and even here, you can visit their world famous Viking exhibition as well as be awestruck at the silver and gold ornaments and medieval finds from the most violent war in Swedish history, Battle of Gotland. Their latest exhibition is a definite tear jerker ‘speaking memories-the last witnesses of the Holocaust’ and tells the testimonies of survivors, it is important that we never forget.
Trail the Waters During a Canal Trip
This puzzle we call a city is surrounded by water bodies on all sides and hence, a canal trip across the water bodies is unavoidable. You can either go on a historical canal trip which takes you around all the historically significant areas of the city starting at the City hall and touring around Kungsholmen Island or you can go for the Royal canal trip which takes you inside the peaceful Djurgarden canal.
Take a Day Off at the Mulle Meck Park
I believe that parents who willingly travel around the world with their young children never get enough credit for all they have to put up with so, I have decided to add another recommendation to the list for those parents whose internal screams of anger grow louder each day. The Mulle Meck Park is based on George Johansson and Jens Ahlbom’s children’s books. It has an exciting display of rides for the ever curious child with us and in us.
Control the Colors at the Telefonplan Tower
This tower is in fact, an interactive art display for the public. Art has never been more democratized than this as a person with an app can control the various lights installed in the building by the touch of their thumbs. The city is on your fingertips thanks to innovative designers such as Loove Broms, Milo Laven and artist Erik Krikortz. Modern art is a lot more than a few paint splashes on a blank canvas and Swedes have saved us from the creative doom.
Take a Deep Breath During Fika Hour
Fika is not a palace or a museum, it is what I need after writing this article. It is a way for us to pause and reset by taking a break over coffee and snacks and miraculously becoming human again. Fika can be practiced a few times every day but the most common time is 11 am when people from all over the city flock to various café’s to take a break from the bustle of daily life. Though, it is important to choose a place for Fika wisely as the vibe of the place is going to work wonders on your tired soul. A few recommendations would be Café Pascal and Green Rabbit.
Sweden has given the world a lot more than just Ingrid Bergman and catchy ABBA lyrics, it is a hall of famer for the classiest architecture and the Nordic way of life is one of balance, the work is accompanied by play. This city is an Instagrammer’s paradise for its colorful buildings and rustic imagery. Stockholm is a city full of stylish people on bikes waiting for the day to end so, they can sit in a quiet café with a cup of coffee and read a book. Swedes, they know how to live.
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