I recently worked as a trip leader on a tour of the three Scandinavian capital cities – Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen – and my guests kept asking me which city was my favorite. It is hard not to say Stockholm, because it is so damn beautiful! Like truly, one of the most gorgeous cities in the world. If you're planning a long weekend getaway to this beautiful city, get ready to immerse yourself in a perfect blend of rich history, modernity, and Scandinavian charm.
Stockholm has all the features you’d expect in a Scandinavian city – colorful facades, efficient transportation, modern Nordic architecture – but what really impressed me about Stockholm was how happily it married nature with modernity. Built across a series of islands with numerous parks and endless waterfront, Stockholm is one of those places that is easy to fall in love with. Being a girl from the Midwest who spent lots of time on lakes and near water, I especially love that you're never more than a few minutes walk from the waterfront in Stockholm.
From its picturesque waterfronts and historic neighborhoods to its world-class museums and vibrant culinary scene, Stockholm offers a plethora of unforgettable experiences that cater to all interests and ages. In this blog post, I'll guide you through the ultimate itinerary for spending a long weekend in Stockholm, ensuring you make the most of your time in this captivating destination.
How to Spend a Long Weekend in Stockholm
Cool Things to Do in Stockholm
Comprising over 30,000 islands, Stockholm is nestled in a massive archipelago in the Baltic Sea. It’s actually one of the largest archipelagos in the world! Why not get out there an explore it during your long weekend? The standard Archipelago tour lasts 3 hours and departs in the morning at 10am or afternoon at 2pm on a vintage ship from Nybroviken harbor along Strandvagen. I opted to go with Stromma, but there are a number of different operators. Get to the dock about 20-30 minutes early to guarantee yourself a good seat on the top deck.
Featuring forests, islets, and rocky shorelines, the archipelago is incredibly picturesque. Each island possesses its own distinct character, and you’ll sail past a number of them. Plus you’ll see the summer homes of Stockholm residents, ranging from beautiful historic homes to modern architectural marvels.
During the tour, a knowledgeable guide will narrate the journey (in English & Swedish), giving you fun facts and stories about the various things you’re looking at. It is such a relaxing activity that shows you one of the beloved aspects of life for locals in Stockholm.
Walk the Waterfront
Stockholm is sprawled across multiple islands, so you are never far from the waterfront. Lined with wide boulevards and walking paths, I love simply wandering along the shorelines enjoying the stunning city scenery. You'll want to snap endless photos. Stockholm, especially on a summer day with sunshine, is spectacularly beautiful. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes, because you’ll easily hit 15,000 steps!
Visit Vasa Museum
The Vasa Museum is a maritime treasure that showcases the magnificence of a 17th century warship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. It remained undisturbed for over 300 years at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, until the 1960s when the Swedish government endeavored to exhume the ship. With painstaking effort, historians rebuilt, reassembled and restored the ship over 30 years. The museum itself was custom built to hold the reassembled Vasa, which is the central exhibit.
To be honest, I was skeptical about whether I'd like this museum – I’m not particularly into maritime history or anything. But, it’s actually really incredible. As the only preserved 17th century ship in the world, the sheer size of Vasa's wooden hull is reason enough to visit. I have a new appreciation for how massive these ships were! You'll wander around the looming ship through various exhibits, learning about the history of the Vasa & its modern conservation along with seeing artifacts found aboard the ship.
Best Areas to Explore in Stockholm
Nestled on a small island between Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea, the entire island of Gamla Stan, or “Old Town” in Swedish, is the oldest part of Stockholm. Gamla Stan exudes a timeless ambiance with its narrow cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and medieval architecture. It feels like a living museum!
You don't need a particular agenda in Gamla Stan. Simply enjoy wandering around the meandering alleyways, and seeing what you discover. Exploring the labyrinthine streets of Gamla Stan reveals a myriad of delightful surprises. The neighborhood is home to numerous cafes, restaurants, and shops offering traditional Swedish delicacies, handicrafts, and souvenirs. The inviting nooks and crannies beckon visitors to wander and discover hidden gems around every corner.
Sprawling Södermalm island has a relaxed, creative vibe. Commonly referred to as "Söder," it is a trendy neighborhood full of artsy shops, eclectic cafes, and secondhand shops. Located to the south of the city center and separated from the rest of Stockholm by a picturesque waterway, Södermalm has evolved from a working-class district to a popular area known for its unique character, artistic flair, and lively atmosphere. It is my favorite part of Stockholm!
Djurgården, also known as the "Island of the Museums," is an oasis of greenery and cultural delights situated in the heart of Stockholm. Covered in lush parks, Djurgården provides a refreshing escape from the bustling city, offering serene walking paths, tranquil waterfronts, and picturesque picnic spots. This beautiful island is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. I think it has the perfect blend of natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and a diverse range of museums and attractions.
Beautiful Buildings to See in Stockholm
Stockholm City Hall
From far away, the Stockholm City Hall looks like an imposing brick building with a somewhat austere style. But as you get closer, the intricate details, ivy-covered walls, and beautiful corners come alive. Completed in 1923, this stunning red-brick building serves as the seat of the Stockholm City Council and is one of the most recognizable symbols of the city. The building's most prominent feature is the massive 106-meter tall tower topped with three golden crowns, symbolizing Sweden's historical royal crowns.
To go inside, you must sign up for a guided tour, which takes an hour or two. On the tour, you will see iconic rooms like the Blue Hall and the Golden Hall. The highlight, however, is the tower climb. Get ready for over 500 steps up, but after which you'll be rewarded with 360 degree views of central Stockholm. It was from this vantage point where I got a true appreciation for how the city sprawls across all the different islands. It is gorgeous!
The Royal Palace, or Kungliga Slottet, is an exquisite architectural marvel that serves as the official residence of the Swedish Royal Family. Built in the mid-18th century on the site of a former medieval castle, the Royal Palace is an impressive blend of Baroque and Rococo styles. Visitors to the Royal Palace can explore a variety of opulent rooms and halls that have been impeccably preserved, each showcasing the splendor and elegance befitting the residence of royalty. If you happen to be around at 12:30, you’ll have the chance to see the daily changing of the guards ceremony with a full military parade and music.
Stockholm City Library
The Stockholm City Library is one of Stockholm’s most iconic buildings, and a must-visit place for amateur photographers. It is a striking architectural masterpiece located in the Norrmalm district in the northern part of the city. Designed by renowned Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund, the library was completed in 1928.
The light-filled circular rotunda is the highlight of the library, which is still used as a working library today. Three levels of wooden bookshelves wrap around in a near perfect circle beneath a white rotunda with skylights. It’s gorgeous! This library has been listed as one of the world's most beautiful libraries by the magazine Conde Nast Traveler.
Stockholm Travel Logistics
How to Get Around in Stockholm
The public transportation in Stockholm is fantastic. It is really clean, timely and easy to navigate. There are three main subway lines – green, blue, and red – as well as all sorts of different buses. I strongly recommend that you make use of the transit to get around, because the city is SO spread out. You’ll be exhausted from walking if you don’t. You can buy a 24 hour, 72 hour, or 1 week transit pass to cover your stay. It can be used for buses, trains, street cars and even ferries!
Plus, it gives you a chance to stumble across some of Stockholm's famous art subway stations. In an effort to brighten up often overlooked spaces, the city commissioned artists to build massive works of art inside various stations around Stockholm. You can find a complete guide for the art stations here. From a rainbow cave to marvelous murals, many of the public art pieces are painted directly onto the granite bedrock the subway was built in. It’s such a nice surprise when you transfer through one of these pretty stations!
Where to Stay in Stockholm
Because Stockholm is so sprawling, it is important to choose the location of your hotel wisely. You want to be near a major train station stop, so that you can easily get around. But you also want to choose an area that is nice for walking around. I quite enjoyed staying at the Haymarket by Scandic just off of Stockholm’s main shopping street. If you’re looking for a central location, the Radisson Blu Waterfront Hotel is an easy choice. Plus, it is directly next to the main train station. For a more neighborhood vibe, consider the Clarion Hotel in Sodermalm. It is modern with a nice spa, and located directly next to a large park for morning walks or runs.
What to Eat in Stockholm
While not considered as foodie as Copenhagen, Stockholm is not without good food. A few iconic dishes to eat while in Stockholm include a cinnamon or cardamom bun (usually eaten with coffee during Fika) as well as Swedish meatballs. Offering so much more than Swedish meatballs, Stockholm has an abundance of delicious globally inspired restaurants and cafes, ranging from Scandinavian to Lebanese. Find all of my Stockholm food and restaurant suggestions on my foodie’s guide to Stockholm post.
Do you have thoughts or questions about visiting Stockholm? Tell me in the comments below!
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