“Done that. And that. Nah. Done that.”
The great thing about living in Stockholm is that friends don't just visit once – they keep coming back. The flipside is that it becomes increasingly difficult to entertain them once they've done the standard run of tourist activities.
So to help the repeat visitor – and the weary host – we've put together our list of summer secrets – the top city activities that most visitors have never even head of.
1. Rooftop hiking
Rooftop tour. Image: Takvandring Sweden AB
You've wandered the cobbled streets of the city. You've seen the view from City Hall and Kaknästornet. But how about combining the wandering with the view – and a bit of climbing thrown in?
Perhaps inspired by Karlsson-on-the-Roof, the flying Astrid Lindgren character who lives atop a Stockholm apartment building, a rooftop hike is quite unlike any other city tour. The experience takes advantage of the fact that Stockholm has some extraordinarily attractive rooftops which tend to be fitted out with rails and walkways for clearing away the winter snow.
With a helmet and a harness to keep you safe, the hour-long tour is a great way to learn about the history of the city while spiking your day with a refreshing dose of adrenaline.
2. Diving in the archipelago
Image: Statens maritima museer
Stockholm is a history buff's dream – but for the visitor who has already seen the Vasa Ship (once or thrice) and wants to be a bit more adventurous, there are options.
Since 2014, bold tourists have been able to dive with guides into actual shipwrecks in Dalarö, just off the coast of Stockholm. There's nothing quite like seeing the canons, ceramics, and figureheads right there where they've been resting underwater for 300 years.
For those who love a little maritime warfare but would rather stay dry, you can also sit on a boat where a robot with a camera examines the ocean floor. And if you love life under the sea but don't care for antiquated objects, there's plenty of other water to be explored.
3. Evening picnic at Monteliusvägen
Photo: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se
Barcelona has Park Guell, Paris has Montmartre, London has Primrose Hill: great places for wandering with an unbeatable view of the city below. For this particular human instinct, Stockholm has Monteliusvägen, a 500m path snaking along the high northern edge of Södermalm.
With its benches and grassy patches, Monteliusvägen is the perfect spot for a picnic on a summer's evening. As the sun sinks in the sky to the west it glints off Mälaren below, picking out the turrets and spires of Stockholm's Old Town opposite and the Gröna Lund amusement park to the east.
Get your bubbly at Systembolaget and pick up a couple of trays of Nordic ecological fast food at Kalf och Hanson, before mooching up the cobbled hill to Monteliusvägen. Pick your spot and enjoy the extraordinary panorama.
4. Hot air balloons over the city
Photo: Jeppe Wikström/mediabank.visitstockholm.com
There are only a handful of cities around the world which permit high-flying balloons right over the city centre. Stockholm is one of them. From May to September you can take off and land right in the heart of Stockholm, enjoying a one hour flight above the capital unlike anything you've ever seen.
Soaring over the city gives you stunning scenery 360 degrees around you, with no boring walls to block the atmosphere. Enjoy sun, wind and water the true Swedish way – right out in the middle of it.
And if that's not enough you can up the wow factor by adding champagne and a picnic – for the fiancé, in-laws, or simply hard-to-please friends from home.
5. Swim in the blue lagoon of Ekerö
You'll need a car for this, but on a clear, hot summer's day it's worth the effort for what is probably Stockholm's most incongruous experience.
An hour's westerly drive from the city centre – or half an hour beyond Drottningholm, if you're out that way already – is an old sand quarry which feels more Mediterranean than Scandinavian. Welcome to the Scanditerranean.
The quarry itself is now filled with crystal clear turquoise water and encircled by a golden-white sandy beach. Pine trees cluster around the edges offering welcome shade on hot days, while their aroma adds to the sensory confusion.
There's a car park and dry toilets but no café – so bring your own food and drink.
6. Antiques – flea markets each week, Blasieholmstorg
Photo: Stockholmsmarknader AB
Sure, Stockholm is modern and high-tech. But it's also a great place for antique bargains and second-hand deals.
During the summer months there is a plethora of flea markets to choose from, each with its own distinct flavour. The Blasieholmstorg market downtown offers everything from records to vintage porcelain, Trädgården is the place to find hipster clothing and shoes, and the massive Täby loppis is a drive-in market where anyone and everyone sells another man's treasures from their trunks.
You never know what you'll find, and it's also a great way to find unique souvenirs. Do your friends really want another elk-shaped cheese slicer?
7. Woodland Cemetery
Photo: Susanne Hallmann, Cemeteries Administration of the City of Stockholm
Stockholm's extraordinary Woodland Cemetery – Skogskyrkogården in Swedish – is a World Heritage Site so strictly speaking not a city secret. Nevertheless, it's not top of most tourists' to-do lists – perhaps because it's slightly out of the way, or perhaps because it doesn't have the celebrity caché of Paris's Père Lachaise Cemetery.
That's unfair; the reason to visit the Woodland Cemetery is not for the dead celebs (although Greta Garbo is a resident) but for the sheer beauty of the place, the seamless fusion of nature and architecture. And the impact of the striking modernist structures – the chapels, the crematorium, the paths and indeed, the surrounding wall – melded into the rolling landscape and Nordic pines is unforgettable.
Of course, the Woodland Cemetery is a place of mourning. But this collaboration of some of Sweden's leading architects and artists of the 20th century is also a place to reflect on our role in the world and the way in which humankind interacts with nature in modern times.
8. Lunch at Winterviken
By Holger.Ellgaard (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Most people visiting Stockholm know about the Nobel prizes. But not all of them know that Alfred Nobel made his fortune from dynamite. And now you can visit his old factory and testing ground – for lunch.
The red-brick factory was built in 1891 for the production of nitroglycerine and although various elements of the process were moved to plants elsewhere in Sweden, the factory remained in operation until 1988.
A decade later the city of Stockholm took over the buildings to house a sculpture project, and in 2008 one of Sweden's leading chefs, Markus Aujalay, converted Winterviken into a café and conference facility.
The grand open rooms are popular for weddings, but the café, with its outoor tables and deckchairs fringing an enormous lawn stretching down to the water, is the perfect place to while away a lazy summer's afternoon.
Walk off your lunch with a stroll along the wooden waterside path – and then head back for coffee and cinnamon buns. Just don't touch the shrapnel.