The Lovely Ladies and I just spent a few days in the stunning and stylish city of Stockholm. The capital of Sweden and Scandinavia is spread across 14 islands, which, thanks to the city’s numerous bridges and excellent public transportation, makes it easy to hop from one neighborhood to the other. Since we were only there for a few days, we only skimmed the surface of what Stockholm had to offer, but what we did, we enjoyed immensely.
Here’s a look at some of the things we did while in Stockholm. Feel free to save and share on Pinterest to use as a guide if you ever visit.
What We Saw
Sitting on the edge of Gamla Stan, or the Old Town, is the imposing Royal Palace. With over 600 rooms, the Palace, which was built during the 18th century in the Italian Baroque style on the site of the former Tre Kronor castle, is the official residence of the Swedish monarch, and one of the largest palaces in Europe. The Palace is open to the public and offers several museums, including Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities, the Tre Kronor Museum, the Treasury and the Armory, where visitors can see royal costumes and armor, as well as coronation carriages and coaches from the Royal Stable. There is also a daily Changing of the Guard ceremony which occurs daily from April – August, and three times a weekend September – March.
Adjacent to the Palace is Storkyrkan (the great church), or as it’s commonly known in English, the Stockholm Cathedral. The Lutheran church with its mix of Gothic, Baroque and Medieval styles is the oldest in Stockholm, and has been the site of many royal coronations, weddings and funerals throughout its history.
With the exception of Storkyrkan’s bell tower, which can be seen from most of the medieval streets as you meander through the narrow maze of cobbled alleyways, I found the facade of the church to be extremely bland. However, the interior of the church is home to some wonderful artwork, including the famous St. George and the Dragon sculpture, and Sun Dog painting.
The exteriors of a number of other churches in Stockholm, such as St. James Church, and Riddarholmskyrkan (Riddarholm Church), which was once the burial church of the Swedish monarchs and is located on the island of Riddarholmen, not far from the Royal, to be much more aesthetically appealing.
What We Did
We visited the incredible Vasa Museum, which houses the massive ship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 and lay at the bottom of the Stockholm Harbor until it was salvaged more than 300 years later in 1961.
In 1990 the impeccably preserved Vasa was housed in the purpose-built structure designed to evoke an image of a sailing ship, complete with 3 giant masts which rest on the top of the building that show the actual height of Vasa’s masts.
In addition to the Vasa ship displayed in the center of the museum, there is a short film about the Vasa that is played every half hour and a number of exhibits, such as the salvaging & preservation process and shipbuilding. There are also guided tours in English several times a day that are informative and entertaining, and which a highly recommend.
The Nobel Museum is dedicated to providing information on one of the world’s most prestigious awards, the Nobel Laureates, and its founder, Alfred Nobel. The compact museum located in the heart of Gamla Stan, is quite lively, with guided tours, films, interactive technology and an activity center for kids.
Visiting the Vasa and Nobel museums conjured up strong feelings of déjà vu, though Miss P and Miss V couldn’t figure out why, until I reminded them of our visit to Oslo, another Nordic city where we visited the Viking Ship Museum and the Nobel Peace Center.
Entrance is free for children ages 0-17 for both the Vasa and the Nobel Museum, and there is no entrance fee at the Nobel Museum on Tuesdays from 5pm to 8pm. The Vasa Museum is open daily, and the Nobel Museum is open Tuesday – Sunday.
With the more serious matter in the Vasa and Nobel museums done, it was time to dance, jive, and maybe even have the time of our lives. Yes, it was time for ABBA The Museum! The museum that promises you will “walk in dance out”, and with loads of interactive exhibit throughout that allows you the opportunity to become the 5th member by singing with the band in a karaoke booth or perform on stage via a hologram, you will do just that.
The museum is arranged chronologically and begins with a short film of the group’s history, after which you start the tour. The information is displayed on placards in Swedish and English so, however the hand-held audio guides, which can be purchased for $4.50, lets visitors hear the group members actually tell their story (at least on the Swedish and English versions) allowing you to swept away in the sentimentality of it all and feel all the feels.
There is a treasure trove of artifacts from the group, including photos, album covers, and instruments, but nothing compares to the colorful and often outlandish costumes ABBA wore during performances over the years, displayed throughout the museum.
The highlights of the museum are the karaoke booths and video recreations, where there were long lines of people eager to belt out their rendition of one of ABBA’s classics or show that, despite no longer being “only 17”, could still qualify as a dancing queen. Miss P and Miss V were having none of this kitschy fun, however. Proof that youth is wasted on the young.
ABBA The Museum also has exhibits that showcase the history of Swedish pop music, and the Eurovision Song Contest, the annual competition that put ABBA on the map when they won in 1974 with the song “Waterloo”.
Admission to ABBA The Museum is $22 for adults, $7.50 for children 7-15, and free for children under 7. A family ticket for up to 2 adults and 4 children ages 7-15 is $58.50. The museum is open daily, though hours vary according to the season.
As I mentioned earlier, we were only in Stockholm for a few days, so in keeping with my belief that the best way to get an overview of a city if you are somewhere for the first time and/or a short amount of time, we did a Hop On-Hop Off Bus tour. And since most of our other activities were mostly confined to two of the 14 islands, the HO-HO gave us a chance to see other areas we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
We also did a self-guided tour of Stockholm’s subways to admire the fun art in the make-shift subterranean gallery.
What We Ate
No pickled herring. No meatballs. No nettle soup. In fact, other than kanelbullar during fika and other delicious breads served at breakfast, we didn’t have any typically Swedish fare. Instead, we found chains and burger joints. When you’ve got a finicky teenager to feed, you do what you gotta do, so we found ourselves earring at chains and burger joints like Hard Rock Café and TGIFriday’s. Bar Burger Café, a local establishment serving up burgers, fries, onion rings and shakes, was sort of reminiscent of an American diner with its booths with vinyl benches. But it’s its location in Kungsträdgården that really makes this place stand out.
It wasn’t all chain restaurants and burgers. We had a lovely meal at De Svarta Faren, a cute Italian restaurant on the main square in Gamla Stan, and Strandvägen 1, a restaurant next to the Harbor, which provided a more grown-up and atmosphere. Almost too grown, in fact, with its lounge-y feel, complete with club/lounge music playing, especially after the lights were dimmed. There were a few other families there and we were there early enough so in the end it was ok. The food was good, and during on a summer evening when you can sit outside I’d imagine it’s quite a popular spot. We also ate at the restaurant at Pop House Hotel, and while there weren’t a large variety of dishes, what was offered was well made and tasty.
When in Stockholm, you have to have a fika. While fika is short for fikabröd, a sweet snack, usually one of Sweden’s famous pastries, like the cinnamon roll, a fika is a coffee break that’s taken quite seriously. We happily obliged this tradition, and visited two popular fika cafes for our pastries and much needed hot drinks; KaffeeKoppen and Café Gråmunken.
Where We Stayed
Our digs for our time in Stockholm was the Pop House Hotel, named so because it is in the same building as Abba the Museum (though tickets to museum are not included with accommodations). I’d describe the hotel as FUNctional, with spacious rooms with typical Scandinavian minimalist decor, an extensive breakfast buffet included in the price of the hotel, and a bar and restaurant, which I referenced earlier, and free wifi.
Located in Djurgården, the hotel is within a 5-minute walk to Gröna Lund Amusement Park, Nordic Museum, Skansen Open-Air Museum and Museum of Modern Art. The city center is a 30-minute walk from the hotel, or via the tram, which stops in front of the hotel. Also next to the hotel is a ferry that goes across the harbor to Gamla Stan.
How To Get To Stockholm
Most international flights fly into Arlanda, which is located 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Stockholm City. The Arlanda Express train goes from Arlanda Airport to central Stockholm in 20 minutes. With one adult ticket up to four kids (0-17) travel free, and there’s free wifi on the train.
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