Like most Nordic cities Stockholm is an extremely clean, picturesque where almost all locals speak excellent English…but also like most of Scandanavia, it’s expensive. But like the saying goes, you get what you pay for and Stockholm certainly delivers to any traveller visiting the city. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Stockholm a couple of times and recently spent New Years Eve there to welcome in 2023. The Swedish capital and largest city in Scandinavia is very sophisticated and packed full of culture and history. This is a complete guide to visiting Stockholm. However, heading to Stockholm from Australia in December meant swapping boardies for beanies and it felt like a proper Christmas experience.
- Wander around Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town
- Visit the Vasa museum and hear the incredible story of how the ship ended up where it is
- See the sights from one of the Harbour cruise’s available
- Grab a meal but go for the experience at the Aifur Viking restaurant
Gamla Stan is almost always at the top of all Stockholm city guides and it deserves to be there. It’s one of the oldest parts of Stockholm dating back to the 13th century and you can easily get around by foot while exploring the narrow lanes and colourful buildings of this cobblestone island. I did the free walking tour which covered a lot of Gamla Stan which was really informative about the history of the city, Gamla Stan and Sweden in general.
The main square in Gamla Stan, and Stockholm’s oldest, is Stortorget which is surrounded by stunning architecture including the famous brightly coloured buildings you’ll see in most Stockholm pictures.
Other than walking around the streets of Gamla Stan the Vasa Museum was a highlight for me. The museum details the remarkable story behind the 17th century warship which sank in Stockholm harbour but was recovered 300 years later. The museum has exhibits featuring ancient artefacts that give insight into life during the Viking era.
Skansen museum was established in 1891 on Djurgården Island by a Stockholm Museum Director with the vision of educating visitors about traditional Swedish life and history, it was quickly referred to as ‘the world’s first open-air museum’. The museum showcases traditional Swedish houses and is within walking distance from the ABBA museum, the Viking Museum and the Vasa Museum.
If you’re an ABBA fan you’ll love the museum but if not there’s still things to keep you entertained. I’m not a huge fan of Abba but the museum is close to the Vasa Museum so I decided to have a look. Entry costs between SEK230-290 (US$22-28) and another SEK20 (US$2) if you want the audio guide. If you’ve got plenty of time in Stockholm and aren’t on a tight budget then take a look otherwise just enjoy Abba playing at many bars around Stockholm.
Located in Norrmalm the Royal Palace has over 600 rooms with most of them open to the public. You can join a guided tour or make your own way around the palace. The palace is home to four museums so you really can spend an entire day walking around admiring things that you’ll likely never be able to afford. Entrance is 180 SEK which includes the four museums. Aside from visiting the Palace, Norrmalm is worth checking out as there’s plenty of bars and restaurants and is said to be Stockholm’s trendiest neighbourhoods.
Normally you wouldn’t find a city Hall on a list of things to do in a city but for cities with amazing architecture like Stockholm the City Hall is worth checking out just for the design inside. You can easily walk here from central station or Gamla Stan and the Viking theme runs throughout the building. The Blue Hall, Council Chamber and Golden Hall are the top sights within the Hall.
Stockholm Subway Art
Possibly the most famous train network in the world, Stockholm stations are known for their designs with some people referring to them as the world’s largest art museum. Stations are decorated with art installations, paintings and a colourfully designs. Some of the top station worth seeing are T-Centralen, Stadion, Tekniska Hogskolan and Solna.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Sweden, Fika. The Fika concept encourages you to slow down for a moment, find some good company, grab a cup of coffee or tea and a sweet pastry.
Explore the less-traveled side of Stockholm by taking a visit to Ostermalm. This secluded area has intricate architecture, cozy restaurants, and chic boutiques that are popular with the locals. From here you can also walk along the Strandvagen Promenade for views overlooking Riddarfjärden Bay.
The old headquarters of Ericsson now allow you to control the colours of the lights using your phone. Colour by Numbers originally opened in 2006 temporarily for a year, however due to popularity it returned in 2011 and now anyone can control the light colours in the tower using an app.
The Fotogrfiska Museum
A photography and film museum with an impressive café and bar. Exhibits constantly change so you’ll be able to return on multiple visits to Stockholm to see different artists. Entrance is 230SEK $U22.
Great for kids and open over the summer months the amusement park has rides for all ages. Both times I’ve visited Stockholm it’s been closed.
How to Get Into Stockholm
The main ways to get to Stockholm are by bus, train, plane or ferry.
If you’re taking the ferry over from Helsinki you’ll arrive at Stadsgården dock. Viking Line provides a bus transfer for SEK90 (U$8) directly to Central Station.
If you’re arriving at the airport you can take a bus Flygbussarna for 199SEK, (U$19) which takes approximately 45 minutes and runs frequently day and night The more convenient way into the city is the Arlanda Express train which takes 18 minutes and costs 299SEK U$29, per person or discounts for multiple travellers.
How to Get Around Stockholm
The quickest and easiest way to get around (other than walking) is using the train/metro/subway. However, most things you’ll want to see are within walking distance so there’s a chance you won’t need to take any public transport. There are also electric scooters scattered across the city which you can rent using the relevant app. I used the Lime scooters while I was there and found them easy to use but unless you’re travelling fair or in a rush it was better just to walk.
To use public transport you’ll either need to buy single use tickets or a multi use ticket. Single use tickets are SEK39 (US$3) and can be bought from ticket machines. Alternatively you can buy a SL Access Card from Pressbyran shops or public transport hubs. You can then add credit to your SL Access card or purchase a 24-hour SEK165 (US$15) or 72-hour ticket SEK330 (US$32).
Where to Eat in Stockholm
One of the cheapest places to eat in Stockholm is at Ikea where you can grab a hot dog for SEK5 (US$0.50) and plenty of other small meals for under 20SEK (US$2).
Another cheap place to eat is Max where you can get a medium burger meal for SEK50 (USD$5). It’s not that great but it’ll be kind to your wallet.
K25 is a food hall in Norrmalm where you’ll find typical options like sushi, hamburgers, Thai, Indian etc.
Ostermalm Food Hall
Ostermalm Food Hall (Ostermalms Saluhall) has a wide variety of stalls and restaurants. You’ll find butchers, local produce, international food, all types of cuisine from seafood to vegetarian as well as a restaurant and bar. Ostermalm Food Hall is open Monday to Friday during the day and early evening but closed on Sunday.
Meatballs for the People
Probably the most popular meatball place in Stockholm. Meatballs for the People is full of tourists and locals. Interestingly you can’t choose which flavour meatballs you’d like as the first set of meatballs is up to the chef, you can then choose your flavor for your next round.
A local brewer from Stockholm has its brewery inside a church located near the Sundbyberg train station, in the northeast of the city. Omnipollos Brewery has a wide range of craft beer but if you can’t make it to their brewery you also grab one of their beers at many bars and restaurants across the city.
Very typical (and touristy) Viking themed restaurant located in Gamla Stan. Your arrival will be announced to the entire restaurant as you wait to be seated. Everyone will welcome you and you’ll do the same after you sit down and the next group arrives. I’d highly recommend it while you’re in Stockholm. The food isn’t the best you’ll find but the experience is great and you’ll make some new friends with the people sitting next to you.
The best meal I’ve had in Stockholm, and possibly Sweden, was a at STHLM Tapas in Vasastan. A fusion of international flavours are available in tapas style sizes perfect for sharing.
Where to Stay in Stockholm
If you’re arriving from the airport and staying a few days in Stockholm I recommend staying near Central Station. From here you can easily take the train to the airport and it’s a short walk over to Gamla Stan and other main areas.
City Backpackers and the Generator are the two main hostels in Stockholm and they’re pretty similar. Both have big dorms, private rooms, kitchens and bars, however, I do prefer the Generator just because of the public bar it has on the ground floor.
I usually prefer to stay in unusual places instead of a standard hotel so when I first heard about the Jumbo Hostel in Stockholm I was keen to check it out. But…I was travelling from Sydney to Stockholm with a short stopover in Dubai so after spending 30 hours either on a plane or in an airport I didn’t think I’d want to spend another minute on a plane let alone sleep on one again. So I gave it a miss but if staying in quirky places is your thing then you should check out the Jumbo Hostel.
Red Boat Hostel
The Red Boat is located across from Gamla Stan on Sodermalm Island. It’s one of the cheapest places to stay in Stockholm and almost certainly the cheapest private room. Rooms are the baor cabins and have a shared bathroom. There’s a restaurant on board open to the public.
Best Time to Visit Stockholm
As with many European cities, the best time to visit Stockholm is during the summer months between June and August. The days are longer, the temperature warmer and there’s more festivals and outdoor activities. In general northern Europe always has a holiday vibe in summer (maybe because it’s so short).
Where to Next?
Stockholm has great (and cheap) connections all across Europe by plane, train, bus and ferry. Many Swedes will tell you that if you only visit Stockholm you haven’t seen the real Sweden. I noticed the difference when travelling over to Gothenburg and other cities in Western Sweden and also had a very different experience heading up to the Artic circle to stay at the Ice Hotel and then seeing the Northern Lights in Abisko. So if you’ve got the time and budget continue on from Stockholm to see more of Sweden!
Travel Resources for Visiting Stockholm
Aifur – Viking themed restaurant in Gamla Stan
Viator – Huge selection of activities, tours and experiences with great cancellation and price match policies.
Get Your Guide – Great selection of experiences from sea, land and air.
SkyScanner – The best place to start looking for flights. They compare prices from a huge amount of
Hostelworld – Thousands of hostels with millions of reviews. You can also contact other travelers before you arrive.
Travel Insurance – None of us plan to fall off motorbikes or break a leg snowboarding but if it happens make sure you’re covered.
Booking.com – One of the best accommodation booking pages available. This is my benchmark before searching for a better deal (which often can’t be beaten).
AirBnB – Huge range of home to rent across the globe and discounts for longer stays.
RentalCars.com – The best site for renting cars while travelling, they find the best rates and provide great insurance options.