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Stockholm encompasses 14 islands on a picturesque Baltic Sea archipelago. From its quaint cobblestone streets to colorful buildings and fascinating cultural attractions, this vibrant capital city will lure you in with its collection of parks, museums and outdoor spaces. Here are our picks for the best things to do in Stockholm, Sweden.
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Dating back to the 1200s, a walk around Gamla Stan offers you a chance to step back in time. It’s one of the largest and most beautifully preserved medieval city centers in Europe, where you’ll find pedestrian-friendly streets dotted with museums, attractions, restaurants, cafes, and bars. Shop its quaint shops to discover unique handicrafts and stop to admire its beautiful churches adorned with shades of gold and frescoes from the Middle Ages.
If you’re traveling with the kids, you can’t miss a visit to Gronalund amusement park in the summer. You’ll find entertainment that engages visitors of all ages, including the viking ship ride that showcases rich Scandinavian traditions. You can easily spend a day enjoy the thrilling rides, while it also has plenty of on-site food to keep you refueled and live concerts. Make sure to time your visit right, as it’s only open from late spring (April/March) to September.
The highly decorated warship Vasa sailed from Stockholm on her anticipated maiden voyage and sank in 1628. It was afloat only minutes before capsizing in front of onlookers in the city’s harbor, and hundreds of years later, the 226-foot-long ship has been completely salvaged. Its extensive restoration is a delight for history enthusiasts, as its the only preserved 17th-century ship in the world and boasts an on-site museum that showcases exhibits about the vessel’s history.
You simply can’t visit Stockholm and not see the iconic changing of the Royal Guard. Not only is seeing the tradition a part of the city’s rich history, but it’s a completely free activity. The Royal Guard, which are part of the Swedish Armed Forces, boasts around 30,000 guards. You can visit and watch the elaborate 40-minute event that happens daily in front of the King of Sweden’s residence.
The perfect chance to experience the Swedish countryside, take a walk around Djurgården Island to discover the most tranquil spot in the city. The island sits right in the middle of the city and boasts beautiful green spaces to enjoy the outdoors on a bike excursion, afternoon picnic or romantic stroll. You can even explore the waterways in a canoe. It’s also a treasure trove of cultural attractions, from Rosendals Garden to Skansen and the famous Vasa Museum.
Skansen is the oldest open-air museum in the world. Sitting on the island of Djurgarden, it’s a family-friendly attraction where you can experience a dose of Sweden as it once was. It showcases five centuries of Swedish history through historical buildings and cultural displays of characters in period dress. Admire the 19th-century town, watch glassblowers and visit the on-site zoo, which features various Scandinavian animals such as wolverines and brown bears.
Take a break at Rosendals Garden to admire its beautiful displays of colorful foliage in its rose garden, orchard, flower beds and greenhouses. Immerse yourself in the tranquil natural setting, while those who visit with kids can have an educational experience in the children’s garden and visit an artisanal bakery and farm shop. Come summertime, you can pick flowers for purchase on the property or nibble on casual bites the cafe that sources veggies grown on-site.
While many visitors only come to The Royal Palace to see the changing of the guard, it has so much more to offer. It’s one of the largest palaces in Europe and is the official residence of His Majesty the King of Sweden, boasting 600 rooms that showcase 18th-century Italian Baroque style. See the ornate interiors of the reception rooms, Queen Kristina’s silver throne and Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities. You can even see royal costumes and coaches in the Armory.
One of the world’s largest meeting places for contemporary photography, Fotografiska is home to four large exhibitions and 20 smaller exhibitions that are presented annually, showcasing a variety of photography styles and subjects. You can meander through the halls to see portraits, landscapes and black and white photos from both local artists and notable international names such as Annie Leibovitz and David LaChapelle. From the top floor cafe, you can soak up stunning views over the city.
When you need a break from sightseeing, head to Royal National City Park to unwind in the leafy expanse. The six-mile-long park winds through Stockholm and encompasses three other parks: Djurgarden, Haga and Ulriksdal. It’s the world’s first national urban park, offering a beautiful green space for both locals and visitors alike to come and unwind while spotting wildlife such as moose, foxes and deer on scenic nature trails that pass centuries-old oak trees, streams and lakes.
If you’re a music fan, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to explore the famous ABBA The Museum. It’s the world’s first official ABBA museum, where you’ll discover interactive exhibitions dedicated to the pop group. It showcases a range of collected works about the group, located at the Swedish Music Hall of Fame in Djurgarden, and displays memorabilia such as gold records, stage costumes and personal items from the band. You can even sing to your best ABBA tune in the Polar Studio.
Experience one of Europe’s most iconic collections of art from the 20th century to today in Moderna Museet, which houses notable pieces from artists such as Picasso, Dali and Matisse. You find a wide range of exhibits here, from modern classics and contemporary art to film, photography, drawing and prints. Step outside to see the outdoor sculptures or bring the kids the children’s workshop to tap into their creativity.