Stockholm is a popular tourist destination and you can easily find many guides for what to see and do during your stay here. After soon six years in Stockholm, I find that I have distilled a personal list of recommendations for when friends and family come visiting. These are places that might show you a different side of Stockholm, the side that I have come to appreciate. Places I return to myself every now and then.
So let’s jump right in: My list of destinations in Stockholm that will help you take in the capital of Sweden.
Tunnelbanan is the core of Stockholm’s network of public transportation. Three lines service suburbs and satellite towns north and south. Stockholm is star shaped and most places you travel between will see you going through T-Centralen, the central station connecting commuter trains with regional and national trains as well as trains and buses to Arlanda airport. Underground walkways connect travellers in all directions.
As Stockholm is built on rocky islands crisscrossed by waterways, bringing your car to the city center is expensive and inconvenient. Even on Sundays we park the car at a station half way from the city center and commute in.
Luckily the transit network work excellent on most days. The ticketing system is easy to grasp (not designed by a committee, looking at you Copenhagen) and the easiest way is to swipe your credit card as you enter. You can then use the network for 75 minutes for a fixed price, no matter how many times you exit and how far you travel. Including connecting busses and tramways.
Not only is it by far the easiest way to get around, there is another reason that you should seek out the underground: Tunnelbanan is the largest art museum in Stockholm. Explore and immerse yourself in the vivid underground universe. Stations decorated with artwork in distinct styles blend in with walkways and escalators.
Old Town — Gamla Stan — is the heart of Stockholm. Located on an island that sits where the brackish water from the Baltic Sea meets the fresh water from Lake Mälaren. This is where Stockholm was founded and it is where most of its history have unfolded. Today, the narrow streets winding up and down the hillside will take you past the Royal Castle, the Parliament and the Nobel Museum. Be sure to stay clear of the western side where earlier generations left a four lane main road as a present in the name of progress.
My favourite go-to destination is Science Fiction Bokhandeln, a shop with wide selection of books, games, comics and oddities.
From Gamla Stan you can take a shuttle boat to Djurgården, the museum island on the east side of Stockholm. Among a fine selection of museums and fairgrounds, find the number one destination for a visit to Stockholm: The Vasa Museum.
The Vasa Ship
The Vasa Museum is the number one attraction in most guides and for good reason: Not only is the well preserved ship that went down in 1628 astounding, the museum is world class in how it displays and tells the stories
While you cannot walk onboard Vasa, you walk next to it in several levels. From the hull, anchor, stern and port, to a platform overlooking the ship from the rear which gives a great sense of the ship. From items recovered on and near the wreck, displays take outset in individual people travelling on the ship when it sank and tell the stories of everyday life on board the ship. Why the ship sank on its virgin voyage. The discovery and recovery in 1961. The significance of the figures and ornaments covering the ship.
The Technical Museum north east of the city center is unfortunately a bit of a walk from the nearest T-station. This is the exception to the rule: Here we take the car.
Tekniska has a permanent exhibition which is well worth a visit, telling the story of industrial development of Sweden. The history of mining from Falun in medieval times to modern day Kiruna.
However, it is the changing exhibitions that keeps us coming back: Colonisation of Mars. Evolution of Robots. Latest: Play Beyond Play, the evolution of computer games in Sweden from the very first simulator created for Sweden’s nuclear missile program in the 1950ies to virtual worlds discovered using VR headsets.
Exhibitions are interactive and invite you to play and explore, here you will not drown in a wall of text. Go to Tekniska and be inspired to learn more. The exhibitions, opening hours and facilities are kids friendly.
Södermalm is the island south of Gamla Stan. You have to take you past the huge construction site where Stockholm renews the gates that protects the fresh water in Mälaren consumed by 2 million people daily from the threat of brackish water entering due to climate change.
Once you get there, you will find a city district with its own heartbeat. Scattered around residential and recreational areas, Södermalm is also home to many specialty shops.
- Highlights, a shop for graffiti artists and street culture.
- Hellstone Music, a music store with new, used and vintage drums/guitars/basses.
- Stockholms Science Fiction Antikvariat, with used science fiction and fantasy books.
You may also find it fun to swing by Mojang, the game design studio that created Minecraft.