Stockholm offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and modernity. Whether strolling through Gamla Stan’s enchanting streets, exploring maritime wonders at the Vasa Museum, cruising the scenic waterways, or indulging in fine dining, your first visit to Stockholm promises a memorable experience.
Welcome to Stockholm, the stunning capital of Sweden that seamlessly blends its medieval charm with modern sophistication.
Whether you’re on a Swedish honeymoon, a city break, or a Scandinavian road trip, Stockholm offers a perfect mix of cultural treasures, outdoor adventures, and delicious cuisine. Based on our August 2023 visit, here are five must-see and do experiences to ensure your first time in Stockholm is nothing short of perfect.
Depending on how much time you have, you can remove or add some, but in my opinion, you shouldn’t miss any of these attractions, as every single one made us fall so in love with this city that we want to go back as soon as possible!
1. Explore The Historic Center of Gamla Stan
Begin your Stockholm adventure in the heart of the city–Gamla Stan, the captivating Old Town. Wander through its pristine cobbled streets lined with colourful buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. Stortorget square, with its vibrant atmosphere, is a perfect spot to relax and people-watch. Beyond the main square, discover charming bars, cafés (serving modern Nordic cuisine), and shops that make Gamla Stan a delightful exploration.
Notable attractions on this small island include the iconic Royal Palace and Stockholm Cathedral. Marvel at the historic architecture, visit the Nobel Prize Museum, and experience the lively nightlife with numerous bars and pubs. Gamla Stan truly captures the essence of Stockholm’s rich history and modern vibrancy.
The square is surrounded by houses painted vibrant shades of green, red, and yellow, which you’ve probably seen before since they make for iconic photo opportunities, and are truly some of the most famous landmarks in Sweden!
2. Stockholm Palace & Kungsträdgården
Before bidding farewell to Gamla Stan, make a royal stop at the magnificent Stockholm Palace, the official residence of the Swedish monarch family. Explore its grandeur, featuring over 600 rooms and three history museums. Don’t miss the chance to witness an official reception if luck is on your side. Tickets cost around €16 for adults and €8 for people between €7 and €17. If you decide to buy a Stockholm City Pass, entry to the palace is included.
Head to Kungsträdgården, a centrally located public park, after leaving the palace. Admire the Stockholm City Hall on the eastern side of Kungsholmen Island, known for its 106-meter high tower and the annual Nobel Prize award ceremony. If you look closely, you can spot the Three Crowns, the Swedish national symbol, on top of the tower.
The guided tours inside the hall offer a glimpse of its inner courtyard and the renowned Blue Hall, used as the banquet hall for the annual Nobel Prize award ceremony. Note that you can only visit the building on guided tours. For exact opening times and prices, check the official Stockholm City Hall website.
3. Vasa Museum
As you’ve probably already noticed, Stockholm has a lot of special things to offer that you won’t find anywhere else in this world. The Vasa Museum on Djurgården island is definitely one of them.
The Vasa Museum showcases an almost fully intact 17th-century ship salvaged from the ocean depths. Witness the grandeur of the ship’s bow as you enter, I guarantee you’ll be in awe of the sheer size of the 64-gun warship that sank on its maiden voyage.
The Vasa Museum stands out as a testament to Stockholm’s commitment to preserving its extraordinary maritime heritage, as the entire museum was literally built around the ship. The immersive experience, including a 15-minute entry film, brings to life the captivating story of this well-preserved historical vessel. You’ll learn more about why it capsized and sank more than 333 years ago, how they managed to salvage it successfully, and even about the lives of the people onboard.
4. Explore Stockholm’s waterways
Discover why Stockholm is often called the “Venice of the North” by exploring its intricate waterways. The city’s archipelago, spanning 80 kilometers and over 30,000 islands, offers a picturesque journey by boat. From uninhabited islets to bustling holiday resorts, the archipelago showcases the diverse beauty surrounding Stockholm.
Consider a three-hour ferry ride to Sandhamn for a taste of the archipelago’s remoteness and charm. The forest-covered islands, brightly colored cottages, and sandy beaches create a romantic backdrop for an unforgettable experience.
5. Indulge in Stockholm’s Fine Dining
Last but not least, do you really think I can allow you to leave Stockholm without having eaten in at least one incredible fine dining restaurant in the city? Not a chance! No visit to Stockholm is complete without savoring the city’s exceptional culinary scene. Explore the world-class fine dining restaurants, many of which are adorned with stars in the Guide Michelin. For a truly remarkable dining experience, we recommend Ekstedt in Östermalm.
Ekstedt, run by celebrity chef Niklas Ekstedt, embraces ancient cooking techniques over an open fire, wood oven, and wood stove that can all be seen by guests. The seven-course menu, focusing on New Nordic Cuisine, offers a unique and delicate taste. With its rustic and Scandinavian atmosphere, Ekstedt provides a perfect blend of tradition and innovation, making it a standout in Stockholm’s culinary landscape. It’s a very unique style of dining and whilst pricey, the whole experience was flawless from the entrance to exit.
For Andrew, travel is so much more than just learning history or taking photos. Rather, the value of travel is witnessing a lifestyle, bonding with locals, and gaining rich cultural experiences. That’s why he founded the Luxury Wanderer; a place to share itineraries, offer advice, swap stories, and foster a like-minded community of curious travellers.