Before visiting, I didn’t know too much about the different things to do in Stockholm, or even if I was going to enjoy Sweden.
Copenhagen was OK, but I was worried that Stockholm would end up being somewhat uninspiring like I found with the Danish capital.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the case at all, and Stockholm was the best place I visited on my trip through Scandinavia.
Compared to Copenhagen and Helsinki, Stockholm has a much older vibe to it and the actual city center made it seem like much more of a historic, northern European city.
I wish I had a chance to visit during the summer, as the city is known as the “Venice of the North”, because of all the small islands and waterways so close to the actual city area.
You couldn’t walk very far without smelling the salty sea air, hearing the seagulls up above, or catching glimpses of the harbor, and all of this added to the general charming atmosphere of being in Stockholm.
From what I could tell, it was a very liveable city and well-designed for tourists and locals alike.
Even in the winter the cafes and small restaurants were packed with people and despite there being some snow and extremely cold weather there were still plenty of people spending time outdoors and enjoying themselves.
For those of you wondering what to see in Stockholm, in this post I plan to share some of the best attractions in the city and go over what you should consider checking out and exploring during your visit.
The Best Things to Do in Stockholm
Without a doubt, one of the top Stockholm attractions that you’ll want to head to right away to feel out the city for yourself is Gamla Stan.
Known in Swedish as the “Old Town”, Gamla Stan is the heartbeat of the city and boasts a beautiful location right along the harbor.
This area of the city dates all the way back to the 1200’s, when the first structures were erected, and it has a wonderful Medieval vibe to it.
The old town area is actually a small little island that’s covered in historic buildings, old homes, and there’s a picturesque network of criss-crossing cobble-stone streets for you to get lost in.
There are quite a few restaurants, small shops, and cafes in the area, but many of these are geared towards tourists so you’ll want to do your research before you settle down somewhere to eat or drink.
Some of the highlights of Gamla Stan include the Stockholm Royal Palace, where the Swedish Royal Family lives, and the Stockholm Cathedral, the oldest church in the old town.
During the winter, you can visit the lovely Julmarknad, or Stockholm Christmas market, for the ultimate European christmas market experience.
The Royal Palace (Sverige’s Kungahus)
Located right on the outside of Gamla Stan, with a stunning location on the water’s edge, is the Swedish Royal Palace.
This is where the King of Sweden currently resides, but interestingly enough the Queen lives on Drottningholm, an island and UNESCO World Heritage Site outside of the city.
As you make your way up to the palace you can’t help but notice how huge it is
It’s actually one of the biggest palaces in all of Europe, with more than 600 rooms inside and five different museums.
Some of the different points of interest inside include the silver throne of Queen Kristina, the museum of Antiquities, the Armoury, the Treasury, and the Three Crowns Museum.
During the day you’re going to want to stop by to check out the interesting changing of the guard and if you’re interested in museums you can explore the interior of the Palace for a small fee.
Make sure to head across the small harbor right out front of the Palace to get the best views of it.
The King’s Garden
Right beside the Royal Palace is the King’s Garden, and during the summer this is a beautiful green space where is nice to relax and enjoy the surrounding scenery in the shade of one of the many trees.
During the winter there is an ice rink in the park and all summer long there are a series of fountains that run during the day.
Surrounding the park are a few different cafes and small restaurants where you can grab a quick bite to eat or something to drink while you relax and watch all of the people walking around.
You can find the park at the beginning of Gamla Stan and there are many hotels in the surrounding area so it’s very likely that you’ll be staying nearby.
One of the best museums in Stockholm is the Vasa Museum, and it’s a great place to visit if you’re interested in maritime history.
The museum showcases the well known Vasa battleship, which unfortunately gained its claim to fame after sinking on its maiden voyage back in 1628.
The ship was supposed to be the pride of the Swedish imperial navy but its sinking led to it being forgotten about for hundreds of years until 1961.
This was when a salvage operation began and the Vasa was lifted from the depths of where it sank.
The reason why it’s so interesting to check out is because it provides a unique look back into the past where you can admire a nearly original battleship that was designed to be used more than 300 years ago.
It’s not surprising that this is the most visited museum in all of Sweden and more than a million people visit every year to check out the various exhibits.
It might not sound like much, but it is a very interesting experience, especially if you’re looking for some of the best things to do in Stockholm with kids.
Stockholm City Hall
One of the most iconic landmarks in all of Stockholm is the City Hall building that was built in 1923.
This building has been featured on the cover of so many different postcards, images, and other souvenirs since it was built and it’s location right at the edge of the water makes it that much more unique.
At the very top of the main tower are three golden crowns, one of the symbols of the city, and the interior is quite interesting as well.
Along with some basic government offices there are also some must-see rooms including the Blue Hall and the Golden Hall.
The Golden Hall is one of the highlights of the building because inside there are more than 18 million mosaics covering the walls making it a simply stunning attraction.
For the best view of Stockholm you’re going to want to head up to the tower and admire a 360 degree view of the city down below.
It’s possible to go on a guided tour throughout the building for a small fee and you also have to pay if you want to head up the tower for a view.
Stockholm Boat Tour
Stockholm is famous for its location right on the water and because of this, it’s not surprising that there are a variety of different boat tours available to choose from.
Even during the winter, the boat tours are running all day, but the best time to visit Stockholm is during the warmer summer months when you can really enjoy yourself out on the water.
The city is actually built across a series of 14 islands so if you want to get a good look at the Swedish capital then hopping on a boat is your best bet.
It’s possible to choose from a shorter tour throughout the canals where you can admire the centre of the city or you can go for a longer day tour and explore some of the 30,000 different island archipelagos not too far away.
The main boat tour operator in the city is Stromma, and they have a variety of different boat tours depending on what you’re interested in doing.
During the summer I would definitely recommend taking the time to explore the city by boat, although if you’re visiting Stockholm in the winter you might want to think twice about it or at the very least make sure that you’re completely bundled up.
The District of Ostermalm
If you want to get some shopping done or spend part of your day walking around one of the most beautiful neighborhoods outside of the old town, then you’re going to want to head to Ostermalm.
This is a very exclusive district where you can find plenty of different designer boutiques, high-end shops, and expensive eateries and cafes.
Apart from local Scandinavian designers, some of the shops here include well known favorites such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Ferragamo, and other High Street regulars.
Nearby you can make your way to the neighborhood of Kommendorsgatan, and this is where you can do some great antiques shopping to find something beautiful that you can bring home as a souvenir.
In the neighborhood is also Ostermalmshallen, and at this market you can find some great fresh produce, locally sourced food, and try out a wide range of different Swedish delicacies that you won’t find elsewhere in the city.
Photography lovers will also love this area as the architecture is quite impressive and even if you aren’t here to spend money, there are still plenty of things that you’re going to want to photograph.
I really loved walking around Ostermalm, especially at night when the entire area seems full of nightclub and bars that all seem worth checking out.
For photography lovers, you’re definitely going to want to head to Fotografiska Museet.
This is a contemporary photography museum and during the year you can also check out a wide range of different exhibits that are constantly changing.
Apart from the museum, there’s also a restaurant on site, souvenir store, and a book store where you can grab some cool Swedish books.
Make sure to make your way up to the top of the building where you’ll be able to find some of the best views over the city across the harbor.
Lately the museum has got quite popular and is there always photographers and videographers congregating in the area hoping to capture a great photo of Stockholm and meet some like minded travellers.
As for the restaurant, it’s quite a popular place for locals and it has also become more popular over the years so you’re going to want to make sure you arrive early in order to secure a good seat and avoid waiting too long for your food.
Skansen Outdoor Museum
Another one of the best museums in Stockholm is Skansen, an outdoor open-air museum where you can get a better idea of what life used to be like back in the day in Sweden.
The museum is said to be the world’s first outdoor museum and there are more than 150 buildings that you can explore across the beautiful outdoor park setting.
The oldest building at Skansen dates all the way back to the 14th century and this is a must see if you’re a history lover or you just want to learn more about how Swedish culture developed over the years.
This is also a fun place to bring your children if you’re travelling with kids and there are a lot of things to do at the museum that are going to keep them occupied during the day.
What I found interesting is that the people working there actually dress up in accurate historical costumes and give you a detailed tour of the different farm settlements as well as the living quarters.
There are traditional craft demonstration and there is even a zoo at the museum where you can take a look at some Scandinavian creatures including wolves, elks, and even brown bears.
Fika [Coffee Break]
You might not be aware, but coffee culture is extremely important in Sweden, so don’t be surprised when you see the cafes throughout the city completely packed all day every day.
There is a term that the Swedish people use, fika, and this word translates into something along the lines of how it’s important to have coffee and cake while enjoying the company of your friends.
The cafes are busy all year round and in the summer you’ll see plenty of people sitting outdoors enjoying a cool coffee drink and during the winter every cafe will be serving hot chocolate as well as mulled wine.
Regardless of when you’re visiting, make sure to check out one of the best cafes in Stockholm just so that you can tell your friends back home that you enjoyed some fika while you were away.
The ABBA Museum
Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of museums, but if there’s any museum that you need to visit it’s the ABBA Museum.
At this museum you can walk around and check out a wide range of different pieces of ABBA memorabilia, spend some time dancing on the dance floor, sing along with some holograms, and even see how you look in digital versions of the costumes that they used to wear.
Once you’re out on the dance floor wearing your digital costume, you can actually record everything you’re doing and watch it later on when you get home thanks to the code on your ticket.
This is a must visit if you’re a music lover or if it’s raining during your visit and you’re looking for a few hours to kill.
Despite not being a huge ABBA fan myself, I found the museum to be pretty interesting and it’s something you should consider checking out.
What to Expect When You Visit Stockholm
The language that they speak in Stockholm in Swedish.
Most people speak English and German so you likely won’t run into any issues at all if you don’t speak the local language.
In Sweden they don’t use the Euro and are still using the Swedish Krona as their national currency.
Most major credit cards will be accepted everywhere around the city and there are plenty of ATMs nearby to most hotels as well as in any transportation areas such as the airport or train station.
You can also exchange money if you’re travelling with Euros, US dollars, or any other popular currency, although it would be easier to just use your Visa or debit.
During the summer, Stockholm never really gets as warm as you would find in other popular tourist destinations in Europe like Prague, Athens, or Vienna.
The best time to visit Stockholm is in the late summer or early fall because you will avoid the bulk of the tourist crowds, the sun still stays up quite late, and the weather is still quite nice without as much rain.
Where to Stay in Stockholm
When it comes to the best hotels in Stockholm there are quite a few options to choose from.
I actually stayed at the Nobis Hotel, and it’s what I would recommend if you’re visiting the city.
The location is great, just a 10-minute walk to the very city centre, the rooms are spacious, and the hotel actually has a pretty amazing breakfast.
Compared to the other hotels in the area, the Nobis is actually quite reasonably priced and I would definitely recommend it for a short term visit.