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How to travel to the Stockholm archipelago without paying extra

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
How to travel to the Stockholm archipelago without paying extra
Vaxholm, the 'capital' of the archipelago. Photo: Catherine Edwards

The off-peak season is not a bad time to get outside and onto the water to explore Stockholm's archipelago. Our in-depth guide will help you travel like a true Stockholmer, with tips on where to go and what to do there.


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Historically home to farmers and fishermen, the Stockholm archipelago is today a major tourist destination, with many city-dwellers owning second homes there and a wide choice of hostels and hotels on many of the islands.

But it's still possible to find an oasis of calm in the skärgård (literally translating as "garden of skerries"), with forests to explore, beaches to sunbathe on, and of course the sea all around you.

Each island has its own character and facilities vary from absolutely nothing (though these more remote islands are typically only accessible by private boat) to all the bells and whistles and more. The Local has selected ten of the best destinations from all parts of the archipelago, so there's something for everyone, to help you navigate one of the most stunning parts of Sweden.

The basics

The archipelago is enormous and varied: the central archipelago is most easily accessible from Stockholm, while the southern and more sparse northern parts are quieter with incredible expansive views.

Map of the archipelago: Hydrographica/CC BY-SA 3.0

Many of the larger islands in the centre are actually possible to reach by bus, including Vaxholm, Stavsnäs, and Gustavsberg in Värmdö, where you'll find the Artipelag museum. 

But a large part of the charm comes from getting out on the water. In summer there are plenty of options to tour the archipelago by boat, and some services run year-round. 


The private-run Cinderella boats depart from Strandvägen in central Stockholm, and Waxholmsbolaget boats leave from Strömkajen close to Kungsträdgården. The departure times listed in our guide below are from these two spots, but if you live or are staying close to Nacka Strand or Gåshaga in Lidingö, it's possible to get to many of the islands from there instead, to save you travelling into the city centre.

Best of all, after a successful trial in 2018, during the off-peak season it is possible to travel with Waxholmsbolaget completely free if you already have a 30-day, 90-day, or annual SL (Stockholm public transport) card.

Alternatively, during the summer months you can buy single tickets for particular destinations, or island-hopping passes.

If the ferry times don't suit you, several companies offer taxi boats between different islands.

Packing enough food and drink is essential if you're travelling to the smaller islands, but most destinations have cafe and restaurant options. Both ticks and mosquitoes are common in the forest areas, so insect repellent and a tick remover are also worth packing. If you're travelling with a pet, check if the island you're visiting is an Environmental Protection Area, which means dogs have to stay on leashes.

And make sure you've double-checked boat times, since these can be infrequent for the islands further out from Stockholm – and at a few stops you need to make a special request for the boat. Complete travel timetables and a journey-planning tool can be found on the Waxholmsbolaget website. However, you don't need to worry about being left behind! If you're there in time for the final boat service but there's not enough space for everyone on the boat, the ferry companies will organize transport for you. It's also good to know that most boats are well-equipped with a cafe, toilets and free Wi-Fi.




Vaxholm is the best place to make your first foray into the archipelago, for two good reasons.

Firstly, it's simple to get there, with quick, regular departures from central Stockholm, by bus or ferry. Secondly, there's plenty to do. The archipelago's self-proclaimed capital has plenty of charming wooden houses, shops and restaurants on offer, and there's a spectacular fortress.

Alternatively you can get away from the harbour to try out the hiking trails through the quieter side of Vaxholm. And nearby is the small island of Badholmen, which can even be rented out for private weddings, parties and events.

Journey time: 55 minutes each way from Strömkajen with Waxholmsbolaget (97 kronor one way), 50 minutes with Cinderella (165 kronor) from Strandvägen. You can also take bus 670 from Danderyds sjukhus, which takes 42 minutes and costs 39 kronor unless you have an SL card.

Best for: Anyone short on time or not too outdoorsy

Don't miss: The beautiful shoreside Vaxholms Hembygdsgårds Café


This is the first public island in the archipelago proper, meaning you can only get there by water. Grinda has options for camping or staying at the art nouveau-style island hotel (Grinda Wärdshus), where you can splash out on the indulgent floating sauna. Alternatively (and much more cheaply!), there are more saunas at the hostel and a public one on the waterfront.

Keep things simple with forest hikes, swimming and relaxing on the beach, or choose to get active by renting kayaks or paddle boards and playing petanque or volleyball. Children can visit the animals at the island farm.

Journey time: From 1hr35 and 116 kronor each way from Strömkajen with Waxholmsbolaget (journey time varies and there are some departures that take three hours, so check before travelling), 1hr20 and 210 kronor with Cinderella from Strandvägen.

Best for: Active families

Don't miss: A sauna visit



Made famous worldwide by the Sandhamn Murders crime series, we assure you this island is much more peaceful in real life, but there's still plenty to do. Stay close to the harbour for lively bars or a trip to the spa, or venture inland to explore the forest walking trails. There are bikes and motorboats to hire, or you can spend the day fishing, playing mini-golf or sailing.

Journey time: Around two hours on public transport. Take bus 433 or 434 from Slussen to Stavsnäs, where the Waxholmsbolaget boat to Sandhamn takes between 35 minutes and an hour (97 kronor).

230 kronor each way and 2hr15 with the Cinderella boats from Strandvägen.

Best for: Island nightlife

Don't miss: The museum, which will clue you in on archipelago life over the centuries

The island's official name is actually Sandön, and Sandhamn is the name of its main town. Photo: Anna Hållams/


One of the largest islands in the northern archipelago, Arholma is also the furthest north of the populated islands, so the journey here is a true adventure. It's a great destination if you want to learn more about Swedish maritime history, by taking a guided tour of the old military facility or exploring the coastal defence museum. Or just relax in the forest of public sauna before testing out the many swimming spots.

Journey time: Approximately 4h30 with Waxholmsbolaget (173 kronor) from Strömkajen. Alternatively, you can travel to Simpnäs by car or bus (2-3 hours), from where the ferry takes 15 minutes.

Best for: Maritime tradition

Don't miss: The Arholma beacon, an old lookout post that hosts an art gallery during the summer months as well as offering stunning views out to sea



A trip to Möja, inhabited since Viking times, is unlikely to disappoint. It's well-equipped for tourists, with cafés, shops, hostels and cottages to rent, but retains its traditional charm.

There are several different villages so if you do some research (or just explore!) you can head to the spot that suits you best. Berg has a museum and a small outdoor dance floor, while up the north end of the island at Långvik you get great views over the water from the jetty.

Journey time: Approximately 3h30 with Waxholmsbolaget (173 kronor) from Strömkajen to Berg, the island's central town.

Approximately 2h40 and 230 kronor with Cinderella from Strandvägen to Dragedet or Långvik.

Best for: Postcard-perfect archipelago villages

Don't miss: Wikströms Fisk, a seafood restaurant run by one of the only still active professional fishermen in the entire archipelago

Möja isn't just a tourism island; it's home to plenty of permanent residents, too. Photo: Karin Malmhav/SvD/Scanpix


At Alsvik, the ferry pulls up right by the island store, where you can purchase any last minute snacks for your picnic on the nearby beach. Explore the island on foot or bike, wandering through the thick forests and relaxing by the lakes. When it comes to finding accommodation, you can rent a ”glamping” tent from Svartsö logi or opt for a room in the hotel or hostel.

Journey time: Around 2hr15 each way (it varies) and 143 kronor from Strömkajen to Alsvik with Waxholmsbolaget.

1hr30 and 210 kronor each way with Cinderella.

Best for: Forest walks

Don't miss: Storträsk, the largest lake on the island, which is great for swimming



This is the farthest south you can get in the archipelago, and although the island's official name i Öja it also goes by Landsort, which is what the lighthouse and village at the southern end is called.

Just a couple of dozen people live in the charming village, but you won't get bored here. It's well worth visiting the 3,000-year-old labyrinth – built with supposed magic powers to bring good luck in fishing and sailing – and the eerie plague churchyard. The only downside is that so much of the journey getting here is done by land.

Journey time: Around 2hr25 in total. First, take the commuter train to Nynäsgård, then change to bus 852 to Ankarudden, from where the ferry to Landsort takes 30 minutes (97 kronor). You can also take the train all the way to the main station in Nynäshamn, down by the harbour, if you want to make a pit stop there before catching the bus (which leaves from the station, too).

Best for: Bird-watching or rural relaxation

Don't miss: The lighthouse. Built in 1689, it's the oldest lighthouse in Sweden.

Landsort and its lighthouse. Photo: Björn Larsson Ask/Scanpix


Home to sandy beaches and idyllic swimming spots, Finnhamn is an island paradise, and the boat stops close to the popular restaurant Finnhamns Café Krog. You can have an active trip with a rented kayak or SUP and discover why they call it Paradisviken (Paradise Bay), or spend an afternoon on a high ropes course or paintballing. There's also, of course, the chance for a more peaceful stroll through the forest, and plenty of varied food an accommodation options.

Journey time: From 3 hours (173 kronor) each way from Strömkajen with Waxholmsbolaget, or 2hr25 and 230 kronor from Strandvägen with Cinderella.

Best for: An eco-friendly trip

Don't miss: Renting a rowing boat to take you to one of the smaller islets – Finnhamn actually refers to a cluster of islands



Another slice of genuine archipelago life, with sandy beaches, rowing boats for hire, swimming spots, and fields and meadows. Although it's not too far to get to from the centre of Stockholm, in terms of the pace of life Gällnö couldn't be further away.

Journey time: From 1hr45 each way from Strömkajen with Waxholmsbolaget (143 kronor) or 1h30 from Strandvägen with Cinderella (210 kronor).

Best for: A total escape from the city bustle

Don't miss: The cherry blossom and apple trees in bloom in spring


Utö has a unique history, home to what's probably Sweden's oldest iron mine (you can still visit the mining museum and well-preserved miners' dwellings) before being transformed at the start of the 20th century into a fully fledged party island.

Wholesaler EW Levin negotiated for the islanders to leave their homes so he could turn it into a holiday paradise which hosted Swedish stars including Greta Garbo.

Today there are still plenty of places to eat and drink in style when you're not lazing on one of the gorgeous beaches. For sporty vacationers, there's no shortage of activities either: cycling, kayaking, beach volleyball, frisbee golf and minigolf.

Journey time: Approximately 2hr30. You can take the commuter train from Stockholm City to Nynäshamn, from where you can take the 1.15hr ferry to Gruvbryggan (the ferry costs 97 kronor).

For a shorter journey time (1hr40) but more complicated route, take the commuter train from Stockholm City to Västerhaninge, then the 846 bus to Årsta brygga, from which the ferry takes 40 minutes to Gruvbryggan.

Best for: Beaches

Don't miss: The windmill, with panoramic views over the island and sea, or the delicious bread from the bakery

Article first written by Catherine Edwards in 2018, and updated by The Local's editorial team in 2023.


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