IntroArguably Scandinavia’s most photogenic capital, Stockholm is a fresh mix of creativity, eco-friendly lifestyles, innovation, booming music scene, hip café culture, and outdoor living due to its archipelago and proximity to water and nature. Geographically, Stockholm is spread out across 14 unique islands. From historic Gamla stan (Old town) with its narrow cobble-stoned streets and earth-toned buildings to Djurgården with its forests, lush green parks, gardens, and biking paths. You can hang out with Stockholm’s elite in upscale restaurants and nightclubs in Östermalm or head over to Södermalm, Kungsholmen, and Hornstull for eclectic shopping, restaurants, and clubs.
- Of all 30,000 islands, only 150 are inhabited.
- Stockholm has two UNESCO World Heritage sites - Drottningholm Place in Ekerö and Skogskyrkogården (The Woodland Cemetery).
- Almost everyone speaks English.
- The Nobel Prize ceremony is held every December in Stockholm.
- While Stockholm sits atop 14 different islands, its archipelago spans 140 kilometers along Sweden’s eastern coastline and consists of roughly 30,000 distinct islands, skerries, and islets.
- Stockholm’s subway system known as the tunnelbana is the world's longest art exhibition at 110 km long with a variety of paintings, sculptures, mosaics, tiles, installations, and other durable art displays put together by 150 artists in over 90 of the city’s 100 stations.
Things to doStockholm has a lot of historic museums worth visiting. Located on Djurgården island isVasamuseet (“The Vasa Museum”), home to a 17th century warship called the “Vasa” which sank in 1628 and was salvaged in its entirety in 1961. Also on Djurgården, you’ll find the world’s oldest open air museum, Skansen which was founded in 1891. Skansen’s main draw is its Nordic zoo with animals like moose and reindeer, in addition to over 150 traditional red Swedish cottages and historical buildings, barns with farm animals, artisan studios, and an aquarium.
For more contemporary art, head over to edgy Fotografiska, a photography museum housed in a 1906 red-brick art nouveau-style waterfront building with 2,500 square meters of exhibition space. It spotlights edgy fine art photography from all over the world. Past exhibitions have included celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz and director Anton Corbijn.
For postcard perfect shots of the city, stroll along Monteliusvägen for marvelous views of Lake Mälaren, Gamla stan, Riddarholmen and City Hall on Kungsholmen. Stockholm is best explored by bike or from the water so rent a Stockholm City Bike to explore over 90km of biking paths, take a brunch cruise with Stromma, or paddle a kayak down its labyrinth of waterways and canals.
Eating outEating out in Stockholm can add up quickly and dent the wallet. As you explore town looking for lunch options, be on the lookout for signs that read “Dagens rätt” (Today’s dish/special). You’ll find affordable lunch options; some off regular dinner menus with upwards of a 50% discount. Many meals include salads, breads, drink, and coffee or tea afterwards with a cookie or two.
You can’t go wrong with seafood while in Stockholm. Short of catching your own fish, you can pick out fresh lobsters and raw fish from a fish tank which are cooked for you at Blaiseholmens Akvarium och Restaurang (B.A.R).
Located in an ambient glass greenhouse surrounded by flower gardens and fruit orchards, Rosendals Trädgård Kafé and Bageri remains a popular place with locals who wait patiently in line to buy freshly baked bread and pastries made from biodynamic flour.
If you’re craving quintessential Swedish meatballs, Pelikan serves them up homemade in cream sauce with lingonberries in addition to pickled herring (sill), elk meat, and pig knuckles, amongst other traditional Swedish dishes.
NightlifeStockholmers love their happy hours and the city’s nightlife is hip, indie, and fresh. Most of its clubs, pubs, and lounges are clustered around the neighborhoods of Östermalm, Gamla stan, and Södermalm. At Hotellet, you’ll find some of the city’s attractive business professionals sipping martinis and cocktails. Stockholm’s largest club, Sturecompagnient, spans two floors which surround an atrium, and you may want to sign up on its guest list online first before trying to swing by. With some of the best live acts performing on its stages,Debaser Medis in Medborgarplatsen spotlights live local and international artists.
ShoppingIf you’re into minimalist Scandinavian design, Stockholm will definitely deliver. From shopping street Biblioteksgatan and the revitalized Hornstull neighborhood to one of Stockholm's newer luxury shopping districts MOOD which spans an entire city block and carries a lot of brand name stores like Victoria Beckham, Ralph Lauren, and Club Monaco. A more affordable mall is Gallerian on Hamngatan which is Stockholm’s largest galleria with over 80 cafés, clothing stores, restaurants, and other specialty shops.
Östermalms Saluhall is an upscale market with fresh seafood, exclusive cured meats, aged cheeses, handmade chocolates, and similar fine dining ingredients, while Hötorgshallen is an international food market with affordable food items from South America and Asia to the Middle East in a bustling atmosphere.
From vintage clothing stores to vinyl record stores, if you’re into throwback and rockabilly-era clothes, antique paraphernalia, and other odd knick-knacks, chances are you’ll find them in Stockholm’s SoFo district.
Getting aroundTaxis are expensive so avoid them while in Stockholm. The cheapest way of getting from Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport to town is via an airport transfer bus like Swebus but the 20 minute Arlanda Express train from the airport directly to Stockholm’s Central Station gets you into town faster.
Storstockholms Lokaltrafik (SL) runs Stockholm’s extensive subway (tunnelbana), bus and tram network, and some long-distance trains. Tickets can be purchased at stations and kiosks showing the “SL” logo, and you can find schedules online. You can purchase the Stockholm Card which provides unlimited rides on public transport including ferries and access to roughly 80 museums and attractions around the city.
Insider TipsSystembolaget – The government heavily regulates the sale of alcohol and hard liquor so you may have to buy those tasty adult beverages at one of over 420 government-run Systembolaget retail stores in Sweden.
Queuing – Many businesses and stores use a ticketing system – a small machine which dispenses notes (nummerlappar) with numbers written on them. Before joining a queue, look to see if those standing in line are already holding small pieces of paper and then look around for the dispensing machine if they are.
Ditch the rental car – Most locals don’t own cars and for good reason. Besides frequent traffic jams congesting Stockholm’s narrow streets, its public transportation network is efficient and extensive. The same ticket and travel cards work on public buses, trams, the subway (tunnelbana), and ferries.
Shop early - Many stores and attractions open their doors late (10-11am) and close early (5-6pm) so plan accordingly to avoid surprises.