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So, Stockholm eh? Great choice. The city of ABBA, obscure meats and old towns is so much fun, and so worth it. Even if you’ve only got a few hours, or a weekend, there’s so much you can cram in to just a little bit of time.
Stockholm is one of the most manageable cities in Europe with direct flights from most capitals, 20 minute access to the airport to the city and great hotels at every turn, not to mention an incredible number of restaurants that will knock your socks off, whether the bill does as well or not.
Here’s how to get around Stockholm, where to stay, what you need to see and where to eat, if of course you want to have the perfect visit to this Scandinavian paradise.
Most travellers will arrive into Stockholm from Arlanda Airport (ARN), which offers direct flights from the USA, Europe, Asia and Middle East. It’s a really easy airport to navigate and without a doubt, this is a city where there is one “best” way to get into town.
The Arlanda Express is a brilliant train which takes 20 minutes door to door and runs constantly. If you book more than two days in advance it’s much, much cheaper and drops you directly into central station.
If the train isn’t your game, Uber, taxi and all the other options exist – but there’s just no faster or better way to get somewhere central from Arlanda Airport. You can book tickets in advance on your phone and just show your phone on board.
Geographically speaking, Stockholm is really accessible from wherever you stay. There are great hotels in the Old Town, solid choices sprinkled around the most central areas and other options further afield work well too. Basically, don’t panic.
If you are on limited time and want pure convenience, the Radisson Blu and Sheraton are both in easy walking distance from where the Arlanda Express train departs Central Station, with easy access to the Central underground station as well. They’re not going to wow you, but they are the perfect place to set up camp, and really – on a 48 hour trip the hotel is just a place to rest.
For a higher end hotel experience in Stockholm, the Grand or the Lydmar are two extremely convenient and upscale options. The Lydmar is a really funky boutique with great food, excellent cocktails and superb service.
If you want to be closer to boutiques, hip coffee shops and more independent vibes of the Old Town, there are also great options such as the Hotel Rival worth exploring, in addition to Airbnb options…
Stockholm has wonderful mass transit, as you’d expect in such a pretty city.
Unlike most cities – cough, New York- the underground or metro in Stockholm is actually worth taking at least once, even if you don’t need to.
That’s because each major metro station offers a unique design theme, almost all of which are quite literally works of art. They’ve even become Instagram famous. You’ll love it, and it’s a quick way to zip around. Here’s a good cheat sheet.
Otherwise, if the weather is remotely decent: walk! Stockholm is incredibly safe and with its enviable proximity to water, there’s almost always a good view in sight. Bring those sneakers and make the most of the best free transit system. That’s your feet, in case you were wondering.
In a city known for famous cafes, and enviable coffee culture there are plenty of idyllic breakfasts. If you want the best coffee with all the single origin goodness, alternative milks, V60 and flat whites, seek out: Drop Coffee, Johan & Nystrom, Café Pascal, Cafe Foam and Chokladkoppen.
Scandinavian food is such a unique treat, but whatever your tastes Stockholm is an amazing place to eat. Food is serious here.
From super high end Michelin starred sushi to inventive viking food or French classics, you really can’t go wrong in a city with an extreme focus on fresh or pickled produce from the bountiful lands, farms and seas surrounding the city.
On the very high end, Lilla Ego, Aloë, Rutabaga, Matbaren, Gastrologik, Tak or Eksted will leave you absolutely inspired by the pan European approach to truly fantastic Nordic food. Just bring a healthy wallet.
If you could only do one special meal in Stockholm? Maybe Matbaren from Mathias Dahlgren or Lilla Ego.
They’re not “cheap” eats, but they’re exceptionally special at very reasonable price points. If the weather is nice, you absolutely cannot beat the enviable location of Lux Dag för Dag, right on the water.
For the most wallet friendly Stockholm dining, Falafel Bar in Sodermalm is a very welcomed treat. If you’re not a veggie, you really can’t leave Stockholm without some meatballs, so aim for Meatballs For The People, or Mom’s Kitchen. If you’re still hungry, get some cheap Chinese at Fang Yuan Shi Wu.
To understand Stockholm you must first pass through Gamla Stan, aka the Old Town. It’s steeped in history but it’s far from a history class. This is a district which acts as the foray into the world class shopping, underground coffee joints and incredible views found just a bit higher up in Sodermalm, which represents the South of the city. Roam around, get lost and then get walking.
Assuming you’re staying somewhere Central, walk across Norbro or Strömbron or Vasabron and just keep making your way up the hill. Eventually you’ll want to turn around and enjoy the picture perfect views of modern day Central Stockholm and the waters surrounding it. From here you can plot your perfect morning cup of coffee and breakfast at one of the areas many desirable cafes.
For the art inclined, Fotografiska is an amazing museum situated directly in Sodermalm, which is the perfect way to spend the afternoon. You’ll find absolutely incredible photo portraits, scenes and art pieces that represent the finest in photography in all shapes and sizes. On top of being totally worth the trip for the jaw dropping art, the Fotografiska Museum has one of Stockholm’s best cafes.
If you’re more of a dancing queen, or a Fernando type, there’s only one place. The ABBA Museum is cheese on cheese on cheese, but it’s also awesome. There’s a 3D hologram where you can join ABBA on stage and you can’t say you’re a true fan until you’ve been. There are plenty of other tourist related things to see nearby in the Djurgarden as well, including the zoo and aquarium, so it’s easy to make a day of it. You’re 100% a tourist in this district, but for your first time, it’s totally ok.
By now, surely it’s dinner time.
In a word, Stockholm is an extremely “seasonal” city, so the best things to do will absolutely vary by when you visit. If you didn’t manage to hit all the sights from day one, you can always start day two with a little catch up, but if the weather is pleasant there are just so many fun things to do.
To start the day, it’s really worth heading to one of the 14 incredibly colourful metro stations and taking a ride on one of the world’s best transit systems. If you happen to be visiting in April or early May, Kungsträdgården is the perfect stop.
Yep, it’s the Instagram famous cherry blossom square with picture perfect views all around. Even if the blossoms aren’t out, it’s a neat area to walk around, with open air chess games and people enjoying life.
Assuming you’ve had your fill of boutique shops and cafes in Sodermalm and walked along the water in Central Stockholm, you’ve got a few really fun choices for your last day in town, depending on your interests.
If you want to get a bit funky on a pretty day, head to Hellasgården for a beautiful hike around the lake followed by a dip in the fully naked outdoor saunas. Yes, the naked part is mandatory, but there are separate saunas for men and women. It’s a Nordic thing. Even if stripping off to strangers isn’t your thing, the hiking around Hellasgården and Nacka are some of the best around.
Tantolunden or Langholmen are great alternatives on a beautiful day, offering some of Stockholm’s prettiest gardens and even a “secret” beach or two. On a pretty day, it’s hard to think of a better place in the city to bring a picnic and enjoy the boundless nature.
From April to October, don’t miss out on the Hornstulls Market either, which brings together tons of delicious food stalls and artisan goods.
On a cold and rainy day, walking endless miles or km’s isn’t really the dream. That’s alright, because aside from the ABBA Museum and Fotografiska, Stockholm has a few remaining gems. Watching the changing of the guards at the Royal Palace is a fascinating tradition, and since the royals live there, you can count on the temperature being just right. There’s also Drottningholm Palace as well.
That’s it, you’ve done it. Wave goodbye to Stockholm. After enjoying these spots, we trust you’ll be back to explore more. Stockholm is a city you really do need to see twice, so be sure to plan a prime summer trip when the sun never sets, and also a winter trip to cozy markets to catch true Nordic culture in action, complete with tourists on skates. You’ll love it.