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Sweden has always been a place I wanted to travel to because my family has very strong ties to Sweden. I’m about 20% Swedish and my grandmother always had Swedish items around the house like the Dala horse and Swedish meatballs have always been a staple in her home. I definitely wanted to find the top things to do in Stockholm, Sweden to experience as much as possible in a short amount of time.

Sweden is far, vacation days are limited and there are so many places on my list. My boyfriend and I decided to take a trip to the Scanavadian countries and visit both Norway and Sweden.

I would love to go back to both countries because 2.5 days in each just wasn’t enough. 

In Sweden, we visited Stockholm, which is the country’s capital and a very cool city. It has the nickname “Venice of the North” and you can immediately tell why since the city is spread over 14 islands!

It’s a very innovative city and has actually been compared to Silicon Valley. The city is very walkable but they also have a very diverse public transportation system that includes the subway, buses, trams, and even commuter ferries.  An interesting thing we noticed about Stockholm was at rush hour, half the city was riding bicycles! It seems like the vehicle of choice. Stockholm has a very good bike infrastructure and the bike paths are clearly labeled. 

View from the ferry. one of the things to do in stockholm, sweden

Now here’s my experience of Stockholm and what we did. I thought 2.5 days was a good amount of time and we were able to do the main things we wanted to do. Everything is fairly close to each other which is nice when you’re trying to do a lot of activities. 

Transportation

You’ll most likely land at the Stockholm Arlanda Airport. We took the Arlanda express train to the central station. This is a little pricey but you get to the city in 18 minutes compared to at least 38 minutes on the local train so I think it is worth the price if it is within your budget. It’s about $70 roundtrip vs $38 on the local train. The airport tries to direct you to the Arlanda express so it a little trickier to find but perfectly doable. We decided to take the quicker route to maximize our time exploring Stockholm but it’s up to you on what you want to do.

Our hotel was not near the train station so we had to start exploring the city right away. Not going to lie, it was a little difficult figuring out where we needed to go. Since we did the Arlanda Express, we needed to buy another ticket for the subway/tram system. (The benefit of using a local train is the subway system is included in your ticket already). 

To get to our hotel, we needed to take the tram, which I didn’t realize at first. They have each type of transportation labeled differently but it was had to differentiate between some of them at first. Eventually, we learned that we weren’t looking for a subway underground so we wandered outside and eventually found the tram.

Stockholm checks your ticket as soon as you get on any of the public transportation so make sure you have your ticket. 

Our Hotel

We stayed at the Pop hotel mainly because it was the cheapest one we could find that still had good reviews. It was also located really close to the Vasa museum and the Skansen museum which both were attractions we wanted to see.

Fun fact: the Pop hotel is connected to the ABBA museum. For those who don’t know, ABBA is a Swedish music group formed in Stockholm in the 70s. They have popular songs like “Dancing Queen” and “Mamma Mia”. They are really big in Sweden and there was a line to get into the museum every day we were there. 

The room was pretty spacious especially for Europe and even had a balcony! Once we dropped our stuff off, we decided to explore Stockholm. 

The area we’re staying in is really close to all the museums and an amusement park but there isn’t a ton of restaurants so this was something we needed to be mindful of. My biggest complaint about staying at the Pop Hotel on the museum island was that there wasn’t really a nightlife and it was hard to find food without taking the tram

1. Gamla Stan

Gamla Stan or old town is a must when visiting Stockholm, Sweden

We decided the first thing we were going to do was explore Old Town, or Gamla Stan. This is the birthplace of Stockholm, which dates back to the 13th century and really gives you the old-time feels. One of the ferry stops is located right behind the Pop hotel so we took the ferry to Gamla Stan. 

There we found a cute outdoor restaurant in one of the several squares on this island that served Swedish meatballs! It had outside seating which was nice and had European vibes. It was a really nice day to sit outside and enjoy the scenery. 

Gamla Stan is on its own little island and I don’t think any of the buildings or roads have been updated. Stockholm does a really good job preserving the medieval feel of this area. We walked the old cobblestone paths and stumbled upon the old town square (also known as Stortorget), the Royal Palace, and Parliament. 

2. Royal Palace

The Royal palace is MASSIVE and this is the official residence of the King of Sweden! It’s one of the largest palaces in Europe so it’s definitely worth going to look at definitely since it is so close to everything. The palace holds three museums in it so you can also check those out. They include the palace’s medieval history, the antiquities, and the treasury. You can also check out some of the rooms in the palace.

While we were taking a break near the royal palace, we heard some marching music so we went to check it out. We discovered that it was the changing of the guard! This was pretty neat to watch, and they marched really far. It went up to the front of the palace then around the back. The guards and roads aren’t blocked off and fair warning the guards are not afraid to be aggressive towards tourists. There was one lady that was taking pictures in the road and was kinda blocking the way and the policewoman on a horse freaked out. She kept yelling “away, away, they are coming“. The lady seemed frazzled because the policewoman was not joking around. 

changing of the guard in Stockholm, Sweden

The actual changing of the guard area was packed so I couldn’t see much but it fun to follow the march for a little while. The changing of the guard takes place Monday through Saturday at 12:15 if this is something you want to see. On Sundays and holidays, it happens an hour later. 

I highly recommend spending some time just walking around and exploring.

Stockholm is a VERY walkable city and you can stumble upon some pretty cool things. We even found an IKEA in the city. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s in the city and not in a big warehouse but it was very different than the IKEAs back home. 

After all this exploring, we were ready for some drinks. They call happy hour ‘after work’ specials. We then wandered a little bit by the water and stopped at a cafe that served after work house wine for $5! There were a lot of cute little cafes along the water to sit back and enjoy a drink at. 

there were several cafes over looking the water in Stockholm, Sweden where you could get after work deals
Drinks by the Water… It doesn’t get any better than this

3. Vasa Museum

The Vasa Museum is the most well-known attraction in Stockholm so if you’re doing touristy things, this has got to be on your list. Even if you aren’t a big museum person, this ship is pretty neat to see. It is covered with intensive woodsmanship. There are around 500 sculptures on this ship.

We figured we would get to the museum around the time it opened to avoid crowds. This was just wrong … when we got to the Vasa Museum it was PACKED. I think every tour group, cruise ship group, and tourist were waiting to get into this museum so we decided to come back later. Instead, we just wandered around Stockholm which was a good idea since by the afternoon, it wasn’t so packed and I’m sure much more enjoyable.  

The Vasa ship is from the 1600s and the ship didn’t make it out of the harbor. It is quite humorous that their most famous attraction is a ship that didn’t float in the most basic sense. Jim Gaffigan actually has a bit from his stand-up about it.

They weren’t able to pull it up from the bottom of the sea until the 1960s. They put a lot of work into preserving the ship so hopefully, it’ll be in good shape for many years to come. Currently, a lot of the ship was preserved. You can spend a long time just looking at all the designs on this ship. 

Vasa Ship that was found in the harbor in Stockholm

It’s amazing the ship is in such good shape as it is considering it was underwater for 333 years. It took years to pull it up too since most of the ship was buried in mud and clay. They also had skeletons displayed of people that were on the boat and where on the boat they were found. 

Max Burgers

It may be weird to be devoting an entire section to a burger place in Europe but we loved it.  I’m not going to say it’s a top thing to do in Stockholm but I recommend checking it out. Max Burgers is their version of McDonalds or In-N-out burger. It was pretty good and waaaaaaay better quality. We got the maxburger which had mayo, lettuce, tomato, and cheese on it. It looks like they have a Max sauce which we didn’t get to try because we didn’t order the burger with it but oh well. The nice thing was that we could order our food from a kiosk. The downside was that it was in Swedish but we used Google Translate and it worked.  

If you want the burger with their special sauce, you need to order the original burger which had the Max sauce on it. I think the Max sauce is similiar to in-n-out’s sauce. The burgers at Max’s are really good so I hope one day they come over to the States. 

4. Skasen

Today we slept in a little bit then grabbed some breakfast then headed over to Skansen, which is the very first open-air museum. This museum is really unique because it’s all outside and it didn’t feel like a museum at all! They had people dressed up in traditional outfits and different housing structures throughout the years in Sweden.

The actors and costumes also varied depending on where in Sweden they were located. I’m pretty sure they had it set up like the country because we saw the houses of Southern Sweden first then on the top of the museum (which was on top of a very steep hill) was Northern Sweden. They also had a bunch of different animals: cows, sheep, horses, ducks, chickens, bears, lynx, wolves, moose, and reindeer. It was interesting to see some of the animals since it was like a mix of a farm and a zoo. They had a horse breed called the fjord horse which is native to Norway. It’s apparently one of the purest breeds today. 

You could see the rest of the city from the top of the hill at the Skansen Museum. Definitely brought you back to reality!

At the very end of the area, they had what Stockholm was like back in the day. They had different shops open for furniture making, shoemaker, woodworkers, glass blowers. One of the neatest parts was that they had people creating vases and decor out of glass, like they would have in that time period. It was a pretty time-consuming process but it was really cool to watch. 

Overall, we spent a few hours here and there was plenty to do. It’s a lot of walking but definitely worth it.

5. Ice Bar

Later, we went to an ice bar close to the train station. This ice bar is the first permanent ice bar in the world. They provide ice capes and gloves to wear which was good because it is a whopping 23 degree Fahrenheit in there. EVERYTHING was made out of ice… the bar, cups, seats, you name it, it was ice. The water is from the Torne River which is located in Northern Sweden. It is 200 km from the arctic circle so it’s pretty cold up there.

The Ice bar has a theme that they change every year. You can check out what the theme currently is here

When we went in September 2019, it was the Swedish migration to America which was cool since my ancestors migrated from Sweden at one point. Also, it felt like a connection to home. Each drink was related to the theme, like one of my drinks was called Ellis Island. We were probably only there for 30 minutes but had two drinks and it was definitely a unique experience.

Where we ate Swedish Meatballs

We walked by a place called Drottingham which had Swedish meatballs so we ate there. The meatballs were made from deer and elk which was different but they tasted the same to me which I was relieved about. I was worried it would taste too gamey but it didn’t at all. These Swedish meatballs were definitely better than the ones we had in Old City but these were probably more authentic since Gamla Stan is a very popular tourist spot.

Swedish meatballs in Stockholm

Overall, I had a great time in Stockholm and I would highly recommend it. There was plenty that we didn’t do so I would definitely go back and do some more exploring. The city has a very laid back vibe, probably since it’s right on the water. It is always hard to narrow down what you are going to do especially when there’s so much to do and you’re only there for a limited amount of days. I hope my experience can help you have an awesome time. Let me know if you’ve been to Stockholm and what you did. Are you planning a trip? What are some of your must-sees?

Until Next Time,

Top 5 Things to do in Stockholm, Sweden

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