Where to stay in Stockholm
Gamla Stan (or the Old Town) is Stockholm’s medieval heart, and it remains the epicentre of the inner city. Here you’ll find the Parliament, the Royal Palace, Christmas markets, museums, colourful churches and narrow cobbled streets. The trouble is in deciding where to begin.
Unlike the modern districts surrounding it, there’s no logical order to the streets of Gamla Stan. The trick is to surrender to it and get lost within them. It’s utterly rewarding: on your way you’ll come across cafes spilling out onto side-streets, tucked-away wine bars and boutiques selling unique hand-crafted gifts.
Gamla Stan is accessible from almost anywhere in central Stockholm, whether on foot across its bridges from either Norrmalm or Södermalm or via the metro station where both the green and red lines meet. On a sunny day, the best way there is by boat: the commuter ferry no. 82 nips between Gamla Stan and the islands of Skeppsholmen and Djurgården in just ten minutes.
You’re spoilt for hotels on Gamla Stan; from the decadence and antique charm of the Victory Hotel to a cosy cabin on board the Mälardrottningen yacht hotel, moored just a couple of minutes from the metro station.
Gamla Stan is packed full of surprises; one of them is Naturbageriet Sattva on Stora Nygatan street, a small bakery that does vegan versions of Swedish goodies and has shelves full of herbal teas.
Kornhamnstorg, a waterside square on the western side, is brimming with pubs. Engelen is a great choice for live blues and jazz, as is The Temple Bar for its cheap pints and indie playlists.
Learn about the Nobel Prize winners at Nobel Museum on Gamla Stan’s main square, Stortorget. Whilst you’re there, take in the gorgeous old buildings that fill the square. This a great place to start any self-guided tour of Gamla Stan, if you don’t get held up by browsing a market first.
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Watch the sunset from the western edge of Riddarholmen, Gamla Stan’s tiny partner island. It’s quiet and the view across the water, with Södermalm to your left and Kungsholmen island to your right, puts you right at the heart of Stockholm.
A short bridge away from Östermalm, the wealthy east side of the city, is one of Stockholm’s most unique islands. A royal parkland dotted with harbours, colourful Swedish cottages and delightful museums: green and leafy Djurgården feels more like a countryside escape than part of a capital city. Here you’ll find museums which celebrate the best of Sweden and cute cafes amongst them, clustered around the village-like centre of Skansen.
From Skansen, follow the coast around the island’s edge for a gorgeous walk. Stop and watch cruise ships pass on their way to Helsinki from beaches just big enough for two. If you have the time, you can walk around the whole of Djurgården on foot, but for when you get tired, tram line no.7 goes half-way around the island and can take you back to the city centre afterwards.
For stylish, ABBA-themed rooms (yes, really!), there’s Pop House. Less famous than the pop quartet but just as evocative of Stockholm are the beautiful boat-houses: grab an opulent room on-board the Prince Van Orangien, moored between Djurgården and its off-shoot mini-island, Beckholmen. For something more affordable, Scandic Hasselbacken is right in the centre of Skansen, in a gorgeous old house with an impressive garden.
For fresh and authentic taste of Sweden, organic vegetable garden and café Rosendals Trädgård is a treasure at the quieter east side of Djurgården.
For an adventure through different Nordic liqueurs, head to the Spirit Museum, set within an old naval building by one of Djurgården’s lovely harbours. If that doesn’t warm you up enough, in summer months the Nordic Museum has an outdoor bar with bright lights and palm trees, to fool you into thinking you’re spending your evening somewhere altogether more tropical.
Delve into Scandinavian culture at the Nordic Museum, join the band at the ABBA museum or see the resurrection of Sweden’s worst-ever battleship at the Vasamuseet.
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Head to Skansen park, an outdoor museum that seamlessly mixes a journey through Swedish history with its nature. Here you’ll find beautiful deer, live demonstrations of historical crafts and recreations of traditional Swedish houses from different regions, mapped out like the country itself.
The northern corner of downtown Stockholm might not be the oldest or prettiest, but for all it offers, it cannot be missed. Odenplan was already the central hub of the upmarket district of Vasastan, but it has recently upped its game with a shiny new commuter rail station, underlining its pride of place in the middle of this Nordic capital. Surrounding Odenplan are some of Stockholm’s best-loved cafes, the national library and a treasure-chest of vintage stores to get lost in.
Effortlessly cool Odenplan is unavoidable if you want the full experience of inner-city Stockholm. Simply walk up from the district of Norrmalm, past the central station or along the buzzing Sveavägen avenue, and keep going uphill until you reach Odengatan street. If you’re in more of a hurry, you can take the green metro line to get in from the south or west of Stockholm.
A few affordable international chains have opened up hotels by Odenplan. The local Hotel Ibis Styles is on a quiet street just off Odengatan, where some rooms have even kept a few of their original features.
Café Pascal is a badly-kept secret amongst coffee lovers in Stockholm, and its delicious cheese scones and cardamom buns deserve equal fame. Meanwhile the Greasy Spoon offers a super-friendly staff and catchy playlists alongside a great brunch menu, and is a firm favourite amongst both Stockholmers who love a full English Breakfast and the expats that miss them.
Tucked away just behind Odengatan, RoQ bar is a delight for fans of rock music and arcade games. This one can keep large groups entertained way into the wee hours. Otherwise, make a right where Odengatan meets Sveavägen for a stream of Stockholm’s best-loved pubs offering an affordable pint.
Bookworms will be in their element at Stockholm’s City Library, a curved menagerie of literary delights. When you’re done browsing its titles, start sifting your way through second-hand gems at some of Stockholm’s well-loved vintage and charity shops: Myrorna, Stockholms Stadsmissionen and Beyond Retro all have branches within a few minutes’ walk of Odenplan.
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Stockholm Observatory is perched proudly on a hill just-off Odenplan. Hiking up is worth it for the view of downtown Stockholm alone, but the waffles at the café by the Observatory offer an extra reward for your stair-climbing efforts.
The western corner of Södermalm Island, in the south of the city, is home to Stockholm’s trendiest residents. This is the area to head to if you’re after alternative and LGBTQ-friendly culture. Plus, Hornstull is easily reachable via the red metro line, so there’s little standing between you and a great selection of independent cafes, markets, bars, clubs and gig venues.
On any given day or evening, you can grab a drink and a falafel wrap to enjoy on the island’s mini beaches; relive the ’90s at one of Debaser Strand’s indie nights; or experience a floating bar. The Hornstull is your oyster, so go forth and explore.
For a stay that’ll leave you feeling like a local, find an Airbnb in the verdant Tantolunden park area. Or go all out in one of Långholmen’s colourful, traditional Swedish cottages.
If you’re not sure what you want, head to the waterfront and take your pick of the food trucks. Vegans should beeline for Femtopia, a welcoming feminist spot that makes authentic Swedish pastries that are totally vegan-friendly.
Stage Bar & Kök (kitchen) is always a safe bet, as it offers pub grub and regular live bands. Alternatively, for a bit of quirk, you should try out Loopen, which quite literally floats on Årstaviken lake.
Shop for perfect pieces old and new in the local shops. For vintage vibes head to Hornsgatan and for a contemporary feel, browse Hornstull Gallerian. If you’ve still got loads of energy left after a day of shopping, dance the night away at Debaser Strand.
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Take a stroll along the Strand, which runs besides the water and the beach, and even take a dip if you feel plucky enough to brave the chilly Liljeholmsviken.
The northwest of Stockholm, an area often synonymous with cheaper rents in its ‘70s social housing, is not an obvious tourist spot. Yet the quaint and colourful neighbourhood of Sundbyberg, affectionately known to locals as ‘Sumpan,’ shakes off this reputation with ease.
At the heart of its revival is Signalfabriken, a former telephone cable factory now home to classy bars, independent boutiques and a charming local library. Recently updated transport links to Sundbyberg mean that it is now just ten minutes from Stockholm central station by commuter rail, making this peaceful escape from the inner-city a quick and easy one, and giving ‘Sumpan’ the place it deserves on the Stockholm map.
Experience industrial chic that hints at Sundbyberg’s past at Signalfabriken’s Story Hotel. With stylishly-designed double rooms starting at around €70, Story Hotel cuts a worthy alternative to hostels or Airbnb for travellers on a tighter budget.
From Sundbyberg’s metro station, turn towards Sturegatan, the neighbourhood’s adorable high street, and almost immediately you will stumble upon Princess Konditoriet, a contemporary version of the traditional Swedish café. Try out the Swedish social ritual of ‘fika’: a.k.a coffee and cake with friends. For something more substantial, climb up the adjacent hill to Delibruket Flatbread, a disused water tower turned into a pizzeria.
The Public, a cava bar housed within the red brickwork of Signalfabriken, adds some Mediterranean flair to Sundbyberg, with an exciting tapas menu and inviting outdoor seating throughout the summer. Soak in that midnight sun with a glass of bubbly in hand.
Look for a unique memento to take home from Stockholm at the Mall of Scandinavia. The second largest shopping centre in the Nordic countries boasts over 200 stores teeming with all the Scandivanian design for you to feast your eyes on, and is just a short hop on the ‘Tvärbanan’ tram away from Sundbyberg.
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Head to Marabou Parken art gallery, a local exhibition of thought-provoking contemporary art from Sweden and beyond. As an added bonus, arts students get in for free.