A City Break Guide to Stockholm

by Jules on December 12, 2011

Stockholm is a popular destination for winter weekend breaks, although forty-eight hours is never going to be enough to see all that Stockholm has to offer, but if that’s all the time you’ve got, you need a plan to make the most of it.

Alternatively known as the Venice of Sweden, Stockholm is a watery delight of fourteen main islands, where the ancient and modern happily cosy up together in a celebration of both historical and contemporary design excellence. The islands are connected by roadways, making it easy to hop from one to the other.

Whatever your passion, from fine art to grand architecture, you’ll find plenty of inspirational fuel in any of Stockholm’s museums. There are over one hundred of them to choose from. Highlights of the museum world have to be the famous Vasa Museum and the open air Skansen Museum. Both are found on the island of Djurgarden, along with several other attractions.

The Vasa Museum houses the seventeenth century warship Vasa in all its restored glory. An astonishing 95 percent of the ship is original. The museum building was specially constructed to house the ornately carved sailing vessel, which can be seen from different levels to give a complete viewing from top to bottom.

The Skansen museum is Sweden in miniature – ideal for those on a short stay who can’t tour the full country. Packed with reconstructed historical buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, a zoo, shops and entertaining hosts in period costume, Skansen is a place that entertains and informs young and old alike.

Even if you’re not keen on museums, Djurgarden is still worth a visit in its own right. The greenest of the islands, the east side is given over to forests and wooded walks, making it perfect for nature lovers, or for those who just want a taste of the country in the heart of the city.

For cobbled mediaeval streets that date back to the 13th century, visit the old town of Gamla Stan, one of the main tourist attraction areas in Stockholm. It’s one of Stockholm’s main shopping areas with many cafés, restaurants, bars and individual shops selling curious and souvenirs.

Also here you will find Stockholm Cathedral and the Royal Palace, which with over 600 rooms is one of the world’s largest palaces. To get the best of Gamla Stan, you can take a guided tour of the town that will ensure you miss nothing.

Walking is one of the most convenient ways to explore the old town of Gamla Stan, as much of it is pedestrianised. Walking tours include a nighttime ghost walk where you’ll learn about the legends and myths of the town.

Another must-see landmark of Stockholm is the Stadshuset or city hall, situated on the Kungsholmen Island. Designed by leading architect Ragnar Ostberg, the building is one of the city’s major landmarks, with the tower being visible against the skyline from many areas of the city.

Built in a mixture of both Scandinavian and Italian styles, this famous building hosts the annual Nobel Prize banquet and you can climb the 106 metre tall tower for a breathtaking view across the city islands of Riddarholmen, Gamla Stan and Sodermalm.

Tours around all areas of Stockholm can be taken either by bus, boat or foot. Excursions by boat and bus combined into one tour are also available. These comprehensive tours give a good overview of the whole city by bus, followed by a boat trip around Djurgarden and the inner archipelago islands, of which there are over 24,000 in total stretching out into the Baltic Sea.

Stockholm is no less enchanting by night. The lively nightlife means that whether you’re looking for a nightclub to dance your way through the night, or a restaurant to sample the Swedish cuisine, you’ll find the perfect venue. Gamla Stan and Norrmalm have a wealth of upmarket and expensive restaurants. For those on a budget, Look for dagens rat, meaning dish of the day, or Husmanskost, which is a simple, plain but tasty dish of fish or meat with potatoes. Those with adventurous taste buds can try the Scandinavian delicacy of elk or reindeer.

Getting around Stockholm is easy thanks to efficient and plentiful public transport. You can make the most of a short city break by buying a Stockholm Card, which is valid for either 24, 48 or 72 hours and gives you unlimited access to the bus, metro or underground transport system.

The card will also grant you free entry to many of Stockholm’s museums, discounted boat trips and open-topped double-decker bus tours, as well as bicycle tours and a guidebook.

The city of Stockholm has something to do or see on every street corner. Whether your tastes run to the unusual or the conventional, one thing’s for sure: in Stockholm you won’t get bored.

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