I just spent the most amazing few days in Stockholm. The city really exceeded my expectations in every single way. With its clean streets, waterways, colorful buildings and green spaces throughout the city, it’s not hard to fall in love with the Swedish capital. I’m honestly very happy I chose Stockholm as a destination for my first solo trip. Naturally I was a bit nervous at first, but everyone I met was so nice and helpful, that I felt right at ease. I’m pretty sure that because of that, Stockholm will forever hold a very special place in my heart. I stayed in the city for three nights, but due to some late flight times I was only able to spend three full days there. However with some good planning in advance I was able to fit in all the highlights onto my itinerary.
Explore Gamla Stan
On my first full day, I woke up super early. Not that I didn’t sleep well, but as ‘Midsummer’ was just around the corner, the nights were much shorter than I’m used to (dark between 12AM and 3AM). When I woke up around 6.30AM it felt like it was already midday, so I decided to get an early start. After breakfast I hopped on the subway and went on my way to Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town and home of the first Viking settlement. It’s one of the best preserved medieval city centers in Europe and a very popular tourist spot in the city. I had planned to join a ‘Free Walking Tour’ at 10 am, but as I was there earlier I decided to check out Stortoget already and admire the colorful gingerbread-like buildings. Stortoget is Stockholm’s main square and the heart of the city. It’s where you can find the Nobel Price Museum, Stock Exchange Building (Börshuset) and the Swedish Academy.
Join a free Walking Tour
Free Walking Tour Stockholm organizes guided tours throughout Gamla Stan every day at 10AM. There is no need to book in advance. During the tour you will learn a lot more about the history of Stockholm. Normally I’m not someone who enjoys guided tours much, (to much details, a bit boring you know), but our guide Alex showed us around town in a very amusing way, so I can only recommend to go on a tour with them. Some of the highlights were the Priest Street, the German Church and the Alley of Mårten Trotzig, the narrowest street in Stockholm. Also on the shedule: the Royal Palace, Stockholm second oldest square ‘The Iron Square’ and the Iron Boy. The latter known in English as the “little boy who looks at the moon”. With its fifteen centimeters high it is the smallest public statue in Stockholm. And yes even smaller than our very own ‘Manneken Pis’!
The tour took about two hours and finished just in time to walk back from Stortoget to the Royal Palace to catch a glimpse of the ‘Changing of the Guards’ at 12.15PM. Generally, the Changing of the Guard ceremony is held every day from April 23 to August 31.
The Royal palace itself is with its 600 rooms one of the largest palaces in Europe! Besides the Royal Apartments you can also visit three museums in there: the Treasury with the regalia, the Kronor Museum that portrays the palaces medieval history and Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities.
Enjoy the subway art while travelling
Stockholm’s subway system is said to be the longest art exhibition in the world. The metro stations have been spruced up with beautiful statues, murals and installations. My favorites being T-Centralen, Stadion & Kungsträdgården!
Visit City Hall
Stockholm’s City Hall, with its spire featuring the golden ‘Three Crowns’, is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. Unfortunately for me the building was undergoing some renovations, so I wasn’t able to witness the full beauty of it (or take a picture of it). Radhuset was built between 1911 and 1923 by Kreuger & Tall. From the city hall you have an amazing view upon Riddarholmen Church, the burial church of the Swedish monarchs and one of the oldest churches in Stockholm.
Stockholm’s City Hall has a lovely lakeside site on the north shore of Riddarfjarden with beautiful statues from Carl Eldh, of a man and a woman, dancing above the waters in a celebration of life. I quickly noticed that the garden was very popular with local sunbathers, so I decided to join them before heading to my next stop. Oh well, forever chasing the sun right?!
FIKA AT KUNGSTRÄDGÅRDEN
Kungsträdgården aka the King’s Garden is located in the Norrmalm part of Stockholm. I was not really planning on visiting Norrmalm as that is the business district of Stockholm, but I figured as I had to pass by the park to get to Skeppsholmen, why not check it out right?! Kungsträdgården is one of Stockholm’s oldest public parks. Kungsträdgården is a fun, green space were both locals and tourist alike come together to enjoy a game of chess, read a book or indulge in people watching. In April the park is even more special, because than the Cherry Blossom threes are in bloom. Kungsträdgården is the perfect spot for a lovely picnic. I decided to eat my ‘kannelbulle’ from Chokladkoppen I bought earlier that day. So delicious!
Enjoy the views from the bridge to Skeppsholmen & Gilded Crown
With some renewed energy from my ‘Fika’ moment in the park I walked along the water near the Gilded Crown on the bridge over to Skeppsholmen. From that point you have a stunning view over the Royal Palace. If you continue walking across the bridge, you will arrive at Skeppsholmen Island, which used to be a marine base, but nowadays houses the Moderna Museet and Östasiatiska museet. I did not visit any of the museums, as the weather was really nice and I rather stayed outside and enjoy the spectacular views!
Wander around DJURGÅRDEN
Djurgården is a green oasis in the middle of the city. It’s also the island where you can find many of the city’s famous museums and attractions. When you disembark from the ferry you will immediately see Gröna Lund, an amusement park that opened its doors back in 1883. During summer they often organize concerts with big headliners such as Sting. Another famous attraction upon Djurgården is Skansen, the world’s oldest open-air museum, showcasing the whole of Sweden with houses and farmsteads from every part of the country. I however was there to visit ABBA The Museum and Vasamuseet.
SING & DANCE AT ABBA THE MUSEUM
I’m a big ABBA fan, so a visit to Abba The Museum was a must during my trip to Stockholm. Naturally the museum tells the story of how Sweden’s most popular pop group came to be, but there’s so much more! ABBA The Museum is an interactive museum where you can virtually try on ABBA’s costumes, sing, play, mix original music and become the fifth member of ABBA by performing on the large stage together with Björn, Benny, Frida and Agnetha. Besides all of that there is also a temporary exhibition taken place about the Mamma Mia movies. I honestly had the time of my life. There was never a dull moment at this museum and I can only recommend to go. ABBA fan or not!
From ABBA The Museum it’s about a five minute walk to the Vasamuseet, the most visited museum in the whole of Scandinavia. The 69 meter-long warship Vasa sank on its maiden voyage in the middle of Stockholm in 1628 and was salvaged 333 years later in 1961. Today Vasa is the world’s best preserved 17th century ship. Entering the museum is a real wow experience. You can see the Vasa emerge from behind the glass doors and that’s pretty impressive! The Vasa museum consists of four floors. Each floor will tell you another part of the story of the ship: how life was on board, about the finds they did on board and how people looked at that time. Everything you ever wanted to know about the Vasa is explained during the guided tours. Guided tours are included in the entrance fee and are held every 30 minutes in English. Due to the fact that it’s very crowded in the museum it’s sometimes hard to understand everything the guide is saying, but it’s for sure an interesting extra.
Go for a walk at the LUSTHUSPORTENS PARK and STRÄNDVAGEN Boulevard
After two museum visits it was time to enjoy the outdoors! You can find lots of greenery and calm places with beautiful views on Djurgården, but if you don’t have the time to explore the entire island, I would suggest you visit Lusthusportens Park on the edge of the Djurgården Bridge, which is what I did.
Across the Djurgården Bridge, lays Strandvägen; one of the most gorgeous boulevards in the city! I really enjoyed walking around the wide waterfront with picturesque boats and cafes. On the other side of the tree-lined boulevard you can find some beautiful buildings such as Bünsowska Huset and the prestigious hotels; Hotel Esplanade and Hotel Diplomat. Strändvagen really reminded me of the grandeur of the Parisian boulevards.
Catch a glimpse of the Östermalm District
Östermalm is known for high-end shopping, fine dining restaurants, posh bars and nightclubs. I didn’t spend much time in Östermalm as I was short in time. With only 3 days in the city, you can’t do it all. On my way to the nearest metro, I passed by the Royal Stables, explored the Östermalmshallen food market and enjoyed some window shopping at Bibliotekstan, Stockholm’s most luxurious shopping street.
Explore the Södermalm district
Södermalm lies in the south of Stockholm and is known as the hipster neighborhood. Stockholmers themselves just call this neighborhood Söder or SoFo (south of the street Folkungagatan, which supposedly marks the beginning of the hip area). Södermalm is the heart of great food and bohemian lifestyle, and because of that the area really spoke to me when searching for accommodations.
The charming Nytorget square is the heart of SoFo. All four sides are lined with shops, cafés and restaurants. I saw so many foodie hotspots that I wanted to try. SoFo is also where you can find the loveliest little boutiques, including my personal favorite ‘Grandpa’. At the store you can find a mix of fashion, accessories, home décor and gadgets. Even if you don’t buy anything (which I hardly doubt), you will leave the store with tons of inspiration. Also not to miss is Pärlans konfektyr, a cute candy store, where the most delicious fudge is baked!
In the 17th century Södermalm was a working class area. In the streets surrounding the Sofiakyrkan; Bergsprängargränd & Mäster Persgränd you can still find some charming working class cottages. The now iconic (and phoyogenic) red houses of Sweden were once ordinary working-class homes; often shared with more than one family. It’s said that even nowadays some houses have not been equipped with electricity and sewerage. Hard to imagine right?!
My favorite spot in Södermalm is Monteliusvägen, a 500 meter walking path from where you have the most beautiful views over Lake Mälaren, Stadshuset, Riddarholmen and Gamla Stan. There are terraces, park benches and picnic tables along the path, making it easy to stop and enjoy the view. One of my favorite spots along the path is Ivar Los Park, one of Stockholm’s most beloved public parks. After you’ve enjoyed the up high view, you can take the staircase down the hill towards Mariatorget via Blecktornsgränd. Along the stairs that make up this street you will find several cafes and art galleries such as Magnolia and Cafe Mariaberget.
Another must do in Södermalm is Fotografiska, one of the largest museums for modern photography in the world. It’s located in the old toll house near Slussen. Every year there are more than 20 exhibitions from both famous and less known photographers at the museum. Fotografiska should be on every photography lover’s itinerary.
Finding good restaurants in Stockholm isn’t hard. Although the Swedish cuisine isn’t that known, I’ve had some amazing dining experiences during my trip. Some traditional Swedish dishes that you’ll want to try: Kötbullar (meatballs with cream sauce), Gravlax (dill-cured salmon) and Kannebullar (cinnamon rolls).
Breakfast & Coffee
Chokladkoppen – famous for its hot coco and super delicious ‘kanelbulle’ aka cinnamon rolls. The spot is also super cute.
Johan & Nyström – lovely coffee bar with several locations around the city. Perfect for breakfast or a light lunch. I had the Salmon Toast and it was really good.
Café Pom & Flora – french-inspired cafe that offers breakfast all day. On the menu you can find smoothie bowls and lots of specialty coffees.
Lunch & Dinner
Strandbryggan – cool bar conveniently located at the Djurgård Bridge. The bar is very popular with locals and is well-known for its selection of rosé wines and champagne. On the menu you can find shellfish, fish and salads. Every day there is a different lunch dish available too. I decided to go for my favorite Scandinavian dishes Gravad Lax. Hanging out at Strandbryggan really gave me the holiday feels; delicious food, amazing waterside views and that combined with some nice music in the back…. #takemebackpls
Östermalms Saluhall – one of the most popular lunch spots in Stockholm. Both locals and tourists alike come together in this food market to enjoy the delicious Swedish ‘husmanskost’ or exquisite seafood platters.
Meatballs for the People – The place for meatballs in Stockholm, When you think of Swedish meatballs, you think of the manufactured ones from IKEA, right? Well, on that note I figured it was about time to have a taste of the real deal. At Meatballs for the People, they serve ‘kötttbullar’ from different kinds of animals like bear, reindeer moose and wild boar to name a few… I ordered the traditional Swedish meatballs, with red wine sauce, mashed potatoes, cucumbers and lingon berries and it was absolutely delicious! And obviously so much better than the IKEA ones! 😉
Kvarnen – restaurant that has been serving the typical Swedish ‘husmanskost’ since 1908. It’s also the place to be where locals go to enjoy a beer after work. I was quite impressed with the interior of the restaurant, which really takes you back in time. Kvarnen is famous for its kötttbullar (meatballs), but you can also find reindeer steak and other meat dishes on the menu. I chose the ‘Fish & Seafood Stew’ which was so delicious and honestly the best meal during my Stockholm adventure.
Where to stay?
During my trip I stayed at the NOFO Hotel & Wine Bar in the Södermalm district. The atmosphere at this four star boutique hotel is relaxed, vibrant and international, which I absolutely loved.
All 103 rooms at the hotel are unique. For the interior design they worked with four different concepts based on international cities. There’s the ‘Scandinavian design’ rooms representing Stockholm and Copenhagen with light colors and classic Swedish patterns on the wallpaper. The ‘Belle Epoque’ rooms will take you back to Paris in the 19th century. The ‘Uptown Classics’ drew their inspiration from the big cities’ posh neighborhood e.g. the Upper East Side in New York, Soho and Carnaby Street in London and Trastevere in Rome. I got to stay in one of the recently opened ‘Industrial Vintage’ rooms; based on the environments such as the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens in New York. Off course that made for one happy Freija! I had booked a single room, so my room wasn’t very large. I have to say though that it offered all the comfort I needed during my trip; comfy bed; rain forest shower and fast Wi-Fi.
Breakfast at NOFO is an absolute feast! I can honestly say that is one of best breakfasts I had ever had. The buffet is filled with local specialties, home-baked bread, freshly-made smoothies and basically everything else you need to start your day off amazing!
NOFO also has its very own wine bar! The ambition is to serve as many organic and bio-dynamic wines and beers as possible. And of course there are also plenty of cocktails and non-alcoholic alternatives to choose from. During the warmer months of the year, you can relax in the outdoor patio at the inner courtyard of the hotel. The courtyard quickly became my happy place after a busy day of sightseeing in the city. In short; if you are looking for a great hotel in Stockholm, book that room at NOFO!
• Sweden’s national airport, Arlanda, lays about 40 kilometers north of Stockholm. Brussels Airlines flights arrive at the smaller airport in Bromma. In any case the easiest and cheapest way from both airports to the city center is by Flygbussarna Airport Coaches.
• Stockholm is easily walkable, but the metro is also a quick and convenient way to get around the city. I bought a 72 hours travelcard, which I was able to use for bus, tram and some ferry’s too.
• Currency: Swedish Krona (SEK)