The city of Stockholm, Sweden is spread across fourteen islands in the Baltic Sea. These islands are connected by a whopping 57 bridges, inspiring Stockholm’s nickname, the “Venice of the North.” Boats, ferries, and trams make Swedish island hopping a breeze. Good thing, too, because there are a ton of cool things to do in Stockholm! Here are some of the attractions you won’t want to miss.
Stockholm Royal Palace
The Royal Palace of Stockholm is the official residence of the King of Sweden and a sumptuous setting for state functions. It is also a major tourist attraction, drawing in hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Tickets include entrance to the Royal Apartments and the Treasury, where the crown jewels are on well-guarded display.
Swedes may be known for their prowess on the water, but this wasn’t always the case. In 1625, the Swedish king and a Dutch master shipbuilder started building Vasa, the most powerful warship in the Baltic. Three years later, and a mere 1,300 meters from shore, Vasa toppled over and sank to the bottom of the sea.
There it remained until the 1950s when the colossal wreck was discovered and eventually raised. 98% of the original shop, including masts and sails, remains frozen in time. Sweden’s greatest boondoggle has given the world its only preserved 17th century ship. It is on display at the Vasa Museum along with the the bones and personal effects of some of the men and women who perished in the disaster. The whole thing is tragically fascinating.
This vast open-air ethnographic museum and zoo is such a fun place to explore. Founded in 1891, Skansen uses actual historical buildings and costumed performers to recreate centuries of rural Swedish life. I love these types of museums because they provide a real taste of a place’s culture and its development over time.
The Skansen zoo showcases native Scandinavian species such as moose, elk, bears, and wolverines, alongside more exotic breeds. Fun fact: European bison were brought back from near-extinction thanks in part to a herd living in Skansen.
The Vasa Museum and Skansen are both located on Djurgarden island. Another big draw on Djurgarden is the ABBA Museum, which is dedicated to the famous Swedish pop group. For some reason I decided to skip this fun-sounding museum and have regretted it ever since.
Stockholm’s prettiest neighborhood is Gamla Stan, the medieval city center. The colorful buildings have been wonderfully well preserved, with many dating to the 13th century. Some of the cobbled lanes are so narrow that you can touch the houses on either side. Souvenir shops and restaurants line the main streets and squares, though quiet nooks can be found at every turn. You’ll definitely want to linger here!
If you have time, I highly recommend taking the ferry to Drottningholm Palace. This UNESCO-listed residence of the Swedish royal family dates to the 1660s. I spent half a day wandering through the ornately furnished rooms and marveling at the all fine details. Drottningholm is located on Lovon island and the journey takes one hour each way. The ferry departs from the pier next to City Hall. Combination tickets that include the boat ride and palace entry are available.
Stockholm City Hall
Stockholm City Hall dates to 1923 and has hosted the Nobel Prize Banquet since 1930. Guided tours begin in the Blue Hall, where the banquet dinner is served. After the meal, guests ascend a staircase that was especially designed to accommodate ball gowns and high heels. Once safely at the top, the party continues in the show-stopping Golden Hall. The walls are aglow with 18 million golden mosaic tiles!
Stockholm Boat Tour
If you want to cover a lot of ground – er, sea – an “Under the Bridges of Stockholm” boat tour is a good option. We cruised under 15 of Stockholm’s bridges and through one of the locks that regulates the surrounding water level. The two ride was accompanied with highly informative factoids delivered via personal headsets, and I thought it was worth the ticket price. Sit on the right side of the boat for the best view, and be sure to bundle up as the air blowing through the windows can be quite chilly – even in summer!
Tell me: What do YOU think are the best things to do in Stockholm?
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