Oh the joys of travelling – exploring narrow alleyways for hours on end, stopping for a cup of coffee or two at the local coffee shop, browsing through the local markets, partying all night, rising early to catch that beautiful sunrise you’ve been dying to see. These are all incredible experiences, but let’s be honest – not everybody has the time to explore a place for weeks. Sometimes we just need to make the most of the time we have.
In the first part of our new series we want to present our favourite city of all time, Stockholm! Yes, you read right. Stockholm is so incredibly beautiful nothing else has ever come close to throwing her off her throne. Whether you love nature, culture, shopping or anything in between – Stockholm has it all. And you can experience much of it in just one day!
Stockholm in One Day – Why & How?
There are many reasons for why you might have just one day in Stockholm. Perhaps you are taking a daycruise from Finland, perhaps you have a layover, or perhaps you are just stopping over in the city before exploring more of the country.
Stockholm is a very big city by Nordic standards, so there is enough for you to explore and enjoy for a week, if you like. However, Mihir and I do think that you can get a fantastic taste of beautiful Stockholm in just one day. Explore with us how to spend 12 perfect hours in the city!
Wake up Call – Your Morning in Stockholm
You may arrive by train or by plane, but when Mihir and I travelled to Stockholm the last time, we arrived by ferry at Tegelvikshamn. For us, this is the perfect starting point for a day in the city. Why? One word: Södermalm. What was once a working class district has grown into Stockholm’s hippest district and we just love it. Climb the cliffs and you will be rewarded with incredible views of the Stockholm skyline. If you arrive as early as us, you might just be in time to catch the sun rising over the Baltic Sea.
Get all your selfies sorted before you explore the island which is Södermalm a bit further. There are tons and tons of coffee shops for you to explore in the area. Sweden is one of the top ten coffee consuming countries in the world and has its own coffee culture, known as fika. Coffee in Sweden is not rushed, indeed it’s a break from hectic work life and a social event. So find a cozy seat, grab a kanelbullar (a traditional Swedish cinnamon bun) and take it slow – not much will happen in the city before 9am anyway.
Keeping it Royal – Exploring Old Stockholm
After you have charged your batteries over coffee in Södermalm, we recommend you slowly move on to Gamla Stan, or Old Stockholm. We recommend you take it by foot, but naturally you could also take a bus to save time and energy. Gamla Stan is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centres in all of Europe and offers a real taste of old world charme. We recommend that you simply wander the narrow alleyways, but make sure to find Stortorget (the main square), Mårten Trotzigs gränd (Mårten Trotzigs alley, only 90cm wide at its narrowest point), and Stockholm Cathedral.
If you would like to step inside for a little while, we would definitely recommend the Nobel Museum, one of our favourite museums of all time. It’s a rather small but modern and interactive museum, perfect to explore in 1-2 hours. It’s an ideal filler if you’re waiting to see the Change of Guards at the Royal Palace, which takes place at 12:15 every day (13:15 on Sundays and public holidays). You can also visit the palace itself, but we wouldn’t recommend it on a one-day itinerary.
The Hustle and Bustle – Luncheon
Chances are you have built up an appetite through all the walking you’ve been doing so far. So leave the island of Gamla Stan and dive into the hustle and bustle of modern Stockholm as you venture into Norrmalm. You probably know the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” and if you are visiting in the summer we definitely recommend that you follow in the footsteps of Stockholm natives for you lunchbreak. Grab a salad-to-go and plunk your butt on the shores of Nybroviken. Soak in the few rays of sunshine while you people-watch for a while.
If you are here during the winter, we recommend that you grab lunch in one of the many restaurants around Centralstation, (main train station) or around Sergels torg.
Nature, History, Adrenaline – Afternoon Filler
After your lunch you can walk along Strandvägen, one of Stockholm’s grandest streets, until you reach Djurgården. Remember how I said Stockholm had something to offer for everyone? Well, I was not kidding and the island of Djurgården is proof to that! We recommend that you pick one of the following three options to fill your afternoon:
1. Take a breather in Skansen, the world’s oldest open air museum
If you are in Stockholm and are graced with beautiful weather, we would recommend you pay a visit to Skansen, the oldest open air museum in the world. You could easily spend an entire day here, but 2-3 hours are perfect to get a feel of the place.
You can take the funicular up the hill or alternatively take a short hike. We opted for the funicular ride because it was just a small extra charge, but the hill is easily accessible on foot. My favourite part of Skansen is its zoo and in particular the Nordic animals which you will get so see there, such as reindeer and brown bears. They also have small presentations around the enclosures (although generally in Swedish) if you are interested. And if you’re lucky and you’re around during enrichment time, you will see some real action!
In addition to the zoo you can stroll through the gardens and explore the 140 traditional Scandinavian buildings which have been brought to Skansen over time and learn about the country’s history.
2. Dive into Swedish history at the Vasa Museum
If Skansen is not particularly up your alley, you could visit one of Stockholm’s best museums and perhaps one of the best museums in all of Europe. It displays the almost fully intact 17th century warship Vasa that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. Funnily enough the ship sank only minutes after departure and the museum explores the history of the construction of the ship and the time period it represents.
It’s a very modern museum and even if you think you’re not into maritime history, this is a must-see for any lover of culture and history. Plus, it’s perfect on a bad weather day!
3. Get the adrenaline pumping at Grönalund
If you would like to do something completely different, why not spend a couple of hours at Gröna Lund, Sweden’s oldes amusement park. Due to its central location its expansion is limited and it remains a relatively small amusement park by modern standards. Nonetheless it’s packed full of fun! 30 different attractions will keep you plenty busy for 2-3 hours.
Unwind – Shopping Spree
You’ve had a day packed full of fun acivities. If you need a moment to unwind and a convenient place to grab dinner, make a stop at the city’s longest shopping street, Drottninggatan, back in Norrmalm. You’ll find your usual selection of brand stores and maybe a little bit more. Also, this is a perfect place to pick up some last second souvenirs. And just off the street is Hötorget, a perfect place to buy local produce. There are copious restaurants and bars for you to enjoy, but expect them to be packed!
Say your goodbyes
Admittedly, this is quite the busy schedule. If you want to save time, you can always choose to take public transport instead of walking. I hope you got a good taste of the city. Stockholm has much, much more to offer and we recommend that you come back one day and explore new corners!
Now, what do you think? Is there anything we have missed or anything that you would do differently? Which is your favourite spot in Stockholm? Share your thoughts and pictures with us. Let’s stay in touch!