The old town is a charming maze-like triplet of islands, with pastel-coloured Renaissance buildings and narrow medieval alleys making one of Sweden’s few tourist choke points.
Gamla Stan’s main sights are:
***Stortorget, the main plaza with 17-18th century houses.
**Storkyrkan (The Great Church), a glorious 14th century cathedral where the Swedish kings and queens are married and crowned (check out organ recitals).
**Kungliga Slottet (the Royal Palace), the world’s largest royal residence, which is still in use. Not so imposing from the outside but it has a marvelously elaborate interior. The Royal Treasury, apartments and Changing of the Guard are highlights.
Djurgarden encloses a beautiful green space and a couple of stunning museums, Vasa Museum and Skansen are not be missed. See Museums & Galleries section below.
On Lidingo island this is an awesome outdoor sculpture garden.
Drottningholm Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Drottningholm, ‘the Versailles of Sweden’, is a magnificent 17th century royal residence in a superb lakeside location. It’s not only where the royal family still live but also a tourist attraction. Travel there by ferry in 50 minutes, or by bicycle on dedicated path, or by car.
The Royal Palace Guard, photo A. Trepte
Some visitors watch the Changing of the Guard in front of Kungliga Slottet, the drab Royal Palace but it’s lacking in the colour and drama of London’s display, though the interior of the palace which is used mainly for administrative purposes these days is apparently lavish).
The Vasa Museum. Photo by G. Dembowski.
Museums & Galleries
***The Vasa Museum, a fascinating exhibition of the sunken 17th century warship – the Swedish version of Titanic.
***Skansen, a vast open-air museum (the oldest in Europe) of Swedish life over the centuries, with historic buildings, working farms, a zoo and aquarium.
Nordiska Museet also offers an interesting look at Swedish cultures through the ages.
Djurgarden canal. Photo by Arild Vagen
– Walking and picnics in Stockholm’s many parks. One of the best is Haga Park.
– Kayaking, canoeing or varied boating around the many islands. The water is clean enough to swim or fish too.
– Cycling is a delightful way to wander around the tranquil streets and parks, rentals are easy to find. Try to get a cycle map from the tourist office.
– Beaches. Near the city centre are two popular beaches, Langholmsbadet and Smedsuddsbadet, both with good facilities including food and recreational areas. Busy in the summer of course. Ask your hotel reception how to get there. Swedish beaches
Ferries around Stockholm are one of the pleasures of travel in Sweden, either short trips upriver or out into the 24, 000 islands of the Archipelago where there are more sights, spectacular structures, amusements and even beaches.
Mariefred, for example, a peaceful town with wooden houses and narrow lanes is renowned for its spectacular 16th century Gripsholm Castle. It’s about an hour by boat or 75kms (47 miles) by road from the city.
Other activities in Stockholm city apart from wandering the maze of ancient structures and parks on various islands. . .
. . . include Swedish massage, though it’s not as erotic as one might imagine. . .
. . . some kind of show at the The Royal Dramatic Theatre that does not involve a lot of Swedish language.
Stockholm is Scandinavia’smost active city for cultural events. There’s no shortage of entertainment from theatre to live music and more at clubs and cafes.
Get ‘Stockholm This Week’ for what’s-on-when listings.
No need to go to Ikea for souvenirs. In Norrmalm (the centre of Stockholm’s new town) there are modern department stores, interior design showrooms and boutiques, by Swedish designers as well as big fashion names.
For local crafts – Swedish materials such as soft furnishing fabrics (e. g. table cloths) and antiques – try small shops in Gamla Stan.