Stockholm, Sweden's biggest city, offers travelers and locals a wide range of enjoyable activities. One of the most charming capitals in Europe, Stockholm has everything from an island filled with museums and historic monuments to cool neighborhoods with cafés, flea markets, and funky shops to a great arts scene—even visible in many subway stations. Visitors will have a chance for once-in-a-lifetime moments like watching the Royal Palace's changing of the guard and touring the 600-room palace, or soaking up the nightlife at a bar made of ice, serving drinks in glasses also created with ice.
One of Stockholm's top destinations for locals and tourists, Djurgården (The Royal Game Park) is an island in the middle of the city known for its beautiful green spaces, historic buildings and monuments, museums, events, the amusement park Gröna Lund, and more. The popular island has more than 10 million visitors each year. In the warmer months, the location is perfect for an interesting 2-hour walking tour across the island.
For visitors to see all of Stockholm's attractions at once, try a guided tour through the city. Take a walking tour to see the cobblestone streets of the city center while you learn about the capital's past and local culture. Kayak lovers can float through the heart of the city and catch great waterfront views. Or try a bicycle tour through historic neighborhoods, along the waterfront pathways of the city’s many islands, and past main tourist attractions,
For some fun for the whole family, head to Grona Lund Amusement Park, a popular attraction in Stockholm's Djurgården. The park, typically open from late April/March through September, has a variety of things to do, like tea cup rides, a haunted "House of Nightmares," over 60 summer concerts, and games such as skeeball (rolling balls on a slope).
When hunger strikes, you'll find everything from Mexican food to vegan fare like falafel, pizza, and veggie burgers.
If you are more interested in nightlife and bars, you'll find plenty in Stockholm. Party lovers should not miss a chilly bar made of ice inside Hotel C Stockholm, called ICEBAR, where your drink is also in a glass composed of ice—bring your warm clothes since the temperature inside is 23 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 degrees Celsius). Or head to Fasching, a jazz club with new and known international artists, along with a restaurant.
In 1628, the warship Vasa sailed from Stockholm on her maiden voyage and sank. Three centuries later, Vasa was discovered and salvaged and is now the world's best-preserved 17th-century ship, decorated with numerous carved sculptures. The Vasa Museum in Djurgården is one of the most visited museums in Scandinavia and has been chosen as one of the Seven Wonders of Sweden. A restaurant and a store for picking up souvenirs are also onsite.
When it opened in 2013, ABBA The Museum became the world's first official museum honoring the Swedish 1970s pop band, and ABBA fans from around the world unite to soak it all in. Located in Djurgården in central Stockholm, the interactive museum offers a cinema with over 30 seats, guided tours, and audio guides in several languages. Plus, visitors have a chance to play virtual dress-up with the band's costumes and explore other interesting exhibits about the band famous for songs like "Dancing Queen" and "Take a Chance on Me."
For many people, watching the changing of the Royal Guard (part of the Swedish Armed Forces) in Stockholm is a once-in-a-lifetime experience rich in history: The Royal Guard has been safeguarding the palace in Stockholm since 1523. This free 40-minute event takes place every day of the year in front of the Royal Palace, the king of Sweden's sprawling, 11-story residence. It's interesting for adults and children to see, making it a popular attraction.
If you like to go shopping, Stockholm is often considered the "shopping capital of the North," as it's known for modern Scandinavian design and artwork as well as Swedish fashion in name brand stores and smaller boutiques. Among the stores famous for art and design in Stockholm's inner city are Svenskt Tenn and Asplund. Swedish homes are often synonymous with Ikea, which helped several innovative furniture and accessories designers.
If you're visiting in the winter, one fun activity for families or individuals is to go ice skating at Kungsträdgården Park in the heart of Stockholm. Ice skating is a popular and free Scandinavian activity in the colder months and is a favorite winter pastime for both visitors and locals in Stockholm. The park is open daily and has skates available for rent.
One of Stockholm's major cultural attractions, the Royal Palace has more than 600 rooms. Built during the 18th century in Italian Baroque style, it's the Swedish king's official residence.
Visitors can see the Royal Apartments and three museums, including The Treasury, which displays the regalia from coronation day. The Three Crowns museum details the original Tre Kronor Palace that was destroyed in a 1697 fire. Gustav III's Museum of Antiquities amazingly opened back in 1794—visitors can see Gustav III's collection of sculptures.
Guided tours in English, Chinese, and Russian are available a few times a day; pay when buying your entrance ticket.
Skansen, the world's first open-air museum, opened in 1891 in Djurgården to show how life in Sweden was before the Industrial Age through a display of houses and farmsteads from around the country. Year-round festivities include an Easter market, summer dancing and concerts, Christmas markets, and more.
Nordic animals such as moose, wolves, and seals call Skansen home. There is also a Children’s Zoo with small domestic animals such as cats and rabbits. For a separate admission fee, visitors can experience the Skansen Aquarium (and the World of Monkeys), which features fish, crocodiles, lizards, snakes, and dozens of other exotic species.
If you want to see the largest children's bookstore in Sweden, head to Junibacken on Djurgården, a great attraction for the little ones—the focus is on Swedish children’s literature and the author Astrid Lindgren. Play in the garden while taking in one of Stockholm’s best views or check out Storybook Square, a fictional public square in which each house is devoted to a children’s author from Sweden. There's also a theater and restaurant.
Explore Cafés and Parks in Södermalm
Södermalm, an island in the middle of Stockholm, is a fun way to spend a day. Tantolunden is a good park for relaxing with a picnic, swimming, or playing frisbee golf in the summer. Nearby, the blocks south of the street Folkungagatan, referred to as "SoFo," are full of unique music, clothing, and other shops, as well as restaurants and cafés.
Fotografiska, one of the world’s largest contemporary photography hubs, has a souvenir shop and a restaurant. Södra Teatern, the 19th-century theater with live music and theater performances, is another must; the venue also offers great city views.
When you are traveling in Stockholm, take advantage of the abundance of cafés and get into this country's lovely tradition of fika, the state of mind which entails slowing down and socializing with loved ones, friends, or colleagues over a cup of coffee and a treat such as kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) or äppelkaka (a slice of apple cake). Some people enjoy a smörgås, an open sandwich, with their coffee. The most important part is that your fika entails interacting with others and relaxing.
The Stadsbiblioteket, or the Stockholm Public Library, was designed by world-famous architect Gunnar Asplund in 1928. Sweden's largest public library, it's also one of the city's standout buildings—with a striking central book-filled roundabout on the inside and a chandelier above—and is among the world’s most famously beautiful libraries both inside and outside. The branch open daily has over 400,000 books, and features author visits and reading circles.
Stroll Around Stortorget
Many tourists enjoy Stortorget, a historic public square in Gamla Stan, Stockholm's old town, where they can go to local cafés or shops, or see a lively Christmas market with food and crafts. Stortorget is surrounded by colorful 17th- and 18th-century buildings; one of interest is Börshuset, the former stock exchange building that now houses the Nobel Prize Museum.
The square has had some darker moments in history: It was the scene of the Stockholm Bloodbath, a series of nearly 100 executions in the year 1520.
Stockholm has several markets held on the weekends—a nice opportunity to pick up some fresh produce and crafts and do some people watching. In Södermalm, a farmers market is held every Saturday from August through October; look for organic and locally-produced vegetables and fruit, and more. From May to October on certain weekends, there's a large outdoor flea market where locals sell used items such as antiques, household items, and clothes.
If you are using public transportation in Stockholm or are just an art lover, don't miss the subway system, dubbed the world's longest art exhibit at 68 miles (110 kilometers) long. Stockholm's 100 subway stations have been adorned with paintings, installations, sculptures, mosaics, and additional creative works by over 150 artists. Check out the Solna Centrum station, which features bright green forest and red sunset landscapes, and the Tensta station, which has a colorful display of animal sculptures and leaves.