Set on fourteen islands and connected by 57 bridges, Stockholm is perhaps the only city which is gracefully surrounded by water. This fascinating capital is a fair combination of water, parks and city. After having spent a week in July exploring this marvellous capital, here are the highlights of Stockholm.
Stockholm: What to See and Do
The Stockholm Archipelago
The Stockholm archipelago boasts an impressive collection of 30,000 islands, islets and skerries which can be visited on a white archipelago boat as many are suitable for day trips. During my trip to Stockholm I had the opportunity to visit Utö which is the largest island located at the southernmost part of the Stockholm archipelago, where we learned about the island’s mining history, savoured their local cuisine and hiked in the woods.
We also stopped for a short fika break on an islet of Huvudskär, and spent an overnight on the island of Sand — Sandhamn, a picturesque harbor located in the northern part of Sandön. You can read more about my experience in my previous posts: Bloggers Undercover: Exploring Utö and the Stockholm Archipelago and Sandhamn: The Island of Sand.
Art and Architecture
Stockholm is a city that prides itself for the wealth of galleries and art museums showcasing both local and international artist’s works. Stockholm’s architecture is very diverse, harmoniously blending in historical buildings dating back to as early as the 13th century with modern constructions built using the most innovative techniques.
Art lovers should pay a visit to the Moderna Museet, a government organization which houses one of Europe’s finest collections of modern and contemporary art. The Hallwylska Museet is housed in a 40 bedroom mansion which belonged to Count and Countess Walther and Wilhelmina von Hallwyl and was donated to the Swedish State.
A twenty minute drive from the city centre you will find yourself at the Millesgården — an oasis of trees, fountains and spectacular statues which was once home of home of sculptor Carl Milles and his wife painter Olga Milles. Discover more in my previous post Art and Architecture of Stockholm.
Green Stockholm: eco-village of Understenshöjden and Woodland Cemetery
One of the guided tours which I participated in during my trip to Stockholm was the Green City Tour with Context Travel. Together with other fellow travel bloggers we met our guide Kicki and her four legged companion Chinggis Khan at the Stockholm’s Central Station. Kicki is a traveller at heart, whose adventures have taken her and her little dog all around the world as far as Siberia.
The first stop of our tour was the eco-village of Understenshöjden, set just a few blocks from Björkhagen’s metro station, this urban oasis is made up of 44 households nestled in beautiful natural surroundings. This sustainable project was an initiative of the community of Björkhagen, to build eco-friendly housing to minimise the impact on the natural environment.
As we wondered around the neighbourhood, Kicki explained the Swedes philosophy and way of life. They have a very strong connection and respect to the natural environment and this eco-village is just one of the many examples of this sustainable city.
We then took the next train and headed towards the Skogskyrkogården, the Woodland Cemetery which is a UNESCO World Heritage since 1994 and a resting place for many notable Swedes such as actress Greta Garbo.
The cemetery is an impressive example of architectural design merging with the natural environment. It was like walking through a park where gravestones were one with nature, placed between the trees and the flowers.
Gamla Stan is the Old Town of Stockholm, one of the best preserved medieval city centers in Europe. Walking through Galma Stan is like walking through an open air museum where you find yourself among the impressive historical buildings, wonderful colour contrasts, cobbled streets, bridges and water.
There are plenty of cafes, restaurants and bars were you can sit down and soak in the town’s fairytale charm. If you are here in the summer, you will particularly enjoy the warm atmosphere, the crowds and the bikers who are happily zipping by.
Make sure to walk the city by night, the white nights in Stockholm are quite impressive and as the darkness sets in for a few hours, the colour palette reflected on the water is even more dream like.
The Royal Palace
One of the main attractions in the Gamla Stan is the Royal Palace, one of the largest palaces in the world with 600 rooms. Inside the Royal Palace there are several museums including the Royal Armory which displays the royal costumes and armor.
The Royal Palace is the royal residence of The King and Queen and is also used as the workplace and cultural-historical monument which operates all year round. The palace spans seven floors where visitors can also access the Royal Apartments.
Boat Tour of Stockholm
A great way to experience the city’s impressive architecture is on a Hop On – Hop Off boat sightseeing tour. You can get one from the harbor right next to the Gamla Stan and the Royal Palace.
You can either hop on or hop off to visit various sites or stay on the boat for the full round trip. The tours run daily from 10:00-16:00. There are two ticket options, one is valid for 24 hours and one for 72 hours. You may also come it with a Hop On – Hop Off sightseeing bus.
ABBA The Museum
Sweden is home to the famous pop group ABBA internationally known for their hits like ‘Dancing Queen’, Summernight City’ and ‘Knowing me, Knowing you’ , ‘ Mama Mia’ among many others. One of the parties which was arranged for us during the TBEX Conference was at the ABBA Museum.
Located on the island of Djurgården the ABBA Museum displays the band’s stage clothes, artefacts, concert footage, interviews and more. A great place to dance and sing to your favourite ABBA tunes.
TBEX opening party was held at the Vasa Museum, one of the most visited museums in Scandinavia. The Vasa was one of the most powerful warships in the Baltic in the 17th century.
In 1961 after 333 years of hibernation the ship was moved from the seabed and transferred to the newly-constructed Wasa Shipyard. In 1990 the new Vasa Museum opened its doors with the ship being the centrepiece of themed exhibits about all aspects of naval life in the early 17th century.
Stockholm’s food culture is quite diverse as our guide Erik Lennartsson explained during our tour with Food Tours Stockholm. There are new restaurants opening up daily as the Swedes favour a new approach to dining which is a combination of quality ingredients with a relaxed, yet hip environment. I believe that one of the best ways to discover a city’s food culture and history is by joining an organised food tour.
Discover all the top places in my previous post Food Tours Stockholm: Passion for Food and you might also like to check out the food tour that I did in London — Twilight Soho Food Tour with Eating London.
The typical Swedish cuisine consists of many meat dishes, especially meatballs which are served with pickles and lingonberry jam. Like ketchup in other cultures, lingonberry jam pretty much goes with everything.
Pickled herring is a highlight dish of any Swedish buffet. It comes in variety of flavours —mustard, onion and garlic, just to name a few. It is usually served with boiled potatoes and sour cream.
The Swedes also love anything seafood related so be prepared to eat a lot of salmon and shrimp. Baby shrimp can be found on salads, sandwiches and in soups.
Prinsesstårta colours a number of window displays of bakeries in Sweden. A green princess cake decorated with a pink rose. The cake debuted in the 1920s, courtesy of Jenny Åkerström who was a teacher to King Gustav V’s brother Prince Carl Bernadotte’s daughters. While the third week of September is the official princess cake week, it is also eaten on special occasions and milestone celebrations.
Fika is an important part of the Swedish culture, which basically means to have coffee which is often accompanied with pastries. One of the most famous cafes and bakeries in Stockholm is Vete-Katten which dates back to the 1920’s and is a great place to visit for your fika break.
Shopping in Stockholm
Stockholm offers a number of shopping options all around the city. The Sturegallerian set in the heart of Stureplan square features fashion boutiques, restaurants, and cafés.
If you are looking to buy souvenirs head down to the Gamla Stan district which is filled with little shops. You will notice that Swedes are quite stylish and are very minimalistic when it comes to dressing.
One of the most exciting and adventurous filled things that we did in Stockholm was rooftop hiking on the Old Parliament Building found on the isle of Riddarholmen. Somewhere 43 meters above the ground we hiked the rooftops and learned about Stockholm’s history. You can read the full story here: Rooftop hiking in Stockholm: My Ultimate Challenge Complete
Markets and Food courts
During the weekends on Saturdays and Sundays there are many markets around the city. Some are outdoors and others are located indoors. The Söderhallarna which is situated on the Citizen’s square is the most popular for people watching. Here you will find fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers.
On the corner you will also find the food court Hötorgshallen which is open during the day from 10:00 to 6pm. On the ground floor there is an excellent restaurant called Kajsas Fisk serving a popular fish soup.
Underground Art in Stockholm’s Metro
Stockholm’s underground metro is a real life art gallery. More than 90 of the 100 stations have been decorated with impressive paintings and installations. Unfortunately we did not have the time to explore all of them but we did spend a few hours riding up and down to photograph some of these amazing masterpieces.
The T-Centralen station is painted with blue vines that climb the white cave, the Kungsträdgården metro station on the green line of the Stockholm T-Bana is decorated with reds and greens.
The Rådhuset (Court House) station, on the blue line is painted is earthy hues.
Fotografiska museum in the Södermalm district of Stockholm is one of world’s largest meeting points for contemporary photography. Once we ended our food tour at the museum we decided to spend the afternoon exploring the exhibitions which were on display. There was an exhibition dedicated to Brian Adams works, which were fantastic. If you didn’t know that Brian Adam is into photography here are some of his portraits.
I hope that you find the Highlights of Stockholm post useful and it will inspire you to visit this fascinating capital of Sweden. Have you been to Stockholm? What did you see?