Stockholm is known as one of the most inclusive and welcoming cities in the world. Its contemporary, urban appeal is balanced with centuries-old history and closeness to nature. As for the things to do in Stockholm, the list is endless.
Spreading idyllically across a Baltic Sea archipelago of fourteen islands, it’s easy to see why the Swedish capital of Stockholm has acquired the nickname “Venice of the north”. It seems as if wherever you look, your gaze is met by water.
Located on Sweden’s southeast coast, Stockholm weather changes according to four distinct seasons. Summers are warm – sometimes quite hot – and it rarely gets dark during summer nights. The winters may be mild and rainy but can also be quite cold and snowy. The colours of autumn are spectacular in the city parks, and spring is welcomed by locals, wrapped in blankets and sipping a drink, at outdoor restaurants and cafés.
The city is easy to get around on foot or public transport, and its various districts have their own unique vibes – the island of Södermalm has a laid-back air and is a draw for the creative set, while Östermalm is the picture of refined elegance. Nestling between these two areas, Norrmalm is a busy and vibrant downtown spot, and you’ll find the charming Old Town (Gamla Stan) south of Norrmalm.
Stockholm was officially founded in 1252 by the regent of Sweden, Birger Jarl. By the end of the 13th century, Stockholm had grown to become Sweden’s biggest city, serving as the country’s political centre and royal residence – one that was repeatedly besieged over the following centuries. King Gustav Vasa is forever celebrated for recapturing Stockholm in 1523 from the temporary rule of the King of Denmark.
Stockholm of today is a tolerant, inclusive society that is welcoming of everyone. Stockholm Pride festival, the biggest of its kind in the Nordic region, is a definite calendar highlight attracting tens of thousands of LGBTQ visitors from across the country and the globe each summer.
A forward-thinking, innovative city, Stockholm is home to a growing tech-innovation community and a large number of start-ups – a density only Silicon Valley can compete with. Music streaming company Spotify is only one example of the global names hailing from the city; its headquarters is still based in the centre of the town.
Sweden is known internationally for its strong profile within creative disciplines, such as design. You’ll find a diverse array of stores selling everything from ceramics and textiles crafted by young artisans to furniture classics created by some of Sweden’s most renowned designers. The iconic stores Malmstenbutiken and Svenskt Tenn – conveniently located next to one another on the central avenue Strandvägen – are two must-visit destinations for design lovers.
FabLab is a more recent addition to Stockholm’s diverse shopping landscape. Located in the hip district of Södermalm, this unique concept store is the brainchild of set designer Johan Svensson, who carefully hand picks items ranging from Seletti furniture and cutlery to stationery and fragrances by the likes of Miller Harris and Min New York.
Fashion-wise, Drottninggatan in central Stockholm is the perfect one-stop shopping destination filled with favourite high street staples as well as vintage stores. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants to grab a bite to eat and keep your energy up.
Södermalm’s Götgatan is another popular shopping street. The northern section, known as Götgatsbacken, is pedestrian only and lined with trendy boutiques. Södermalm is also home to Nitty Gritty, one of Stockholm’s key multibrand stores. You’ll find a men’s and a women’s store next to one another.
Stockholm offers a smorgasbord of art and culture, from world-class museums and historically fascinating royal palaces to niche galleries and intimate artist houses.
Nationalmuseum showcases an impressive art collection spanning sculpture, painting and objects dating back to the 16th century. The imposing building, completed in 1866 and counting the Royal Palace as its neighbour, is a must-see in itself. Nevertheless, you’ll want to venture inside to view the newly restored interior, which took five years to complete and was unveiled in 2018.
On a more intimate scale, Hallwylska museet (Hallwyl Museum) enjoys an equally central location in the former 19th century home of Count and Countess von Hallwyl. The museum is Countess Wilhelmina’s legacy, a testament to her extensive and slightly eccentric collection of art, furnishings, jewellery and more.
The extraordinary maritime Vasa Museum is one of Stockholm’s most popular attractions. Its crowning glory is the centuries-old ship The Vasa, which sank in 1628 and was recovered in 1961 – a dramatic and complex affair. It is the world’s best preserved 17th-century ship and Scandinavia’s most visited museum.
Millesgården, on the island of Lidingö some 30 minutes from downtown Stockholm, is another worthwhile cultural establishment. The home and garden of late sculptor Carl Milles, today it encompasses an idyllic sculpture garden, an art gallery and an antique collection – plus a cosy café.
You’re never far from nature in Stockholm. The Stockholm archipelago – Sweden’s largest – is a draw for visitors and locals alike. Take a ferry to one of the islands, such as the idyllic archipelago town of Vaxholm with its village-y feel, defined by wooden houses dating back to the end of the 20th century. Here, you’ll find a range of shops, restaurants and cafés. In the summertime, take your cue from the locals and relax by the waterfront with some homemade ice cream.
If you fancy a spot of nature within walking distance of downtown, head for Royal Djurgården – the world’s first national urban park. With a history stretching back to the 15th century, there’s plenty to see and do on this stunning island.
Enjoy the open spaces and wander among the centuries-old oak trees along the canal. You’ll be sharing this idyllic country-like setting with deer, hares and many species of rare birds that thrive here.
Djurgården is also home to a diverse range of major national attractions such as Gröna Lundfunfair, The Nordic Museum, Rosendal Palace and Skansen – the world’s oldest open-air museum. There are a number of on-site cafés and restaurants – travel back in time in taverns like Ulla Winbladh, Villa Godthem and Rosendal or opt for a Swedish fika or a light meal at Café Flickorna Helin, housed within the Skånska gruvan attraction.
On the other side of town, across the lake of Brunnsviken from the Royal park of Haga, you’ll find Bergianska Trädgården (Bergius Botanic Garden) – a wonderfully landscaped and sprawling garden with a history stretching back to the 18th century. Having explored the wide variety of shrubs, plants and flowers – as well as features such as the beautiful Japanese pond and the 19th-century Italian terrace – you might like to refuel with a meal or snack at The Old Orangery Restaurant & Café.
Stockholm is a foodie destination offering a wide culinary span with an increasing focus on sustainable cooking methods and ingredients. New restaurants emerge continuously, mingling with more traditional eateries.
Newly opened restaurant Isaan' by top chef Sayan Isaksson, housed within the beautiful Berns Salonger in the heart of the city, serves up Thai-style dishes prepared with mostly Nordic, organic ingredients.
Another new addition to Stockholm’s culinary scene is the restaurant housed within Nationalmuseum. Here you’ll get to sample dishes from Swedish top chef Fredrik Eriksson, known for his excellent fusion of Swedish and French cuisine. The restaurant décor, created by some of Sweden’s most renowned designers, adds to this unique experience.
If you fancy trying classic Swedish comfort food (‘husmanskost’), head to Bakfickan next to Operakällaren, which was first opened in 1787, in the downtown park of Kungsträdgården. Try their famous Swedish meatballs in cream sauce with potato purée, lingonberries and pickled cucumber – a true Swedish classic.
Kvarnen, located in Södermalm, is another classic establishment serving up Swedish food staples such as ‘pyttipanna’, a delicious blend of fried cubes of meat, onion and potato, topped with a fried egg, pickled beetroot and cornichons.
Source: Visit Sweden
Photo credit: Henrik Trygg/mediabank.visitstockholm.com