12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Stockholm
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Often called the "Venice of the North" for its waterways and lakes, Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden, lies on a number of islands and peninsulas at the outflow of Lake Mälar into the Baltic, which here forms a deep inlet. The charm of its setting lies in the intermingling of land and water — the skerries fringing the coast, the crags rearing up from the sea, the intricate pattern of waterways encompassing the city.
World-class museums, theaters, galleries, and gorgeous parklands await, and traveling around couldn't be easier. The excellent underground railway system, the Tunnelbana (T-bana), takes you almost anywhere in the city. A highly efficient and regular bus network fills in any gaps between destinations. Alternatively, take the time to walk instead, as Stockholm is a terrific city to absorb on foot. The city also has an efficient network of bicycle lanes.
Locals proudly call the city a "levande stad," or "living city," as a large part of the cosmopolitan population still lives in the downtown areas. A short hop from the city, you can explore the UNESCO-listed palace Drottningholm and other fun tourist attractions on day trips.
To learn more about the many tourist attractions and cultural landmarks in this attractive European city, be sure to read through our list of the top fun things to do in Stockholm.
See also: Where to Stay in Stockholm
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1. Explore Old Town Stockholm: Gamla Stan
Dating from the 1200s and crammed with must-see sights, attractions, cafés, authentic restaurants, and boutique shops, the area of Gamla Stan (Old Town) is a living, breathing museum in its own right. For many, this is the first stop on their journey of exploration - and rightly so.
Certainly, there's no better way to instantly absorb the feel of Stockholm and get to grips with the city's culture. Plenty of souvenirs and gifts are available in the Old Town, and you will find yourself transported back to medieval times as you meander through a bewildering labyrinth of tiny, winding streets, many of which lead to (or from) Stortorget, the main public square. Along the way, you'll discover countless mysterious vaults and ancient frescoes lurking behind picturesque facades.
If visiting in winter, be sure to take in the marvelous Julmarknad (Christmas Market), an experience akin to being in a fairy tale. Stockholm Cathedral (Storkyrkan, or Stockholms domkyrka), the Nobel Prize Museum (Nobelmuseet), and the Royal Palace are all located here and should be high up on any sightseeing itinerary. If visiting the Royal Palace — also known as Stockholm Palace — be sure to catch the changing of the guard.
2. Relive Sweden's Seafaring Past at the Vasa Museum
The incredible Vasa battleship — the main attraction at Stockholm's brilliant Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet) — was intended to be the pride of the Swedish Imperial fleet. Yet, in a forerunner of the Titanic disaster centuries later, this majestic 64-gun vessel sank on its maiden voyage in 1628.
An amazing salvage operation took place in 1961, and now you can marvel at this glorious time capsule, 95 percent of which is entirely original. The three masts on the roof of the museum are not just a tourist draw; they were reconstructed to the exact height and specifications of the original masts.
This is the most visited museum in Sweden, and rightfully so. More than one million people a year come here to enjoy the different exhibitions and watch the movie on the ship's history. A variety of other historic vessels are also located on-site, including an icebreaker, a lightship, and a torpedo boat. Entry is free if you are under 18 years of age.
Address: Galärvarvsvägen 14, 115 21 Stockholm
Official site: www.vasamuseet.se
3. Get Your Bearings Aboard a Fabulous Stockholm Boat Tour
The sea flows through the arteries of Stockholm, and during the summer months, the city is quite literally awash with boats of all shapes and sizes. Many city-dwellers own summer houses on the islands of the skärgården (archipelago) and spend, if not the entire summer there, then most weekends.
It all makes for a Friday evening commute like no other. Bearing all this in mind, to experience Stockholm from the water is surely a must-do for any visitor (it's also a great way to get your bearings early on in your visit). Take a trip under the bridges of Stockholm or while away an hour or two on the Royal Canal Tour. There are also hop-on, hop-off options with a valid ticket lasting 24 hours. Best of all, cruises are available year-round, and can be just as much fun in winter.
Official site: www.stromma.com/en-se/stockholm/
4. Take a Stroll and See the Sights of Djurgården
A tranquil oasis in the heart of the city, the island of Djurgården draws crowds of tourists and locals alike, particularly during the summer months of long lazy days and short nights. The park forms part of the Royal National City Park, and it's a perfect place for a stroll and picnic, as well as being home to several of Stockholm's top museums and other attractions.
Scattered about are pleasant cafés, restaurants, snack-bars, and hotels. You can rent bicycles to explore the forest trails or, if you're feeling adventurous, take to the waterways in a canoe. The popular Vasa Museum and Abba the Museum are located here, as is the open-air museum Skansen and Gröna Lund amusement park.
A fun way to arrive is by ferry from Gamla Stan or Slussen (both on the T-Bana). Alternatively, jump on a tram from Norrmalmstorg, take the bus, or stroll from the city center (15 minutes). Drop by the Djurgården visitor center for more information.
5. Skansen Open-Air Museum
The oldest open-air museum in the world, Skansen opened in 1891 on the island of Djurgården and is a wonderful attraction for families, particularly those with young children. Not only will you be treated to an authentic taste of Sweden as it once was, but also the wonderful Skansen Aquarium and the Children's Zoo.
More than 150 different buildings and houses were collected from all around the country and reassembled here. On display are distinct town districts, including manor houses, a bakery, the beautiful Seglora timber church, and a pottery, all brought to life by costumed staff. At the zoo are moose, bears, lynxes, wolves, and seals.
You can visit the aquarium for an extra fee and see more than 200 different animals from around the world, including many species of monkeys. For traditional Swedish Smörgåsbord pay a visit to the Solliden Restaurant.
Address: Djurgårdsslätten 49-51, 11521 Stockholm
Official site: www.skansen.se/en/
6. Tour the Royal Palace (Sveriges Kungahus)
A visit here could be a day out in itself. Located by the water's edge on the periphery of Gamla Stan, Stockholm's Royal Palace (Sveriges Kungahus) is the official residence of the King of Sweden. Interestingly, the Queen's residence lies elsewhere; it's on the beautiful island and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Drottningholm (Queen's Island), about a 45-minute ferry ride from Stockholm and an easy day trip.
A rich taste of the once mighty Swedish Empire, the palace is one of the largest in Europe boasting in excess of 600 rooms and several museums. Dating from the 18th century and built in Baroque style, the palace houses many gems. Here, you can see Queen Kristina's silver throne and visit the Museum of Antiquities, the Armoury, the Tre Kronor (Three Crowns) Museum, and Treasury. Don't miss the daily changing of the guard.
Location: Slottsbacken 1, 111 30 Stockholm
Official site: www.kungligaslotten.se/english.html
Fotografiska is Stockholm's museum of contemporary photography and hosts an eclectic mix of exhibitions throughout the year. The complex encompasses a cafe, restaurant, store, and gallery, and from the top floor, you can enjoy one of the most enviable views over the city.
In recent years, the museum has seen a huge increase in visitor numbers and is now acknowledged as one of the world's premier photography venues. Serving organic, sustainably-produced cuisine, the restaurant on the top floor is acclaimed as one of the city's coolest eateries (weekend brunch is particularly popular with locals). The gallery also hosts cutting-edge live and club music throughout the year.
Address: Stadsgårdshamnen 22, 11645 Stockholm
Official site: http://fotografiska.eu/
8. See Historic Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset)
Nestled at the water's edge and topped by three golden crowns, the City Hall (Stockholms stadshus, or Stadshuset) is one of Stockholm's most iconic buildings and stars in countless images and postcards of the city. Dating from 1923, the hall opened on that most Swedish of dates Midsummer's Eve.
Housed within are assembly rooms, offices, works of art, and the machinery of civil democracy. The prestigious annual Nobel Banquets are held here. Recipients dine first in Blå hallen (The Blue Hall) and then move on to the formal ball in Gyllene salen (The Golden Hall), which has no less than 18 million mosaics adorning its walls. A particular treat is the chance to view the city from the famous tower.
Address: Hantverkargatan 1, 111 52 Stockholm
9. Moderna Museet
At Moderna Museet, you can dip your toes into one of Europe's foremost collections of art from the 20th century to today, featuring works by artists such as Picasso, Dali, Derkert, and Matisse. The museum exhibits everything from modern classics to contemporary art, including film, photography, drawings, prints, and whimsical outdoor sculptures.
Located on picturesque Skeppsholmen island, the building of Moderna Museet was designed by Rafael Moneo, a Spanish architect. The museum offers a world-class program of temporary exhibitions, a children's workshop, a shop, a library, and a pleasant restaurant with beautiful views of Djurgården and Strandvägen. Guided tours are available. The museum's second gallery lies in Malmö.
Address: Exercisplan 4, 111 49 Stockholm
Official site: www.modernamuseet.se/stockholm/en/
10. Roam the Royal National City Park
The right-to-roam (allemansrätten) is an indelible part of the Swedish psyche. The Royal National City Park (Kungliga nationalstadsparken) is a six-mile-long, 27 square-kilometer green space surrounding and snaking into Stockholm and encompassing three royal parks: Djurgården, Haga, and Ulriksdal.
This, the world's first national urban park, is where tourists and locals flock to unwind. The forest harbors moose, foxes, deer, and many winged beauties, including rare birds. Fun things to do include enjoying the museums, castles, theaters, sports facilities, and historic homes.
Nature lovers will be in heaven exploring wilderness areas with centuries-old oak trees, streams, lakes, marshes, enticing swimming spots, and craggy hilltops. It truly is hard to believe you're in the middle of a thriving capital city.
Address: 115 21 Stockholm
Official site: www.nationalstadsparken.se/
11. Shop 'til You Drop in Östermalm
If it's Stockholm designer chic you're after, then look no further. Östermalm is the most exclusive district in the city. Exclusive international labels rub shoulders with high-class Scandinavian design. On Biblioteksgatan, there's an abundance of flagship shops and designer boutiques, while the neighborhood around Stureplan offers plenty of posh shops - some with sky-high price tags.
Lovers of art and interior design will enjoy Svenskt Tenn and Malmstenbutiken, at the beginning of Strandvägen near Nybroviken. Many of Sweden's top antique dealers lie around the Kommendörsgatan neighborhood. Be sure to drop by Östermalmshallen for the absolute best in Swedish fresh food and produce.
12. Take in the Perfect "SkyView"
Situated on Stockholm's southern fringe, SkyView takes you to the top of the world's largest spherical building, the Ericsson Globe, one of Stockholm's modern landmarks. From 130 meters above sea level, you'll be treated to an unforgettable view over the entire city.
Tours aboard the gondolas take about 30 minutes and depart every ten minutes, but be prepared for long lines at peak times of the day. After the trip, sightseers can visit the restaurant and souvenir shop.
Address: Globentorget 2, 121 77 Stockholm
Official site: www.globearenas.se
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Stockholm
- A convenient and flexible way to see the city's attractions is the City Sightseeing Stockholm Hop-On Hop-Off Tour. Accompanied by an audio commentary, this double-decker bus tour visits 14 different attractions, and you can hop on and off at any of the stops.
- If you prefer to explore Stockholm by both bus and boat, the Stockholm in One Day Sightseeing Tour is an excellent option. This 2.5-hour tour begins with a 75-minute audio-guided coach tour, visiting attractions such as the Royal Palace and Vasa Museum. It ends with a one-hour scenic boat ride around the royal park of Djurgården and the city's picturesque archipelago.
Stockholm by Night:
- For an edgier look at the city, consider The Original Stockholm Ghost Walk and Historical Tour, a two-hour tour of the city by lantern light, where you'll hear spooky stories about spirits, vampires, myths, and mysteries as you stroll Gamla Stan's medieval streets.
- If Sweden's Viking and medieval history excites you, the Viking History Half-Day Tour is a must-do. Along the way, you'll see runic stones at Täby; discover ancient inscriptions at Granby; and stroll the medieval streets of Sweden's oldest town, Sigtuna.
- Although Stockholm, like most of Scandinavia, can be expensive, good value can be found if you know where to look. One way to save a few kronor is to eat a main meal during the day and opt for something lighter in the evening. The Dagens rätt or Dagens lunch (daily special) is a great way to experience authentic Swedish fare at a fraction of the cost you'd pay in the evenings.
- Swedes love coffee and cake, and they've even come up with a verb for it: Fika. To "fika" is to drink coffee, eat something small (and usually sweet), and chat. Be sure to indulge, as the cakes and pastries are delicious.
Where to Stay in Stockholm for Sightseeing
- Presiding over the waterfront, opposite the Royal Palace and Old Town, the aptly-named Grand Hotel has hosted celebrities and Nobel Prize winners in its elegant suites and Michelin starred restaurants.
- Those who prefer contemporary Scandinavian style will enjoy the Nobis Hotel on Norrmalmstorg, a public square in the heart of the city.
- Within walking distance of Gamla Stan and only two minutes from the train station, the Sheraton Stockholm Hotel is a reliable chain option in a fantastic location.
- A five-minute walk from Gamla Stan, in the trendy Södermalm area, the Hilton Stockholm Slussen offers beautiful views of the city, as does the modern Radisson Blu Waterfront Hotel, which shimmers in the heart of the city, less than three kilometers from the Royal Palace and Old Town.
- Travelers seeking a more historic ambience should consider Sven Vintappare Hotel in the heart of Gamla Stan, which is steeped in 17th-century charm.
- Perhaps the most unique budget hotel options close to the historic sites are on the water — literally. The Rygerfjord Hotel and Hostel, Red Boat Hotel and Hostel, and Loginn Hotel are boat hotels with cozy cabin rooms within walking distance of the Old Town.
- For those who prefer a hotel on dry land, Best Western Hotel Fridhemsplan offers a variety of room configurations, including family rooms, a five-minute train ride from the city center.
More Delightful Swedish Destinations and Day Trips
Sweden is known for its vibrant cities and quaint towns. From Stockholm, you can venture into the picturesque countryside for fun day trips, including a visit to the university city of Uppsala. A mere 35-minute flight from the capital, the gorgeous island of Gotland is a popular place to visit on vacation. On the western side of the country, Gothenburg has a milder climate than Stockholm and more of a European feel, while to the south of Gothenburg, both Helsingborg and Malmo lie only a short hop from neighboring Denmark, across the Oresund strait.