On a recent visit to Stockholm, we didn’t hit the ATM once, a first when traveling, as Stockholm is proud to be a mostly cashless city. It’s also an elegant and scenic city; built around parks, islands, and endless waterways, with some of Scandinavia’s most respected museums and most lauded restaurants. Throw in hip design stores, waterside bars, and cafes, and a garden café from Martha Stewart’s dreams and you have an ideal city for a midsummer adventure.
Logistics: Djurgarden is home to the Vasa, Abba Museum, Rosendals Tragard, Skansen and Oaxen Slip—easily combined. Sodermalm, Gamla Stan, and the Fotografiska Museum also make for a nice combination.
Exciting news--Fotografiska is opening this fall in NYC and London if it has anything like its sibling we are sure it will be a great addition to both cities.
White Nights: Midsummer the sun sets around 11, so that means your sightseeing day does not end at 5 or 6, it's almost like getting two days in one. From a traveler’s perspective, this allows you to wander the old city, walk along the water, and enjoy a drink outside after the museums and shops close. We made dinner on the later side and didn’t stop till 8:30 each day, only pausing for a quick pre-dinner shower. (While summer is ideal, my daughter visited in late November, and it was still one of her favorite spots while studying abroad.)
Water, Water, Everywhere: There’s a reason Stockholm is often called the Venice of the North. The city is a web of bridges, canals, and rivers all spread across 14 islands. It’s picturesque in spades, and easily walkable.
Photo-bomb: The Fotografiska is reason enough to visit Stockholm, located in a former 1906 red brick customs house; it sits scenically on the harbor. The top floor is home to an award-winning restaurant, and a casual café-- a wow and then some, with large windows spanning the entire dining room. The panoramic views serve up some of the best vantage points of the city. That alone would make it a destination without seeing the exhibits, but don't miss the exhibits-this is a destination for world-class contemporary photography. An added plus the museum stays open till 11 pm each day, so save this as a late day stop. You could plan on dinner or drinks either before or after you browse the current exhibit.
Historic: Get lost in the cobblestoned streets of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town filled with narrow lanes and medieval buildings. Attractions include the Royal Palace, Nobel Museum, and Storkyrkan Church. It’s a touristy area, but worth a meander during your stay.
Best Bites: Matbaren is a one-Michelin-starred restaurant that is refreshingly casual with food you want to eat in a fun, buzzy room in the Grand Hotel overlooking the water. It was one of the best meals we’ve had in the last few months, and we eat out a lot! The menu rotates often showcasing the best local, seasonal fare, with menu sections divided playfully with titles: “from our country,” “from other countries,” “from the plant world” and “from the pastry.” Matbaren is a must during your stay in Stockholm. Other top tables include Oaxen Krog and Slip, Adam and Albin, Rolfs Kok, Wedholms Fisk, and Sturehof. Ponte Fiore is a sweet spot for lunch along the water.
Secret Garden: Rosendals Tradgard is a magical place—a farm that harvests vegetables, flowers, and herbs, located on the far tip of Djurgården island, itself a green oasis in the city. (You can walk here, though it’s a bit of a long one from the city center or take a quick taxi or uber or if your daring rent bikes.) Rosendals Garden has been at the forefront of the farm to fork concept for over 30 years. Eat lunch in the greenhouse café, sample some delicious bread from their wood-fired bakery, enjoy the beautiful gardens, stock up on artisanal products in their lovely store or buy heirloom seeds in the plant shop to bring home. Popular with both locals and visitors, you’ll fall in love with Stockholm's very special Eden.
Artful: Experience one of Europe’s premier collections of art from the 20th century until today at Moderna Museet, on the island of Skeppsholmen. (Easily walkable from the city center or a quick five minute uber.) Go hungry because the museum's restaurant serves excellent food in addition to one of Stockholm’s best views with large panoramic windows overlooking the water, Djurgården, and Strandvägen. (Great food and impressive views seem to be a theme of our trip to Stockholm's museums.)
Shipwrecked: Back in 1628, the Vasa warship sank in Stockholm harbor--it was her maiden voyage. After 333 years under the sea, she was salvaged in 1961 and painstakingly reconstructed. The Vasa Museum is considered a must-see sight, which translates to big crowds and tour groups—definitely a distraction; so go when it opens if you can. If your short on time, view the quick film and then walk around the giant ship—it’s not something you get to experience every day. You'll be in awe, as we were, that it was recovered, restored and now impressively displayed.
Culture Vulture: It’s lowbrow fun at ABBA: The Museum, a journey through time from the band's beginnings to the present day. Mama Mia brought ABBA back into the limelight, but those of us of a certain age grew up singing all their hits as they rolled them out in the 70’s. Interactive, entertaining, and informative—this is a engaging museum for fans.
Half-Day Excursion: Visiting Artipelag is about the journey—and the destination. Sure you can drive (or uber) the 20 minutes or so to the island of Varmdo in the archipelago, but it is so much better to arrive by boat. Cruising through the archipelago is an experience worth doing on its own, and the combination with the museum is a winning combination of art and nature. There are over 25, 000 islands in the archipelago and the hour and a half ride to Artipelag is just a small taste, a lovely morning out on the water. Once at the museum explore the latest exhibition and then leave time to wander the boardwalks and hiking paths scattered throughout the property. Have a late breakfast or lunch at either the casual café or restaurant –both with pretty views and indoor and outdoor seating. Highly recommended.
Shopping: For unique stores head to Sodermalm, Stockholm’s diverse younger neighborhood, just south of the city center. Sodermalm is the hip, bohemian heart of Stockholm—think the Marias, Williamsburg, Shoreditch. There are tons of cafes, vintage shops, music stores, and independent boutiques. The area is spread out, and stores are more in clusters, so be prepared to explore and use your GPS. Sofo (the area south of Folkungagatan) is the trendiest section, home to two of our favorite shops of the trip-- concept store Grandpa, a mix of clothes, accessories and design objects, and ATP for beautiful and stylish leather shoes. Continue to Nytorget (New Square) just down the street, a square in the heart of Sofo surrounded by charming old wooden houses. It’s a glimpse back in time to the olden days of Stockholm.
One More Day: We would have liked to tour the palace and gardens at Drottningholm Palace, just outside the city, stopped by the Spritmuseum and visited Skansen, Stockholm’s open-air museum that sounds like it's Sweden’s version of Colonial Williamsburg.