After your overnight flight, you’ll land in Sweden’s capital. Prepare to be awed. Gorgeous Stockholm sits on more than a dozen islands, where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea, and the shimmering waters of its sophisticated setting are stunning any time of year.
Your first stop will be one of the city’s islands, Djurgården, which is home to a vast park—a stretch of Swedish countryside with wide-open meadows and forested groves in the heart of Stockholm. It’s a green oasis in the middle of the city, with vast treed areas and open spaces; you’ll also find many of the city’s most popular museums and attractions here.
One of the highlights is Skansen
. Founded in 1891, it’s the world’s oldest open-air museum. There’s a lot going on, which has made it a favorite destination for visitors and Stockholmers alike. Historic homes and farmsteads from across the entire country have been moved here to create a microcosm of the nation through time. You can also get a close-up view of some unique Nordic animals at the children’s zoo and in the new Baltic Sea Science Center, where you’ll find aquariums and an exhibition about the challenges facing the efforts of preserving the Baltic Sea’s wildlife.
The island also plays host to some smaller venues that offer more personal experiences, all close to each other. Begin with some art inspiration. At the Thiel Gallery—one of Sweden’s finest art galleries—you can stroll the historic building as you peruse the impressive collection of late-19th-century and early-20th-century works by iconic artists (Eugène Jansson, August Strindberg, Anders Zorn, and Carl Larsson, among others) and be awed by the largest collection of Edvard Munch’s art outside of Norway. Move on to the Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, a castle-like building once owned by Prince Eugen that now displays some of his best-known works, as well as that of other famous Swedish artists.
Then it’s time for some fun! If you’re traveling with kids of an entire multigenerational group, Gröna Lund is an exciting amusement park with 30 rides and a wealth of entertainment. Feel the wind in your face as you climb high in the air on thrilling ride with a magnificent city view, or take the kids on a family-friendly roller coaster.
When you’re ready to eat, Djurgården serves up a number of local favorites, offering alfresco dining under Stockholm’s blue skies. In walking distance, the restaurant at Spiritmuseum
serves craft cocktails that pair well with a menu that focuses on the sea, the lake, and the animal kingdom, and you can check out the famed Absolut Art Collection and delight your taste buds with a tasting while you’re there. Oaxen includes two restaurants, both featuring contemporary interpretations of Nordic cuisine: Krog’s menu consists of delicious and refined seasonal dishes, while Slip is a more casual bistro. Rosendals Garden
is a working farm with a café serving dishes that incorporates the vegetables, fruits, and herbs grown on site. The restaurant offers a true farm-to-table experience, with only a few feet separating them; it’s a hidden gem that’s not to be missed. And Flickorna Helin
is another charming café with a wide selection of delectable baked goods, located in a royal-looking building that offers some inspiration all its own.
You can also visit some of Stockholm’s most interesting museums without leaving the island. The Vasamuseet
—Scandinavia’s most-visited museum—houses an enormous, restored 17th-century warship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628, was salvaged after 333 years on the seabed, and today is the world’s best-preserved 17th-century ship. ABBA The Museum, which celebrates Sweden’s legendary pop group, displays the music, the clothes, the lyrics, the musicals, and the films of the most iconic Swedish band of all time. The museum is modern and designed to give its visitors an interactive, memorable, and of course musical experience. And the Nordic Museum offers a deep dive into Scandinavian culture.
From Djurgården, you can easily take the ferry to the idyllic island of Skeppsholmen, set just a stone's throw from the hustle and bustle of the city, but still in the heart of downtown. Walk around this small island and you see most of the city center. Here you’ll find Moderna Museet, one of Europe's foremost collections of art from the 20th century to today. Marvel at the works by Picasso and Dali and take a stroll around the sculpture park. Or spend some time exploring Arkdes, the national center for architecture and design.
Then grab a bite at Långa Raden, in the classic Hotel Skeppsholmen. You’ll dine in a park-like area at the water's edge, in a setting that’s been preserved since the 17th century. Enjoy traditional Swedish flavors like Swedish meatballs, salted salmon, and seared arctic char, injected with modern style; sit outside on the patio if you can. Or try Torpedverkstan, a restaurant with its own smokery in a great seaside location next to the marina. Return to the city center by crossing the 19th-century Skeppsholm Bridge, check out the golden crowns in the middle, and take a moment to enjoy the great view over the Royal Palace and Old Town.
You may have a tough time deciding where to stay tonight: Stockholm boasts some amazingly unique hotels that offer a true sense of place. Perhaps you’ll pick the historic Hotel Skeppsholmen
, which features a castle-like exterior and uniquely shaped guest rooms. Originally built as barracks for the Royal Marines, the hotel has a bucolic, tranquil setting that’s replete with water views—you may not even believe you’re in the heart of the city. History also comes alive at the Grand Hôtel
, Stockholm’s waterfront grande dame, which first opened in 1874. Today, modern luxury touches every corner of this extravagant hotel, with Stockholm’s singular skyline on view throughout. Or, for a one-of-a-kind experience, opt for the Oaxen Prince van Orangiën
—a prestigious boat that’s been luxuriously transformed into space that oozes romance, thanks to a wealth of dark woods and marble. All are hotels delivering experiences you’ll never forget.