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 mansion. Alternatively, soak up the nightlife at a bar made of ice, which serves drinks in glasses also created with ice.
In 1989, the Ericsson Globe—known as the world's largest spherical building—came to life. Major Stockholm events are planned there all year, from hockey games to big-name concerts that seat about 16,000 people. To add to the amazing attraction, SkyView glass gondolas transport guests 426 feet (130 meters) above sea level to the top of the Ericsson Globe, which has stunning views of Stockholm.
Stadshuset, the Stockholm City Hall at the southeastern end of Kungsholmen island, is one of the city's most known landmarks. Built in 1923, the structure was created in Renaissance and national romanticism styles by the architect Ragnar Östberg, who was inspired by Italy. A political office building where Stockholm City Council meets, the space is also used for events and entertainment. Guided tours of City Hall are popular.
Drottningholm Palace is a popular tourist attraction built in the 17th century, which is one of Stockholm's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This must-see landmark is only about a 15-minute drive from Stockholm. The best-preserved royal palace in the country has been the Swedish royal family's permanent residence since 1981. Visitors may view the building as well as a lovely park, Drottningholms Slottsteater (the Drottningholm Palace Theater), and the Chinese Pavilion.
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 island has more than 15 million visitors each year. In the warmer months, the location is perfect for an interesting 2-hour walking tour across the island.
A guided tour of the city helps visitors see all of Stockholm's wonderful attractions at once. Walk through 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 teacup rides, a haunted "House of Nightmares," numerous 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 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 Stockholm, where your drink is also in a glass composed of ice—bring your warm clothes since the temperature inside is 19 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 degrees Celsius). ICEBAR Stockholm loans a thermo-cape and a pair of gloves to each visitor.
Another option is to head to Fasching, a club/bar with new and known international jazz, blues, and other artists, along with a restaurant. The venue is located in a historic building in Stockholm's city center.
In 1628, the warship Vasa sailed from Stockholm on her maiden voyage and sank. Three centuries later, Vasa was discovered and salvaged and is the world's best-preserved 17th-century ship, decorated with numerous carved sculptures. Djurgården's Vasa Museum, one of the most popular museums in Scandinavia, has been chosen as one of the Seven Wonders of Sweden. The Vasa Museum Restaurant serves food, snacks, and drinks, and the museum shop is great for picking up souvenirs related to the ship and its history.
When it opened in 2013, ABBA The Museum became the world's first official site honoring the Swedish 1970s pop band, and global fans unite to soak it all in. Located in Djurgården in central Stockholm, the interactive museum offers a cinema, 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 group 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 approximately 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." The city is known for modern Scandinavian design and artwork as well as Swedish fashion in name brand stores and smaller boutiques. Among the shops 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. This free Scandinavian activity is a favorite winter pastime for both visitors and locals in Stockholm. The park is usually open daily from the middle of December through early March 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 and other languages are available; 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. Visitors view 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, guests can experience the Skansen Aquarium (and the World of Monkeys), which features fish, crocodiles, lizards, snakes, and dozens of other exotic species.
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 plant-based restaurant. Södra Teatern, the 19th-century theater with live music and DJ performances, is another must; the venue also offers great city views.
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 about 410,000 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.
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, with a colorful display of animal sculptures and leaves.