Easily Scandinavia’s most beautiful capital, Stockholm is an exemplary mash-up of creative and eco-friendly lifestyles, innovative startup companies, a flourishing indie music scene, a hipster café culture, and an undying love for the outdoors due to its vast archipelago and proximity to water. Geographically, Stockholm is spread out across 14 unique islands, from historic Gamla stan (old town)—with its cobblestoned streets, earth-toned buildings, and the Royal Palace—to lush Djurgården, with its forests, green parks, rose gardens, and biking paths. For the city’s most exciting districts, head over to Östermalm to hobnob with Stockholm’s elite in Michelin-starred restaurants and upscale clubs, or wander around Södermalm, Kungsholmen, and Hornstull for eclectic shopping, excellent fusion restaurants, and cool indie nightclubs.

A row of cardamum buns in a display case at a bakery in Stockholm, Sweden with a worker behind the breads reaching for one with a pair of tongs - Unsplash - jessica-guzik

Jessica Guzik / Unsplash


When’s the best time to go to Stockholm?

The best time to visit Stockholm is between the months of May and September, when the city emerges from a dark winter and fully comes alive. Summer temperatures are moderate, and Stockholm’s archipelago is at its most beautiful during the long summer days from June to August.

How to get around Stockholm

Stockholm is served by two international airports. Stockholm Arlanda Airport is the main gateway and takes 40–60 minutes from downtown, depending on traffic conditions. Stockholm Bromma Airport is located right in town and serves short-haul flights between Stockholm and a few Baltic and Northern European countries. Taxis are expensive, so avoid them. The cheapest way of getting from Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport to town is to take an airport transfer bus like Swebus, which gets you downtown in 45–50 minutes. The fastest way is to take the 20-minute Arlanda Express train from the airport directly to Stockholm’s Central Station.

Run by Storstockholms Lokaltrafik (SL), Stockholm’s public transport system is comprised of subways (tunnelbana), bus and tram networks, ferries, and some long-distance trains. Tickets can be purchased at stations and kiosks showing the “SL” logo, and you can find departure times and schedules online. Alternatively, you can purchase the Stockholm Card, which provides unlimited rides on public transportation including access to over 80 attractions around the city.

Can’t miss things to do in Stockholm

Take a three-hour brunch cruise aboard the refurbished 1931 steamboat SS Stockholm to Vaxholm and back, and enjoy impressive views of Stockholm and its archipelago along the way from panoramic windows. You’ll dig into traditional Swedish classics like pickled herring (sill) and cured salmon (gravlax) alongside a variety of warm dishes, salads, potatoes, breads, and desserts. Pace yourself on the cold starters because once you start gorging, the tables are cleared to bring out sausages, meatballs, bacon, scrambled eggs, and other hot plates.

Food and drink to try in Stockholm

Eating out can dent your wallet, so choose wisely. Stockholm shines when it comes to seafood—think fish and small shellfish like crawfish and shrimp, but forget jumbo-sized prawns—and local game like reindeer, moose, and wild boar. While you’ll find some excellent restaurants that serve international fare such as Indian, Thai, Middle Eastern, and Japanese, the really excellent ones are few and far between. Be sure to “fika like a local” and dig into Swedish pastries such as kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) while you’re in town. For fine dining and upscale Michelin-starred restaurants, head over to Stockholm’s Östermalm and Norrmalm districts. You can find more laid-back yet high quality restaurants in the Södermalm, Kungsholmen, and Hornstull districts of town. Stockholmers love their happy-hour cocktails, and the city’s nightlife is hip, indie, and fresh. Most of its pubs and clubs are clustered around the neighborhoods of Östermalm, Gamla stan, and Södermalm.

Culture in Stockholm

Stockholm’s subway system, the tunnelbana, is the world’s longest art exhibition—110 km, with a variety of paintings, sculptures, mosaics, tiles, installations, and other durable art displays put together by 150 artists in over 90 of the city’s 100 stations. Stockholm also has dozens of offbeat museums that showcase its diverse interests—from the ABBA museum, dedicated to the legendary Swedish band, to Fotografiska, the city’s best contemporary photography museum, as well as Skansen, which opened in 1891 to spotlight pre–industrial-era Swedish lifestyles and now is the world’s oldest open-air museum.

When summer rolls around, Stockholmers are out and about celebrating numerous festivals. Summer begins with the most iconic, Midsummer, when both locals and visitors dance around maypoles with wreaths of wildflowers and garlands on their heads. Other popular festivals include Smaka På Stockholm (Taste of Stockholm), which is the country’s largest food festival; Kulturfestival and Street Festival, celebrating the performing arts; Stockholm Pride, Scandinavia’s largest LGBT parade; and various music festivals such as Summerburst.

Local travel tips for Stockholm

  • Most locals know to ditch their cars. Frankly, most of them don’t own cars anyway, for good reason. Frequent traffic jams congest Stockholm’s narrow streets. But public transportation is extensive and punctual, so you won’t miss not having a car.
  • Because eating out can add up quickly, locals also know to look for signs that read “Dagens rätt” or “Dagens Lunch.” This means “dish of the day”—often a discounted meal.
  • If you plan on shopping, know that many stores and attractions open their doors late in the morning (10-11am) and close early (5-6pm). Plan accordingly to avoid surprises.

Practical Information

  • Most locals speak English, so you can get away with knowing only “hej” (hello) and “tack” (thanks) in Swedish.
  • Many stores open around 9 or 10 a.m. and close between 5 and 6 p.m. On weekends they shut even earlier—and on Sundays they may not open at all—so plan your shopping accordingly.
  • Many businesses operate on a queuing system using a number dispenser, so be on the lookout for these when entering a store.
  • Sweden is an almost cashless society—everyone uses credit cards, though you should save a few coins for public toilets.
  • The country is very environmentally conscious—from organic restaurants and cafes to recycling habits and ubiquitous biking culture—so be cognizant of this when using public spaces.
  • If you’re pushing a stroller, you get to ride public buses for free.
  • Tipping is not required in Sweden.
  • Sweden uses the 230 volt Europlug—type C and F. Sweden’s currency is the krona.

Guide Editor

Stephen Whitlock is a Yorkshireman who moved to New York and then, a decade later, relocated to Stockholm, Sweden.

Lola Akinmade Åkerström is a Stockholm-based award-winning writer and photographer.

Read Before You Go
Resources to help plan your trip
Art, design, and handmade crafts are popular in Stockholm, and Sweden is known for its minimalist style—simple yet functional and attractive. Savvy shoppers can easily unearth made-to-order food offerings, custom-made soaps and chocolates, Swedish-designed home goods, and even surf-culture attire. Stockholm is also known for its secondhand shops, flea markets, antique design stores, and vintage flair, and the city sports a slew of boutiques.
Stockholm’s upscale and most expensive district, Östermalm is where you’ll find million-dollar penthouses, swanky VIP clubs, Michelin-starred restaurants, exclusive cocktail lounges, and stereotypical blue-eyed blondes wearing oversized sunglasses and carrying tiny dogs.
In a city known for clean lines, Stockholm’s Södermalm district (“Söder” to locals) is nonconformist. A slum in the 18th century, the neighborhood is now home to a mix of vintage shops, eclectic cafes, hip clubs, local dive bars, and ethnic restaurants. It was also the backdrop for author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and best seller “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
Stockholm is best viewed from the water, so rent a kayak, go on a harbor cruise, or ferry to a nearby island.
Stockholmers love their coffee and don’t think twice about dropping kronor on expensive cups of latte—in a city where even eating out can often dent the wallet. The frequency with which Swedes seem to indulge in this tradition may perplex visitors, but the actual act of drinking coffee isn’t at its core. It is a long observed social custom called “fika,” which celebrates sharing with friends, colleagues, and family over cups of coffee.
Steal away on a day trip to see more of Stockholm’s surroundings and the region’s history. Explore Stockholm’s own archipelago and islands far out in the Baltic Sea, plan extra time to explore these unique islands and town easily accessible from Stockholm.
One of the world’s prettiest capitals, Stockholm wows visitors with its food, architecture, design and natural beauty. To rub shoulders with stylish Swedes, head to the Lydmar Hotel, which boasts four of Stockholm’s hottest bars and restaurants. Hotel Skeppsholmen champions all things local including food, beer, design and insider tips to share with guests. Ett Hem translates to “a home” and this 12-room hotel feels exactly like that with a kitchen open to guests at all hours.
Take in some of Stockholm’s best people-watching neighborhoods. Eat your way through Swedish cuisine traditional and, well, far less so. Shop shop shop. And wander some of Stockholm’s beautiful outdoor spaces as well as some of the city’s architectural wonders.
You’ll find the things you already love about Sweden—meatballs, ABBA, art, palaces—plus a few more (marzipan-filled pastries, outdoor art, and bonfires on a spring evening), all in a beautiful waterfront city.
Stockholm’s ubiquitous bakeries offer the traveler much in the way of sweet delights. Head to these spots to sample some of the city’s best baked goods—marzipan pastries and princess cakes, cardamom buns and cinnamon rolls—to go with that all-important cup of coffee.
Though Gothernburg may get the credit for being the culinary capital of Sweden, Stockholm is a fine city to eat around as well. From restaurants with rising chefs to food halls and food festivals, here’s some of the city’s top spots for dining around.
A Stockholm-based expat explains the true meaning behind a Swedish word that should only be used in the right context.
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