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Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is an enchanting city by the water, with excellent and unique things to see and do during your trip. It was built on 14 islands where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea; its charm lies in this interplay of land and water. So it’s no wonder it’s called “Venice of the North”!

Stockholm, Sweden
Summer white nights in Stockholm

Stockholm’s roots date back to the 1200s. As a result, its old town, Gamla Stan, is one of the city’s highlights. Stockholm is the biggest city in Scandinavia, with over a million people. Despite its size, it is a very livable city with a relaxed pace of life.

By the way, don’t worry if you don’t speak Swedish: most people in all Scandinavian countries speak fluent English. It doesn’t hurt to learn a word or two, though, if only to show appreciation to your Swedish hosts.

Sergels Torg ("Sergel's square"), in central Stockholm, was constructed in the 1960s and named after 18th-century sculptor Johan Tobias Sergel, and is one of the many unique things to see in Stockholm
In central Stockholm, Sergels Torg (“Sergel’s square”) was constructed in the 1960s and named after 18th-century sculptor Johan Tobias Sergel. It is one of the many unique things to see in Stockholm.

Moreover, Stockholm is an ideal destination for solo female travellers. Sweden is also a very progressive and egalitarian country. As in any big city, the usual common-sense precautions apply, but you won’t be disturbed on the streets or when dining alone.

Stockholm, like the other Scandinavian capitals, is a bike-friendly city

So, these are the most unique things to see in Stockholm:

1. Wander the medieval alleys of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town

Gamla Stan is the historic centre of Stockholm, and its name means just that, “old town”. This is where the city started, dating back to the 13th century.

Today, most buildings are from the 1700s and 1800s. It is the perfect place to start your exploration of Stockholm, with its pretty cobblestone streets, charming rust- and mustard-coloured houses and cute cafés.

There is hardly a better place to start your exploration of Stockholm than Gamla Stan.

Let yourself wander through its fantastic labyrinth of narrow alleys and small, winding streets. You’ll feel as if you’ve travelled back to Stockholm’s past.

The heart of the old town is the main square, called Stortorget, aka the “Grand Square”. It is the oldest square in Stockholm and the site of its oldest Christmas Market.

Don’t miss the opportunity to take a break from sightseeing for some hot chocolate and a giant cinnamon roll at Chokladkoppen. This is probably the best hot chocolate in town (tried and tested!)

2. Admire the impressive (but failed) Vasa warship

This is my second favourite place in Stockholm. This should be if you have time for just one museum in Stockholm. It may sound like a tourist trap or something boring, but trust me, it’s not.

At first, it wasn’t at the top of my list, but afterwards, I was glad to see it. How often do you get the chance to get so close that you almost touch an actual 17th-century warship?

Vasa’s story is a bit embarrassing. For 17th-century Swedish ship makers, that is.

The Vasa Museum – Image by marcelkessler from Pixabay

At its time, Vasa was the pride of the Swedish navy, but alas, it sunk on its maiden voyage in 1693.

To add insult to injury, it sunk before even leaving Stockholm harbour. However, what was an embarrassment for Swedish ship-building then was a blessing for modern-time archaeologists, as they salvaged the whole ship in 1961.

Nowadays, the ship is an impressive sight. It is massive and beautifully decorated. Standing near it makes one feel very small indeed! There is also free Wi-Fi on-site, a gift shop, and a restaurant. Admission is free for children under 18.

Address: Galärvarvsvägen 14, 115 21 Stockholm
Official website: http://www.vasamuseet.se/

3. See the Golden Hall at Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset)

The Golden Hall in the City Hall, one of the best things to see in Stockholm
The Golden Hall in the Stockholm City Hall

One of the most impressive things to see in Stockholm is the City Hall, with its 106-metre-tall spire. It is one of the city’s most famous landmarks.

Designed by architect Ragnar Östberg, it is made of eight million bricks. It looks old, but it is a contemporary building.

In addition, and perhaps more importantly, the great Nobel Prize banquet takes place at City Hall.

The Nobel laureates, nominees, city officials and guests first dine in the Blue Hall (Blå Hallen), followed by a dance in the jaw-dropping Golden Hall (Gyllene Salen). The design of the Golden Hall was inspired by the palaces and cathedrals of the Byzantine Empire, which boast 18 million gold tiles.

Stockholm City Hall – Image by Rofi from Pixabay

You can only visit the City Hall with a licensed guide as part of a tour. The spire tower is open only from May to September, but if you visit during this time, it offers a fantastic panoramic view of the city.

Address: Hantverkargatan 1, 112 21 Stockholm
Official website: https://cityhall.stockholm/

4. Tour the Royal Palace

The Royal Palace in Stockholm
The Royal Palace in Stockholm

The Royal Palace, located in the heart of Stockholm, is one of the largest palaces in Europe, with over 600 rooms.

It is also the official residence of the King of Sweden (meaning he holds official functions there, not to be confused with the actual residence of the royal family, Drottningholm Palace).

The Royal Palace is open to the public all year round. Highlights include the reception halls from the 18th and 19th centuries, the famed Queen Kristina’s silver throne, and the Ordenssalarna (Halls of the Orders of Chivalry).

Given that the palace is on the same island as Gamla Stan, you can easily visit both on the same day.

Address: Slottsbacken 1, 111 30 Stockholm
Official website: kungligaslotten.se

5. Visit the Modern Art Museum (Moderna Museet)

Modern Art Museum, Stockholm
Modern Art Museum, Stockholm

Stockholm’s Modern Art Museum (Moderna Museet) is one of the best collections of modern and contemporary art. It exhibits art, film, installations, drawings, and photography.

Here, you will find pieces by some of the most prominent modern artists, such as Picasso, Matisse, and Dali. Outside the museum, there is also a sculpture park featuring art by many international artists.

Outdoor sculpture park of Moderna Museet, one of the most unique things to see and do in Stockholm
The outdoor sculpture park of Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Located on the pretty island of Skeppsholmen, Moderna Museet opened in 1958 and was designed by renowned Spanish architect Rafael Moneo.

The museum also has a souvenir shop (I bought a cute mug) and a restaurant with lovely views of Djurgården.

Skeppsholmen Island is so pretty that it’s worth visiting even if you don’t go to the museum, as is Skeppsholmen Bridge, with its signature crowns (see cover image).

Address: Exercisplan 4, 111 49 Stockholm
Official website: modernamuseet.se

6. Enjoy a quiet moment in the Stockholm Public Library (Stockholms Stadsbiblioteket)

If you are a bookworm like me or an architecture enthusiast, visiting the Stockholm Public Library is a must.

The library was created in the early 20th century by world-renowned architect Gunnar Asplund. Conde Nast Traveller magazine has listed it as one of the world’s most beautiful libraries.

Most books are in Swedish, but there are also books in English, French and other languages.

Outside the library, there is a park with a lovely pond and sculptures

The library’s main hall is a dome, and it was the first public library to feature open shelves, thus allowing visitors to access books without asking staff for assistance.

Furthermore, the same architect created the park south of the library, which features a lovely pond and sculptures.

Address: Sveavägen 73, 113 80 Stockholm
Official website: https://biblioteket.stockholm.se/language/english-engelska/welcome-library

7. Things to see and do in Stockholm: have fun at ABBA, The Museum

The ABBA Museum
The ABBA Museum

ABBA is the biggest music group to come out of Sweden and the most successful Eurovision Contest winner.

The group was hugely popular in Europe after winning for the first time in 1974. More recently, it has returned in popularity thanks to the Mama Mia movies and musicals.

Here, you’ll find all ABBA memorabilia, from gold disks to stage outfits. The museum is also very interactive.

You can dance to ABBA music, sing or even try their outfits (virtually, of course). You can also record your “performance” and download it from the museum’s homepage.

Address: Djurgårdsvägen 68, 115 21 Stockholm
Official website: www.abbathemuseum.com

8. Enjoy free art in Stockholm’s metro/subway

Stockholm metro art in T-Centralen station, is one of the most unique things to see and do in Stockholm
Stockholm metro art in T-Centralen station is one of the most unique things to see and do in Stockholm.

Stockholm’s metro is often called “the world’s longest art gallery,” and with good reason. Over 150 artists have contributed their art to the 110-kilometre-long metro and most of its stations.

For the price of a single metro ticket, you can see amazing art from the 1950s to the present, including murals, sculptures, and modern installations. The main point of this artistic takeover is that art should be easily accessible to all.

That said, if you want to dig deeper (pun intended), guided tours offer more information. An easy starting point is T-Centralen, Stockholm metro’s central hub, in the city’s heart.

9. Go for a tasty fika (coffee break)

Fika time, with coffee and a cinnamon bun, is one of one of the very unique things to see and do in Stockholm
Fika time, with coffee and a cinnamon bun

Going for a fika is very Swedish and perhaps the easiest way to experience a bit of local life.

You may ask, so what exactly is fika? It is essentially a coffee break, preferably with friends and always with a sweet treat on the side. Unlike British afternoon tea, however, fika has no set time, although mid-morning and afternoon are two popular times.

Also, don’t worry about where you can best enjoy a fika. Baked goods are trendy in Sweden, so find a lovely café or bakery to your liking and enjoy your coffee break, Stockholm-style.

Vetekatten in central Stockholm has been a local institution since it opened in 1928.

10. Hit the shops

Shopping is one of the best things to see and do in Stockholm
Shops on Biblioteksgatan

Stockholm is a shopper’s paradise. After all, it’s the capital of Scandinavian design and fashion—and I’m not just talking about IKEA and H&M.

The city has everything, from high-end department stores to independent boutiques. Like most Scandinavians, the Swedes are fond of design and aesthetics, so you’re sure to find something you like.

Drottninggatan is Stockholm’s main shopping street. It features all the major international brands as well as local favourites.

Head to Nordiska Kompaniet, the Stockholm equivalent to Harrods, or Biblioteksgatan, the city’s most exclusive area, for something more exclusive.

If you’re after independent boutiques, check out the SoFo district in Södermalm, where you’ll find favourites like Grandpa and Beyond Retro.

Read more: The best shopping spots in Stockholm.

Bonus things to see in Stockholm: in April, go to Kungsträdgårde and walk under the cherry trees in bloom

Kungsträdgården in spring, one of the best things to see and do in Stockholm
Kungsträdgården in spring – © Anna Hugosson/ mediabank.visitstockholm.com

If you find yourself in Stockholm in April, you’re in for a treat.

This is when the cherry trees of Kungsträdgården, the park behind the Royal Palace, bloom. There is even a holiday to celebrate the beautiful flowers, called Körsbärsblommans Dag (Cherry Blossoms Day), on April 28th. Hundreds of people, locals and tourists flock to the park that day to stroll under the trees.

That said, the park is popular year-round, and it’s a great place to enjoy a tasty fika from the nearby cafés, play outdoor chess, or skate on the ice ring in winter.

More unique things to do in Stockholm, Sweden (and day trips)

Stockholm is a vibrant and charming city with many exciting things to do. Depending on how much time you have, you can also go on a cruise around the Stockholm archipelago or enjoy contemporary photography at Fotografiska.

If you are travelling with kids, the oldest open-air museum in the world, Skansen, is a great option.

Finally, from Stockholm, you can take day trips to the historic city of Uppsala, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Drottningholm Palace, Sweden’s first town, Sigtuna, and more.

The list of all the fantastic things you can do in Stockholm is endless!

Author

Eleanna is the founder of A Curious Compass and has been blogging since 2013. Her mixed ethnic background has made her curious about the world from a young age. Since her first solo trip at 18, she has visited and lived in many places, like London, Sao Paulo, Paris, and Toronto. Her mission is to inspire people to travel the world in style and get to know the soul of each destination.

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