Firstly, The Swedish capital is dispersed over a 14-island archipelago. Learn how to navigate Stockholm’s metro system as it takes you to the city’s historical buildings and monuments, many gardens, and culinary spaces to understand more about the Swedish culture. So, here are the reasons why Stockholm is the best Nordic Capital.
If you have found yourself wondering where to go to Northern Europe, take a serious look at the Swedish capital. Moreover, Stockholm manifests itself in a blend of Scandinavian history, culture, cuisine, and design that is truly refreshing. The other Nordic capitals of Reykjavik, Helsinki, Oslo, and Copenhagen all have their charms but I feel that Stockholm possesses all the history, culture, and atmosphere that makes it stand out above the rest.
Getting to Stockholm
So, Stockholm Arlanda Airport (Airport Code: ARN) is one of three airports that service the city but is undoubtedly the most popular. Upon landing, you can take a train or the slightly cheaper Flybussarna (the fly buses), directly to Stockholm Central Station.
Getting Around the City
From the Central station, you can take a ride on the ‘world’s longest art gallery’, otherwise known as the Stockholm Tunnelbana (metro) to your accommodation. Most of these stations were designed by Swedish artists and each tell a unique story and perspective through their eyes. These stations will usually have more information about the artistic direction of the station.
You can easily make a half-day out of visiting most of these stations, especially if the weather isn’t cooperating (an all-too-common theme in Scandinavia). My favorites specifically were Solna Centrum, Solna Strand, Stadion, Mörby Centrum, Universitetet, and Tekniska Högskolan.
These three train lines provide efficient service throughout the capital and some suburbs. You can purchase an SL metro card (Storstockholms Lokaltrafik) at any Pressbyrån shop or simply use the SL app on your phone and load up some Swedish crowns.
Best City Views
Not all the best city views of Stockholm are underground. With so many islands to explore, there are vantage points that allow you to take in every part of the city. The most sweeping views are seen from Södermalm.
Monteliusvägen can be reached by taking the tunnelbana to Slussen and walking about 10 minutes to get to the viewpoint. The pathway is only a few hundred meters long and is accessible at any time. If the day is particularly sunny, or snow has blanketed the city, the views from here will always be incredible.
Skinnarviksberget is also on Södermalm and a short walk away from the Zinkensdamn tunnelbana station on the red line. This rocky hilltop is most popular in the summer since the days are long and the Swedes must soak up all the sunshine they can get. Don’t be surprised if you find people here playing music, casually drinking, or having a picnic.
Erik’s Gondolen is a restaurant/bar with a bird’s eye view of Gamla Stan. You don’t have to dine at the restaurant however to take advantage of the views as there is a viewing point dedicated solely for those who want to snap some photos during sunset.
Kungsträdgården (translation: King’s tree garden) in Norrmalm is one of the main thoroughfares in the city (Tunnelbana station: Kungsträdgården). In the winter, there is an ice rink and a Christmas market to enjoy. In summer, people flock here to enjoy the sunshine. And in April, if your timing is just right, you will catch the Cherry Blossom bloom here as well.
Most of the city’s best historical sites are located on Gamla Stan. The island is conveniently located in the geographic center of Stockholm. It’s accessible by its very own tunnelbana stop but it’s best to get there in the mornings; the area is exceeding popular with tourists.
The main square, also known as Stortorget (literal translation), is the heart of Gamla Stan. The public square is the oldest in the city and is most notable for its brightly colored building façades. Be on the lookout for Christmas markets here in the winter time as well.
The Royal Palace is where the Swedish King lives. The 600-room palace also boasts three different museums and the nearby Riddharholm Church. One of the more overlooked palaces on Gamla Stan is the Stenbock Palaces, noted for their distinct pink color. Built-in the roman baroque style, it is today the residence of the Swedish Supreme Court.
On the island of Kungsholmen sits the City Hall of Stockholm, otherwise called Rådhuset (Tunnelbana station: Rådhuset). Every December, it serves as the venue for the Nobel Prize banquet. The green space around it is open to the general public and gives the best views of Gamla Stan and Södermalm.
As with any capital city, there are plenty of museums to discover and Stockholm is no different. For example, for understanding more of Sweden’s history, go to the Vasa Museum. Gustav Vasa is to Sweden as George Washington is to the USA. Nonetheless, this is a maritime museum centered around the Vasa, the 64-gun warship that was salvaged almost fully intact.
For music lovers, there is an entire museum dedicated to the Swedish group ABBA. The ABBA museum. There are no collections here, just exhibits that commemorate the group’s accolades.
Lastly, one of the best museums in the city has to be Fotografiska. Located in Södermalm (accessible by the Slussen tunnelbana station), the Swedish Museum of Photography is housed in what used to be a customs house. It regularly hosts exhibitions from world-renowned photographers and comes replate with a café on the top floor.
Wonderful Bites to Eat
A cosmopolitan city such as Stockholm has an impressive culinary scene that isn’t just limited to Swedish food. Having lived in a few cities abroad, the food in Stockholm is of great quality. As far as where to go, here are just a few suggestions:
- Orangeriet – My favorite place in the city. The interior décor is very Scandinavian and ‘mysigt’ as the Swedes say. The ambiance of this bar/restaurant is unrivaled. Think chill music with candlelight, comfortable couches, and expertly crafted cocktails.
- Greasy Spoon – this restaurant has two locations and is one of the best places for brunch. They do not take reservations however so thinking ahead is encouraged.
- La Neta City – another restaurant with two locations with the best tacos in the entire country.
- Pelikan – For those who want to try Swedish meatballs from the motherland. There are more tourists here than locals, however, the cuisine is fantastic.
- Vete-Katten – translating to ‘the wheat cat’, this café is perfect to experience the Swedish ‘fika’. The concept of a fika is to sit down with a coffee and baked treat and to socialize with close friends. For the full Swedish experience, order a ‘kardemummabulle’ (cardamom bun).
There you have it, the must-see sights in the Swedish capital. A solid-three day here should be enough to cover most of what I have mentioned. If it’s the summertime, an entire week is recommended. You also have the added benefit of the longer days and expanded hours of businesses and attractions. Enjoy!
To see the original format of the photos , please contact me.
An American expat, but currently calls Sweden home, Chris is a 1) chemist and 2) part-time traveler. He enjoys swapping out the fluorescent lights in the lab for a golden hour with his camera and drone in hand. He hopes that his adventures may help any others who are looking to find meaningful travel experiences.