Stockholm is situated where Lake Mälaren’s sapphire blue waters meet the vast Baltic Sea. The elegant cultural capital spreads over 14 islands linked by 57 architectural bridges. Famous as one of the world’s cleanest cities, Stockholm boasts numerous green parks, historical museums, quaint bars, sleek bistros, outdoor cafes, and exclusive shopping. Sustainable and eco-friendly solutions are an enormous part of everyday life in Stockholm.
Docked along Stadsgardshamnen in the Central District, our Viking Ocean Ship Venus had a direct view of the islands of Skeppsholmen, Djurgarden, and Gamla Stan Old Town. My husband and I were excited about our 2-week Norwegian Homelands Cruise from Stockholm to Bergen. We had reserved the Stockholm Panorama tour, a morning excursion that journeyed through the city’s picturesque streets — known as the “Venice of Scandinavia” — plus the afternoon Vasa Ship Museum tour.
From medieval and historical to 21st-century modern, here are 24 areas to explore in Stockholm:
1. Stockholm City Hall
Stockholm City Hall, the seat of Stockholm municipality, stands on the eastern tip of Kungsholmen Island and faces the islands of Riddarholmen and Sodermalm. It houses offices and conference rooms as well as ceremonial halls. It is the venue of the Nobel Prize Banquet and is one of Stockholm’s major tourist attractions. When we were there, we saw groups of wedding parties and couples getting married, coming outside to celebrate with friends and family.
2. The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is the official residency of His Majesty the King of Sweden, featuring more than 600 rooms. The palace, built in the Italian-Baroque style in the 18th century, hosts multiple museums — Gustav III’s Museum of the Antiquities, the Tre Kronor Museum, and the Treasury. You’ll also see the Rikssalen, the Hall of State, Queen Kristina’s silver throne, and the Halls of the Orders of Chivalry.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the daily pageantry of the changing of the guard ceremony.
3. Swedish Parliament
The tiny island of Helgeandsholmen houses the Swedish Parliament, or Parliament House. Enjoy a free guided hour-long tour of the Neoclassical building, where you can observe the parliamentary sessions through a large glass gallery.
4. Royal Opera
The national venue for opera and ballet since January 18, 1773, the Royal Opera — the Kungliga Operan — is located near the Royal Palace via the Norrbro Bridge. Tours allow you to explore backstage, visit the royal rooms, and view the orchestra pit. Enjoy one of the performances for a grand view of the opulent facility.
5. Royal Dramatic Theatre
The Royal Dramatic Theatre, the national stage for “spoken drama” founded in 1788, features 1,000 shows annually on the venue’s eight running stages. The Art-Nouveau building at Nybroplan, on the waterfront since 1908, was constructed by Swedish architect Fredrik Lilljekvist.
Old Town Gamla Stan By Foot
Founded in 1252 — the oldest section of the Swedish capital — Old Town Gamla Stan features narrow cobblestone streets and a historic square surrounded by colorful 17th- and 18th-century merchant homes built in the North German style.
6. Stock Exchange Building
See the Stock Exchange Building and walk down the narrowest alleyway in Stockholm, Marten Trotzigs Grand, which decreases to less than 3 feet wide.
7. Storkyrkan Cathedral
Gamla Stan is home to the medieval Storkyrkan Cathedral, the former coronation site for Swedish kings. New Nordic cuisine is served at sleek bistros, while night spots include stylish cocktail bars and old-school pubs. Riddarholmen Church is the burial site of the Swedish kings and Stockholm’s only preserved medieval monastery. It features concerts in the summer.
8. The Nobel Museum
The Nobel Museum displays the work of Nobel laureates and their acceptance speeches, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s presentation. The bookstore hosts biographies about the Nobel laureates and books by Nobel Prize for Literature winners.
9. Museum Of Medieval Stockholm
The Museum of Medieval Stockholm features the discoveries of a massive archaeological dig in the 1970s. Every amount of Swedish medieval life is shown, from brick houses to the harbor, workshops, and gallows.
10. Vasa Museum
We added a fascinating afternoon tour of the Vasa Museum, featuring a 17th-century ship that sailed less than 15 minutes in 1628, then capsized and sank in Stockholm.
After 333 years, historians salvaged the warship in 1961 and built a museum around her to commemorate Vasa, the world’s best-preserved 17th-century ship. See the colorful model, scaled 1:10, ladened with over 500 magnificent sculptures.
On the ground floor, view the Vasa’s figurehead, a 9-foot lion holding the Vasa coat of arms in its front paws. Two original cannons of the 64 on-board rested on a heavy four-wheeled carriage that allowed the weapon to move about the deck. The Vasa’s name came from the coat of arms, a vase, and a sheaf of wheat held by two angels.
Djurgarden: Home To Top Museums, Cultural Attractions, And Nature
Royal Djurgarden Island is a green oasis in the center of Stockholm for walkers, cyclists, and picnickers. It offers beautiful nature, museums, the Grona Lund amusement park, Skansen, the ABBA Museum, and lots more.
11. Grona Lund
Grona Lund, the oldest amusement park in Sweden, offers 30 rides, including the unique wooden rollercoaster — Jetline — other monster rollercoasters, games, six restaurants, and food and snack stands. Enjoy concerts, dance evenings, and children’s entertainment. We could see the amusement park across the water from our ship.
12. ABBA The Museum
At the interactive ABBA The Museum, you can virtually try on costumes, play tunes, sing, and mix original music as you become the fifth member of ABBA, the most successful Swedish music group ever. The global success of “Mamma Mia!” reaches new audiences as you record your version of an ABBA production. This museum is a hit, where you walk in and dance out!
Skansen, the world’s oldest open-air museum, features Sweden’s farmsteads and houses filled with Nordic wildlife. See the aquarium, children’s zoo, Baltic Sea science center, and museum shop. Here, you can celebrate numerous holidays like Sweden’s National Day with the Royal Family, the Autumn Market, and the Christmas Market.
Skeppsholmen is a small urban island between Gamla Stan and Djurgarden, dotted with historic naval buildings and home to several museums and live performance venues. We could also see Skeppsholmen directly across from our Viking ship.
14. Moderna Museet
The Modern Museum, Moderna Museet, featuring works by Picasso, Dali, and Matisse, is located on scenic Skeppsholmen Island. Designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, the museum boasts one of Europe’s most-renowned collections of art from the 20th century to today. Enjoy lunch with Stockholm’s most picturesque view at the Restaurant at Moderna Museet, serving hot and cold dishes, sandwiches, and homemade desserts. Sip your favorite organic wine, healthy juices, cider, or beer. Also, enjoy a cappuccino at the Coffee Bar, the Moderna Bar, or a light lunch and a craft brew at Café Blom.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the Stockholm Jazz Festival held here annually.
15. Swedish Centre For Architecture And Design
Visit the Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design in the Drill House, originally used to train navy troops in 1853.
Modern Stockholm And The City Center
Norrmalm is a busy city district in Stockholm where most tourists arrive.
16. Arlanda Express Terminal
Here, you’ll find the Central Station and Arlanda Express Terminal, plus lots of shops, restaurants, bars, department stores, and shopping malls. Get your fill of various clothing chains at Gallerian on Hamngatan, then stop to eat at one of the many restaurants.
17. Shopping In Stockholm
Shop at NK (Nordiska Kompaniet) for fashion designs, or at Mood Stockholm, a new mall with food and shopping. Ahlens City is Sweden’s largest department store with competitive prices for clothing, and beauty products, with a grocery store in the basement.
The cocktail bar Americain in the Haymarket Hotel serves classy, elegant drinks and simple dishes. It offers an elegant vibe with live music inspired by the 1920s American ballrooms and hotels.
Hotorget, or Haymarket, is a lively central market in Stockholm, with lots of stalls selling fruit, vegetables, and handicrafts. A multi-screen cinema, a large department store, and a vast food court are across the square from a massive concert hall. There is also a food market, Hotorgshallen, selling cheese, meat, and fish, plus some stalls serving lunch.
Stureplan is a public square in central Stockholm, between Norrmalm and Ostermalm districts, named after Stenstare, the Elder. The area has many expensive and luxurious bars, restaurants, exclusive fashion shops, and a shopping gallery called Sturegallerian.
Here, you’ll find the luxurious spa Sturebadet, which opened in 1885. Matmarknad, a food market with exclusive products, and Sturehof, a famous fish restaurant, are located here as well. Centrally located in the square is a giant mushroom-like structure, called Svampen by the locals, and is a popular place to meet.
Strandvagen, a boulevard in central Stockholm, was completed for the Stockholm World’s Fair in 1897. Strandvagen 1 is an international bistro in the upscale neighborhood of Ostermalm, next door to the Royal Dramatic Theatre. With a picturesque view of the docks at Nybrokajen, the restaurant and bar are popular hangouts on a warm summer day.
23. Westfield Mall Of Scandinavia
Scandinavia’s largest shopping center, Westfield Mall of Scandinavia, hosts shopping, food, and entertainment with the best Swedish and international brands, plus Sweden’s only commercial IMAX theater.
Humlegarden has been a public park and a popular place to relax since 1869. In the middle of the exclusive Ostermalm district, you’ll see business people eating brown-bag lunches on the grass in the warm sunshine, plus lots of families and dog owners. The park includes Surfer’s summer restaurant, Omnipollos Flora, a summer biergarten, a large playground, and a skateboard ramp.
We could have spent a week in Stockholm, but we were excited about our cruise onward to more Viking Homeland ports.
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