Are you fascinated by Northern culture and tradition?
You have never been to Northern Europe, and would like some tips on where to start?
In both cases, Stockholm would be a great place to start with.
Steep in history and tradition, we visited Stockholm as a part of our Scandinavian trip that in 2018 brought us to Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo, Reykjavik and on a road trip around the Icelandic island.
On that occasion, despite the weather not being on our side, we managed to get the most of this incredible city.
That said, I am here today writing about it in the hope of being of some help to you when it would come to planning your Stockholm in one unforgettable day trip.
As usual, before starting our tour, I will answer a couple of frequently asked questions about Stockholm for exhaustiveness sake.
With no further ado, therefore, buckle up, let us start this new adventure in the capital city of Sweden!
What is Stockholm famous for?
The city of Stockholm is famous for:
- Being the location where the Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine and Literature are awarded every year, while the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway.
- Giving the name to Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological reaction arising when hostages or victims of violence form a bond with their captors or abusers. The name comes from one of Sweden’s most prominent crimes, a six-day bank siege in 1973, during which the hostages fell in love with their captors.
What is the best month to visit Stockholm?
When it comes to weather, the ideal time to visit Stockholm is from June to August. At this time, all its cafes and most attractions, including open-air museums, are open, and you can enjoy the midnight sun. Summer, though, also is the most expensive time to fly to Stockholm, as this is peak season. A fair compromise could be visiting Stockholm in September, as we did, but be prepared for possible rainy days.
What food is famous in Stockholm?
It is made from peeled prawns mixed with mayonnaise, dill, Dijon mustard, and lemon, topped with fish roe and served on crisp, sautéed bread.
In Swedish, the herring has two names: sill for the slightly larger fish found off the west coast, and strömming for the Baltic herring. Strömming is commonly breaded and fried, while sill is commonly pickled in several marinades and sauces. Matjes (soused herring) is a typical marinade, but so is sour cream, mustard, and even curry.
Once thought to be a poor meal, this crispbread is now Sweden’s most popular bread, and one of the most popular side dishes. On its top, you can find simple ingredients such as cheese and ham, but most Swedes prefer to eat it with caviar. It is also a common breakfast choice.
Chives and Sour Cream
Chives and sour cream is a dish that can be found on the table at any time of year, from typical Midsummer celebrations to holiday celebrations. During mid-summer festivities, chives and sour cream are traditionally served with fresh potatoes, salmon, or pickled herring as a traditional lunch.
It is a Swedish buffet that includes both hot and cold options. It always includes bread, butter, and cheese. Cold fish dishes, such as various types of herring, salmon, and eel, are traditionally served first. Following the first course (other cold plates), people typically move on to the second course (hot dishes), such as meatballs, mini sausages (prinskorvar), or cured salmon. In a smörgsbord, dessert may or may not a part of it.
A Swedish sandwich cake, or smörgstrta, is more than just bread layered with fluffy fillings like seafood or cold cuts. It is a magnificent work of art embellished with vegetables and eggs, cheese rolls, smoked meats or roast beef, carefully placed dill sprigs, and a rainbow of colours.
Palt is a traditional Swedish potato dumpling filled with pork, boiled in salt water, and served with some butter and lingonberry jam.
Pyttipanna is a hash-like dish that consists of diced potatoes mixed with coarsely chopped onion and small pieces of meat from earlier meals.
Brown baked beans with pork
This dish consists of beans from the island of Öland mixed with potato flour and a touch of vinegar and syrup, served with fried slices of salted bacon or boiled potato.
Pannbiff, or Swedish burger patties, are made of beef or pork meat (or a combination of the two), mixed with breadcrumbs and milk and served with the traditional onion sauce, an amalgam of fried onion and cream, or with some lingonberry jam.
Cabbage pudding, or kålpudding, is a filling classic and a simplified version of the stuffed rolls shipped from Turkey to Sweden during trade in the late 17th century. The initial vine leaves, which were later replaced with cabbage by Swedes.
White cabbage, mincemeat, and rice make up a traditional cabbage pudding, often served with boiled potatoes, lingonberry jam, and gravy or clarified butter.
Gubbröra is an egg-anchovy salad, served on a thin slice of dark bread and mostly presented during celebrations. It can also be served as an appetizer or a late-night snack.
Falu sausages, or falukorven, are hulking, horseshoe incised sausages usually stuffed with onion, tomato, mustard and cheese, baked in the oven and served up with potato mash.
Kalops is a very traditional and rich stew of slow-cooked beef with onions, black pepper and bay leaf.
Köttbullar, or Swedish meatballs, can be made in a variety of ways. Some people prefer to use grated onions in their meatball mixture, while others prefer to dice and fry the onion separately. Some people prefer rich brown gravy for their meatballs, while others prefer a thin meat juice. Many people in southern Sweden like a little more fat in their ground meat, but the farther north you go, the less pork you will find in the meatball mixture. On the side, you can find bread or rusk crumbs soaked in milk, as well as lingonberries.
This casserole, also known as Janssons frestelse, combines potatoes, onions, sprats, breadcrumbs, and cream. The baked result resembles a potato gratin and is named after beloved Swedish opera singer Pelle Janzon.
Cinnamon buns are delicious spiced rolls made from lightly sweetened, leavened bread dough known as vetebröd (wheat bread). They can also be flavoured with cardamom, saffron (saffransbullar) and vanilla, spices common in Swedish baking and said to have been brought back when Vikings first traded in Istanbul.
It is a layered sponge cake with a domed top covered in near-fluorescent marzipan commonly served at graduations, retirements, and birthdays. Jenny Kerström, who taught three Swedish princesses how to cook, invented it in the 1920s. The young royals were so enamoured with the cake that it was named after them.
It consists of pancakes made from grated or ground potato, flour, and egg that have been seasoned with onions and garlic, fried in butter, and served with thick cuts of bacon and lingonberry preserves. Its savoury balance of sweetness from the lingonberries, buttery saltiness from the raggmunk pancakes, and fatty grease from the bacon, make it one of the most iconic local dishes.
If Northern food arouses your curiosity, check out this 4-hour culinary tour that will introduce you to the traditions of Swedish food.
What to see in Stockholm in one day
As usual, we started our visit through the city of Stockholm with a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. If you want to save some money, you can consider buying a 24h Stockholm Pass for 669 SEK/ 66€ /80$. It will include both a hop-on-hop-off bus and boat tour, which, otherwise, have a cost of 430 SEK/ 42.5€ /51$, and 310 SEK/ 31€ /37$ respectively.
After a hop-on-hop-off city tour, let us start our visit from the City Hall located on the southeastern end of Kungsholmen island.
1. City Hall
The Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset), is one of the city’s most known and iconic landmarks.
Opened in 1923, the structure was created in Renaissance and national romanticism styles by the architect Ragnar Östberg, influenced by Italian and Nordic Gothic architecture.
Assembly spaces, offices, works of art, and the machinery of civil society are all housed here, alongside the prestigious Nobel Banquets once a year. Recipients dine first in Blå Hallen (The Blue Hall) before proceeding to the formal ball in Gyllene salen (The Golden Hall), which boasts 18 million mosaics depicting allegories of events and people from Swedish history. The opportunity to see the city from the iconic 106-meter (348-foot)-high tower, which is open to the public from April to September, is a unique feature.
Admission fee: 130 SEK (City Hall guided tour) + 80 SEK (City Hall Tower)/ 13€ + 8€ /15.5$ +9.5$ (not included in the Stockholm Pass).
From there, take Stadshusbron, and continue onto Klarastrandsleden. Turn right onto Klara Mälarstrand, and continue onto Klarastrandsleden and Tegelbacken. Then, turn right onto Vasabron, and you will arrive at the atmospheric island of Gamla Stan, the Old City.
2. Gamla Stan
Gamla Stan, where traders and monarchs populated the medieval streets around the Royal Palace, is where Stockholm began. Stroll through the winding alleyways, past landmarks such as the 13th-century Storkyrkan Cathedral and the Nobel Museum, which honours Nobel Prize winners’ achievements. The waterfronts are lined with restaurants, and jazz and music clubs draw people into the narrow side streets in the evening.
Gamla Stan is one of the largest and best-preserved medieval cities in Europe, resembling a well-preserved open-air museum. There is, without a doubt, no better way to get a sense of Stockholm and its history in a matter of minutes.
In the Old Town, you will find plenty of souvenirs and gifts, and you will be transported back to medieval times as you meander through a maze of tiny, winding streets, many of which lead to (or from) Stortorget, the main public square. You will come across countless mysterious vaults and ancient frescoes hidden behind picturesque facades along the way.
If visiting in winter, be sure to visit the wonderful Julmarknad (Christmas Market), which is like being in a fairy tale.
Now, head to the Royal Palace, our next stop.
3. Royal Palace
Located by the water’s edge on the brink of Gamla Stan, the Royal Palace (Kungliga slottet) was built during the 18th century in Italian Baroque style, and it is the official residence of the king of Sweden.
It is one of the broadest mansions in Europe, with over 600 rooms, divided between eleven floors, and three museums: the Treasury with the regalia, the Tre Kronor Museum that portrays the medieval history, and Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities.
The King’s and other members of the Swedish Royal Family’s offices and the Royal Court of Sweden are all located here. The monarch uses the palace to represent the country when fulfilling his duties as the head of state.
It also hosts a daily changing of the guards, officially known as the Royal Guards Ceremony, which begins at 11:45 a.m. and lasts about 40 minutes. It features a marching band and a military parade.
Fun fact: The Queen’s house, interestingly, is on Drottningholm (Queen’s Island), a stunning island and UNESCO World Heritage Site about a 45-minute ferry ride from Stockholm.
Admission fee: 180 SEK/ 17.7 € / 21.4 $ (included in your Stockholm Pass).
From there, take Högvaktsterrassen, turn right onto Storkyrkobrinken, and, then, left onto Trångsund. You will find the entrance to Storkyrka, our next stop, on your left.
4. Storkyrkan (Cathedral)
Storkyrkan, also called Stockholms domkyrka, is the oldest church in Stockholm.
It was consecrated in 1306, but the construction probably started in the 13th century. Inside, Storkyrkan still maintains much of its late medieval Gothic appearance in the form of a hall church with a vaulted ceiling supported by brick pillars. While the church has a worthy collection of medieval and contemporary art, the star attraction is the riveting metal statue of St. George and the Dragon. Wood, iron and gold leaf were used in carving the sculpture and elk horn was used for the dragon’s scales.
The exterior of the church is however uniformly Baroque in appearance, the result of extensive changes made in the 18th century.
During the Middle Ages, it was dedicated to Saint Nicholas, but, since the Reformation in Sweden, it has been a Lutheran church, not formally dedicated to any saint.
From there, take Trångsund, and turn left onto Stortorget.
Stortorget, the oldest square in the city, is surrounded by earthy pastel 17th- and 18th-century buildings and has been a common meeting place since the Middle Ages.
Many nearby cafés and shops now call it home, as well as a bustling Christmas market with food and crafts. In 1520, however, it was the site of the Stockholm Bloodbath, a series of nearly 100 executions carried out on the orders of Danish King Christian II.
The former stock exchange is the most well-known structure surrounding the square, housed in an elegant 17th-century building until 1990. Now it is the home to the Nobel Museum. The museum honours past Nobel Prize winners with a collection of artefacts and interactive digital installations.
From there, turn right onto Trångsund, and, then, left onto Storkyrkobrinken. Turn left onto Riddarhustorget, and you will find our next stop just in front of you.
The House of Nobility (Riddarhuset) is a stunning example of Dutch Baroque architecture and colouration from the 17th century.
Over the House of Nobility’s north entrance are sculptures of the Roman gods, Mars and Minerva. The roof displays a variety of allegorical statues. The interior is just as lovely as the outside, with approximately 2,320 copper coats-of-arms of the nobles adorning the walls.
Throughout the years, the structure has performed a variety of functions. It was a chamber in the Riksdag of the Estates, the Swedish version of the British House of Lords, between the 17th and 19th centuries. It often held public concerts, as well as parliament sessions and meetings of the Academies of Sciences and Literature in the 18th century.
The Parliament of the Estates was replaced by the current Swedish Parliament in 1866. The House of Nobility was formed as a quasi-official representative body for the Swedish nobility, governed by the Swedish government, from that point forward. It has been a private institution that keeps records and serves as an interest group on behalf of the Swedish aristocracy since 2003, with the primary goal of preserving old traditions and culture.
From there, take Riddarholmsbron, and, then, Wrangelska backen. Our next stop will be on your right.
7. Riddarholmen Church
Riddarholmen Church (Riddarholmskyrkan), located on the island of Riddarholmen, is the church of a former medieval abbey that serves as the final resting place of most Swedish monarchs.
It is one of the oldest structures in the city, with sections dating back to the late-13th century when it was constructed as a Greyfriars monastery. The monastery was closed after the Protestant Reformation and converted into a Lutheran church. During the reign of John III, a spire designed by Flemish architect Willem Boy was added, destroyed by lightning on July 28, 1835, and then replaced with the current cast-iron spire.
In addition to the 200 graves and an array of stone crypts, the interior contains many ornate pewter and gold sarcophagi.
The Riddarholmen Church is open to the public during the summer and autumn.
Admission fee: 50 SEK/ 5 € / 6 $ (included in your Stockholm Pass).
From there, decide which boat tour you would like to do and head to the point of departure. Most of these tours will leave from Strandvägen (Archipelago Tour), Strömkajen (Royal Canal Tour), or Stadshusbron (Historical Canal Tour, available only from May to mid-August). I would recommend one of the last two as they are shorter (50 minutes). They are all included in your Stockholm Pass.
After the boat tour, you can either take a taxi or a bus and head to our next stop, the island of Djurgården. If you feel like it, you can also walk there. It is going to take you 20 minutes from Strömkajen, or 12 minutes from Stadshusbron.
Djurgården or, more officially, Kungliga Djurgården, is an island in central Stockholm home to historical buildings and monuments, museums, galleries, the amusement park Gröna Lund, the open-air museum Skansen, the small residential area Djurgårdsstaden, yacht harbours, and extensive stretches of forest and meadows.
It is one of the Stockholmers’ favourite recreation areas and tourist destinations alike, attracting over 10 million visitors per year.
Our first stop here will be the Vasa Museum.
9. Vasa Museum
Vasa Museum is a maritime museum that houses the 64-gun warship Vasa, sank on her maiden voyage in the 17th century, and salvaged three centuries later.
The Vasa is the world’s best-preserved 17th-century ship with 500 sculptures (95 per cent of which is original) and 200 ornaments. There are horrific human face replicas, lion masks, nude cherubs, sea monsters, and other carvings among them. There are also several sculptures of Biblical and Greek mythological figures.
All of the recovered objects, including primitive medical equipment, preserved clothing, kitchenware, and even a backgammon board, are displayed in adjacent exhibition halls and presentations, providing an invaluable insight into life on board the Vasa.
That is the most visited museum in Sweden with more than a million people visit each year to see the various exhibits and watch a film about the ship’s past.
Entrance fee: 150 SEK/ 15 € / 18 $ (included in your Stockholm Pass).
From there, you can choose between the Viking Museum (included in your Stockholm Pass) and the Abba Museum (not included in your Stockholm Pass), according to your taste. We decided to go to the Viking Museum.
10.1 Viking Museum
The Viking Museum, also known as Vikingaliv, is a vibrant exhibition where visitors can learn about the Vikings through movies, scenery, projections, and sound effects, as well as archaeological artefacts. Knowledgeable guides dressed in Viking garb will answer all of your questions, and the numerous replicas will enable you to experience Viking life through all of your senses. You will read about Viking raids, travels, and shipbuilding mastery, as well as farm life in general. The Norse mythology can be found in many places, and it is here that myth meets reality.
Ragnfrid’s Saga is its most popular attraction, where visitors sit in a carriage and embark on an 11-minute ride into the Viking Age. The tour begins at Ragnfrid and her husband Harald’s farm in Frösala and continues with plundering in the west and slave trade in the east, among other topics.
Admission fee: 179 SEK/ 17.6 € / 21 $ (included in your Stockholm Pass).
If interested in a guided tour of this museum, check out this tour, conducted in either English or Swedish.
10.2 Abba Museum
Opened in 2013, ABBA The Museum is the first official site dedicated to the Swedish 1970s pop band worldwide. It is an interactive museum that displays the band’s stage clothes, artefacts, concert footage, interviews among other things, and allows visitors to play virtual dress-up with the band’s costumes and explore other fascinating exhibits about the band.
Visitors can also pose for photographs in the real helicopter from Abba’s 1976 album Arrival, on display at the museum, hang out in the reassembled Polar studio, shake your booty on stage alongside silhouettes of the rest of the band, and even record your chart-topper in a mini recording booth.
Admission fee: 260 SEK/ 26 € / 31 $ (not included in your Stockholm Pass).
From there, our next, and last stop will be Skansen.
Skansen is a living history museum and the oldest open-air museum worldwide, a full-scale recreation of an ancient town measuring over 300.000 m2/ 3.230.000 ft2 that depicts how Swedes used to live.
More than 150 different buildings and houses were collected and reassembled there from all over the country. Manor houses, a bakery, a school, blacksmith shops, windmills, the beautiful Seglora timber church, pottery, and a Sami camp are all on show, all brought to life by costumed staff. You can visit farmsteads and art shops, sample traditional cuisine, and pet the animals.
On Skansen’s stages, daily events include folk dancing throughout the summer and a massive public festival on Midsummer’s Eve. If you are in Stockholm for one of Sweden other big holidays, such as Walpurgis Night, St Lucia Day, or Christmas, it is a lovely (if crowded) place to see Swedes celebrate.
The adjacent zoo houses a complete array of large Nordic animals such as reindeer, elks, and brown bears, as well as wolves and other native wildlife, all kept in large wooden pens.
Admission fee: 160 SEK/ 16 € / 19 $ (included in your Stockholm Pass).
With Skansen, this unforgettable day in Stockholm comes to an end.
Stockholm is a city of breathtaking and multifaceted beauty.
From the medieval charm of Gamla Stan and its cathedral to the most recent elegance of the Royal Palace and the House of Nobility, from the marvellous Golden Hall of the City Hall to the amazing tale of Sweden narrated in Skansen, your eyes never stop to wander and get amazed!
It is a city really that really worth your while!
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Looks like a wonderful place to visit with plenty to keep you busy. Thanks for such a thorough guide to Stockholm! Can’t wait to get travelling again.
It really is! Glad you like this article!!! I can’t wait either, hopefully, we will be allowed again soon!
If you like, you can subscribe to my newsletter, I will be more than thrilled to contribute further with new ideas for your next trip.
Many thanks for your comment anyway, it’s a great motivator for me to keep on writing!
All the best,