Scatter 2.3 million people over 14 islands connected with over 50 bridges. Then add a drop of that famous Scandi-style. That’s Stockholm in a nutshell. Deep history runs through its streets, punctuated by the modern-life cafés, nightlife and international cuisine. Not forgetting, of course, the wild and rugged nature that surrounds this ‘beauty on water’, as the locals affectionately call Stockholm. You’ll be hard pressed to find a local who doesn’t speak English, and almost all street signs are in both Swedish and English – making it an easy place to get around and to interact with locals. Fully immerse yourself into the Scandinavian way of life with these suggestions of things to do in Stockholm.
Taste some Swedish Soul Food
We’ve all fallen in love with the iconic Ikea meatballs, but Swedish food is, of course, way more than that. Sweden’s name for comfort food is husmanskost, which translates as “house owners’ food”. This type of food usually involves a lot of potatoes, root vegetables and local wild meat or fish from the Baltic Sea. And yes, meatballs too are a common staple in husmanskost dishes. These types of dishes were traditionally simple and inexpensive, a hearty meal for the working classes that slowly made their way from grandma’s recipe books to the table of taverns and pubs. These days, there are many restaurants around Stockholm where you can try the traditional husmanskost. If meatballs are your thing, go to Meatball for the People. They serve 14 different types of organic meatballs. Other restaurants to try are Pelikan and Kvarnen. If you’re feeling adventurous, pick some interesting foods from the menu, such as pig knuckles, moose, or reindeer meatballs. A must-try are the Raggmunk potato pancakes with bacon and lingonberry preserve. Sweden’s answer to the classic bacon and maple syrup pancakes.
Spend the day on a Swedish beach
A beach day might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of things to do in Stockholm, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t! As mentioned before, Stockholm is made up of 14 islands in an archipelago of around 25,000 islands in the Baltic Sea, so there are plenty of beaches around. While they might not be considered the best beaches in Europe, they are still worth a visit! Just a short walk from the trendy district of Hornstull, is Långholmen island, where locals go to take a dip in the clear waters of Långholmsbadet beach. Today, Långholmen island is a mini nature paradise near the city centre, with a sandy front and grassy banks, ideal for picnicking on. But back in the day (up until as recently as 1974), Långholmen island housed a prison. This prison building has now been converted into a hotel and cafe. You may notice that Långholmen island grows surprisingly exotic plants on its banks. That’s because the prisoners were tasked with covering the island with mud, to make the once barren island fertile. Passing merchant ships would deposit seeds from exotic places that would then grow on this now fertile island.
Wonder around the Gamla Stan Old Town
The city’s Old Town is likely one of the most famous attractions and most popular things to do in Stockholm. Gamla Stan, the name of Stockholm’s Old Town, was founded in 1252 and is one of Europe’s largest and best preserved medieval cities. There are few better places to go to understand the history not only of the city but of Sweden itself. A great place to start your day when visiting the Gamla Stan is the 600-room Kungliga Slottet (‘Royal Palace’), which currently houses the offices of the Swedish Royal Family. It’s also home to five museums, all of which are open for the public to experience. The museums inside the Royal Palace include the Hall of the State, the silver throne of Queen Kristina and the Treasury. Time your visit right to watch the changing of the guards at the Royal Palace, which happens once daily and is a real sight to see! Open to all the public, there are no tickets required and is undoubtedly one of the best free things to do in Stockholm. The Royal Guards Ceremony starts at 12:15pm on weekdays, and 1:15pm on Sundays. It takes place in the outer courtyard of the Royal Palace of Stockholm and lasts around 40 minutes.
Spend the day on Djurgården island
Djurgården island is what can only be described as a green oasis in the city. It used to be a Game Park for the Royal family, but nowadays it’s there for everyone to enjoy and is home to amusement parks, art galleries, and ofcourse, nature. If you’re looking for a bit of adventure while you visit Stockholm, take your chances with a ride on “Insane” – a vertical spinning roller coaster where each seat rotates individually on its axis, creating a unique experience for every rider. You can experience this and many other adrenaline inducing rides at the Gröna Lund amusement park.
The royal island also offers 22 of the city’s museums from the ABBA Museum to the Vasa Maritime Museum. Stockholm’s Maritime Museum features an almost fully intact 17th century warship which sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. Today The Vasa is viewed by many as a great symbol of Sweden’s ‘great power period’, and over 35 million people have visited since 1961.
Experience Stockholm’s nightlife
With Stockholm being home to some of the world’s most famous DJ’s like Avicii, Steve Angello, and Dada Life it’s no wonder the city swells with club seekers, especially in the summer months. Head to the Stureplan District – you’ll be surprised to see the DJ’s who have residencies in nightclubs in the area.
To experience Stockholm’s nightlife on a budget, head to Södermalm. This neighbourhood was once a mainstay of the working class in the inner city is now, like most neighbourhoods of its kind, a super trendy area full of top restaurants, cafés, and boutique shops. Over 100,000 people live in the area – and it is one of Stockholm’s most sought after places to live. Södermalm is ideal for budget travellers, as it’s home to some of the cheap hotels in Stockholm, and is where you’ll have the cheapest night out in the city. The neighbourhood is brimming with bohemian bars and grungy nightclubs, which is why it’s always full of students, backpackers and young travellers at any given time.
Take a break and Fika
Fika is the act of taking a break and going for a coffee with a small cake or pastry. It’s a time to slow down and savour the present. The most common time of day for Swedes to fika is 11am, but there’s no time constraints on when to partake in this beautiful act. Infact, it’s quite common to fika many times a day, even during the work week. Perhaps that’s why Sweden’s inhabitants were ranked in the top 10 of the World Happiness Report by the United Nations?
To make going for fika even better, Stockholm is home to lots of uber-stylish cafés that make “living in the present” that bit more sweet. If you love the beautiful simplicity of Scandanavian style, try out Café Pascal – possibly the most stylish café in Stockholm. It fits the effortless hipster aesthetic to a tee – exposed brick, plenty of leafy plants and hanging lightbulb pendants. Not only is Café Pascal beautiful on the inside, it also serves some of the best coffee in Stockholm. The food is uber-instagrammable, as you might imagine from a place like this, but the quality and taste of the food lives up to the hype, so don’t feel guilty about sharing a photo of your cinnamon roll with your followers.
Are you ready to kick-back, relax and fika in Sweden’s stylish capital city? Book your flight and hotel together to ensure you get the best deal on your Scandinavian trip of dreams!