When it comes to the Nordic countries, not many of us imagine that they could be excellent city breaks. Perhaps, we imagine cold days (and nights), peppery prices and rye bread.
And yes, whilst some of these are true, there is also an unheard side to the story. The beauty that these cities have to offer to tourists and locals alike is indescribable.
Stockholm, with its picturesque canals, vibrant marina area and terraces filled with tourists, answer very well why Stockholm is called Venice of the North.
In our article below we set our recommendations around this amazing capital and describe our experience during our time there.
Stockholm was founded around 1000 CE by Vikings. The meaning behind the city is believed to come from Stock – fortification (in old German) and Holm – islet which refers to the Helgeandsholmen islet in nowadays central Stockholm. The way to pronounce Stockholm is “stok·howm”.
Nowadays, Stockholm is located in the modern state of Sweden. It has a population of just under 1 million people spread across the archipelago. The Stockholm archipelago consists of fourteen islands and stretches across 188 km2.
The metro area is one of the fastest expanding in Europe with a forecast of 2.4 million people by 2024.
Stockholm is located in the Södermanland and Uppland provinces of Sweden. It has it’s own eponymous county and serves as the capital of Sweden and the residence of the royal family.
The climate is temperate and is very similar to that of the far north-eastern area of the United States and coastal Nova Scotia in Canada.
A good time to go to Stockholm would be during Summer alternatively, Spring can also be good depending on how much you can tolerate the cold. Remember, the average yearly temperature is around 7°C.
The currency used in Stockholm and wider Sweden is the Swedish Crown (Krona / SEK).
Travel to and Around Stockholm
Some of the questions you might have would be “Where to stay?” or “Which Stockholm airport to fly into?” or even “How many days?“. These are all good questions which we aim to answer.
First of all Stockholm has three airports to choose between, the Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN), Stockholm Bromma Airport (BMA) and Stockholm Skavsta Airport (NYO). Arlanda is one of the closers ones but also has good connections to the city centre.
Flights from London to Stockholm can vary by price but they can be as low as £35 return per person. Read our tips on how to find cheap flights here. We would recommend you stay at least a weekend to allow you to visit all the major points of interest.
You can get around in Stockholm by using the public transport and also the ferries to go from one island to another. The Stockholm metro is another good option and it boasts an interesting décor – you’ll be surprised of the colourful cave like scenery. If you want to explore the islands, why not book this Stockholm archipelago sightseeing cruise?
Where to Stay in Stockholm
In terms of accommodation, we would recommend booking your travel through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates.
Once arrived at the airport you can take the train to the main train station. You will find a few hotels near the Stockholm train station. Those can also be good options if you want to stay in the city centre, however for perhaps a bit better value for money there are other hotels.
We chose to stay at Scandic Star Sollentuna in the metro area of Sollentuna. When travelling in the Nordic countries we always try to stay in the Scandic hotel chain as we find they offer warm rooms, good food and excellent value for money. The hotel wasn’t in the city centre but it was easy to get to by public transport.
One other reason we stood a bit further from the city centre was that we noticed most of the better value rooms were all without windows. Something very important to look out for if you are booking a room in a Stockholmer hotel.
Top Things to do in Stockholm
Stockholm is famous for its unique architecture, a reminiscence of the glory days of the Swedish Empire. It hosts multiple museums and provides a good set of activities once there.
Below we would like to cover different touristic locations and what to see in 3 days. If you don’t have enough time, you might consider Hop-on Hop-off Bus & Boat Tour to cover the main attractions.
To start with one of the places where to go in Stockholm include the Royal Palace. This is situated in the heart of the city overlooking the marina and in old city centre area called Gamla Stan.
We would recommend you go in time also for the change of the guard parade which happens according to these times.
The change of the guard in Stockholm is very similar to the ones we have seen in Oslo and in Monaco.
After the spectacle, do get yourself a ticket and visit the state rooms. They are as majestic and wonderful as any European Palace and provide an insight into how Swedish Royalty lived and hosted their guests during the height of the their reigns.
If you are wondering which island to visit in Stockholm, we would recommend for sure, to start with Gamla Stan. This is the old city centre and host many official buildings and typical Stockholm landmarks.
Riksdagshuset (Parliament House)
Over there you will also see many cathedrals and churches. Crossing over the bridge, on our way to the Stockholm City Hall we can also see the the Riksdagshuset or the Parliament House.
Stockholm City Hall
After you did your sightseeing head yourself over to the Stockholm City Hall. The building itself might not be architecturally aesthetic to some, but offers a very imposing façade formed of an austere, massive, brick layout. The motif overall tries to encapsulate all of Stockholm.
Be sure to get your tickets to visit the inside but more importantly the tower. Yes – you can go up there!
When inside, you’ll be met by the Blue Hall. This is where the Nobel prize awards happen and where the festivities conclude with announcing the winners.
Up the stairs from the Blue Hall you’ll be greeted by the Golden Hall. The motif in this room is typical Swedish mythology and beliefs. A sure winner for your social media photos nonetheless!
In the tower you’ll also be able to see a few statues and artefacts however, when you’ll climb up you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view. Just watch, breath and watch some more. It’s that immersive.
After you’ve absorbed the view with your eyes you are ready for the next challenge – descending the stairs on the way down.
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What else you can do in Stockholm is head over to the Vasa Museum. This museum is built around a military ship that unfortunately sank on her maiden voyage.
As the museum guide said: “Who was to be blamed for the failure of Vasa?”
The evidence depicted King Gustavus Adolphus as the main reason for this failure. However, in 17th ct. Sweden, the King couldn’t be wrong or to be blamed and hence the inquiry at the time concluded that no one is to blame.
Opposite from the Vasa Museum you can find the Nordiska museet. This is a museum dedicated to the wider region in the Nordics.
It showcases native traditions & trends in home décor & fashion, plus festivals & events.
If you want to experience Stockholm like a local we would recommend you go to Nybrokajen and sit down by the Royal Dramatic Theatre at any of the nearby terraces.
A cold beer on a hot summer’s day is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Tivoli Gröna Lund
Another great spot is Tivoli Gröna Lunda seasonal amusement park with roller coasters & thrill rides, competitive games & live concerts.
Right next to this amusement park you can go for a walk in the Skansen open air museum. It is an open-air Swedish history museum, with buildings, people in costume & a zoo with Nordic animals.
Don’t mistake this with Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.
To finish your afternoon we recommend heading over to Rosendals Trädgård. Which continues along the main road from Skansen museum.
At Rosendals you’ll also be able to serve tea and other refreshments whilst enjoying the warm sun rays and the wonderfully green tea garden.
On the way back to the city centre be sure to take the ferry. It will offer a spectacular evening view full of lights and people on either sides of the canal enjoying their drinks and filling their time with laughter and good joy.
If you’re wondering where to shop in Stockholm, a good tourist area filled with souvenirs and other such items would be Västerlånggatan street and any of the adjacent streets. Be sure to stop in Stortorget square and sit down for a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun.
Finally we go to the interesting bit. Where do you go to eat in Stockholm and what to eat?
The Stockholm culinary scenery is diverse and offers many choices from modern Nordic cuisine to steak houses fit for all tastes and pockets.
First of all – be sure to try this bakery: Vete-Katten. I discovered it in one of my business trips and then we went there again on our city break. It is a proper elegant café/bakery that has a variety of sandwiches but more importantly pastries and cake comparable to a French pastry shop.
Get yourself a cup of coffee from any of the free to take cups found in the inside of the venue and order a nice warm cinnamon bun with Swedish pearl sugar. Mouth-watering? Yeah – thought so.
For a traditional meal head over to Stockholms Gästabud. They offer traditional Swedish cuisine. The food feels fresh, simple and tastes delish.
Word of advice, the venue is more like a bistro and has limited seating. Avoid busy times or perhaps eat a little earlier or a little later your lunch.
You’d be surprised but not many restaurants cook traditional Swedish cuisine in Stockholm. Yes – you heard that right.
Stockholmers are big fans of refined cuisine and one thing you’ll notice as you go trough restaurant recommendations is how difficult it is to find something more casual and traditional venue. So much for those meatballs with mash!
To conclude our guide, what we can definitely agree regarding Stockholm is the fact that not only it is a veritable city break destination but the architecture, sights and canals answer the question why Stockholm is the best city to visit for any tourist planning their next destination.
Stockholm is perfect for a city break and you can easily visit and see the top attractions in a weekend. It’s an easy city to fly to with hand luggage only and very easy to get around.
Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:
- Flights – we use flight aggregators such as Skyscanner and Google flights to find the best options. You can find more information about finding cheap flights here.
- Flight compensation – Compensair or AirHelp for flight delays and cancellations.
- Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.
- Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.
- Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.
- Travel money – we have Starling Bank accounts (UK residents only) with 0% fees on FX and a good Mastercard exchange rate. Revolut is another good option.
- Internet abroad – with Airalo you can access a wide range of eSIMs (digital SIM cards) available for different countries and regions.
- Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.
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