After more than a year in Stockholm, and several visits of my friends and family, I have decided to write down places and things that I believe every visitor to Stockholm should experience…
1. Take a walk in the Old Town (Gamla Stan)
The Old Town is an island with medieval cobbled streets, old narrow houses, cozy cafes and souvenir shops. Wander the streets and make sure that you don’t miss Stortorget, the oldest square in Stockholm. The medieval square is surrounded by buildings dating back to 15th and 17th century. The Stock Exchange Building from 18th century hosts the Nobel Museum.
2. Take a boat to Vasa Museum
You can take a ferry from Slussen to Djurgården, just next to the Vasa Museum. You can use your SL card, as it is a part of public transport. Vasa Museum is dedicated to a 17th-century boat that sank 1300 metres from the Swedish coast, on its first journey. The cause has never been clarified, but the ship was rediscovered in 1950s, dredged from the seafloor and placed in a museum that is now the most visited museum in Stockholm.
3. Explore Swedish nature and architecture in Skansen
The first open-air museum was opened in Stockholm in 1891. Skansen consists of dwellings relocated from various corners of Sweden, representing typical architecture. A baker, a glassmaker, a bookbinder and many other craftsmen perform traditional crafts. Skansen is also a small island of wilderness in the capital, with exhibits of bears, moose, reindeer, wolfs, seals and many other Swedish animals.
4. Stroll along the waterfront boulevard
Strandvägen (“Shore Stree”) is a waterfront boulevard with beautiful architecture, wooden sailboats and outdoor cafes. Before the Stockholm’s World Fair in 1897 it was a repellent place crowded with huts and hovels. Thanks to the money of wealthy Stockholmers (ten of the most wealthy Stockholmers built there houses here in the beginning of the 20th century) it has become one of the most fancy addresses in Stockholm.
5. Visit the Nobel banquet place, Stockholm City Hall
Every year on 10th December new laureates of Nobel Prizes celebrate their success with 1300 other guests at the Stockholm City Hall. The banquet takes place in the Blue Hall that actually isn’t blue because the architect changed his mind. The Blue Hall isn’t far as big as you would imagine and each guest gets 60 cm of space at the table, except for VIPs (like Nobel Laureates or the Royal Family) who have 10 cm more. The Golden Hall with mosaic made of 19 million gold tiles is also pretty amazing. When you finnish a guided tour of the City Hall, don’t forget to visit the tower for a nice view of Stockholm.
6. Pay a visit to the Royal Family
The Royal Palace in Stockholm is the official residence of the Royal Family, but King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia don’t live here (but they live nearby, in the Drottningholm Palace). The palace has a representative function and offices of the King and the Royal Court are located here. The building originally dates back to 13th century, but it has undergone a major reconstruction after a huge fire in 1697. As in other famous European palaces, you can take a guided tour of beautifully decorated rooms and imagine what it would be like to be here centuries ago. A good idea is to plan your visit just before or after lunch, so that you make it for Changing of the Guard at noon. Stockholm Cathedral (Storkyrkan) is situated just next to the Royal Palace and was probably built by the founder of the city, Birger Jarl. Due to its location next to the palace it was used for coronations and royal weddings (e.g. Crown Princess Victoria got married here in 2010).
7. Choose a museum according to your interests
Stockholm hosts many interesting museums and you can decide if you prefer natural history (Swedish Museum of Natural History), history (Swedish History Museum, Museum of Medieval Stockholm), cultural history (Nordic Museum), art (National Museum, Museum of Modern Art), or some more special museums – Fotografiska (Photography Museum), Nobel Museum, ABBA Museum, Museum of Spirits…
8. Go see a spectacular view of the city centre
There are several good viewpoints to see Stockholm. The first is a path in Södermalm called Monteliusvägen. It offers a nice view of Lake Mälaren and the City Hall. The second is Mosebacke terrassen, a terrace café belonging to Södra Teatern next to it. It is a great place to have a cup of coffee in the afternoon, some beers or wine in the evening and always a good view of Stockholm. Rather close to Mosebacke is another coffee place with a stunning view, Fjällgatans Kaffestuga.
9. Have a rest in Kungsträdgärden
Kungsträdgärden (the King’s garden) is a park in the city centre that dates back to 15th century, then known as the Royal kitchen garden. Kungsträdgärden is a perfect place for getting some rest after exhausting sightseeing. In spring the place looks beautiful because of flowering cherry trees. You can sit by one of the fountains (Fountain of Molin or Fountain of Wolodarski), drink coffee or eat icecream. Or you can try my favourite coffee place Tehuset, with a view of the Royal Palace. Many parks are not so interesting in winter, but in Kungsträdgärden you can visit a Christmas market or try ice skating.
10. Have a typical Swedish fika
Fika is a very important Swedish cultural thing that refers to drinking coffee, usually served with some pastries. I like the description of fika on Wikipedia that starts with “fika is a concept in Swedish culture…”. That is very true because fike isn’t just about drinking coffee. It is also about socializing and taking a break in this fast world. Yep, Swedes know what is good!