Stockholm lies on Sweden’s east coast.
The Quick Pitch
Sitting amongst a 24,000-island archipelago between Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea, Stockholm is almost the ideal geographical location to build a city. Water is a prominent feature of the cityscape, and the city’s different districts can easily be defined into different islands.
Gamla Stan is without doubt the focal point of Stockholm, both geographically and historically. This wonderfully preserved medieval city is where Stockholm was first founded and remains its biggest attraction. It also remains the focal point of Swedish power, housing both the Riksdag and Royal Palace.
Soak up the history
Any trip to Stockholm will inevitably entail wondering around Gamla Stan’s maze of narrow lanes. Packed tightly into its cobbled streets are full restored 17th and 18th century stone buildings painted in bright pastel colours. Frequent views of the blue sea between narrow tenements mean that Gamla Stan is one of those places where it is impossible to walk more than five metres without taking a photo. It is an aesthetic beauty comparable to any other city in Europe, and justifies Stockholm’s claim as the “Venice of the North”.
Naturally Gamla Stan attracts a significant bulk of Stockholm’s tourists. In fact Västerlånggatan is the best place in all of Sweden for buying Tre Kronor T-shirts and plastic Viking helmets. But despite the hordes and Gamla Stan’s small compact size, it is still large enough to get lost in and find secluded areas.
The green capital
Gamla Stan will feature prominently in any trip to Stockholm, and it alone makes Stockholm a worthy travel destination. But don’t let it define Stockholm as the city is so much more than its showpiece island. Djurgården is another essential destination. This large forested island was once the royal hunting grounds, and today its forests offer an instant escape from the city.
For culture vultures…
Stockholm has close to 70 museums covering everything from early Viking history to the Swedish postal service, but if there are only two that can be universally classified as “unmissable” then they are the Vasamuseet and Skansen, both of which lie on Djurgården.
Vasamuseet exhibits the 16th century warship Vasa in spectacular fashion. Having sunk in Stockholm harbour in 1628, the Vasa remained underwater until retrieved in 1961. After years of carefully restoring and rebuilding the pieces, the Vasamuseet was born. Apart from the actual ship itself the museum also documents all facets of the ship’s history; from the production of the intricate hand-carved figurines to the painful process of retrieving it from the bottom of the sea.
Skansen is recommended for anyone who wants to see more of Sweden but will be confined to the capital. This open-air museum contains over 150 buildings from different districts and different ages throughout Sweden, covering everything from Skåne to Lappland.
If you want to experience modern Stockholm, try navigating the confusion at Slussen, the surprisingly complex interchange south of Gamla Stan, and visiting the island of Södermalm. Once Stockholm’s working class district (and home of Greta Garbo), “Söder” has since been gentrified and is now the trendiest place in town.
There are also the islands of Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen, along with their respective museums and galleries. Långholmen, a small connecting island to the west of Södermalm, can boast some decent beaches and great harbour views. Kungsholmen, the island west of Central Station, is another area being invaded by bars, restaurants and cafes, and highly recommended for culture vultures.
In all there are around 14 islands in Stockholm’s centre, making the sea an unavoidable feature of Stockholm life, and there are countless opportunities to travel by boat. Short options include public transport ferries to Djurgården, or one of the many hour-long tours offered at Nybroplan.
Out to sea
But for longer trips then Stockholm’s massive archipelago beckons offering literally thousands of islands, many of which are easily accessible by public ferries. Every Stockholmer covets a cottage here. The Royal family, a host of artists and writers including Abba (who wrote many of their songs on Viggsö) and August Stringberg, and even Stieg Larsson’s fictional journalist Kalle Blomkvist, have all found solace in their island hide aways. Yet this unique archipelago is so extensive that it can easily absorb all the hordes and still offer untouched forests and secluded beaches.
City Backpackers – Large fun hostel within easy walking distance from Central Station and offering great facilities including free Internet, free bike hire and even a free sauna.
+46 820 6920
” target=”_blank”> Rica City Hotel Gamla Stan
– Basic but classy hotel right in a 17th century waterfront building right in the heart of Gamla Stan.
+46 8723 7250
Hotel Rival – Owned by Abba’s Benny Anderson, this four-star hotel in Södermalm utilises edgy modern design, Swedish films posters, and even has a cinema and swanky cocktail bar attached.
+46 8 545 789 00
Grand Hotel – If money is no object than one can’t do better than this waterfront landmark with brilliant views of Gamla Stan and the harbour. The Hotel of choice for royalty, celebrities and Nobel Prize winners.
+46 8 679 35 00
Take the train to Stockholm
From Gothenburg – Over 15 trains per day
From Malmö – Over 15 trains per day
…and connections from across Sweden and Europe.
For a more complete timetable, please see: