Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and a fantastic entry point to Scandinavia. It’s one of those amazing places that has such a wonderful mix of old town charm and modern city vibes. One minute you’re wandering the busy streets, full of eager shoppers bustling about; the next you find yourself in the historic old town, with its cobbled laneways and picturesque architecture.
Stockholm is relatively walkable if you have the time and energy. In particular, I recommend walking from the old town to the island of Djurgarden. It only takes about 45 minutes, and it’s lovely to see how the views change as you wander along. In fact, we walked it two days in a row, totally not bragging. (Maybe just a little.)
Whether you have two days or two weeks up your sleeve, here are five things that you simply must do while in Stockholm.
1. Time travel back to the Viking era with Vasa Museum
Vasa Museum lives on Djurgarden and is home to the Vasa, a Viking ship that sunk in 1628. The Vasa was left capsized for 333 years before being brought to shore and restored. The museum itself is incredible. You could easily spend a whole day exploring the different areas, learning about the ship and it’s inhabitants, and imagining what life would have been like at sea if things had turned out differently.
The work that went into restoring the ship is mind-blowing. The methods they used to work out what colour the decorations should be, and how they pieced together the stories of those on board were fascinating, to say the least.
No matter how much time you have in Stockholm, pop this one at the top of your list.
2. Visit the wildlife at Skansen
Skansen is also on Djurgarden and is a huge open-air museum. During the warmer months, you’ll discover so much more than we did. But of course, we travelled in Winter, and many of the attractions were closed.
However, we did get to see some fantastic Nordic wildlife, including grey wolves, lynx, foxes, elk, and reindeer.
Everything is open, so you get to see the animals pretty much as if they were in the wild. But watching the wolves and foxes “hunt”, and seeing the beautiful faces of the lynx, was a true highlight for me.
Of course, you know I have a soft spot for elk and reindeer, so I was very excited to see them in real life, too.
3. Explore Gamla Stan, the historic old town
Although we live in a major city — or perhaps because of this — our favourite thing to do overseas is wandering the cobbled streets of the old towns.
We actually opted to stay in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s historic old town, during our time here. Cobbled laneways are no friend of our wheelie suitcases, but it was certainly worth the pain, to walk out the front door each morning and feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
I wanted to photograph everything!
4. Enjoy the most expensive coffee and cake in an underground cafe
Who doesn’t love an underground cafe?
We didn’t really know what to expect when we stumbled upon these underground cafes in Gamla Stan. I can’t for the life of me remember which one we went to, but I know there are a few to choose from. Just look for the steps leading down, haha. But seriously, it was pretty surreal to think that the cobbled laneways are right above you as you sip on your overpriced coffee.
The cafe we picked had brick walls that arched over to form the roof. Candles and Christmas stars with fairy lights softly lit up the room, and it was really warm and cosy, a stark contrast to the cold temperatures outdoors. Yes, it was the most expensive coffee and cake we’ve ever had, but damn it was good!
5. Photograph Gamla Stan from City Hall
The only thing better than staying in the old town is looking at the old town from across the way.
We made our way to City Hall to get some shots of Gamla Stan after sunset. We figured it was the best spot to go, in order to fit the whole old town in our shots.
I think we nailed it.
6. Bonus: Ring in the New Year
Okay, so technically this one won’t always be possible. But, if you happen to find yourself in Stockholm at the end of the year, it’s worth sticking around for the New Year celebrations. We wandered down to the waterfront, outside the Palace, and were treated to live music and an epic fireworks display. You can’t complain about that.
Have you been to Stockholm before?
What must-do activities did we miss?
Where else is a good spot to get epic photos of Gamla Stan?