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The 20 essential things to do in Stockholm

In a city surrounded by islands and enriched with history and culture, you'll find plenty of great things to do in Sweden's capital

By Maddy Savage |

The best things to do in Stockholm are often outside. As a breathtaking coastal capital spread across 14 islands, Stockholm instantly impresses with its charming medieval streets, immaculate blooming parks and vibrant waterfront promenades packed with attractions (all top contenders for the city's most Instagrammable places). But dig a bit deeper and you’ll also uncover its edgy, creative (and indoor) side, with trendsetting new eco-architecture and a diverse nightlife scene, ranging from decadent floating bars to throbbing concrete clubs.

Stockholm is a compact city, so the best way to explore its neighbourhoods is simply to follow the lead of its healthy-living locals and spend as much time as possible outdoors. Many of our travel tips involve exploring on foot, so pack your comfiest trainers and prepare for some long walks – or look out for rental bikes during summer and take to the spotless cycle paths. It’s hard to get lost: Stockholm is one of the world’s most connected cities, with widespread wifi and 4G coverage. Visiting in the grip of winter? As the Swedes argue: 'There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.'

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Best things to do in Stockholm

Things to do, Walks and tours

Watch the sun go down from Monteliusvägen cliff path

Be sure to end one of your days of sightseeing by watching the sun go down over the shimmering surface of Lake Mälaren. The best spot to do this from would be Norr Mälarstrand – a leafy Stockholm trail that provides views of the Old Town and its characterful spires. If you're lucky, you'll get a glimpse of the Northern Lights from here too.

Time Out tip: Don't forget to pack an evening picnic of sorts to stay warm while sunset watching. Nearby Slussen boasts many independent coffeeshops.

Photograph: Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia Commons
Attractions, Sightseeing

Sip a hot chocolate in Stockholm’s oldest square

Stortoget is one of the oldest squares in the city. Located in Old Town (of course), you can follow narrow alleys flanked by towering town houses and characterful bars and cafes to get there. It's a good spot in which to stop for a rest, people watch and truly take in the bustling city atmosphere.

Time Out tip: Chokladkoppen is a good lpace to get steaming hot beverages and traditional Swedish cinnamon rolls.

Photograph: Javier Martin/Wikimedia Commons
Attractions, Sightseeing

Catch a ferry to the city’s greenest island, Djurgården

Stockholmers are obsessed with nature, and with Djurgården’s calm waterside and woodland trails. If you’re into museums, the island also boasts several of the capital’s most popular attractions. At the open-air Skansen, visitors can stroll through five centuries of Swedish houses and farmsteads and observe wild Nordic animals. The Vasa Museum is home to a giant seventeenth century salvaged ship, while Abba The Museum combines nostalgic memorabilia with quirky interactive exhibits.

Time Out tip: Food options on Djurgården are pricey and there’s no proper supermarket. Pack a picnic and tuck in on the waterfront behind the Vasa Museum, or find a spot off one of the grassy trails.

Photograph: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Things to do

Rummage the vintage stores in creative Södermalm

Those with a flare for the unique, vintage, retro and second hand will feel right at home in Södermalm. There's an abundance of vintage clothes shops, where you can get everything from ’70s flares to ’90s shell suits via ’20s gowns (on the higher end). Musos will be pleasantly satisfied with the large collection of vinyl on offer too.

Time Out tip: Look out for the 'loppis' (flea markets), which pop-up around here in the warmer months.

Meatballs For The People
Photograph: Courtesy Meatballs For The People
Restaurants, Swedish

Taste Sweden’s national dish at a meatballs restaurant

If you've ever made a trip to Ikea, you'll know that Swedes love their meatballs. Try the traditional dish with mash potato, lingonberry jam and a thick gravy at Meatballs for the People in Södermalm. Sure, you'll find this dish in the highly touristy areas too, but in Södermalm you can avoid the crowds. 

Time Out tip: While it's not touristy, Meatballs for the People is popular, so if you're going for dinner, be sure to book ahead.

Photograph: Courtesy Hellasgården
Health and beauty, Saunas and baths

Get naked at Hellasgården’s lakeside sauna

Embrace the Nordic ritual of sweating out your stresses in a sauna at Hellasgården, a recreation area inside Nacka nature reserve. Here you’ll find separate male and female saunas, and yes, it is compulsory to strip off completely in both. Outside, there’s a jetty from which you can jump (or for the less brave, gingerly ease yourself) into the waters of Lake Källtorp to cool off. Locals make the leap year-round, with a hole drilled into the ice once it freezes over. 

Time Out tip: It’s worth combining a trip to Hellasgården’s sauna with one of the easy hiking trails around the lake. Check the giant map at the main entrance for inspiration.

Photograph: Courtesy Trädgården
Nightlife, Clubs

Dance until dawn at Stockholm’s open-air club

No trip to Stockholm between May and September is complete without a visit to the mother of outdoor party spaces, Trädgården. Sprawling beneath a giant concrete bridge, it’s home to a massive courtyard dance area, a burger shack, table tennis and boules areas, and a jigsaw of smaller terraces and bars that burst into life during peak season. During colder periods of the year the venue scales down to a two-floor techno and electro club called Under Bron (Under the Bridge), with a more underground feel.

Time Out tip: Entry is often free before 8pm; check Trädgården’s social media for the latest information. The vibe here is very casual, but beware temperatures can drop quickly if you’ve turned up in your favourite summer shorts.

Photograph: Christopher Macsurak/Wikimedia Commons
Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Watch the Changing of the Guard at the Royal Palace

Pomp and ceremony is rare in subtle Sweden, but a notable exception is the impressive 40-minute performance held by the Royal Guards daily during summer and three times a week throughout the rest of the year. Immaculately turned out guards donning blue and white uniforms parade towards the palace from the nearby Army Museum or Cavalry Barracks accompanied by a military band, before beginning the royal guard ceremony in the main courtyard. 

Time Out tip: Most tourists cluster around the Royal Palace, but you can get some decent snaps of the start of the parade from outside the Army Museum (it typically starts here at 11:45am, but check in advance) and you can even follow the band to the palace, if you’ve got a strong walking pace.

Photograph: Bernat Majó/Flickr
Museums, Specialist interest

Eat a cardamom bun in a panoramic art gallery

Situated in an old red brick on the waterfront that once belonged to the customs department, you'll find Fotografiska. It's a big ol' photography gallery that delves into the history of the art form, with wall upon wall of stunning images. Fotografiska also has one of the best cafes in the city, a bright and airy open-plan space in which to relax with a coffee and slice of cake.

Time Out tip: Given its museum status, Fotografiska is immensely popular at the weekens. Avoid Saturday and Sunday visits if you want to avoid the masses.

Courtesy Yelp/Berns Salonger
Nightlife, Clubs

Watch a gig at 19th century music venue Berns

A staple in Stockholm’s nightlife scene for more than 150 years, Berns is a sprawling complex of bars, clubs, restaurants and a hotel. For live music lovers, the magic happens in the decadent grand hall, Stora Salongen, where the calendar switches between intimate performances from global folk and indie bands to pulsating strobe-light raves. On Friday and Saturday nights, the atmosphere is less unique; Stora Salongen transforms into a lively commercial club with a dressed-up younger crowd. 

Time Out tip: Berns is pricey, as are its neighbouring bars. For a pre-gig tipple when the sun’s shining, pick up some beers from an off-license shop (Systembolaget) on nearby street Nybrogatan and head to Humlegården park. Note that Systembolaget stores close at 7pm on weekdays and shut up shop for the weekend after 3pm on Saturdays.

Photograph: Courtesy Tantolunden
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Explore the secret gardens of Tantolunden park

More than a hundred allotments and brightly painted wooden cottages tucked away on Tantolunden’s hillside make this one of the city’s most colourful parks year-round, and one of the city's most Instagram-friendly places. Think perfectly-manicured flower beds and terracotta-red miniature homes that you can cook or nap in. Elsewhere in the park there’s mini golf, two outdoor gyms and plenty of benches from which to watch passing boats during summer. In winter, it’s a well-trodden spot for a Sunday stroll, or even a toboggan ride when the snow falls.

Time Out tip: Hike up the mound in the centre of the park to get some great panoramic photos over the water towards the shiny new Liljeholmen development.

Photograph: Courtesy Tak
Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Indulge in a sky-high cocktail in revamped Brunkebergstorg

For a brew with a view head up to Tak on Brunkebergstorg. This beautifully kitted out – in midcentury modern-meets-Japanese decor – restaurant and bar sits atop the chic design hotel Hobo. The windows stretch from the floor to the ceiling to make the most of the epic city panorama and the food is Japanese fusion. 

Time Out tip: On warm days they put out sun loungers for customers – be quick to nab one, though, as they fill up quickly.

Photograph: Arild Vågen/Wikimedia Commons
Attractions, Parliament and civic buildings

Walk or run the full 9.5 kilometres around Kungsholmen island

Stockholm boasts numerous beautiful footpaths. So as well as wandering along the Monteliusvägen cliff path, you should also check out Kungsholmen. This residential island in central Stockholm, is less than 10k around, so you can easily explore the entire place in a couple of hours (or take advantage like the locals and use it for a leisurely morning run).

Time Out tip: If you want to visit Kungsholmen, we'd recommend going early to allow for ample daylight time. Once the sun sets it gets very dark and there are some tricky cliff sections to get around.

Stockholm Archipelago
Photograph: Courtesy Tommie Hansen/Flickr
Attractions, Sightseeing

Sail through Stockholm’s 30,000 island archipelago

While Stockholm’s city skyline is jaw-droppingly beautiful, the wider region’s jewel-in-the-crown is its dazzling archipelago, spilling out into the Baltic Sea. Here you’ll find thousands of islands, ranging from chic tourist spots boasting boutique hotels and sandy beaches, to deserted rocky outposts sprouting with pine trees. 

Time Out tip: Head straight to the top deck as soon as you get on any ferry, to ensure you snag an outdoor seat. Booking on to the second crossing of the day can make for a less sardine-like journey in high season.

Nya Carnegiebryggeriet
Photograph: Courtesy Arild Vågen/Wikimedia Comons
Bars and pubs, Craft beer pubs

Drink craft beer in eco-friendly Hammarby Sjöstad

Off the beaten path for many travellers, this former industrial wasteland turned award-winning urban eco district is worth a visit to check out its impressive energy-saving modern architecture (designed to reduce heat consumption) or to bike along its pristine waterfront cycle lanes. To quench your thirst, make a stop at craft beer bar Nya Carnegiebryggeriet. Run by a team trained by the iconic Brooklyn Brewery in New York, it specialises in seasonal releases and limited-edition experiments. 

Time Out tip: If you’re not in the mood for a beer, soak up the atmosphere for free with a stop on the curved wooden seating deck on the waterfront next to Lugnets Allé.

People enjoying Långholmen island
Photograph: Shutterstock/Nadezhda Kharitonova
Attractions, Beaches

Go for a swim off Långholmen island

For most people, Stockholm doesn’t immediately conjure up images of tanning on an idyllic beach followed by an afternoon dip. But you can, in fact, do both, right in the city centre. Just a 15-minute stroll from urban Hornstull’s bustling coffee shops and bars is Långholmen island, one of the Swedish capital’s most frequented swimming spots. With a modest sandy front, it’s surrounded by flat rocks and a grassy bank where locals love to picnic. 

Time Out tip: There are good-quality outdoor cold showers at Långholmen’s bathing spot if you want to freshen up before heading back into the city.

Bio Rio
Photograph: Courtesy Bio Rio
Cinemas, Independent

Have breakfast while watching a movie at Bio Rio

One of the best ways to tackle a weekend hangover in Stockholm is to nestle into the soft red velvet seats at the iconic 1940s movie theatre Bio Rio in Hornstull. On Sundays at 10.30am it hosts breakfast screenings, where you can catch a retro or newly-released indie movie while snacking on a simple smorgåsbord of yoghurt and muesli, fruit and an open Swedish sandwich, and knocking back as much coffee as you feel like. 

Time Out tip: Many of the films shown are in English or have English-language subtitles, but check in advance to make sure you don’t end up trying to make sense of an obscure Japanese arthouse offering via a Swedish translation.

Photograph: Courtesy Hornstulls Marknad
Things to do, Markets and fairs

Snack from a food truck at Hornstulls Marknad

Stockholm food hounds delight in hitting Hornstull’s waterfront on weekends between April and October, when it’s chock-a-block with independent vendors dishing up worldly gastronomic goodies from colourful trucks emblazoned with modish logos. The roster changes from week-to-week, but recent seasons have served up vibrant vegetarian curries, gourmet American-style sliders and punchy burritos. Tuck into your food on the large wooden seating platforms overlooking the water.

Time Out tip: To avoid the throng around the food trucks, take your pickings for a picnic in neighbouring Tantolunden park.

Ugglan Boule Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Ugglan Boule Bar
Bars and pubs, Craft beer pubs

Play ping pong at underground games mecca Ugglan

In the heart of Stockholm’s Brooklyn-inspired SoFo district, the legendary basement venue Ugglan is where locals literally seek out fun and games during gloomy winter evenings. Packed with twentysomething vintage-clad creatives, Ugglan is the place to indulge in table football, darts, boule, shuffleboard and air hockey, play the arcade machines or join in with a game of round-the-table ping pong. There’s locally-brewed beer on tap and street food to soak it all up with; making this one of the city's best bars, especially for groups.

Time Out tip: If you’re in a big group and keen to stay for the whole evening, the food and activity package deals are worth the money, giving you fixed time slots for up to three games and access to an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Strandvägen in Stockholm
Photograph: Shutterstock/Pawel Szczepanski
Restaurants, Seafood

Sip rosé from a floating bar on Stockholm’s glitziest street

Long the most expensive street in the city, Strandvägen stretches along the waterfront from the posh Östermalm district towards the green trails of Djurgården island. Ångbåtsbryggan is a classic choice for dining and drinks, with a well-respected seafood menu, but keep an eye out for summer pop-ups too. Drinks are priced up to reflect the location and the crowd, but you won’t forget sampling a sundowner in this majestic spot.

Time Out tip: If you’re in town during winter when most floating bars are closed, Hotel Diplomat and Strandvägen 1 offer a chance to soak up the street’s glamour from dry land.

Worked up an appetite?

We've found the 10 best restaurants to visit on your next trip to Stockholm.
Photograph: Courtesy Rosendals Trädgard

The best restaurants in Stockholm

Get a taste for traditional Swedish meatballs or splurge on edgy New Nordic cuisine foraged from a nearby forest at the city's top restaurants.

GYG Stockholm Widget

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