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Gamla Stan
Photograph: Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia Commons

How to do Stockholm in 48 hours

Tight for time in Stockholm? These are the restaurants, bars and attractions you shouldn’t miss on your weekend getaway

By Annika Hipple and Huw Oliver

If you’re after a chocka holiday packed with sight after sight, Stockholm’s the one for you. There’s enough to do in this city to keep any visitor – or local – going for months. But a weekend alone should suffice to explore the Swedish capital’s main attractions and get a sense of its lively culture, food and drink scenes. Want to know all about the city’s best restaurants and things to do? This 48-hour itinerary is packed with thrilling activities and pit stops – and covers all the key central neighbourhoods, from Gamla Stan to Södermalm.

Although some say Stockholm is at its most glorious in late spring and summer, even during the colder, darker months, you’ll find plenty to occupy your time. Just be aware that some activities and attractions go into hibernation mode in off-season, so it’s worth checking opening hours in advance.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Stockholm

How to do Stockholm in 48 hours

Photograph: Bernat Majó/Flickr

Friday evening

Museums Specialist interest

Located in a former royal customs house with stunning waterfront views, Fotografiska is widely considered one of Europe’s top museums. Dedicated to contemporary photography, it features both world-famous and emerging international artists in its regularly changing exhibitions. Open until 1am on weekends, Fotografiska also has an award-winning in-house restaurant, bar and café, making it easy to spend an entire evening here.

Photograph: Courtesy Akkurat

Friday late night

Bars and pubs Gastropubs

If you love beer, Akkurat is the perfect spot to wind down after a busy day of sightseeing. Open until 1am, this unpretentious wood-panelled pub near Slussen has Stockholm’s best beer menu, with more than two-dozen craft brews on tap and a huge selection of bottles. There’s also an extensive range of whiskies from Scotland.

Gamla Stan
Photograph: Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia Commons

Saturday morning

A warren of narrow cobbled streets, Stockholm’s Old Town, Gamla Stan, dates back to the 13th century. Here you’ll find the Royal Palace, Stockholm Cathedral and lots of excellent museums. The main shopping streets, especially Västerlånggatan, are touristy and often crowded, but off the main drag you’ll find peace, charm and quirky treasures such as Stockholm’s tiniest statue, the 5.9-inch Iron Boy (behind the Finnish Church).

Saturday midday

If the weather’s fine, there’s no better way to get a feel for Stockholm than on foot. When you’ve had your fill of Gamla Stan, follow the waterfront north to Nybroviken and stroll along Strandvägen, a 19th-century esplanade lined with elegant converted mansions. At the bridge, cross over to leafy Djurgården island, once a royal hunting park.

Photograph: Clark & Kim Kays/Flickr

Saturday afternoon

Museums Specialist interest

In August 1628, the royal flagship Vasa sank in Stockholm harbour, just minutes into her maiden voyage. Salvaged more than 330 years later and amazingly well preserved, the ship is the centrepiece of the Vasa Museum, a must-see for any first-time visitor to Stockholm. Don’t miss the excellent film about the disaster and the dramatic recovery of the ship.

Photograph: Courtesy Oaxen Slip

Saturday evening

Restaurants Bistros

Further along Djurgården lies a stalwart of Stockholm’s restaurant scene, Oaxen Slip, a casual bistro housed in a converted boathouse adjacent to its upscale sister, Michelin-starred Oaxen Krog. It’s the perfect place to enjoy waterfront views while dining on a menu of outstanding Nordic cuisine made with seasonal Swedish ingredients.

Photograph: Allgau/Wikimedia Commons

Saturday late night

Theatre Performing arts space

On the heights of Södermalm, above Slussen, lies Södra Teatern, one of Stockholm’s oldest theatres, built in 1859. These days it houses several bars, various stages for live music, and a restaurant, Mosebacke Etablissement, that becomes a club after 10pm on weekends. On long summer evenings, the outdoor Mosebacke Terrace is a popular place for drinks and food with glorious views and regular concerts.

Photograph: Arild Vågen/Wikimedia Commons

Sunday morning

Attractions Parliament and civic buildings

Kick off your final day with a visit to Stockholm’s distinctive City Hall. Its splendid interiors include the Blue Hall, the venue for the annual Nobel Prize banquet (though not actually blue), as well as the astonishing Golden Hall, covered in mosaics depicting Swedish history. Access is by guided tour only, offered in English throughout the day.

Photograph: Courtesy Vete-Katten

Sunday midday

Restaurants Coffeeshops

An essential part of Swedish culture, fika means an afternoon tea-like coffee break, typically with a pastry, and with an added element of congenial company and cosiness. Stockholm is filled with cafés where you can have great fika, but few feel as rooted in tradition as Vete-Katten, which has been serving up mouthwatering baked goods and light lunches since 1928.

Photograph: Courtesy Stromma

Sunday afternoon

No visit to Stockholm is complete without seeing the city from the water, and the best way to do so is on a boat excursion operated by Strömma. Hop on the classic Under the Bridges of Stockholm tour to explore the waterways of the inner city or venture further afield on an archipelago cruise. In off-season, try the 90-minute Stockholm Winter Tour.

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