Stockholm can be divided up into 14 islands, with nearly 2 million inhabitants. The city is made up of Innerstaden, or the historical inner city, and extends outward into the suburbs.
Within the Innerstaden, there’s the central business district of Norrmalm, the affluent borough Östermalm (also home to major tourist venues like Vasa Museum and Skansen), Gamla Stan or the Old Town, trendy Södermalm, and the western islands of Kungsholmen, Lilla Essingen, and Stora Essingen. The Western Suburbs, of which there are many, include Vällingby, Solvalla, and Kista, and the Northern Suburbs include Solna, Sundbyberg, Hagastaden, Danderyd, Täby, and Runriket. The southern edge of greater Stockholm includes the Globe Arena, the UNESCO World Heritage site Skogskyrkogården cemetery, Liljeholmen borough and the peninsula of Södertörn.
It’s not known exactly when Stockholm was founded, but it first appears in records in 1252 and was established by Birger Jarl. Since the 16th century, Stockholm became a major center of commerce, and since the 17th century served as the base of the Swedish Empire.
To learn more and pick up maps, there are several centers for Tourist Information in downtown Stockholm, including:
Stockholm Visitors Center, Kulturhuset, Sergels Torg 3
Stockholm Tourist Center, Köpmangatan 22, Old Town
The tram between the city center and Djurgården – Photo credit: © A. Aleksandravicius/Shutterstock.com
It’s relatively simple to travel with public transport within the city limits of Stockholm. Stockholm city tickets (SL) are valid on the bus, subway, commuter line, the light rail line, and the intra-city ferry.
You can purchase tickets at the local convenience store Pressbyrån or at station ticket machines. You can also purchase tickets with the SL app. You cannot buy tickets onboard the buses. Not all stations have ticket machines, however, so if you’re in Stockholm for more than three days, you’ll want to make sure you purchase an SL Access card from Pressbyrån and preload it with tickets. If you’re unsure of your route, plan your trip at sl.se.
A single journey ticket will cost from 31 SEK, though you can add anywhere from 100-1000 SEK to your SL pass. If you travel frequently, you can buy a week-long pass for 325 SEK. If you’re a student or senior, you can purchase your tickets at a reduced price at an SL Center at select stations.
Bikes are available for rent through the city bike system. Between April and October you can pick up and drop off a bike at 140 bike stations in Stockholm. You’ll need a ‘personnummer'(Swedish personal identity number) to rent a bike during the active summer season, or you can purchase one without an personal ID number at an SL Center at selected stations. There are many cycle paths all around Stockholm and it can be a pleasant way to tour the city.
Boats within the city are run by Waxholmsbolaget, which stop at several different docks around the city. Boats to the archipelago are not included in the city limits, so you’ll need to buy tickets before you board at the docks or onboard. Tickets for guided boat tours around Stockholm and for ferries to other islands in the archipelago are available at the Tourist Center at Köpmangatan 22 or stromma.se.
There are many airports that serve Stockholm, the most popular route being via Arlanda. To get from the airport to the city center, you can either take the Arlanda Express train, the commuter train, taxi or one of the buses known as Flygbussarna. The Arlanda Express operates every 15 minutes throughout the day, takes 20 minutes and costs from 280 SEK. The commuter train will cost less than 150 SEK, depart twice an hour from Arlanda and take around 45 minutes. The buses depart every 10-15 minutes and travel time is around 35-45 minutes to central Stockholm. If you’re landing at Bromma, Skavsta or Västerås, your best bet is one of the Flygbussarna or a taxi.
The greater train system to and from Stockholm is excellent, connecting the capital with major and minor cities such as Gothenburg, Malmö, and others. Most trains depart from the Central Station in downtown Stockholm and are operated by a number of train operators: SJ, Tågkompaniet, Snälltåget, and Inlandsbanan.
Swedish taxis aren’t regulated, but prices are displayed in the window in black and yellow before you enter the car. The price shown will be the maximum fare for a 10-km, 15-minute journey. The route from the airport to downtown will cost you around 500 SEK.
Stockholm has plenty of excellent restaurants
Stockholm offers up some of the most diverse and innovative palates in the world, from Japanese fusion to classic Swedish with a new Nordic twist. Be prepared to pay anywhere from 200 SEK for the entrée at a quality restaurant. If your budget is tight, you can opt to eat out only during lunchtime. Most restaurants offer a special ‘Dagens rätt’ (today’s dish), a set meal of less than 100 SEK that includes an entrée, bread, butter, salad, coffee, and juice.
In December, many restaurants offer a Christmas buffet known as a ‘julbord’, with seasonal Swedish cuisine like pickled herring and stockfish. Throughout the year, look out for ‘husmanskost’, typical Swedish dishes like pea soup and pancakes, and fried herring.
- Frantzén (Klara Norra Kyrkogata 26, Norrmalm) – Sweden’s first three star restaurant
- Oaxen Krog (Beckholmsbron 26, Djurgården)
- Sushi Sho (Upplandsgatan 45, Vasastan)
- Volt (Kommendörsgatan 16, Östermalm)
- Gastrologik (Artillerigatan 14, Östermalm)
- Mathias Dahlgren Matbaren (Södra Blasieholmshamnen 6, Norrmalm)
- Operakällaren (Operahuset, Norrmalm)
- Ekstedt (Humlegårdsgatan 17, Östermalm)
- Den Gyldene Freden – Traditional Swedish cuisine in a unique restaurant founded in 1722, making it one of the oldest in the world (Österlånggatan 51, Old Town)
- Gubbhyllan – Seasonally inspired Swedish culinary culture, with a focus on ethics, ecology, and simplicity. Housed in a historic building in Skansen.
Foodies on a budget
- Lilla Ego – Neighborhood pub that quickly became one of Stockholm’s most beloved restaurants. High-quality Swedish dishes are carefully and lovingly prepared at a great price. Reservations needed! (Västmannagatan 69, Vasastan)
- The Flying Elk – ‘Proper pub grub’ at two-star Franzén’s gastropub in Old Town (Mälartorget 15, Old Town)
Skansen is the world’s first open-air museum – Photo credit: © yegorovnick/Shutterstock.com
Stockholm has an impressive offering of art galleries and designer spaces. Drop by Moderna Museet (Exercisplan 4, Skeppsholmen) for impressive displays year-round, or wander into Liljevalchs (Djurgårdsvägen 60, Djurgården), Magasin 3 (Frihamnen), Bonniers Konsthall (Torsgatan 19, Vasastan), Sven-Harrys Konstmuseum (Eastmansvägen 10, Vasastan) or Artipelag (Artipelagstigen 1, Värmdö) for their world-class permanent and temporary exhibitions. The Stockholm Metro is famously home to artistic decorations, dubbed the ‘world’s longest art exhibition,’ from the Super Mario-inspired Thorildsplan to the black and white drawings by Siri Derkert at Östermalmstorg.
Rich in history and preserved architecture, tourist sites within Stockholm are plentiful. You’ll want to start at Gamla Stan (Old Town) to admire the historic churches and old harbor. You can take a ferry east to Djurgården, where you’ll find the Vasa Museum, Skansen, and Gröna Lund. Other curious buildings of note include the spherical Ericsson Globe, the curvaceous City Library, and the classically inspired Stockholm National Museum. Farther afield, you’ll find the open-air sculpture museum Millesgården, and the very Victorian Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet.
Of course, no visit to Stockholm would be complete without a stop at the Royal Palace. As the official residence of the Swedish monarchy, the palace is located on Stadsholmen in Gamla Stan. Drop by Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm. There are daily guides in English, Russian and Chinese.
Swedish Museum of Natural History – Photo credit: © canyalcin/Shutterstock.com
Stockholm loves its museums, and there is quite a handful that also enjoy free admission. Here’s just a few to get you started:
- Armémuseum (Riddargatan 13, Östermalm)
- Arkitektur- och Designcentrum (Exercisplan 4, Skeppsholmen)
- Bonniers Konsthall ( Torsgatan 19, Vasastan)
- Dansmuseet (Drottninggatan 17, Norrmalm)
- Etnografiska museet (Djurgårdsbrunnsvägen 34, Norra Djurgården)
- Hallwylska museet (Hamngatan 4, Norrmalm)
- Historiska museet (Narvavägen 13-17, Östermalm)
- Konstakademien (Fredsgatan 12, Norrmalm)
- Livrustkammaren (Slottsbacken 3, Norrmalm)
- Medelhavsmuseet (Fredsgatan 2, Norrmalm)
- Medeltidsmuseet (Strömparterren 3, Norrmalm)
- Moderna museet (Exercisplan 4, Skeppsholmen)
- Nationalmuseum (Södra Blasieholmshamnen 2, Norrmalm)
- Naturhistoriska riksmuseet (Frescativägen 40)
- Riksidrottsmuseet (Djurgårdsbrunnsvägen 26, Norra Djurgården)
- Sjöhistoriska (Djurgårdsbrunnsvägen 24, Norra Djurgården)
- Östasiatiska museet (Tyghusplan, Skeppsholmen)
As expected in a cosmopolitan city, shopping is huge here in Stockholm. Drottninggatan is home to major brands and conveniently located near the food market of Hötorgshallen. For high-end shops head to Stureplan in Östermalm, but if you’re looking for vintage and used, try the designer shops on Södermalm.
Coffeeshops are widely popular in Stockholm, as most locals take part in ‘fika‘ or afternoon break with coffee and a roll. Keep your eyes peeled for chains like Wayne’s Coffee, Espresso House, Coffeehouse By George, and Starbucks. For something a bit more unique, there are the usual local favorites: Snickarbacken 7, sophisticated Flickorna Helin, hipster-inspired Johan & Nyström, old world Vete-Katten, and cozy Chokladkoppen at Stortorget in Old Town.
A night out in Stockholm can cost a pretty penny, with beers usually around 60 SEK and cocktails closer to the 100 SEK range. For this reason, many locals will have a drink at home first before going out. The government monopoly chain Systembolaget offers hard liquor and wine both, but tends to close before 6-7 pm on weekdays and before 3 pm on Saturdays. For cheaper pubs, try your luck at Götgatan on Södermalm or Kungsholmen, but if trendy is more your style, you’ll want to gravitate to the younger crowd at posh Stureplan or Bondegatan on Södermalm. Most bars close at 1 am, the usual latest at 3 am.
As a tourist in Stockholm, you’ll never run out of things to do
Sweden is largely a cashless society, preferring PIN transactions. If you do have a debit card that requires a signature, be ready to show your proof of identification. ATMs are also regular landmarks, but some foreign cardholders have reported difficulty using them.
If you’re in a bind and need to use a public toilet, you can try a mall, department store, city square or fast food restaurant. Keep in mind that entrance usually comes with a charge of 5-10 SEK depending on the establishment.
For emergencies, call 112 for the police, fire department and ambulance. For other, non-urgent matters pertaining to the police, call 114 14.
There you have it, all the tourist information you need when visiting Stockholm. We wish you a pleasant stay in the city!