Conquering Stockholm: Travel Planning Guide

Östermalm

Stockholm is one of the most desirable travel destinations on the planet and for good reason.  It is perhaps the most picturesque capital city in the world.  Stockholm is made up of 14 islands located between Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea.  Green space makes up roughly 30% of the city making it a nature lovers paradise.

Stockholm is an architectural marvel as well.  From classical medieval era architecture to striking modern buildings, the city is an embarrassment of riches on the sightseeing front.  These wonderful buildings hold cultural treasures inside.  World class museums, royal jewels,  and artistic wonders are staples of Stockholm.  All in all, Stockholm should be at the top of any travelers list of places to visit.    

Djurgården

When to go and how long to stay

 

Stockholm has very distinct seasons and the time of year you visit will have a profound effect on the type of travel experience you have.  Visiting in June to early September and you have temperatures in the 70’s.  You can also see more than 18 hours of sunlight per day over the summer.  On the reverse side in the winter you can see temperatures in the 20’s, with snow on the ground and you can see as little as 6 hours between sunrise and sunset.  You certainly get better travel deals during the winter but be prepared to bundle up and not see much of the sun.

There are many things to see and do in Stockholm.  You can have a fun but rushed trip in 3 full days.  4 full days is much more enjoyable and with 5 or more you can enjoy an extended trip to the archipelago. 

Money and language barrier

 

Stockholm and Sweden as a whole are an expensive place to visit.  It is possible to visit Stockholm on a budget, but be careful on how you spend your money.  Sweden does not use the Euro.  The local currency is the Swedish Krona.  ATM machines are all over and offer the best exchange rate to get local currency.  Sweden is one of the most credit card friendly countries and you may not need to withdraw much cash at all for your trip.  Credit cards are accepted almost every where and you are more likely to encounter a place that does not accept cash as opposed to a place that does not accept credit cards. 

Traveling in Stockholm you may forget that English is not the official language of Sweden.  While locals will speak to each other in Swedish walk into a shop or restaurant and you are just as likely to be greeted in English as you are in Swedish.  Rarely will you encounter any type of language barrier if you only speak English.        

Getting to Stockholm

 

Most will fly into Arlanda International Airport approximately 25 miles outside the city.  The cheapest option into the city from the airport is by bus and takes around 40 minutes.  The quickest way to Stockholm is by the Arlanda Express train zipping you into the city center in 20 minutes.  Buy online in advance and you may get a discount.  Local trains also run between Arlanda and Stockholm and takes approximately 40 minutes.  It is recommended to take the Arlanda Express for the easiest and quickest way into town or by bus for the cheapest. 

    

Bromma Airport is a largely domestic airport located about 5 miles outside of Stockholm and Skavsta Airport is more than 60 miles outside Stockholm and is used by budget airlines like Ryanair.   The easiest option into Stockholm from these airports is by bus.

You can also arrive by train from Copenhagen, Oslo, and other cities around Sweden.  You arrive at Stockholm Central, right in the center of the city.     

Finally you can arrive by boat.  Ferries arrive from Helsinki, Tallinn, Mariehamn and other locales.  Many cruise ships make stops in Stockholm. 

Getting Around Stockholm

 

Stockholm is an easily walkable city and getting around by foot is the most enjoyable to take in the scenery.  During the summer months it can also be a great idea to rent a bike.  Stockholm is a very bike friendly town with bike paths all over the city.  Taxi’s are expensive and not a recommended form of transportation.  Cars are charged a congestion tax in the city center and so renting a car is also expensive and not advisable with so many good public transportation options available.

Stockholm has a well developed public transportation system that gets you around the city quickly.  The drawback is public transportation in Stockholm is expensive.  With a combination of Metro, bus, and ferry service, you have multiple options to get you where you need to go.  T

You will need an SL access card to use public transportation.  You can purchase an SL Access Card and then load as much money onto the card as needed.  You can also purchase travel cards that are good for one time use, or all day passes good for 24 hours or 72 hours without having to purchase the SL Access card.  If you plan on using public transportation extensively during your visit it is cheaper to buy an Access Card as they are cheaper per use than the single use cards.  Single use tickets are valid for 75 minutes from activation and allow transfers.        

The Metro called the T-Bana is extensive.  Stations are easy to find with a giant T sign above the entrance.  The Metro is the fastest way around Stockholm.  Many stations are also works of art with paintings sculptures lining the walls and ceilings.  Bus service is also well developed and will get you just about anywhere you want to go.  Busses also service the archipelago which is a nice bonus.  Of note, you can not purchase tickets from the driver on busses.  You must purchase tickets in advance. 

With as much water as there is around Stockholm, it is no surprise that ferries are a vital transportation source.  The Djurgården ferry takes visitors between Slussen to Djurgården Island.  SL Access cards are valid on this ferry.  They are not valid however on the ferries that service the archipelago.  Waxholmsbolaget and Cinderella are the companies that offer ferry to service between Stockholm and various islands in the archipelago.  You can purchase tickets on board for these boats. 

Things to See and Do

 

Stockholm has a lot to see and do.  The best museums in the city are the Vasa Museum, Nobel Museum, Moderna (Modern Art Museum), Nordiska Museum, Fotografiska Gallery, Historiska museet (Swedish History Museum) and the Skansen open air Museum. 

The old town or Gamla Stan is home to many top sites and the most popular tourist destination.  Included is the Royal Palace where you can watch the changing of the guard or tour the lavish interior. 

The most popular green space is the Djurgården.  Home to many museums and parks,  Djurgården can occupy a day in itself.  The archipelago is is the must do day or multi day trip right outside the city limits of Stockholm. 

There are many places to eat and shop throughout Stockholm. Drottninggatan is one of the most popular locations to shop.  The Östermalms Saluhall in Östermalm is the most famous food hall.  Stockholm has a very popular nightlife scene with the more popular clubs located in the Stureplan district having long lines throughout the night. 

Tours are popular in Stockholm like other major tourist destinations.  There are boat tours including the Under The Bridges of Stockholm tour and Royal Canal Tour.   Open Top and Hop-on Hop-Off bus tours can allow you to see a lot in a short period of time and walking tours are widely available.     

Itinerary

 

Day 1:  Start your trip by seeing the oldest part of town in Gamla Stan.  Tour the Royal Palace and see the changing of the guard, visit the Nobel Museum, and take in the beautiful churches such as the Storkyrkan and Riddarholmskyrkan.  Other architectural marvels to visit are the city courthouse  parliament building and visit the Museum of Medieval Stockholm.  End your day by sitting at the edge of the water with a sunset view of Stockholms City Hall.

Day 2: Spend the day on Djurgården Island. Visit the Vasa Museum, Nordiska Museum, Skansen open air museum, and ABBA Museum. Stroll through the park settings between each museum and tour the Royal Djurgården Park. The thrill junkies can also check out  Gröna Lund amusement park.  End your day by taking the Djurgården ferry to Slussen and walk to the Fotografiska or photography gallry.  Even if you are not a photography fan it has a nice restaurant that with incredible views.

Day 3: Begin your day at Stockholms Stadshus (city hall) and its famous Golden Hall.  Visit the Moderna Museet (Modern Art Museum), followed and strolling the Kungstradgarden and Ostermalm neighborhoods.

Day 4: The essential day to to the Stockholm Archipelago. If you only have a day Vaxholm is the best option followed by Grinda.  If you have a couple of days there are plenty of islands to choose from for island hopping. 

Day 5: A day trip out to Drottningholm Palace 

Stockholm at night

Final Thoughts

 

  • Toilets in public places cost money.  Carry 5 SEK coins.  Restroom in museums, libraries, and government buildings are free to use.
  • Credit Cards are widely accepted but the preferred type of card is a chip and pin card.  American’s and their chip and signature cards should be accepted but be prepared just in case
  • Stand on the right when using the escalator.  The left is a “passing lane.” 
  • WiFi is available in most hotels and many cafe’s and restaurants. 
  • While July is a popular month to visit, many Swedes also travel during this month.  It is not uncommon to find many restaurants and local businesses are closed. 

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