Are you visiting Stockholm for the first time and wondering what to see? Or have you just moved to the Swedish capital and need tips on fun things to do in your new hometown? No matter what, we’ve got you covered.
A city like Stockholm, built on 14 islands linked together by 57 bridges, obviously gives you so many options on things to see and do, so it might be hard to know where to start. That’s where View Stockholm, one of Sweden’s largest digital Stockholm guides, comes in. They bring you the best of this beautiful city when it comes to attractions, activities, shopping, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightlife, events, and more.
Here they show you the top 5 places to visit in Stockholm if you’re a newbie. A more cynical person might label these places ”tourist traps,” but there is a reason why most people want to see them: they are really worth a visit. This guide will get you started and get you a great first glimpse of “The Venice of the North.”
Going from one to another of our suggested sights on the list, you will be able to catch many a glimpse of both Lake Mälaren (west of Old Town) and the Baltic Sea (east of Old Town) and many of the city skyline’s iconic buildings. There are so many places and things to do in Stockholm, and the first place you must visit is:
Old Town (Gamla stan)
Old Town is, as the name tells, the oldest part of Stockholm. This island, called Stadsholmen, housed the entire town in the 13th century, and the narrow cobblestone alleys and many buildings from that time remain. A visit to Old Town is like a journey through history, from the medieval interior of the cathedral Storkyrkan, via the Royal Palace’s austere baroque style from 1690 to present-day tourist tat, including plastic Viking helmets, hand-painted Dalecarlian horses, and red-and-white striped candy canes called “Polka pig.”‘
Stroll along the crooked streets and picturesque squares, stop for coffee or lunch, visit a church or the palace if you have the time, and pop into the small craft shops or galleries before you head off to the next must-see place:
Stadshuset is the City Hall, the seat of Stockholm Municipality, and a well-known landmark. The iconic tower is crowned with three golden crowns symbolizing Sweden. You have a splendid view of the city from the top – if you can manage the 365 stone steps, there is no lift. In the building, you will find the Blue Hall, where the Noble Prize banquet is held every year, and the Golden Hall, where 18 million golden mosaic tiles sparkle when the laureates dance after the four-hour dinner.
Stadshuset is visited by more than half a million people every year and is located on the island of Kungsholmen. From the pier below, you can catch boats into the lake, Mälaren, and visit the Drottningholm Palace, a former summer residence that is now the private home of the Swedish royal family. Boat trips to Birka, the old Viking capital, and Mariefred, with Gripsholm Castle, also depart from here.
From the island of Kungsholmen in the west, we now head east to Djurgården. This island has belonged to the crown since the 15th century. Djurgården offers woods, parks, and waterways and houses many of the most popular museums and cultural attractions in Stockholm. We are about to visit two of them, so hop on a bus, the tram, or take the ferry from Old Town! We start with:
The Vasa Museum
The Vasa Museum is Scandinavia’s most visited museum and home to the world-famous ship Vasa. On its maiden voyage, this 17th-century warship capsized and sank in Stockholm in 1628. It was salvaged after 333 years and is now the museum’s crown jewel. Besides the ship, thousands of objects, from everyday items belonging to crew members to ornate sculptures and artifacts, are displayed in the permanent exhibitions.
Temporary exhibitions focus and the food onboard, the women on the crew, and many other interesting aspects of life during the Swedish Empire. Grab an audio guide (available in many languages) and get to know this, the world’s best-preserved ship from the 16-hundreds. You will surely love it – 1,5 million visitors a year cannot be wrong!
Another museum that attracts 1,5 million visitors a year is located just a little bit further out on Djurgården, and this is our next stop:
Skansen is an open-air museum (the oldest in the world), as well as a zoo and a concert venue. During the romantic nationalistic era around the turn of the last century, Arthur Hazels started “collecting” old Swedish farms, cottages, mills, and other dwellings from all over Sweden. The houses were then re-assembled in Skansen, turning the park into a historical mini-Sweden. Traditional furniture, clothes, and tools were also brought to Skansen, and especially during the weekends, many of the houses are filled with staff dressed in folk costumes, baking flatbread, spinning wool, or mowing meadows with a scythe.
In the zoo, you will find Scandinavian wildlife such as moose, bears, lynx, and wolverines, as well as a petting zoo with kittens, rabbits, and baby goats. The Skansen Aquarium offers a more exotic fauna with snakes, crocodiles, and sloths, among many others. During the summer, the big stage Solliden hosts outdoor concerts and the very popular sing-along evenings on Tuesday nights (also broadcasted on TV). Stockholmers and tourists of all ages love Skansen, and people come here all year to participate in the traditional festivities at Christmas, Midsummer, and Walpurgis night.
After all these cultural sights, what more could one need? Well, some Swedish food and some shopping are next on our list, and fortunately, there is one place where you can get both of these cravings satisfied simultaneously:
Most people are aware that the world-famous furniture store IKEA is Swedish. After the humble origins in rural Småland, the big step towards success was opening up the flagship store in Kungens Kurva, south of Stockholm city. Inspired by the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the round building greeted its first visitors in 1965.
Not a tourist attraction, you might say. If so, you would be wrong. This place attracts as many visitors a year as all the already mentioned museums combined. Before there were IKEA stores in Finland (the first one opened in 1996), bus tours crossed the Baltic every week with the sole purpose of visiting the shop in Stockholm.
Take the metro to Skärholmen or Fruängen and catch a bus from there. Then spend the day walking in and out of the staged rooms, admiring Scandinavian interior design and inventiveness, pretending to live in these parallel universes, and shop corkscrews, napkins, and tea lights like a true Swede.
And we mentioned food. Many people visit IKEA for the food, especially the Swedish meatballs, served with potatoes, a creamy brown sauce, peas, and lingonberry jam. Price? 49 crowns – a real bargain. At Christmas, shopping for gifts and a fresh-cut tree can be accompanied by the “Julbord,” a smörgåsbord of delicacies – also at a budget price. There is even a “gift shop” after the checkout, which offers Swedish candy, cloudberry jam, and other treats to take home. In other words, IKEA is the perfect tourist trap, sorry – tourist attraction.
There you have it, a miniature guide for your first visit to the Swedish capital. We wish you a great stay and hope to see you again – there is much more to see and do in Stockholm.
Want more Stockholm tips?
Are you going to Stockholm and want more tips on making the most of your stay? Or have you just moved to the Swedish capital and are looking for a great guide to your new hometown? View Stockholm is one of Sweden’s largest digital Stockholm guides. Their extensive website guides and Instagram account make it easy and fun for visitors and locals to find the best Stockholm has to offer.