6 Things to do in Stockholm, Sweden | Stockholm City Guide

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the most populated city in the Nordic countries. It is actually a little bit unusual - it stretches itself over 14 different islands which meet the Baltic sea.

My family and I actually lived here for three years when I was a very young child (my brother was born here) and they have been wanting to go back to show us around ever since we left. This was the second stop on our Baltic cruise, so once again we didn't have that long to explore, but luckily my brother and I had two personal tour guides with us who were very familiar with the city: our parents! This is what they recommended us to do so that we could make the most of our day in Stockholm.

1) Stroll around the Gamla Stan 

Gamla Stan means 'old town' in Swedish and it is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centres in Europe. Lined with little shops and restaurants, the narrow winding cobblestone streets and beautiful colourful houses are picture perfect - Stortorget is the famous square which you will have undoubtedly seen pictures of (the second picture below).

The Gamla Stan is home to many beautiful churches and museums including the cathedral and the Nobel Museum. It is also home to the Royal Palace which is one of the largest in the world (over 600 rooms), but we will get into that later down the list (scroll down to #5). Naturally, the district is known to be touristy and is therefore full of tourist shops, however there are less-touristy areas of the Gamla Stan so it is worth strolling through the streets and getting lost for a while.

2) As always, try local food!

Swedish Kanelbullar (Cinnamon Roll)

If you, like me, love cinnamon rolls you should definitely try a traditional Swedish kanelbullar. Sweet, doughy and (if you're lucky) warm straight out of the oven, this pastry is one of Sweden's favourites. It's not hard to see why -  they even have a day dedicated to the popular sugary treat called Kanelbullens Dag. It's on the 4th of October and Swedish bakeries sell around three times as much of them as usual on the day!

All things Lax (Salmon)

Lax, aka salmon, is one of the nation's favourite foods and I'm sure that you have all heard of gravlax, a Nordic dish which is raw salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill. There are many wild salmon rivers in Sweden and if you like the fish you should try one of their dishes when you're here. The salmon is super fresh, yummy, full of Omega 3s and my brother and I were practically raised on it when we lived in Sweden as young kids.

3) See the world's best preserved historic warship at the Vasa Museum 

If you make your way to the Vasa Museum you will have the possibility to see a 17th Century warship. 98% of the original ship is still there today. Why? Because the ship sank in the harbour only 30 minutes after it set sail. Yep, you read that right. 30 minutes after it set sail.

So here's the story: the 17th Century was a period of great power for Sweden. Gustav Arnov the 2nd was very ambitious, successful and had great plans for his country and the Vasa was commissioned with two other ships in 1625 as Gustav wanted to strengthen his fleet against Poland.

The King wanted a royal warship for himself which is where the Vasa came in. She was a bigger, more ornate ship and carried more canons which were a symbol of opulence and power. When finished, she was 69 metres long and weighed 1200 tonnes when fully loaded. She carried 64 canons spread across 2 gun decks which was a huge amount for the time. After 2 and a half years, the Vasa was finished and it was time for the King's ship to set sail.

This was quite an event for Sweden and many people gathered at the harbour to watch her set sail. What essentially happened is that as the ship sailed out to sea, there were a series of large gusts of wind which made their way through the ship entering via the canon portholes. The number of canons and portholes on the ship paired with some badly calculated measurements meant that the Vasa capsized, after having sailed less than one mile out of the harbour.

The King was in Poland fighting the war at the time and, as you can imagine, was less than pleased to find out about what had happened (via letter)! He wanted someone to pay for the embarrassment but in the end no one was prosecuted as everyone kept blaming it on someone else. Rather conveniently, the blame was finally placed on Henrik Hybertsson who was the original master shipbuilder (and long since dead and buried).

Honestly this was just a summary of what happened - the museum is fascinating and our tour guide (included in the price of a ticket) was excellent. Very knowledgeable and told the story in such an interesting way. (p.s. These pictures don't quite do it justice but this ship is massive, you must see it in real life - highly recommend!)

4) Buy a Dala Horse

I'm sure that at some point you have seen the image of the Swedish horse - especially if you have ever shopped at IKEA (who hasn't!?). The famous wooden horses that we see today were originally sold in the 17th Century at markets in small towns and villages in Dalarna, in the middle of Sweden. A few hundred years later the wooden horses were carved by men who worked in the Swedish forests and were brought back to the village children so that they could play with them.

It actually wasn't until the World Exhibition in NYC in the 1930s that the wooden horse became world-famous, becoming a symbol for Sweden. The most famous Dala horse is red, however nowadays you have many different types and colours depending on the region that they are from. Don't be surprised at the price of the horses - a lot of them are handmade products, however you can find cheaper "Made in China" ones in many of the tourist shops.

5) Stroll the halls of the Royal Palace

Otherwise known as the Stockholms slott or Kungliga slottet in Swedish, the Royal Palace is one of the largest palaces in the world with over 600 rooms. There are many beautiful reception rooms as well as interesting museums which showcase royal costumes and armour. It is in the Gamla Stan (#1 on this list) and the offices of the King and other members of the Swedish Royal Family are situated here.

If you don't want to visit the inside of the Palace you could always witness the changing of the guard which happens at the entrance (around noon/1pm, don't miss out)!

6) Walk alongside the harbour 

Once again, such a beautiful part of the city. We actually stopped to have lunch here at a restaurant called Kajplats 18 - I would highly recommend it. Really delicious food (fresh salmon), lovely exterior decoration and reasonable prices. Please remember that Sweden is very expensive!

Stockholm was absolutely beautiful and the food was delicious - if a city has beautiful buildings and equally as beautiful food I'm a pretty happy girl. It was also really sweet to hear my parents reminisce about life 20 years ago when we were in nappies and pushchairs. If you ever get the chance to go to Stockholm, definitely go! Although I would probably recommend waiting until it's a bit warmer in the Spring/Summer months, otherwise you will be met with ice cold winds and piles of snow which are probably best to be avoided... although to each their own!

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  1. I was travelling to Stockholm last year and I really fell in love with that beautiful city! Gamla Stan is my favourite, so many restaurants, shops and great cafes.

    xx Simone
    Little Glittery Box
    Instagram: littleglitterybox

    1. The Gamla Stan is definitely gorgeous!

  2. That food looks so good, I want to go!

    1. Thanks for your comment Laura, you definitely should if you ever get the chance!

  3. So many fun things to do in Stockholm!! I want that cinnamon roll!!


    1. The cinnamon rolls were incredible - IKEA has some pretty good ones too if you need them but aren't going to Stockholm any time soon ;)

  4. This post gives me so much wanderlust!
    That cinnamon roll looks so good

    Lizzie | Takeoffs & Landings

    1. Thanks Lizzie! It was yummy indeed!

  5. Stockholm looks an amazing city!Great post:-)


    1. Thanks for your comment Olga, how sweet of you. It is indeed!

  6. Great list! Short but sweet! I a stroll around there would be so much fun! I love how colourful it is there! I also inappropriately found it amusing that that ship sank 30 mins after leaving the harbour. Seems like an unbelievable oversight haha It would be amazing to see in person. I love exploring ships! Thanks for sharing.

    TFM Life & Style blog

    1. Thank you! It is definitely colourful, just like the Nyhavn in Copenhagen - it's just less famous I guess! Yes everyone on the tour found it hilarious (myself included) ;)

  7. What a lovely place. Nice read, thanks for your tips. Also, gorgeous photos you got there! Definitely put this place on my bucket list of must-see cities, primarily because salmon. Ha!

    Jessica | notjessfashion.com

    1. The salmon was so lovely. I have a mostly plant based diet (apart from the occasional salmon ahah) you would love it Jess!

  8. Went to Copenhagen a few years ago and had such fond memories of the city. Its such a vibrant city with great unique place to visit, to shoot pictures and of course to eat. Thanks for sharing all of these great tips.


    1. Us too! Very unique and it doesn't have too many tourists which is great - Paris was full of them, not that I am complaining because I was basically a tourist there for 6 months too!

  9. Amazing post, you make such great photos, you will surely like these ideas http://weedit.photos/2017/how-to-take-travel-photos/