Top 10 things to do in Stockholm on your first visit
Ever since I started commuting to Stockholm when I was 16 and the train came out of the south tunnel and revealed the wonderful view over the water by the parliament and opera house on one side and the Västerbron and city hall on the other, I've been in love with Stockholm. In those moments I really felt like it was worth it to wake up at 05.00 every morning and commute a total of 5h every day. Sweden has a reputation about it to have friendly people but expensive prices, which I would say it pretty bang on most of the time but there's so many wonderful things to do and see in this city surrounded by water. Even just looking at the image I've chosen as the main image for this guide makes me a bit emotional cause I took it early one November morning last year (2019) when the cold was nipping at my fingers and Stockholm was showing up its best side ❤️
Here's some of my favourite things to do that you shouldn't miss when you visit "the capital of Scandinavia" (let me tell you, I don't think Oslo and Helsinki are that happy that Sweden chose that nick name for the city, opss...)
Top 10 things to do in Stockholm on your first visit
I went on a short trip to Stockholm last year on my own to surprise my sister at her babyshower and had a day to spend on my own in the city, so I decided to make the most of it and do some "fika-hopping" where you try different Swedish treats alongside a cold or hot drink whilst walking through the central parts of the city. This way you won't go hungry, you see a lot of your surroundings and you also experience a bit of Swedish culture. Ask anyone in Sweden and they'll tell you the importance of fika.
When visiting Sweden you must try some of the local delicacies - either on your own or if you need a bit of guidance there's also guided tours focusing on Nordic Foods!
I've of course written a Fika Walk Stockholm Guide for this so check that out here if you're curious! Can't wait to do similar guides for perhaps Gothenburg, and Vienna or Salzburg eventually as well...
Promenera runt Djurgården
Here you also find the open air museum/nordic zoo Skansen and plenty of cosy cafes if you get in the mood for a fika. You can walk along the water in most places and walk around this little island which is located in central Stockholm. It's probably my favourite place in Stockholm and I highly recommend going for a calm walk on Djurgården to check it out. My favourite cafe is Flickorna Helin and there's also the ABBA Museum, Spirit Museum and the Vasa Museum if you want a bit of fun and history. If I can only recommend one museum for you to visit then it has to be the Vasa Museum - in here you'll find the massive Vasa ship that mysteriously sank on its maiden journey in 1682.
Eating hotel breakfasts is one of my absolute favourite things in life. Morning are my favourite time of day and to sit down, either alone or in good company, and indulge in good food and let the day come alive is a magical experience. I would say from experience that breakfast is more of a thing in Sweden than in the UK (or maybe I just have the misfortune of living with someone who's not so keen on breakfasts...) but one thing I love about Stockholm is that there's so many wonderful hotels where you don't have to stay to book the breakfast. They usually have lovely buffets with fresh and nice wood with plenty of options to suit all tastes.
I would recommend contacting them in advance and book to make sure you have a spot.
I'm working on some more research (ie, I have a lot of good breakfasts ahead!) but my Top 5 Breakfast in Stockholm Guide will be coming soon, so make sure to follow along here or on Instagram so you don't miss it!
Explore the Old Town, ie Gamla Stan
This cute and picturesque part of Stockholm with its narrow cobblestone streets with lots to look at. If you dare there's also ghost tours where you'll here the tales of murders, assassinations, diseases and ghosts. I would never dare but maybe you're braver than me?!
Lots of photogenic streets, wine bars, souvenir shops and historic buildings.
We actually stayed here on our last visit to Stockholm in a lovely little AirBNB with these guys .
If you'd like money off your next AirBNB stay, use my link when you sign up!
Söder / Sofo
If you're in Stockholm for the first time it's easy to stick to the central parts of the city and miss Söder, which translates in to South. As you've probably already guessed Söder is located south of the very central of Stockholm, if I had to pin the very centre I'd probably say it would be the train station for convenience sake. Here you'll find hipster cafes, vintage shopping, a fairly relaxed atmosphere as well as some lovely places to have a glass of wine or a nice lunch so don't miss checking it out. To make it even cleared - it's the area/island that is centre on the map below (kind of in between Slussen and Skanstull)
Boat trips - near or far
Remember how I was talking about Djurgården earlier in this post? If you are in the south part of town or close to Old Town there's a very convenient way of getting to the little island if you don't want to walk - you can get the ferry! It's the same price as if you were to grab the tube (if you have a day pass it's included there as well!), but you get to see a little bit of Stockholm from the water. If you fancy a longer boat trip there's also boats that take you out to the archipelago or on different little cruises and experiences - check out companies like Strömma for example, they have lots of different options.
There's plenty of shopping opportunities in Stockholm. Here's a few you should check out if you fancy a bit of shopping.
Scandinavias largest shopping mall. Here you'll find pretty much anything you might need. Located in Solna.
Drottninggatan / Queen Street
This classic street runs all the way from Old Town up to Vasastan. On this street you'll find a lot of the bigger typical Swedish brands and on the side streets and nearby you have pretty much everything else.
Östermalm is the posher part of Stockholm. Here you'll find the luxury boutiques and restaurants.
If you're looking for a culinary experience then check out Östermalms Saluhall which is basically a food market with lots of different delicacies to bring home or enjoy straight away. If you're staying in an AirBNB or hotel nearby why not buy a mix of different little treats and enjoy as an alternative to dinner or a snack in between you exploration of the city?
I've already mentioned Södermalm, but if you're looking for vintage or second hand shopping then check out Södermalm. There's plenty of variation between high end vintage and some real finds in the second hand shops!
The Castle & The Parliament
If you are in Stockholm it's almost difficult to miss the parliament and the castle. They're both located right next to each other around the corner from the train station. Stockholm Castle is a fairly new building which was built after the previous one burned down 1697 and now looks a little bit like a shoe box compared to the old castle Tre Kronor which had a more traditional castle look with pinnacles and towers. My boyfriend always says the Stockholm castle doesn't look like a "proper" castle but I think he's mostly spoiled because he grew up in Edinburgh and is used to that typ of castle... The Parliament however sits in a quite impressive building right next-door.
Bonus: The Swedish word for castle is slott 🇸🇪
Voi (or Lime or Tier) around town (carefully!)
Stockholm is both big and small at the same time. If you have lots of time you can walk pretty much anywhere within the city centre, but sometimes you want to be able to see as much as possible without taking the tube or tram... I find that any time you have to use public transport it confuses my sense of direction slightly and I'd rather spend my time in a new place seeing that particular place. Here's where the very clever system of electric scooters come in. They're a great and easy way of avoiding the underground whilst being outdoors in the fresh nordic air when you are exploring Stockholm.
Basically you just need to,
1. download an app
2. check the map and find your closest scooter.
3. scan the scooter.
4. be on your way.
Just keep in mind to read the rules first, stay on safe paths, don't use them if you've had alcohol and be careful!
Hunt down the best cinnamon bun
This is on my list of things to do on my next visit to Stockholm. There's many treats you have to try when you're in Sweden but the cinnamon bun might be the absolute No 1 classic!
And let me tell you a little secret - cinnamon buns may be great, but CARDAMON buns are even better. Trust me, I'm Swedish. Jokes aside, this seems to be one of those questions that will always split people in to two groups - cardamon or cinnamon? I mean I guess you just have to try them both to decide?
Tip: Check out the buns from Bröd & Salt, Vete-katten, Fabrique, Valhallabageriet or Gateau! If you find one that's even better than the ones from these places - tell me in the comments ASAP - I'll need to do further research!
Bonus: SUP or Kayak
In the summer if you want to see the city from another angle, why not rent a SUP or Kayak and paddle around Kungsholmen?
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Stockholm definitely is one of my favourite cities and I it feels like could keep writing forever, but instead I will leave it here with my top 10 things you shouldn't miss when you are visiting the city for the first time and save some of my other secrets for other guides. I'm currently planning a guide on places to eat and drink, where to enjoy a lovely hotel breakfast and some phrases that might be good for your visit to Sweden - so don't miss that coming soon!
Extra Tips for your trip to Stockholm
- If you like tea and coffee check out Sibyllans Te & Kaffehandel and treat yourself to something that smells wonderfully!
- If you like Italian food check out Eataly - a lovely restaurant and market hall in a wonderful building!
- If you fancy a cocktail at a rooftop bar - why not check out TAK?
- If you're looking for a chilly Nordic experience then you have to book ICEBAR Sthlm by ICEHOTEL! We went last year and you get a warm poncho and gloves when you enter the room where it -5 C and the bar is made of ice. You also get a drink where your glass also is entirely made of ice! Every year there's a different theme and it sure is a 'cool' experience... 😉
Have you ever been to Stockholm? What's your favourite thing to do?
Feel free to follow along on IG with @scandinvanianabroad so you don't miss the travels first hand!