When it comes to camera-ready sights, you could hardly do better than photogenic Stockholm. With its 14 island coastlines, the majestic parks and gardens that cover a third of the city, and excellent cultural things to do every which way you turn, this compact metropolis crams in top attractions like Swedish Surströmming (herring). Best of all, many of the most awe-inspiring outdoor landmarks can be take in for absolutely nada – from Old Town square Stortorget’s rainbow-hued townhouses to the 27-square-kilometre Royal National City Park on Djurgården island.
Public museums stopped charging entry fees in 2016, but unfortunately the city’s most cutting-edge cultural attractions still come at a price. Art and photography galleries Artipelag and Fotografiska earn their spots on our list with accessible, carefully-curated exhibitions and fantastic food offerings. And the cringe stakes were high for Abba The Museum, opened in 2013, but the tech-savvy Swedes behind it have created an unmissable interactive experience that shines a spotlight on the nation’s biggest musical export. Not to mention all manner of pioneering bars and restaurants that have become tourist magnets in themselves (you could spend your whole trip pretty much just hopping from meal to meal). Foodie or not, and whether you’re here just for the weekend or much longer, these top attractions in Stockholm are sure to fit your bill.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Stockholm
Best Stockholm attractions
Butter, chilli and mint-coloured townhouses dating back to the Middle Ages, an 18th-century fountain surrounded by cobblestones and an imposing palatial building that once hosted Sweden’s stock exchange are the star attractions on Stockholm’s photogenic main square. The focal point of the city’s Old Town (Gamla Stan) for 800 years, Stortorget draws hordes of tourists daily. 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 airy, spacious gallery hosts painstakingly-curated, 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 impressed local shutterbugs. When you’ve had enough culture, head upstairs to the stylish bar and café area, which serves overpriced but moreish snacks, fantastic coffee and a strong selection of quality wines.
Dominating Stockholm’s skyline, the dusk-red bricks and green and gold spires of Stadshuset make it one of the city’s most imposing (and 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 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 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. Not all that far 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 art venue buried within a pine forest on the island of Värmdö. It’s home to rotating international art and photography exhibitions, with recent retrospectives on the likes of 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 pâtisserie 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 with no prior 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. Though the giant ship alone is fascinating to look at, the museum wins points for its exhibitions about the lives of 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 18th century, it packs in more than 600 rooms, although only a limited selection are open to the public. If you’re a history buff, make sure to take one of the 45-minute guided tours.
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 haven’t met any locals yet, 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 glögg (mulled wine) and ginger snap biscuits at the venue’s well-stocked Christmas market, and belt out folk songs on Walpurgis Night, a bonfire-based festival that marks the start of spring.
This orange 1920s building is a haven for bibliophiles and architecture addicts alike. It contains upwards of 400,000 novels, plays, poems and reference materials in multiple languages, many 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 ask for help from librarians. You might feel a bit sheepish taking photos in here, but the bookworm and student regulars are used to passing tourists.
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Sprawled out across a cluster of islands where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic sea, the Swedish capital is effortlessly photogenic from pretty much every angle. So it’s no surprise many of the best things to do in the Stockholm are outdoors, whether traversing forest paths, dipping in the lake after a sauna or sunbathing on an inner-city island.