Stockholm is the most relaxed city I’ve traveled to so far, a charming green capital, where people’s positive energy is contagious and coziness is a way of life.
Colorful, Fika*, Green, Design, Cozy, Warm are some of the words that best describe the wonderful capital of Sweden, and if you read on, you’ll most certainly agree with me.
Why visit Stockholm
and some delightful insights about the city
A City Built for Nature Lovers
The city is the greenest I’ve ever seen, so you’ll probably be amazed by the amount of vegetation everywhere, the diversity of flowers at every corner shop, the number of Tesla cars on the streets, and the number of bikes parked everywhere, which will often make you feel like being in Amsterdam.
The parks are great, but Skansen and Rosendals Gardens will make you feel the fairy tale vibe of the city while offering green countryside-like oasis in the middle of the city.
Stockholm is great for Architecture Aficionados
The streets are filled with architecture jewels and you’ll most certainly find some amazing narrow cobblestone streets to wander and wonder at. The sculptural doors, the vividly colored buildings, the minimal interiors, the beautiful windows and the narrow street maze in Gamla Stan will make any architectural treasure hunt interesting.
The Warm Atmosphere & Fika
Coziness is an essential part of Stockholm’s spirit. Each coffee shop will have lovely chairs with comfy pillows and blankets, beautiful lamps or romantic candle light, flowers, and great Fika (*coffee and cakes).
Mouth-watering cakes can be found at each corner shop, terrace and restaurant, and this is the hardest part of traveling to Stockholm – refraining from having a taste of all those sweet cinnamon rolls and delicious cakes. This type of comfort food served in cozy interiors makes the Stockholm experience a very welcoming one.
Design, Designer, To Design
If you’re a design lover, Stockholm should be on top of your travel list!
And not because it’s part of the country that gave us IKEA, but because you need to experience the beauty of Swedish design for real, in the minimal interiors or wandering the streets with colorful buildings. And let’s not forget about the amazing design and styling in almost every restaurant in Stockholm, that will often leave you speechless, bringing new meanings to the interior styling concept.
Everything speaks design in Stockholm: the deco shops, the coffee places, the Stockholm metro, the furniture and interior styling shops, the museums, and even the store windows (which stopped me on my way plenty of times).
Swedish people work only 6 hours per day, so they spend their free time being and not doing, often with their family and friends, wandering the city streets or having a traditional fika, which means you’ll find yourself in the most relaxed city in Europe. And these good vibes are extraordinary and contagious!
Spotting a local is easy since they tend to fill the air with their wonderful energy and smiles. And they’re very helpful too, so you’ll ease into the city’s atmosphere quickly and get around easily (just ask).
Swedish people are open-minded and they seem to care a lot about nurturing relationships. Family time is important in Stockholm and you’ll see lots of mums and dads strolling with their kids on the streets, in the parks, and in most tourist spots, mostly in the middle of the day.
Cheap or free city attractions
Stockholm’s attractions are either cheap or free, like they were created to serve locals before tourists. I found this to be a lovely thing about this city, considering it’s one of the most expensive places I’ve traveled to so far.
Read on to discover the best places to visit in Stockholm
What to do in Stockholm – top city attractions
Gamla Stan and Stortorget
Narrow cobblestone streets, medieval architecture, and cute small shops – this is Gamla Stan, the most beautiful place we’ve visited in Stockholm from an archi stand point. Somehow, all the orange buildings and narrow streets reminded me of Rome’s street scenes.
Gamla Stan is a captivating old town, filled with architectural gems dating back to 13th century, beautiful hidden corners and lovely coffee shops. We spent most of our time in Stockholm wandering its many delightful streets, enjoying its archaic vibe and a fika from time to time.
Stortorget, well known for its “gingerbread” houses reminding us of Amsterdam, is a meet-up place for tourists from around the world. At our first visit here, Stortorget was filled with locals – happy kids having a sports competition, running all cute around the fountain in the middle of the square, cheered up by parents gathered on the sides.
This village museum is the best I’ve seen so far!
The atmosphere is enchanting, like you’re suddenly transplanted in a movie set in the countryside, but like 100 years ago.
The atmosphere is picturesque, since all the people in Skansen are wearing traditional Swedish costumes and work here just like in the old times, some in workshops, others in the gardens, reviving customs and reenacting a part of Sweden’s history.
The wonderful smell of fresh bread, just out of the wood oven, welcomes us in the first “inhabited” house in Skansen, and it instantly brings back childhood memories from our grandmother’s house. There isn’t anything like it!
The vintage details of this charming house and the great aroma made us linger a bit longer here, tasting the types of bread and filming the baker, as well as the amazing experience she was offering us.
The next stop is at the old post office, placed right near the tiny peasant huts, surrounded by crops and flowers and tiny greenhouses sheltering the more sensitive plants.
One lovely thing you can experience here is trying on the wooden stilts offered by a lady in traditional costume. Do try it, it is as fun as it looks!
We let ourselves be mesmerized by the art of making little glass objects during the live demonstrations taking place in one of the handmade workshops in Skansen, and we couldn’t resist tasting from the delicious and warm cinnamon rolls in the traditional bakery house sheltered nearby.
Then I wondered off to the ceramics shop, analyzing the pottery and the working station, thinking that maybe it’s better to refrain myself from buying more styling props.
Wandering Skansen is more than just a visit to a village museum; it’s a learning experience about the traditions and the history of the Swedish people.
The Sami* huts are also interesting to visit, and the area offers exceptional panoramic views of Stockholm.
*The Sami people formed the only indigenous population in Sweden, and you can see many of their artifacts in the Nordiska Museet.
Next, we slowly wandered the park, stopping at the charming farmhouses, windmills, the tobacco crops and admiring each wooden cottage nested in Skansen.
The visit takes 4 or 5 hours, so it’s better to plan for a whole morning or afternoon here, but keeping in mind they close pretty early, at 5 p.m.
The Nordic Museum
It tells the design history of most furniture items we use today. They have an impressive spoon collection that can melt the heart of any props stylist, and Swedish chairs that made history. Also, if you want to learn more about the Swedish people, this is the place to be because of the many ethnographic items on display.
Visiting Nordiska Museet takes about 2 hours, and the entrance is free in some days, so you might want to check their website for the exact dates.
The Stockholm Subway
Stockholm subway network is the biggest underground art gallery in the world!
The Blue and Red metro lines have exceptionally beautiful subway stations, and for a street art enthusiast like me, it was a fascinating place to visit. I haven’t seen street artworks in the city, so the couple of hours spent in the Stockholm Metro were a true delight.
Stockholm Public Library
I love libraries and bookstores, and I’ve visited quite a few of the most beautiful ones in Europe these last couple of years. That’s why I couldn’t miss visiting the Stockholm Public Library.
Designed by Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund, Stockholm Public Library is one of the great buildings of the 20th century, combining the essential elements of the Classical architectural style.
The library’s architecture is a wonderful resolution between aesthetics and functionality. The fortunate melange between light design and natural wood create a warm and welcoming feeling in its interiors, perfect for those who want to browse through the 2 million books sheltered here.
The fascinating thing about the Stockholm Library is the geometry of the place – creating leading lines in a library is a great artistic metaphor for the power of guidance books can have over us, isn’t it?
Parliament House is also a place to visit in Stockholm, mainly because of its imposing architecture.
Royal Palace Stockholm is another tourist spot you might want to visit, and the waterfront also offers some beautiful views over the city on two sides: near the Parliament building and in front of the palace.
Ila Riddarholmen & the City Hall are lovely spots for admiring a Stockholm sunset or getting a panoramic view of the city from the tower. We were happy for the sunset and the chance to rest, considering the many kilometers we’ve walked each day.
Rosendals Trädgård & Djurgarden
A paradise for gardeners, Rosendals Trädgård is probably my favorite green space in Stockholm!
Rosendals is a bio-dynamic farm, meaning all crops are planted around the seasons, the cultivation implies only natural fertilizers and there’s a lot of composting going on.
Beside its main purpose, Rosendals Gardens is a meeting place for locals, with lots of beautiful summer terraces, some hidden in apple orchards, others spread among the small garden shops or fika places.
The garden shops are amazing, so don’t forget to visit them. I couldn’t resist photographing everything and buying some styling props.
Considering we visited Stockholm a few weeks ago, during the apple season, we were fortunate enough to come across a small greenhouse displaying the history of apple varieties in Sweden. And of course we couldn’t resist tasting some varieties to accompany the coffees and cakes we had here.
The one other thing I would have loved to do in Stockholm is a balloon ride. Since visiting Cappadocia (Turkey) last year, I’ve realized I have a thing for balloon rides, even if I’m usually afraid of heights. And I’ve seen a couple of balloons in the air, so I’ll hope to visit this place again, maybe just for this (ok, and fika).
There are many other lovely attractions to visit in Stockholm, but I spent so much time in the fascinating Gamla Stan that I didn’t have time to visit more. If you did, please let me know what other places should I keep in mind for a future trip to Stockholm.
Where to eat and drink in Stockholm
Fabrique is the place to go for fika and sandwiches. We stopped by the one in Gamla Stan, considering we spent 3 days wandering this old city center, and I was delighted by their cinnamon rolls and sweet bread. The place has a vintage vibe, blending old and new furniture and decorations into a wonderful interior. The textures, the colors and the atmosphere of this place are another good reason to visit it.
Nytorget 6 is a lovely restaurant in the SoFo area, offering great cuisine at very good prices. The place was full when we got there, but the service was fast and the food – absolutely delicious. I had a local fish plate called charr (Arctic fish that tastes like salmon) on a bed of lobster and potatoes mousse and Vlad got a spiced porchetta with sweet parsnip cream and red wine sauce. You can find their menu here.
Skansen – do try the warm cinnamon rolls at the bakery across the street from the ceramics shop.
Rosendals Trädgård is a great place to have a fika in the apple orchard or in one of the many summer terraces surrounded by organic crops and flowers.
Oaxen Krog & Slip is another beautiful restaurant, placed in a charming industrial area by the waterfront, so you might want to visit it during the day. It has one amazing design with old boats adorning the ceiling, wonderful furniture and beautiful plates. They do keep an odd schedule, so don’t forget to check their site and menu here before visiting.
Where to stay in Stockholm
Staying with a local is probably the best choice I’ve made for the Stockholm trip.
The great thing about Airbnb is that it lets you take a peek into the real life of the locals. We rented a room in the beautiful SoFo neighborhood, separate from our host (really like my privacy), and it was truly a delight.
The room was all white, except for 2 lamps in deep purple, the bathroom very clean, and our host really welcoming, making us feel at home from the first day. Also, very important, this is home to the softest bed I’ve ever slept in, so after walking for a few km a day, the coziness of this place was exactly what we needed.
Beside the great room, they were very thoughtful and left us breakfast in the fridge and coffee, lots of guides for the city’s attractions and useful maps.
The apartment is located in a very nice green area, and the buildings were dressed in red ivy at the time of our visit (late September). It was a delight to serve our morning coffee outside, on a bench in the inner courtyard.
The prices were also good for the destination. If you want to check it out, this is the Airbnb in Stockholm.
How to get around Stockholm
At the airport, we met some acquaintances who were in Stockholm for the third time, so we followed their lead, buying a 72 hours pass for each in one of the central station shops. After the time on the bus and metro cards expired, we bought another one like it, supplementing only for the airport transfer, which is a different ticket.
The alternative is renting a bike, but considering I can’t bike, we chose the bus, tram and metro as transport options to get around in Stockholm. Often, we chose to walk some central streets and parks to get the vibe of the city, so I would highly recommend seeing the city on foot as often as possible.
Best Photo Spots in Stockholm
Gamla Stan, Skansen and Rosendals Gardens are the best photo spots I found in Stockholm, but you might want to visit some other islands for more beautiful landscape photos.
- Rosendals Gardens & Djurgarden are more suitable for still life and nature photographers.
- Gamla Stan is the best spot for architecture photography.
- Skansen is a great photo spot because of its diverse corners – architecture, landscape and documentary type of photography can be created here.
Panoramic views over the city are a walk away from Gamla Stan, the closest being in Västra Slussgatan, all the way up to the Hilton Hotel. You can find more lovely views of the city mentioned here.
When to visit Stockholm
Most people prefer visiting Stockholm during the summer, and especially during the festivities marking the start of the mid-June holiday – MidSommar.
We chose the end of September for our Stockholm trip and it was perfect for us. The weather in Stockholm was lovely, the warm autumn welcoming, and the days were still long, so we only wore a thin jacket or an extra sweater during the day.
Stockholm, Sweden | September 2016 | All photos mine, mobile or GoPro – Copyright ©AnaMatei
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