With a city based across a whole chain of islands, you can be sure that you won't run out of things to do in Stockholm. Make sure you make the most of your Scandi city break by doing, eating and seeing these 21 ace things across the scattered Swedish capital.
Take a boat trip
As Stockholm is built across 14 islands with almost the entire city on the water, taking a boat trip is the perfect way to see the Swedish capital. Tour operator Stromma have several different adventure options, depending on how strong your sea legs are. Choose shorter canal tours through the centre of Stockholm to see the city at a glance, or stray from the city for a more in-depth exploration of their incredible 30,000 islands archipelago - the second largest in Sweden.
Refuel with Fika
Fika is a concept meaning to have coffee, usually with a cake on the side. It’s an important part of Scandi life, like the siesta is to Spain or pub culture is to England. So do as the Swedes do and head to Cafe Saturnus for a large latte bowl and a legendary cinnamon bun - its take on the traditional treat are as big as your head and the best you’ll find in the city.
Explore Old Town
The tiny island Gamla Stan is Stockholm’s ‘Old Town’, where you’ll wander around centuries of history nestled among picturesque, pastel architecture. Here the Swedish royal family’s palace, Stockholm Cathedral (Storkyrkan) and the Nobel Museum are all within a few minutes walk of each other. Stop for coffee and cake on the square before attempting to squeeze into Mårten Trotzigs gränd - Stockholm’s narrowest street at only 90cm wide, decorated with Swedish graffiti. On second thoughts, best save the Fika for after!
Although relatively new, photography gallery Fotografiska has made a name for itself as one of the go-to art spots in Stockholm. Swedish artists and famous names including Patrick Demarchelier and Annie Lebowitz have exhibited here, with the gallery space being re-designed and invented around each artist ensuring a unique experience each time. After you’re conked out on art head upstairs to the award-winning restaurant at Fotografiska - home to one of the most photographed windows in Stockholm thanks to its lovely waterside view.
Regeneration has transformed Norrmalm from a traditionally poorer area of Stockholm into a bustling downtown hub of shopping and nightlife. Now you can browse designer boutiques along Biblioteksgatan and even walk a red carpet there at Christmas time. But don’t think you’ll be having a quiet night in after you’ve dropped off all those H&M bags. Stockholm’s young entrepreneurial scene is in full bloom in this area, with ultra-modern hotels, sleek new nightclubs and bustling bars opening all the time.
Get the best view in Stockholm
With its blend of historic European architecture and impressive modern developments, it’s almost difficult not to get a nice view in Stockholm. But the absolute best viewpoint in the city can be found at Fjällgatan. High on top of a cliff-edge, you’ll get an incredible uninterrupted vista across Stockholm’s islands. You can also go back in time on the other side of the viewpoint, inside a community of traditional wooden Scandinavian houses preserved from the 1700s.
Discover local designers and makers in Mosebacke
Mosebacke has been a meeting point for Stockholm’s creatives for centuries. To celebrate this cultural hub, the Mosebacke Design District was founded in 2017 by design agency Woodstockholm to coincide with Stockholm Design Week. Discover a collection of Stockholm’s greatest creative talents together in one area, ranging from vinyl at Snickars Records to vintage homeware at Butiken Republiken all polished off with a craft beer and pizza at Omnipollos Hatt. But be prepared to spend all your krona and want everything in sight.
See art underground
As well as being a convenient way to travel around the city, Stockholm’s metro system houses what’s been described as ‘the world’s longest art gallery’ - over 90% of stations display work from over 150 artists. Travel to Kungstrӓdgåden station for one of the most impressive installations: it has a display of genuine remains of an old palace that used to stand at that spot, a ceiling of piano keys symbolising the nearby academy for music and modern day ‘cave paintings’ across the jagged granite tunnels. And that’s just one station.
Try tipsy tea at At Six
For a less stuffy alternative to afternoon tea, head to ‘Tipsy Tea’ at swanky art hotel At Six. Its combination of salty snacks and gin-filled teapots are a perfect starting point before a night out on the town, with the bustling commercial district just minutes away. That is - if you can tear yourself away from the hotel’s elegant surroundings; modern art adorns the walls and 1970s vinyl plays in the lounge. It’s a welcome antidote to an afternoon’s sightseeing in the Swedish capital.
A must-see for music fans
Spend some time with Sweden’s greatest export after IKEA at the ABBA Museum. Based inside POP HOUSE, the exhibition follows the group’s history from folk singers to international icons and includes interactive elements including performing on stage with the band and mixing a studio recording. Even the hardiest of visitor won’t be able to resist its charm, fun and impossible to shake catchiness - just be prepared to have ‘Dancing Queen’ stuck in your head for the rest of the trip.
Stroll around SoFo
In the heart of the Södermalm is SoFo, a trendy, relaxed neighbourhood benefitting from regeneration. This area is to Stockholm what Shoreditch is to London and Brooklyn to New York: oozing creativity and hip vibes. Artisan bakeries and cafes stud the streets among vintage shops and small independent stores. Browse Scandi-cool clothing and accessories at the ironically named Grandpa, Instagram the ‘pinkest bike in Stockholm’ outside kitsch nostalgia store Coctail then grab brunch at grocery store-slash-restaurant Urban Deli.
Kick back in the King’s Garden
It’s no surprise that a park this nice is essentially the King’s back garden. Kungsträdgården (or ‘Kungsan’ to locals) is an urban green space behind the royal palace that’s popular with Swedes and visitors alike thanks to its stunning cherry blossom-lined boulevard, central location and seasonal pop-ups, swinging from outdoor cafes in spring to an ice rink in winter. Return at night for one of Stockholm’s most famous clubs Cafe Opera underneath the Royal Swedish Opera House.
Hit the slopes
You don’t have to leave the city to ski in Stockholm - you just have to hop to the other side of Södermalm. Hammarbybacken is a snow sport haven 20 minutes from the city centre that has four runs ranging from green to black. There’s equipment rental on site so you can pack light if you fancy a spontaneous skiing trip. If you can’t decide between a break to the Alps or a European city break, you don’t have to: just go to Stockholm.
Taste the modern Swedish meatball
Sweden’s most famous dish started to fall out of fashion with young Scandis, so a group in Stockholm set out to resurrect the traditional Swedish meatball. Meatballs for the People opened in SoFo in 2013 and have put their modern stamp on the delicacy, making meatballs from sustainable sources using organic meats including moose, bear, wild boar and reindeer. It’s almost single-handedly saved the Swedish meatball, and attracts a lot of locals - so get there early for your fill of this traditional fix.
Sip sustainable cocktails at Hobo hotel
Sustainability is a big deal in Sweden. Re-inventing, recycling and responsibly sourcing wherever possible: even when it comes to alcohol. The inventive cocktail menu at boutique hotel Hobo is supported by an 11-square metre urban farm right inside the lobby in central Stockholm, growing herbs that shape what you’ll be sipping on a Saturday evening. Its imaginative self-sustaining approach has helped Hobo to already be recognised as a new hotspot among young fashionable locals - that, and the 90’s R’n’B they play until 2am at weekends.
Shop Scandi style
H&M, Monki, COS. You may not know that some of your favourite stores are Swedish - making Stockholm the perfect place to shop. Filippa K, Hope, Our Legacy, APLACE and Swedish Hasbeens are all brands you’ll want to buy from to add distinctive Scandi flare to your wardrobe. You’ll also spot a lot of secondhand shops across Stockholm, but you’re more likely to spot designer donations than tired-looking hand-me-downs in most of them.
Walk Queen Street
The best way to explore central Stockholm on foot is by walking down Queen Street (Drottninggatan). The street stretches from the city centre in the Norrmalm district all the way along to the district of Vasastaden. Considered one of the main bustling ‘high streets’ of the area, the road is lined with lots of stores, cafes and restaurants. The majority of the street is car-free, so you can take in the sights of central Stockholm without having to dodge traffic as you stroll.
Visit the Vasa Museum
For a relatively small capital city, there are a huge amount of museums in Stockholm: at the moment there are around 80, with new ones opening all the time. If you can only visit one, make it the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was once the most powerful warship in the Baltic but it sank in Stockholm, and was later raised from the seabed 333 years later. It’s now the only preserved 17th century ship in the entire world, so it’s no wonder it’s the most visited museum in the whole of Scandinavia.
Dive into Stockholm’s water
You know that most of the city is on the water, but did you know that you can dive in for a swim almost anywhere in Stockholm? The clear water is perfect for urban swimmers, although locals prefer a day trip to Lake Mälaren rather than the Baltic because it tends to be cleaner than the sea. If you’re there during summer, walk along the coast of Stockholm and stop by the water to cool off in the city. Or if you’re feeling extra brave, take a dip during the colder months.
Be a bookworm at the National Library of Sweden
Any literary lover visiting Stockholm should make time for a stop at the National Library of Sweden. Looking more like a palace than a library, it’s collected every single piece of Swedish printed work for over 350 years. If that’s not enough to excite your inner bookworm, the towering curved gallery and ornate painted ceilings will be, and you can bask in its surrounding gardens in downtown Stockholm too.
Get high at TAK
Fancy a drink 48 metres above sea level? Newly opened Nordic-Japanese fusion restaurant TAK boasts one of the best rooftop bars in Stockholm, with an incredible panoramic vista across the city’s different islands. Try their custom-made sake as you take in the sunset from inside the restaurant or out on the bar - the glass design means you’ll get the same incredible skyline views wherever you sit. Spotify is opening its new head office next door soon too, so you know this is an exciting area worth exploring before it explodes with crowds.