Spotlight on Stockholm, Sweden

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Boat tour. Image by Simon Paulin, courtesy of Visit Stockholm

What better place to celebrate the height of summer than Stockholm – a vibrant and historic city that prides itself on its Midsummer parties. Think flower garlands, songs, picnics and games looking out over the water. If that alone is not enough to entice you to Sweden’s beautiful capital, read on.

Built across 14 islands, the city of Stockholm blends urban design with nature exquisitely. Regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, the Scandinavian capital is a perfect blend of history and contemporary culture. Stockholm is a place where medieval buildings are framed by modern skyscrapers; a place where traditions are eagerly embraced while also being a hub for tech and gaming industries; a place for all ages who want to feel inspired.

Founded in the 13th century as trade was increasing across Europe, the city spans a large archipelago and offers centuries of history and culture as well as beautiful scenery. Whether you enjoy the capital from land or water, there’s an incredible amount to see and do when visiting Stockholm.

The Swedish city boasts extremely low levels of crime, so whether you are spending 48 hours with your partner or a long weekend with the kids, you’re sure to feel at ease when it comes to travelling as a tourist. So, here’s our brief guide to why Stockholm should be your next destination.

Sightseeing

From one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval city centres to the most-visited museum in Scandinavia, there are plenty of attractions and sights to see throughout your trip.

One for the history buffs, The Vasa Museum (vasamuseet.se) is a must-see when visiting. A homage to a mighty warship called Vasa, the building houses the previously capsized ship after almost 400 on the sea bed near the city. The world’s only preserved 17th century ship, the museum is packed with incredible artefacts, embellishments and wooden sculptures from the vessel despite its years underwater.

If boats are your thing, hop aboard one of the many archipelago water tours (stromma.com) from one of the city’s docks. You’ll coast around the islands that make up Stockholm and enjoy facts and figures from tour guides as you embrace the fresh, crisp air while taking in the gorgeous scenery.

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Skeppsbron harbour. Image by Ola Ericson, courtesy of Visit Stockholm

On your boat tour, or simply on your travels by foot, you may spot Stockholm’s oldest dock, Skeppsbron. The city’s most-important dock until the late 1700’s, Skeppebron is home to picture-perfect architecture, which was an impressive sight for traders as they sailed into the city all those years ago. Nowadays, tourists still flock to the docks, but this time to capture impeccable social media shots.

Skeppsbron is also the quay to Gamla stan, or Stockholm’s Old Town, which is famous for its sights, restaurants, cafés and bars. The quaint cobblestone streets and colourful buildings of the medieval town give the area unique character. There are also several other museums and attractions here, including the Royal Palace.

Despite water being a key theme for Stockholm, there’s plenty to do on dry land, including heading to the notorious ABBA the museum (abbathemuseum.com/en). Visitors can interact with displays showcasing the famous Swedish band and their iconic music. Plus, you can take to the stage and perform as if you’re with the band. There are no prizes for second place though. The winner takes it all…

Food and drink

Food and drink play a huge role in Swedish culture. If you do head to Gamla Stan, make sure you enjoy fika at one of the cafes. Fika is a wonderful custom and translates to roughly mean ‘meeting up with a friend for a coffee and a snack’. So, make sure you participate in the Swedish tradition and enjoy a coffee and a Swedish cinnamon bun with a good friend in the sunshine.

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Fika moment. Image by Tina Axelsson, courtesy of Visit Stockholm

Crayfish parties are another annual tradition in Stockholm, where people come together to enjoy plates and plates of crayfish. The parties normally take place in August and mark an end to summer.

Talking of summer, one of the most-loved traditions of all is the Midsummer celebrations. As mentioned before, the annual event in June is a big date in the Swedish calendar and food plays a big part in the day too.

A Midsummer table might consist of pickled herring, potatoes, sour cream, dill, salmon, strawberries, cheese, and an assortment of breads. Plus on more than one occasion you’ll be toasting with an alcoholic drink called Aquavit, or ‘snaps’ while a traditional song is sung. Skål!

Despite the focus on time-honoured dishes, New Nordic menus are popping up across the capital, using innovative ingredients. So, if the classic Swedish meatballs and herring are not your thing, there’s plenty of creative and contemporary restaurants serving other delights.

Where to stay

There are many popular districts to call home for a few nights in the city. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful bolthole after a long day of sightseeing or a place to rest your weary feet near the pubs and bars, there’s somewhere for you.

Book a room at the Hilton on trendy Södermalm island (hilton.com) and enjoy panoramic views of the inner city, Lake Mälaren and Stockholm City Hall. The area is vibrant and has plenty of bars and clubs with a LGBTQ-friendly atmosphere.

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Gamla Stan Old Town. Image by Tina Stafrén, courtesy of Visit Stockholm

If you’re looking for something peaceful, book a stay in Östermalm in the east of Stockholm. The area is full of sweet cottages looking out over the harbour. Or, keep your stay authentic with a weekend sleeping in the Old Town Gamla Stan, with its colourful churches and narrow cobbled streets.

Wherever you decide on staying, and however you choose to spend your time in the city of Stockholm, you’ll be sure to find plenty of historical and cultural treasures on your travels. You’ll be returning to the beautiful city in no time.

Insider tip

There are plenty of quaint cafes and trendy bars in Stockholm, but, if you really want to feel like a local, head to Schmaltz Bar & Delicatessen (schmaltz.se). You’ll find the very small (32 square metres to be exact) hangout in the fashionable area of Nybrogatan. Pop in with a friend and enjoy the continental vibes as you drink a glass of delicious wine and nibble on fresh cheeses and other Swedish fare. Plus, you can grab tasty treats to go once you’ve finished from the deli.

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