Best attractions in Stockholm
Butter, chilli and mint-coloured townhouses dating back to the Middle Ages, an eighteenth-century fountain surrounded by cobblestones, and an imposing palatial building that once hosted Sweden’s stock exchange all make up the ingredients that bake together Stockholm’s most photogenic square. The focal point of the city’s Old Town (Gamla Stan) for 800 years, Stortorget hosts hordes of daily tourists. Don’t miss the Christmas market if you’re visiting in December—it’s best experienced after dark when the square’s lit by a twinkling fir tree and the golden glow of oil candles dotted outside its bars and restaurants.
This spacious airy gallery houses painstakingly-curated and frequently-changing exhibitions, inside an imposing red-brick former customs building. Recent collections by the likes of celebrity snapper Martin Schoeller, jungle animal lover Nick Brandt and rock-star-turned photographer Bryan Adams have served to impress local shutterbugs. When you’ve had enough culture, head upstairs to the achingly stylish bar and café area, which serves overpriced but very tasty snacks, fantastic coffee and a strong selection of quality wines.
Dominating the Swedish capital’s skyline, the dusk-red bricks and green and gold spires of Stadshuset make it one of the city’s most impressive landmarks. Around 200 politicians and officials work here, but the building is more famous globally for its decadent Golden Hall, where acclaimed Nobel Prize Award ceremony guests get to dine each winter surrounded by 18 million gold mosaic tiles (you can only access the room via a guided tour).
This tribute to the glitziest band in Swedish history is chock-a-block with all the gold discs, chunky platforms and quirky memorabilia you’d imagine. Plus, there are some seriously clever interactive exhibits that give visitors the chance to perform on stage alongside Abba and dress up in virtual versions of some of the group’s famous sparkly outfits. You don’t need to be a die-hard fan to enjoy it, and although entry is pricier than many of Stockholm’s other top attractions, you can easily while away half a day here. Be warned, you’ll probably be humming “Dancing Queen” for hours afterwards.
A former royal hunting ground (owned by the Swedish crown since the 15th century), Djurgården literally translates as ‘the animal garden’. But these days it’s no longer packed with reindeer and elk, serving instead as a leafy oasis of waterfront paths and woodland trails. Just a stone’s throw from the city centre, it’s a popular weekend haunt for local families, while tourists love its proximity to some of capital’s most-visited museums.
Combining two very Swedish passions, design and nature, Artipelag is an ambitious angular art venue buried within a pine forest on the island of Värmdo. It’s home to rotating international art and photography exhibitions, with recent collections from the likes of US pop art legend Andy Warhol and Swedish fashion designer Lars Wallin. Foodies with cash to splash will want to make a pit stop at the restaurant, which offers a luxury smörgåsbord lunch on weekdays and brunch at weekend. There’s also a Scandi-chic café and patisserie with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the surrounding woodland.
The most visited attraction in Stockholm is a rescued 17th century warship most people have never heard of. But it’s with good reason that The Vasa Museum captures the attention of so many tourists lacking any previous hint of enthusiasm for maritime memorabilia. The 69 metre-long wooden vessel, covered in decorative carvings, sank on its maiden voyage, only to be discovered 333 years later. While the giant ship alone is fascinating to look at, the museum wins points for its informative exhibitions about the lives of its passengers, the ship’s rescue operation and how it’s been so well preserved.
Jewel-encrusted swords, low-hanging crystal chandeliers and gold-embellished coronation carriages are just a few of the treasures found inside Stockholm’s Royal Palace. The official residence of the Swedish sovereign since the 1700s, it packs in more than 600 rooms, although only a small selection is open to the public. If you’re a history buff, take one of the 45-minute guided tours to get the most out of eighteenth and nineteenth century splendour on offer.
Sweden’s largest open-air museum gives visitors the chance to peek inside historic wooden homes, meet in-character weavers and bakers and gawp at the enclosures of Nordic animals. If you don’t know any locals, this is hands-down the best place in the city to embrace some Swedish seasonal fun. Skansen’s staff don flower crowns and dance around a massive maypole to mark Midsummer’s Eve, dish out hot wine (glögg) and ginger snaps at the venue’s well-stocked Christmas market and belt out folk songs on Walpurgis Eve, a bonfire-based festival that marks the start of spring.
This landmark 1920s orange building is a paradise for bibliophile and architecture addicts alike. It contains upwards of 400,000 novels, textbooks, plays, poems and reference materials in multiple languages, many of them stacked from floor to ceiling around its iconic cylindrical reading tower. The room’s three-level design comes courtesy of Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund, whose goal was to allow visitors to browse the shelves without having to seek out help from librarians. You might feel a bit sheepish taking photos in here, but the regular bookworms and students that frequent the place are used to passing tourists.