Sweden: Stockholm

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Intro to Stockholm

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden, a nordic country known for its many islands and Viking past. The medieval city of Stockholm is made up of lots of little islands connected by gently arching bridges. The island of Gamla Stan is Stockholm’s Old Town and the area you’re going to want to stay in. Every lane is cobbled, every building gabled, and gas lanterns still shine at night.


Stockholm 032Stockholm can be done as a 4 day weekend, especially if you have direct flights. It also works well as part of a longer Scandinavian itinerary. It’s well connected to other Scandinavian cities like Helsinki, Oslo, and Copenhagen. What it lacks in sights (read: museums and palaces) it more than makes up for in atmosphere. If you enjoy Nordic culture and medieval Nordic architecture then it’s well worth a four day weekend. And that’s exactly what we did.

When people talk about long weekends in Scandinavia they are usually talking about Copenhagen. In our opinion Stockholm should rank higher.

The airport is well connected to the city via its Arlanda Express train which zips you into the city in 20 minutes. From there you’ll take a subway to Gamla Stan, the island that is the heart of the old city.

When we went

Early fall. The weather was still pleasant but the sun started to set early.

What we did

You could spend hours wandering through Gamla Stan. The colorful old houses, narrow alleys, and cobbled lanes are a photographer’s delight. The island is also home to Sweden’s Royal Palace and its collection of museums; treasury, armory, coinage museum, etc.

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The city of Stockholm has a wonderful bike share program and dedicated lanes make it very easy to get around. This should be your preferred method of travel in Stockholm. You can buy the necessary bike pass in the central station. Get one and the city is your oyster.

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Spreading out from Stockholm into the Gulf of Finland is a series of islands that form the Swedish archipelago. From the city you can jump on a ferry and explore one of the well connected islands like Vaxholm, which has a cool old fortress. We were luckily enough to know some locals with a house on the island of Tynningo. Our favorite meal of the trip was a reindeer steak by candle light in their seaside home.

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Stockholm’s city hall is where the Noble Peace prize is awarded. Climb to the top of the tower for a great view of the city’s islands.

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The island of Djurdsgarden was originally the king’s private hunting ground. Today it’s home to several museums including Stockholm’s best, the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was a 17th century naval ship that sank in Stockholm’s harbor minutes after it was launched for the first time. It sunk into the mud at the bottom of the harbor and stayed there for several hundred years until the ingenious Swedes figured out a way to carefully raise it up and relocate it to a climate controlled building. This is not a re-creation, this is a fully intact 17th century ship, the only one of its kind in the world.

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Another worthwhile stop on Djurdsgarden is the Skansen, an open-air museum with native Swedish animals and buildings from around the country. Like much of the rest of Scandinavia, Sweden was primitive until relatively recent. Many buildings, especially in the rural parts of the country, were made of wood and easily succumbed to time. Skansen was built to take examples of those old buildings from around the country and preserve them in one place. Think of it as a way for urban Swedes to get in touch with their past. In addition to many old buildings Skansen also has animals from around the Nordic world, including moose, bears, reindeer, seals, wolves, and more.

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Fem Sma Hus – Michelin starred restaurant in Gamla Stan serves up reindeer in a very romantic setting.

Kryp In – On a quiet lane in Gamla Stan, sit outside and take in the atmosphere. Swedes are used to the cold and don’t seem to mind eating outside in what many of us would consider the dead of winter. The restaurant has both heat lamps and fleece blankets to help keep warm. They also have good soup.

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