Visiting Stockholm - What to See and Do
(Stockholm Arlanda Airport ARN, Sweden)
Of all the great urban gems in Scandinavia, Sweden's capital Stockholm
is easily the cream of the crop. Regal, romantic and alluring, this city is the kind of place to go to fall in love - with your partner, yourself or the simple beauty of living a quality life. This Swedish capital is a giant puzzle of 14 islands bobbing in the waters of Lake Malaren, all connected by 50 bridges. In fact, it is part of a vast archipelago of river islands.
The visual impact of Stockholm is one of its most impressive qualities. With a historic Old Town at its heart, a field of modern steel and glass design spreads out through a laudable quantity of public green space. Nearly 60 percent of the city is left to nature, but the largest area is taken up by water, making this a spacious, breezy and attractive city.
The narrow lanes of the Old Town are certainly a big draw for visitors, with its Royal Palace and rows of timeless homes. From this historic core, the attractions keep piling up as you move outwards. The free Museum of Modern Art, SoFo district's fashion boutiques and Sodermalm's determined parade of bars and clubs ensure that you never run out of options in Stockholm.
Ten things you must do in Stockholm
- This 'City Between the Bridges' is best experienced in its Old Town core. Day or night, a meandering stroll through this cobbled medieval district rewards you at every turn. The Gamla Stan is the centre of life in this part of Stockholm, with countless alternative paths that lead to timeless places like the little islet-neighbourhood of Riddarholmen, which genuinely seems stuck in the 1600s.
- The Skansen is the world's oldest open-air living museum. Covering around 70 acres / 28 hectares of land, it is an encapsulated version of Sweden's entire cultural timeline. Watch folk dances, butter being churned and glass being blown the traditional way. Some 150 reconstructed buildings recreate the Sweden of old, and most impressive of all is the fact that the Skansen has been open since 1891. Of note, it is located on a small hill across the harbour.
- Sweden's biggest and best art museum may not be as massive as the Louvre in Paris, but it is certainly no slouch. What you get at the National Museum of Art is a solid range of priceless treasures - quality over quantity. The Russian icons, 18th-century French paintings and a wall full of Rembrandts are just a taste of the magic waiting in this free museum.
- With a monarchy spanning the last 1,000 years, Sweden has a great traditional of royalty. You can get a glimpse at their lifestyle inside the Royal Palace and its attached museums. Lavishly decorated rooms, the silver throne of Queen Christina and the riches on display in the Royal Treasury are only the tip of the iceberg at this marvellous attraction sited in the Old Town.
- The world's oldest completely intact ship is housed in the Vasamuseet (Vasa Museum). The ship is a 17th-century warship called the Vasa that sank in Stockholm's harbour before it even left port in 1628. Raised in 1961, the ship and its contents were completely intact. This is Scandinavia's most visited attraction for good reason.
- There is lots of irresistible shopping in Stockholm, but you are going to have to loosen the purse strings. The Old Town's Vasterlanggatan is the hotspot for antiques and other expensive items, while the Skansen offers the crafts made by the craftspeople right in front of you. The famous Gallerian shopping mall is found on the Hamngatan, and SoFo appears to be the up and coming district to hunt for hip fashions and other trend-setting kit.
- The Versailles of Sweden is another royal attraction well worth visiting. Drottningholm Palace is easily the most magnificent complex in Scandinavia. The Swedish royal family lives here today, but visitors can experience some of the magic of this UNESCO site in the theatre, the palace, the state apartments and the stunning gardens. Give yourself a solid half-day to soak in the majesty of Drottningholm.
- Stockholm's Museum of Modern Art is another worthy gallery if you have any interest in art. The range of contemporary artwork here is staggering, from Warhols to the great Cubists. New exhibits are put out on the first day of every month, ensuring that the already impressive permanent collection never gets stale.
- A night out in Stockholm doesn't come cheap, but it rarely disappoints. You can party until the sun comes up in the uber-trendy Sodermalm district's clubs and bars, or check out the slick Scandinavian design of the bars in Norrmalm and Stureplan. Jazz is big in Stockholm, and when autumn hits, all the main opera, theatre and orchestra troupes start their season.
- Sweden's greatest sculptor has his own island called Millesgarden, where you can wander lovely gardens and marvel at the works he created in the early 20th century. This star attraction makes a great day trip, being located just outside of the city centre, especially if you have an interest in the art of Carl Milles. The original sculpture of his 'Hand of God' work, along with dozens of other masterpieces, are here for all to enjoy.