The Best Things to Do in Stockholm

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.

14 Galärvarvsvägen
Located on the island of Djurgården, this purpose-built maritime museum is an extraordinary sight: It houses the massive warship Vasa, which sank just minutes after launching on its maiden voyage in 1628. Raised from the harbor in 1961, it was painstakingly reassembled to its original glory. Head straight to the auditorium to watch a documentary about the salvage, and then slowly meander through the rest of the fascinating exhibits.

Djurgårdsvägen 68, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden
Abba, the most successful Swedish group of all time, enjoyed a global return to fame with the success of the musical and the film Mamma Mia! In its home country, however, its popularity never dimmed. The museum allows visitors to guest star in an Abba video and marvel at the gloriously over-the-top stage costumes. For hard-core fans, you can also go to the nearby Abba: The Party, where diners are “transported” to a Greek island for a rambunctious evening of food and sing-along entertainment.
Folkungagatan, Stockholm, Sweden
To while away time, you can go people-watching and vintage shopping in Stockholm’s answer to New York’s SoHo—South of Folkungagatan, called “SoFo” on Södermalm (“Söder” to locals). This busy bohemian district boasts some of the edgiest cultural experiences in town. Visit stores like Sneakersnstuff for funky limited-edition sneakers and running shoes, or wade through rows of vintage clothes at Beyond Retro, offering styles from Victorian-era attire to 1990s grunge-rock Pearl Jam–inspired clothes, with every era in between. If you’re into vintage—vinyl records, throwback clothes, paraphernalia, odd knickknacks—you won’t find them anywhere else if you don’t find them in Stockholm’s SoFo district.
Södermalm, Stockholm, Sweden
In a city known for clean lines, Stockholm’s Södermalm district (“Söder” to locals) is surprisingly nonconformist. A slum in the 18th century, the neighborhood is now home to a mix of clothing and furniture shops; Thai, Greek, and Turkish restaurants; historic falu red cottages; and one famous fictional character, Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist in Stieg Larsson’s bestseller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Linger at a cafe along the main square, Medborgarplatsen, and take in the scene.
Centralplan 15, 111 20 Stockholm, Sweden
When in Stockholm, try this budget attraction—the subway! This really is art underground, literally. It is called the longest art museum in the world. Over 90 of the 100 stations in Stockholm have been decorated with sculptures, mosaics, paintings, installations, engravings, and reliefs, by more than 150 artists. I spent over three hours here, getting off at each stop to take photos. My favorite line was the blue line, built in the 1970s and left more “natural.” All the blastings that take place to build an underground subway are typically covered up with tiles and walls. But the blue line left the rock exposed, which gives you the feeling of a cave as opposed to a subway. The best part is, this museum costs only the price of a subway ticket! To learn more, visit http://sl.se/Global/Konst/Engelska%20broshyrer/Art-MetroENG_webb.pdf
Monteliusvägen, Stockholm, Sweden
To escape crowds and get some fresh air, you can stroll along Söder Mälarstrand on secluded Monteliusvägen (Montelius road) with marvelous views of Lake Mälaren, Gamla stan, Riddarholmen, and the City Hall on Kungsholmen. Despite ongoing construction in the area, you’ll still enjoy some of the best panoramic views of Stockholm.
Djurgårdsslätten 49-51, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden
A brief description of Skansen—a 75-acre open-air museum with historic buildings and a zoo—doesn’t convey just how much fun it is. You can easily spend a happy half-day here, looking at wolves, reindeer, moose, seals, and other Nordic creatures, then popping into old buildings that have been brought here from all over Scandinavia and reassembled. In some you can talk to people in costume who are playing the roles of the original inhabitants. Elsewhere you can watch glassblowers at work and visit old-fashioned stores. Open since 1891, it remains one of Sweden’s top tourist draws.
Hantverkargatan 1, 111 52 Stockholm, Sweden
the Stockholm city hall building went up in the 1920s and has a variety of styles incorporated into it. Its possible to take a guided tour around the building and admire the architecture, especially the gold room which is made up of millions of mosaics. This is also the building where Nobel Prize winners party with the king of Sweden.
107 70 Stockholm, Sweden
The Royal Palace located in the center of Stockholm and is a must visit. The grand structure is impressive just to walk by but when you enter into the palace it is amazing to see how royalty lived with the grand rooms, intricate art and furniture, marble stairs and learn more about the history. I also recommend getting a Stockholm Card if you want to see the main sites in the city. It is a great way to get discounts and get into places like The Royal Palace: http://www.visitstockholm.com/en/Stockholmcard/
Stadsgårdshamnen 22, 116 45 Stockholm, Sweden
Here is a museum dedicated to the art of photography and placed, um, picture perfectly for views of Stockholm. The museum building sits along the waterfront with a view of the Old Town (Gamla Stan) and the Tivoli Amusement Park. Exhibitions change throughout the year, but while I was there they had three exhibitions that were fabulously curated and equally compelling. The exhibitions are curated in Swedish and in English—plus the museum offers guided tours of the exhibitions. In addition to photography, the building has a gift shop full of photography books and prints. A bistro on the top floor looks out over the waterfront and offers weekend brunch, wine tasting events, concerts, and in the fall and spring they even turn the space into a dance club. If you are in Stockholm for a longer period and have an interest in improving your photography, they offer seminars and workshops by well-known professionals.
Sockenvägen, 122 33 Stockholm, Sweden
Designed by Gunnar Asplund, one of the big names of 20th-century Swedish architecture, this beautiful graveyard is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the final resting place of actress Greta Garbo. A wonderfully peaceful combination of great architecture and shady woodlands, there’s nothing gloomy about this extraordinary resting place. In fact, an hour or so spent walking here is bound to lift the spirits.
178 02 Drottningholm, Sweden
While the enormous Royal Palace in Stockholm’s Old Town is the king’s official residence, the family lives outside the center at Drottningholm. And this being Sweden, everyone is allowed to stop by. You can visit the interior, excluding the royal family’s private wing, and then roam around the extensive grounds. The estate is also famed for its theater, which still uses the original stage equipment from the 18th century. UNESCO lists Drottningholm as a World Heritage Site: “With its palace, perfectly preserved theatre (built in 1766), Chinese pavilion and gardens, it is the finest example of an 18th-century northern European royal residence inspired by the Palace of Versailles.”
Slottsbacken 3, 111 30 Stockholm, Sweden
Tucked under the Royal Palace, Sweden’s oldest museum is one of the city’s lesser-known gems, housing a wealth of royal paraphernalia. Opera fans will be particularly fascinated by the clothes that King Gustav III was wearing when he was murdered at a masked ball in 1792—the assassination that inspired Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera.
Östermalmsgatan 20, 114 26 Stockholm, Sweden
Perched on a rocky outcrop above Östermalm, this is perhaps Stockholm’s most beautiful church, and certainly one of its largest. Completed in 1914, its stunning interior and exterior include elements of Art Nouveau and National Romantic styles. It is also home to an impressively large church organ and hosts regular concerts. It’s worth trekking up the stone steps to enjoy the building and the views.
Sjötullsbacken 8, 115 25 Stockholm, Sweden
Located within the walled grounds of Blockhusudden on Djurgården, Thielska Galleriet is a fine art museum with late 19th- to 20th-century works by Eugène Jansson, Carl Larsson, Bruno Liljefors, Edvard Munch, August Strindberg, Anders Zorn, and other leading artists of that era. Characterized by spacious rooms with glass roofs, the museum walls are covered with paintings, and collections include Nietzsche’s death mask and prints by Edvard Munch. It also houses painter Richard Bergh’s extensive archive—letters, notes, drawings, drafts, and photographs.
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