Last June, my mom and I spent four days in Stockholm. To me, summer is the best time to visit Stockholm and I was looking forward to exploring the capital of Sweden in the sun.
I'd been to Stockholm for the first time just a few months before on a winter surprise trip but hadn't seen that much of the city because of the weather.
I wasn't just looking forward to visiting the city in warmer temperatures, though. Our Stockholm trip was squished in between two works trips and at the start of three months filled with travel. I'd decided that our time in Stockholm would be a proper vacation and so I left my camera at home, used a travel guide instead of researching everything on my own, and didn't even bring my laptop.
The Stockholm itinerary below includes everything we've done during our four days in Stockholm, but it's a little less detailed than the itineraries you're used to getting from me for exactly the reason I described above. Nevertheless, I hope you'll find it useful for planning your own trip to Stockholm.
If you rather take it easy, there's also this highly recommended boat tour along the Royal Canal.
I've put it together in such a way that it has four full days of things to do in Stockholm, but of course, you can also move some of the activities around depending on when you arrive and leave again. We actually had more like three days in Stockholm as we arrived by noon and left in the afternoon on our last day.
Day 1: Gamla Stan, Riddarholmen and Norrmalm
1. Gamla Stan
As our hotel was located in the famous old town of Stockholm, Gamla Stan, that's where we started wandering around. It's actually best to do Gamla Stan on a weekday in the morning if you don't want it to be too busy, though the area really comes to life when it's many terraces are filled with people.
The best way to explore Gamla Stan is by simply walking up and down its little streets. The neighborhood is located on a small island so you really can't get lost.
What to see in Gamla Stan
Riddarhuset or the “House of Knights” is a palace that houses the House of Nobility, an organization that aims to protect the historical heritage and interests of the Swedish nobility.
The Bondeska Palatset or “Bonde Palace” was designed as a private residence and now houses the Swedish Supreme Court.
The narrowest alley of Stockholm
Mårten Trotzigs Gränd is only 90 cm (35.34 inches) wide, making it the narrowest alleyway of Stockholm. It's a bit of a grungy street – dark, with graffiti on the wall – but it makes for a fun photo opportunity.
Mårten Trotzigs Gränd
Stockholms Slott/Kungliga Slottet with the changing of the guard at Yttre Borggarden
Stockholms Slott or Kungliga Slottet in Swedish is the Swedish Royal Palace. It's unique in that it's not just the royal residence, but also the workplace of the royal court.
The royal apartments and three museums housed inside the palace are open to the public. It's one of the most popular Stockholm points of interest.
Järnpojke, the smallest statue in Stockholm
Järnpojke or “Iron Boy” is a statue that measures only 15 centimeters (5.9 inches). You can spot it in the garden of the Finnish Church (Finska Kyrkan) where it's visited daily by tourists.
The story goes that caressing the boy's head or bringing him gifts brings good luck. It's also said that tourists who caress him, will return to Stockholm. Every day, the Iron Boy is surrounded by different gifts that mysteriously get cleaned away during the night. It's probably one of the most quirky things to see in Stockholm.
The three churches
Aside from the Finnish Church, Gamla Stan has two other churches: the German Church of St. Gertrude (Tyska Kyrkan) and the Great Church (Storrkyrkan) or the Stockholm Cathedral.
German Church, Svartmangatan 16
Stockholm Cathedral, Trångsund 1
You can find the Nobel Museum together with the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Library in the former stock exchange building in Gamla Stan. I haven't been here myself but read that while the material on display is interesting, the layout and organization of the museum could be better.
Where to eat in Gamla Stan
As we were staying in Gamla Stan, it's also where we went for dinner. I'm sure there are tons of great restaurants in the restaurant, but let's be real: who wants to walk far in the evening when they're hungry?
My point exactly.
Because I didn't take notes (yup, I was really on vacation!), I don't remember all the places we ate and drank, but the following three I can recommend.
Ebenist is located on the same square as Kaffekoppen en Chockladkoppen. I was hesitant to go in here as touristy squares are usually not where you want to have dinner (the restaurants there tend to be – in general – of lesser quality at a higher price), but Ebenist was an exception to that travel rule.
Its interior is designed to resemble a large cozy living room. The ambiance is cozy, with dimmed lights and dark furniture. The number of choices on the menu is limited – hopefully indicating everything is fresh – but the food refined and yummy.
My only critique would be that it got a little loud in there as the place filled up.
Kaffekoppen en Chokladkoppen
Kaffekoppen en Chokladkoppen are two small cafes located next to each other in two of the most photographed houses of Gamla Stan. Located on the … square, their terraces offer some great people watching.
You'll find fleece blankets draped over the chairs and the loveliest hot white chocolate milk on the menu. Order a big one. Take my word for it.
Stortorget 20 and 18
Mom loves Italian food and as Ristorante Paganini had good reviews, we decided that's where we'd go for some pasta. It's a rather large restaurant with a small sidewalk terrace outside.
My tip: try to get a table by the window. It's cooler and less noisy than sitting inside, yet not as chilly as really sitting outside. It might have been summer in Stockholm, I could definitely use a warm sweater at night!
Ristorante Paganini is run by Italians and our waiter was a real charmer. Mom and I first shared some antipasti before I enjoyed a lovely seafood pasta.
Take a tour of Gamla Stan
Would you rather take a tour of Gamla Stan and explore the old town with a guide? This walking tour comes highly recommended. Check it out.
If you prefer a private tour, this one can be customized to match your interests.
Riddarholmen is the tiny island attached by a bridge to Gamla Stan. It's also where I stayed in a boat the first time I visited Stockholm. As it's so small, you can easily combine it with the rest of the old town.
Sights to see in Riddarholmen
Evert Taubes Terrass
The Evert Taubes Terrass is a long square at the western edge of Riddarholmen from where you get great views on Södermalm to your left and the city center, with city hall, to your right. The park is named after Swedish artist, author, composer and singer Evert Taube who's been immortalized with a statue at the Terrass.
Evert Taubes Terrass
The Riddarholmen Church is one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm, dating back to the 13th century. It's also Stockholm's only remaining medieval abbey.
Good to know: it's only open to visitors from May to September.
While the sightseeing in Gamla Stan and Riddarholmen mostly happens outside, Norrmalm will lure you inside. This is the commercial center of Stockholm, with large shopping streets such as Drottninggatan, Hamngatan and Kungsgatan.
Don't be fooled, though, because this neighborhood will keep you entertained even if you don't feel like digging up your wallet. You just have to pay attention a bit more than in Gamla Stan, where every pretty building snuggles up to another.
Yes, in my world, houses can snuggle.
Sights to see in Norrmalm
Adolf Fredriks Kyrka
A beautiful white church known for its great acoustics.
Konserthuset with the statue Orfeusbrunnen
The Concert Hall is one of those Stockholm landmarks you just can't miss. The massive blue-ish building dominates the square Hötorget, smack in the center of the city, and was built especially to house the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. It hosts concerts as well as the famous Nobel Prize Award Ceremony.
The Kungstornen or “King's Towers” are two skyscrapers standing each on one side of the Kungsgatan. With the bridge of the Malmskillnadsgatan crossing the Kungsgatan in the same spot, the whole creates the look of a big gate. If you like that big city feel, this is one of the top things to see in Stockholm.
Hötorget and Hötorgshallen
At Hötorget (Haymarket Square), vendors sell fresh produce and flowers every day. On Sunday, the market transforms into a flea market. At the Hötorgshallen, you can find meat, fish, tea, coffee, and spices, but also all kinds of international foods. It's a great place to drop by for a quick lunch as well.
Hötorget – Hötorgshallen
S:t Jacobs Kyrka
Did you know the Swedes use “Jacob” both for the names Jacob and James? They do! This church's name is translated as the St. James's Church, not the St. Jacob's Church. Anyway, it's a bright red-orange church in the center of the city with an equally colorful altar.
Jacobs Torg 5
I visited the Royal Opera House on my winter trip to Stockholm and had the chance to see a ballet performance there. It's a beautiful building – especially on the inside – and breathes that grandeur of bygone times. It's possible to take a tour of the building.
Gustav Adolfs torg 2
Where to eat in Norrmalm
K25 is one of those modern food courts you see popping up in cities around the world. It's a popular lunch place for people working in the area as it serves a wide range of foods, both in terms of pricing and in terms of tastes. It's open all-day-long and the eleven present restaurants offer their dishes both to eat in or to go. A lot of them serve beer and wine as well.
Take a food tour
If you really want to get a taste of Stockholm (haha, see what I did there?) while learning about the city at the same time, consider taking a food tour. This one gets good reviews:
Day 2: Drottningholm Palace and Södermalm
1. Visit Drottningholm Palace
When I asked my mom what she wanted to do when we'd go to Stockholm, she only had one demand: to do the boat tour to Drottningholm Palace.
Drottningholm Palace is a royal palace built in the 17th century. It's a Unesco World Heritage site and visiting it by boat is one of the top things to do in Stockholm. Aside from the palace – which is open to the public – visitors can also wander around the palace gardens, visit the Chinese Pavilion and catch a show at the Palace Theater.
As so much of the palace grounds is accessible to the public, it may come as a surprise that this is actually the permanent residence of the king and queen of Sweden. They live in the southern wing of Drottningholm, the only part that isn't open.
We visited Drottningholm Palace with an old steamboat from Stockholm's city center. We'd been advised to show up at the departure point by Stockholm's City hall half an hour in advance to make sure we got good seats on board, but that really wasn't necessary.
We couldn't get on until 10 minutes or so before the departure time and the boat wasn't overly full once we got on.
Now, that might have also been because we booked the first departure of the day, at 10 a.m. because that allowed us to spend the entire morning at Drottningholm Palace while still having the rest of the day to see more of Stockholm.
You can also visit Drottningholm Palace by bus (or taxi, or private transfer, or rental car, or bike), but I highly recommend the boat tour we did. It takes one hour to get to the palace and one hour to go back, giving you great vistas along the way.
Think little islands, tiny houses, wooden piers, lots of green and small harbors. Mom and I loved it.
The boat tour ticket includes your entrance to the palace, which is great because it means you can just walk in once you get there without having to queue. The palace is the first thing you come across when you disembark, so we visited that before going into the gardens.
In total, we spent about two hours on the castle grounds. This was enough to see both the rooms of the castle and the gardens. We even had a drink at the Drottningholm cafe before going back to the boat.
For up to date opening hours and dates, check the website.
Södermalm was possibly my favorite part of Stockholm. It's known as the hip neighborhood of the city with its independent boutiques, cute cafes and vintage stores. It felt less busy and rushed than Norrmalm and more “real” than Gamla Stan.
Södermalm is also where you can find SoFo, a pun on New York and London's SoHo meaning “South of Folkungatan”. It's an area full of hip stores, restaurants and cafes located between Fokungatan in the north, Ringvägen in the south, Erstagatan in the east and Götgatan in the west.
Sights to see in Södermalm
View from Monteliusvägen
Taking the short 500-meter walk along Monteliusvägen is one of the best things to do in Stockholm on a sunny day. This walkway on the northern side of Södermalm has cute houses on one side and an amazing view of the rest of the city, including city hall, on the other side.
If you'd rather be on the water than looking at it, this Stockholm archipelago cruise gets great reviews.
This big yellow church has been rebuilt twice, each time after it had been destroyed by a fire. I guess its color is symbolic in that way.
The wooden houses
In certain places in Södermalm, you can still find the typical small wooden workers' houses from the 18th and 19th centuries. Often painted in colors like red and yellow, they're very photogenic and taking some photos of them is one of the free things to do in Stockholm.
Bergsprängargränd, Mäster Persgränd and Master Mikaels Grata
Nytorgsgatan 5: the smallest house in Stockholm
The title says it all: at Nytorgsgatan 5, you'll find the smallest house in Stockholm. Its red color contrasts nicely with the big yellow building next to it. It won't take much of your time but it's one of the more fun Stockholm things to see.
Fotografiska is Stockholm's photography museum and center. It has changing exhibitions, a bookstore, a gallery, and a well-reputed restaurant.
Buy your ticket online for easy entrance.
The view from restaurant Erik's Gondolen
This restaurant is located 33 meters up and can be accessed via a walking bridge.
Day 3: City Hall and Östermalm
1. Visit Stockholm City Hall
I know, Stockholm's City Hall isn't exactly the most elegant building out there (sorry, Swedes, it just isn't) but you can't say it isn't impressive. And you know what they say about judging
a book by its cover a building by its exterior.
I probably wouldn't have visited it if dad hadn't done so many moons ago and had recommended us to go as well. You can only visit Stockholm City Hall on a guided tour, which is a bit of a bummer, but I have to admit that the rooms we saw were worth it.
Did you know there's a golden room? Yup, there is. It's not just yellow or anything like that. The walls and ceiling are actually covered in gold. Don't get any ideas now.
There are guided tours in several languages and they run frequently throughout the day. Our tour lasted about an hour and my mom really liked it. While I have to say the girl who guided us was great, I just don't like guided tours that much. I need to be able to move on to the next thing when I feel like it.
On a practical note: use the toilet before the tour starts, as you won't be able to go during. There's both a toilet close to the ticket offices and at the end of the tour, by the cloakroom.
Östermalm is Stockholm's fancy neighborhood. This is where the rent is high and the shop windows don't show prices for the items on display. Nevertheless, we spotted some fun boutiques and cafes around here and enjoyed just wandering through the streets and taking in the ambiance.
Honestly, I think that's probably one of the most fun things to do in Stockholm: to simply walk around and take it all in.
Sights to see in Östermalm
The Swedish History Museum is one of the biggest museums in Stockholm and even in the whole of Sweden. Tens of thousands of people come here every year to see the exhibitions on Sweden's cultural history and archeology from the Mesolithic period until the present day. Especially the large Viking exhibition is popular.
The building of the Royal Dramatic Theater of Stockholm dates back to the 18th century. It hosts national and international classical and modern plays for both children and adults. It has no less than five different stages.
Hedvig Eleonora Kyrka
The Hedvig Eleonora Church is an octagonal yellow church dating back to the 18th century. Fun fact: the father of famous Swedish movie director Ingmar Bergman was a vicar here when he was young.
More things to do in Stockholm
1. The Abba Museum
I know, I know, I can't write an itinerary for Stockholm without including the Abba Museum. I actually did visit it on my first trip to the city and yes, it was interesting. It isn't rated one of the best museums in Stockholm for nothing. It's located on Djurgärden together with a few other museums and a theme park.
You can get there by taking the ferry from Gamla Stan or Skeppsholmen.
Tip: you need to buy your tickets to the Abba museum in advance, as there's a timeslot attached to when you can visit.
Get your tickets for the Abba Museum here.
2. A bike ride around Djurgärden
Djurgärden is a beautiful and rather green island known as the home of the Abba Museum, the Skansen open air museum, and the Vasa Museum.
Vasa was a fearsome warship that sunk on its maiden trip in 1628, after going barely 1300 meters. The ship was salvaged in August 1959 and after years of treatment of the wood the Vasa Museum opened in 1990. Inside, you will find the restored ship. The museum is dark, to protect the wood from decaying.
Want to visit the Vasa Museum? Get skip-the-line tickets with this tour.
Djurgärden is also a great place to go for a bike ride in summer.
Want to know what you're seeing while cycling around stockholm? Then consider this 3-hour bike tour which gets great reviews.
And if you're traveling with kids or feeling a bit nostalgic, bike to the nearby Junibacken, a museum and children’s theater dedicated to the work of Astrid Lindgren. You can meet here with all the famous characters she created, including Pippi Longstocking.
3. Day trips from Stockholm
As we were only in the city for four days, we didn't do any Stockholm day trips, but if you'd be interested in doing a day trip from Stockholm, I looked up some of the best ones according to reviews from other travelers.
- Half-day Viking tour from Stockholm
- Kayaking day in the Archipelago
- Day-trip to Fjäderholmarna archipelago by boat
Where to stay in Stockholm
What's the best place to stay in Stockholm will depend on your accommodation preferences. Mom and I stayed at a boutique hotel in Gamla Stan, but I realize you might be looking for something else.
That's why I've gone ahead and done the research for you.
Below you can find my recommendations for different categories of places to stay in Stockholm, as well as some information about the hotel we stayed at.
A boutique option in Gamla Stan: Collector's Lady Hamilton
Mom and I stayed at the Collector's Lady Hamilton boutique hotel in Gamla Stan where we enjoyed free WiFi, a lovely breakfast buffet, and a central location in Stockholm's old town. Let me show you around:
Read reviews on TripAdvisor / Book a room
A luxury option: the Radisson Blu Waterfront Hotel
I love the Radisson Blu hotels because they alays have the best beds. The Radisson Blu Waterfront offers free WiFi and a delicious breakfast buffet. Guests have raved about the on-site gym and the great location in the city center.
Read reviews on TripAdvisor / Book a room
How to get around in Stockholm
Stockholm is a very walkable city, but it is rather big, so when you find yourself on one end and you need to be at the other, you can take a bus, tram, subway or even a ferry. Tickets can be purchased separately.
If want to see as much as possible without walking too much, the hop-on/hop-off buses and boats might be a good option. Depending on what you want to see, you can buy:
How to get to Stockholm
Stockholm has two airports: Stockholm Arlanda Airport and Bromma Stockholm Airport.
From Arlanda Airport, you can take the Arlanda Express train into the city center. This takes about 20 minutes and runs every 15 mins. It's a bit more pricy than the regular commuter train that takes 45 minutes and only runs twice an hour.
Another budget option is to take the Flygbussarna bus that goes from the airport to the city terminal in 35-45 minutes.
You can take the same buss company from Bromma Airport. The travel time to the city center is then only 20 minutes.
Note that taxis are free to set their prices within a certain range. More on that here. When I flew to Bromma with mom, we'd booked a private transfer straight to our hotel in advance so we knew there was someone waiting at a fixed price. It also meant we didn't need to be lugging our suitcases onto public transportation.
If you'd also like to book an airport transfer straight to your hotel, Taxi2Airport is a safe choice. This platform offers 24/7 support in 10 languages and always finds you the cheapest transfers among their verified taxi partners. It also gets a rating of 9/10 on Trustpilot with more than 14,000 reviews.
Book your airport transfer here
How many days in Stockholm?
So you're woondering how many days to spend in Stockholm?
Mom and I spent 4 days in Stockholm, but counting flight time and the likes, it was really more like 3 full days. I think 3 days in Stockholm is great to get a first impression of the city and see many of the most important Stockholm sights.
Only have 2 days in Stockholm? Just pick whichever neighborhood you're most interested in exploring. Stockholm is very walkable and you can easily see the city area by area, keeping some parts for a next trip.
Even if you only have 24 hours in Stockholm, it's worth it to head out exploring. Gamla Stan and Riddarholmen can easily be seen in less than a day while still leaving time for a typical Swedish “fika” or coffee break and an elaborate lunch.
Know before you go
Even though Sweden is a member of the European Union, it doesn't use the Euro but the Swedish Kron. However, on both trips, I found that even the smallest coffee shop will accept credit cards. If you do prefer to use cash, I recommend just withdrawing it from an ATM upon your arrival.
Not sure what to do? Check the fees your bank applies for a transaction in foreign currencies and for withdrawing money abroad in a foreign currency. In some cases, it might be best to pay by credit card or debit card. In others, withdrawing money might be the smartest option.
Although the weather in Stockholm in June – when we went – is generally good, you shouldn't expect the same temperatures as you'd get in the South of Europe. Mom and I could both use a cardigan and a light jacket in the mornings and the evenings. The afternoons were usually warm enough to walk around in a T-shirt.
My advice? Layer and bring something against the rain, just in case.
3. Is Stockholm expensive?
I'd expected Stockholm to be super expensive but while it's not cheap, it definitely wasn't that bad either. Yes, alcohol is a lot more expensive than in most other European places, but Stockholm prices for foods and other drinks were similar, if maybe just a little higher than in Belgium.
4. Alcohol limitations
Speaking of alcohol: there are no cafes in Sweden where you can just get a drink. To be able to serve alcohol in Sweden, there has to be a food menu, so if you want a drink, you need to go to a restaurant or a restaurant-bar.
This sounds more limiting than it really is, as many places – like hotel bars – serve food as well.
5. Midsummer activities
Midsummer is a big big thing in Stockholm and unless you like a bit of craziness and lots of drunk people, it might not be the best time to visit the city. Now, I haven't been during Midsummer, but I've had both locals and other travelers tell me that the otherwise so reserved and tempered Swedes really let loose during the Midsummer festivities.
They usually start the first Friday after June 21 and last a whole weekend.
So is Stockholm worth visiting? I sure think so! And I hope this post gave you some ideas for things to do in Stockholm. Let me know if you end up using it to plan your own trip here.
Don't forget travel insurance
Plan for the best, prepare for the worst. Travel insurance has you covered in case (part of) your trip gets canceled, you get sick or hurt abroad, and sometimes even when your electronics break or get stolen. I always make sure I'm covered every trip I go on.
Don't have travel insurance yet? Check out SafetyWing. They offer super flexible plans that you can even sign up for while you're already on your trip. On top of that, they were the first travel insurance to cover COVID, and when I got COVID, they reimbursed all of my expenses without making a fuss. Their customer support team is great and I can personally recommend them.
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Great read, Sofie A really comprehensive read and very helpful when planning a visit to Stockholm. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to visit Stockholm so will be following your tips when I do get to go
Thanks Russell, I appreciate that! :-) I hope you’ll enjoy it just as much as I did when you go.
Reading this article reminds me of my time as a student in Sweden. I lived in the smaller town of Jonkoping but made frequent visits during university trips, to the airport and for workshops in Sweden thanks to the Swedish Institute. Stockholm and the whole of Sweden looks great during summer and autumn.
I haven’t been yet in autumn, but now you’ve made me curious :-)
davide faggioli says
I’m just considering spending 4 days in Stockholm since beside being a beutiful city in this crazy year is not so COVID involved as other places. I went there a couple of times a lifetime ago and your article has been the most infortative one I found online. Thanks
Thanks for letting me know, Davide! I really appreciate that :)