Much like Oslo and other major cities in Northern Europe, Stockholm has an understated reputation. Even so, this capital is neither sleepy nor boring.
The city’s pursuit of innovation and new technologies does not prevent it from being in touch with its heritage and age-old traditions.
The cobbled streets and colorful houses in Stockholm’s old town (Gamla Stan), where time almost seems to have stopped, expertly contrast with a rich cultural scene, bold designers, and a booming environment for foodies.
One of the capital’s distinctive features is the ubiquity of water. This “floating city”, which is also called the “Venice of the North”, is built on 14 islands, right between the Baltic Sea (to the east) and lake Mälaren (to the west). In addition to having water wherever you turn, the city is surrounded by nature, including a great number of green spaces, and Djurgården island, which is the world’s first urban park. The capital’s proximity to nature is probably one of the reasons why its 975 000 inhabitants try to make responsible environmental choices, making Stockholm one of the most eco-friendly cities in Europe.
Stockholm is the perfect example of differences not necessarily being contradictory, but rather a strength. These contrasts between old and new, nature and city, are part of the city’s identity and create a relaxed, easygoing atmosphere.
It’s truly worth taking the time to explore the Swedish capital and appreciate its unique charm, for example over a long weekend. From Strasbourg, you can travel to Stockholm by plane, via Frankfurt or Paris.
Here is a selection of our favorite discoveries and must-see spots in Stockholm:
Stockholm’s main sights are relatively close to one another, meaning they can quite easily be reached on foot. Walking along the waterfront from one island to the next allows you to take in all the beautiful panoramas the city has to offer.
For a change in perspective, you can take a little boat trip for the price of a bus ticket. We recommend taking ferry number 80 (which is run by Stockholm’s transportation company, SL) from Nybrokajen (in the city center) to Almänna Gränd (near Gröna Lund theme park), or to Blockhusudden on the far end of Djurgården island, a few stops along.
• Gamla Stan: wandering through these cobbled streets and alleys, which are all incredibly well maintained, is like walking into a city from another time. This historic part of town is ideal for a few hours of exploring: enjoying the atmosphere in the narrow side streets, admiring the colorful 17th- and 18th-century houses, and the little hidden squares. Taking a peek in the shop windows of antiques dealers, galleries, cobblers, woodworkers, or jewelers: trades and skills that are carried on in Gamla Stan to this day. Stopping for a “fika” (a typically Swedish coffee break) in a café away from the main tourist haunts, to enjoy a kanelbulle (cinnamon bun). Don’t miss these spots in Gamla Stan: Österlånggatan, Vesterlånggatan, Prästgatan, and Stortorget
• Skeppsholmen bridge (Skeppsholmsbron) is one of Stockholm’s most distinctive bridges, adorned with a golden crown on either side, and offering an amazing view of the old town. Once you’ve crossed the bridge, we suggest taking a lovely walk around Skeppsholmen (ships’ islet), which will take around 30 minutes. First stop, the impressive three-master af Chapman (which has been made into a youth hostel), before continuing around Kastellholmen (castle islet) and up to the lookout point, which has a beautiful view of the other side of the bay. The docks at Norra Brobänken (where you’ll find dozens of old boats pampered by their owners) will lead you back to Skeppsholmsbron.
• Stockholm City Hall: the outline of City Hall’s tower, with its spire topped with Sweden’s Three Crowns, if one of the most famous views in Stockholm. We spent a long time enjoying the courtyard and archways, as well as the vast terrace, leading almost directly out onto the water. It reminded us of the Doge’s Palace in Venice. When we were there, a bride and groom had chosen this iconic setting for their wedding photos. For a more panoramic view of the tower, Evert Taubes Terrass on Riddarholmen (knights’ islet) is ideal.
• Strandvägen: an exclusive avenue along the waterfront, lined with high-end buildings and townhouses. This road is 1,2 km long and runs from Nybroplan to Djurgården.
• Djurgården: having once been the king’s hunting grounds, this island was later converted into the world’s first urban park. This massive green lung, stretching over 279 hectares, has several kilometers of peaceful walkways along the water. Djurgården is also home to plenty of restaurants, hotels, and a theme park (Gröna Lund), as well as major museums, such as the Vasa Museum, the Nordic Museum, and Skansen.
• The indoor market Östermalms Saluhall: we happened upon this covered food market while exploring Östermalm (the Eastern borough). What first drew our attention was the building’s impressive red brick architecture. Inside, the monumental wrought-iron structure has retained its 19th-century spirit. The elegantly sculpted wooden stalls and restaurants have generous displays of fresh and appetizing food.
To explore further:
• The Vasa Museum (Djurgården): the warship Vasa is the world’s most well-preserved 17th-century vessel. It is adorned with carved wooden sculptures and is still made up of around 98% of its original parts.
• Skansen (à Djurgården) is the oldest open-air museum in the world.
• The Outer Courtyard of the Royal Palace: with over 600 rooms, Stockholm’s Royal Palace is one of Europe’s grandest palaces. It is the official residence of the king of Sweden.
• Fotografiska: inside a repurposed 20th-century brick building on the banks of the Baltic Sea, you’ll find Fotografiska Museet, which is one of the largest museums ever dedicated to contemporary photography.