Last summer, I spent 3 days in Stockholm, not sure what to anticipate. Unexpectedly, I discovered one of the most beautiful and exciting capitals in Europe. My three days in Stockholm ended up being one of the best travel experiences I ever had. I discovered a city full of color and life and a unique vibe.
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I decided to visit Stockholm as an extension of my unforgettable trip to the Turku Archipelago in Finland. While I expected a lovely city, the truth is that it actually dazed me. My idea was to spend 3 days in Stockholm, and I was wondering if that might be too long a time. I ended up wishing I could stay longer and discover more of this fascinating European capital. Before I share how to get the most out of Stockholm in 3 days, let me answer a few of the most common questions.
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Is Stockholm worth visiting?
If you’re envisaging a trip to Sweden or planning to explore some of the Scandinavian countries, you should absolutely consider adding Stockholm to your itinerary. Envisage to spend at least a couple of days, although 3 days in Stockholm are ideal to avoid rushing. Stockholm highlights go way beyond a quick stroll in the historical center. There are many fantastic museums – a perfect thing to do in Stockholm when it rains – and an excursion in the archipelago is a must, as is savoring the city’s unique vibe.
Best time to visit Stockholm
June to August is peak season and the perfect time to enjoy very long days, warmer temperatures, and – if you’re as lucky as I was – having a lot of sunshine blessing you.
During the shoulder season, you can still have good weather, although the temperatures are chillier. You may also find cheaper accommodations in a city that is overall pricey.
In winter, Stockholm is wrapped in a nocturnal atmosphere, and with some luck, it may be blanketed in snow. I haven’t experienced it, but I’m pretty sure it must be fascinating.
How many days in Stockholm?
Three days in Stockholm are ideal, giving you enough time to stroll in the old city alleys, visit a few of the city’s top museums, and explore a bit of Stockholm’s archipelago.
If you can only spend 2 days in Stockholm, you’ll need to either give up on museums or do without the archipelago cruise. In your shoes, I would decide at the last minute depending on the season and the weather conditions.
And if you have just 1 day in Stockholm, you’ll need to build your itinerary carefully. It’s a very short time for a city with so many attractions, and you’ll want to focus on what you’re most interested in. Whenever the time is limited, I strongly recommend a guided tour (there are many to choose from), as they’ll allow you to focus on the best attractions.
Last-minute trip to Stockholm? Know before you go
Currency: Swedish krona. Since Sweden is outside of the Eurozone, at first, I thought I’d have to change some money. It’s always a bit annoying, not only because we’re not used anymore when traveling in Europe, but also because it’s not easy to know how much foreign currency you may need. In Stockholm, I was seriously impressed by how extensively the city (and the country, likely) is cashless. I paid absolutely everything by credit or debit card, including public transportation and the most negligible amounts.
Airports: Stockholm Arlanda Airport is approximately 40km (25 mi) from the city center. The Arlanda Express is a non-stop train between the airport and Stockholm Central Station. The journey takes 18 minutes. Trains are extremely frequent, and tickets cost 320 SEK one-way (ca. 28 euros). Bus is another option. It’s cheaper but the journey is longer (about 45 min). Check timetables and buy your train/bus tickets.
Public transport: Stockholm boasts an extensive network of buses, trams, and metro. However, they don’t run as frequently as in other European capitals. Therefore, expect some waiting time. Beware of possible roadworks. There were quite a few when I visited, and it was not always easy to find alternative lines and stops. On the bright side, Swedes speak excellent English and are incredibly kind. So, in case of need, ask them for information, and they’ll offer you their help.
Where to stay in Stockholm: the Swedish capital is undoubtedly expensive, so the earlier you book your accommodation, the better chances you have to find an affordable solution.
- Hotel Frantz, WorldHotels Crafted in Södermalm features modern and stylish rooms.
- Hotel Hasselbacken is in an ancient building on the lovely Djurgården Island, near the Vasa Museum and the Abba Museum.
- The Radisson Collection, Strand Hotel, overlooks the beautiful Nybroviken waterfront and is ideally located to visit the Old Town.
Stockholm history in a nutshell
Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden, boasts a rich history that dates back to the 13th century. Established in 1252 by the Swedish ruler Birger Jarl, Stockholm rapidly grew from a small trading post into a major Baltic Sea port.
One pivotal moment in Stockholm’s history occurred in 1634 when the city became the permanent capital of Sweden. The establishment of a fixed capital was a strategic decision by Queen Christina, providing stability and enhancing the city’s political significance. The Royal Palace, a symbol of Stockholm’s historical and political importance, was built during this era. Today, it stands as one of Europe’s largest palaces and a testament to Stockholm’s enduring role as the political heart of Sweden.
Stockholm’s growth and prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries were driven by trade, industry, and cultural developments. The city evolved into a hub of innovation, fostering notable figures like Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and founder of the Nobel Prizes. With a history marked by resilience, cultural achievements, and strategic importance, Stockholm continues to be a vibrant metropolis that seamlessly blends its historical charm with modern progress.
Stockholm in 3 days
There are so many things to do and see in Stockholm that you’ll soon find out how quickly time flies in the Swedish capital. Three days in Stockholm are enough to discover the main highlights of this fascinating city without having to hurry, although you could easily spend a couple more days.
What follows is a sample 3-day Stockholm itinerary. While I suggest visiting Stockholm Old Town first, you may want to
Stockholm 3-day itinerary: Map
Day 1 – Stockholm Old Town (Gamla Stan)
On my first day, I focused on Stockholm Old Town and the city’s main attractions. It was a lovely, sunny day, warm but not too hot, perfect to wander in the charming alleys.
It’s worth staying 3 days in Stockholm, but if you have just 24 hours, exploring the Old Town is a must.
Gamla Stan, Stockholm historical center, was built on the Stadsholmen island in the 13th century. There’s no better way to enjoy this area than strolling in the narrow cobblestone alleys, filled with boutique shops, cafes, and galleries. Stockholm Old Town also houses some of the city’s prominent landmarks and major attractions.
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace, a majestic structure with over 600 rooms, offers a glimpse into Sweden’s royal heritage. Built between 1697 and 1754 in the Italian baroque style, the palace is open to the public only when it is not hosting dignitaries.
The focus of the visit is undoubtedly the sumptuous royal apartments, but if you want to immerse yourself further in Swedish royalty, don’t miss the museums. At The Treasury, you can admire the regalia, while the Three Crowns museum (Tre Kronor) will let you learn about the original Palace, destroyed by a fire in 1697. Visitors can witness the changing of the guard ceremony, a tradition dating back to the 16th century.
The Royal Chapel
Since the late 13th century the Royal Palace not only encompassed a Royal Chapel, but also a clergy and, later, even a parish. The current Royal Chapel dates back to the mid-18th century after a fire in 1697 destroyed the previous one. The chapel is open in summer and is a small jewel you shouldn’t miss.
This is the main and oldest square, serving as the heart of Old Town, and is surrounded by well-preserved merchant houses from the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s one of the liveliest areas of Stockholm’s Old Town and houses the Nobel Prize Museum. During winter, it transforms into an enchanting Christmas market, adding a festive touch to the historical ambiance.
Take some time to admire the typical Nordic architecture of the colorful houses, full of charm.
An unusual and fun way to learn about the history of Gamla Stan is to take part in a ghost tour. During the dark hours, a local guide holding a lantern will walk you through this fascinating neighborhood. You’ll learn about Stockholm’s history, legends, and mysteries.
The beautiful Riddarholmen church is one of Stockholm’s oldest buildings, part of which dates back to the late 13th century when it was a Greyfriars monastery. In the 16th century, after the Protestant Reformation, the monastery was closed, and the building became a Lutheran church. Riddarholmen’s architecture is eclectic, with part of it in Nordic Gothic style and others in Baroque.
Located close to the Royal Palace, for centuries, it has been the burial site of several Swedish monarchs, celebrated with superbly sculpted tombs.
Another must-see in Gamla Stan is the Stockholm Cathedral, where Swedish monarchs have been crowned and buried since the Middle Ages. Like the Duomo in Milan, Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, or St- Stephen in Vienna, Storkyrkan – as it’s named in Swedish – is in the very heart of medieval Stockholm.
Built in 1279, it houses important ancient masterpieces like the statue of St. George and the Dragon, dating back to the late 15th century, and the silver Baroque altarpiece.
Day 2 – Stockholm Museums and other neighborhoods
Gamla Stan is certainly Stockholm’s most popular district, but there are other beautiful neighborhoods worth exploring. I suggest spending your second day in the Swedish capital discovering Östermalm, Norrmalm, and Södermalm and visiting one or two museums in Djurgården.
In Östermalm, you’ll soak in the 19th-century magnificence, defined by large boulevards and stunning architecture.
Strandvägen is a beautiful waterfront inviting for a leisurely stroll, looking at the imposing buildings and enjoying the Baltic Sea. If you’re visiting Stockholm in summer, you’ll find in Strandvägen plenty of al fresco cafes and restaurants for a short or longer break.
Östermalm is famous for its fine dining restaurants and luxury shopping. From Strandvägen, head toward Östermalm Food Hall (Östermalms Saluhall), an absolute must for any food lover.
Wander through the mouthwatering food stalls and indulge yourself in delicious Swedish food. There are plenty of options, including for vegetarians, but if you like seafood, I strongly recommend Lisa Elmqvist restaurant. It’s expensive, but the quality is top-notch, and if you’re keen to treat yourself if only for once, this is the place to go.
Take some time also to wander in the streets near Östermalm Food Hall, where you can spot several magnificent art-nouveau buildings.
When I looked at where to stay in Stockholm, I ended up renting a lovely studio in Sjöstad, one of the most recently built Stockholm districts, not far from Södermalm.
From there, while going to Gamla Stan by public transportation, I immediately marveled when I saw Södermalm, with its cliffs and the delightful houses with their turrets’ pinnacles standing out against the deep blue sky. Södermalm is a hipster neighborhood where you’ll find art galleries, bric-a-brac, and vintage shops, perfect if you want to buy something unique rather than shopping at one of the global stores selling the same stuff all over the world.
While you won’t find any particular landmarks in Södermalm, it’s a charming district where it’s nice getting lost in the alleys, and just savoring its atmosphere.
The Vasa Museum
Stockholm has a wealth of museums, and choosing which ones to visit can be challenging. But if you have time to visit just one, I would have no doubts: the Vasa Museum!!!
Even if you’re not fond of museums, the Vasa Museum is a truly unique experience. Forget the famous Louvre in Paris or the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, with thousands of works of art. The Vasa Museum is unique, immersive, and focused on a single masterpiece: the wooden 17-century ship that sank in 1628 on her maiden voyage after only 1,300 meters. The Vasa ship is also the only vessel from that time that is almost intact. It’s now on display in a giant room, where you can imagine yourself at the beginning of the 17th century among 10,000 people who, from the port of Stockholm to the shots of the cannons, are watching the largest and most majestic vessel ever built in the entire history of the Swedish naval fleet setting sail.
The Museum features several levels where you can admire the exquisite carvings and learn about the Vasa ship’s history, its tragic fate, and the incredible operations to recover her from the depths of the sea.
If you’re a fan of Mamma Mia, or visiting Stockholm with kids or teenagers, this is a must!
The Abba Museum is one of Stockholm’s novelties and became one of the city’s top attractions in a heartbeat. The museum is dedicated to the most famous Swedish pop group of all time and is the ideal place if you want to spend a couple of hours lightly, listening to music and dancing. It’s a little expensive, in my opinion, but if you love the Mamma Mia group, you can’t miss it!
Day 3 – Stockholm Archipelago and Fika
What makes Stockholm unique is not only its history, architecture, and vibe. Its charm also derives from its geographical setting, overlooking the Baltic Sea and surrounded by thousands of islands and islets, where many Stockholmers have their holiday home. That’s why a tour of the Stockholm archipelago is one of the best things to do in the Swedish capital and a real must-do.
There are several organized tours, each with a different itinerary, among which is the boat trip to Sandhamn, the island that has become popular thanks to the TV series. You can also explore the Stockholm archipelago in an alternative fashion, like on a sailing boat or kayaking.
While Stockholm archipelago’s peak season is in summer, you can indeed also discover it in winter, thanks to an exciting activity combining Winter Kayaking, Swedish Fika, and Hot Sauna.
No matter which islands you choose or how you plan to visit them, the Stockholm archipelago is something you shouldn’t miss.
There’s no better way to immerse yourself in Swedish culture than having Fika. But what is Fika?
We may define it as a coffee break accompanied by snacks – usually sweet -but it’s actually more than that. People in Sweden are extremely sociable, and Fika is a fantastic way to spend quality time with friends or create business connections. Fika is all about sharing and can be declined in various forms.
Unusual things to do in Stockholm
Looking for unusual experiences to do in Stockholm? Here are a few that look quite cool:
- Ghost Walk and Historical Tour: probably the most popular tour in Stockholm. Discover history, tales, and legends with a local guide leading you through the city’s old town by the light of a lantern.
- Sunset Kayak Tour on Lake Mälaren: enjoy nature and the sun setting on Sweden’s 3rd largest lake. Experience evening Fika with tea/coffee and cake (with pick up from Stockholm)
- Paradox Museum: a great option if you want to have a unique experience and also if you’re traveling to Stockholm with kids or teenagers.
Where to stay in Stockholm
- If you’re looking for a cosy and stylish hotel, have a look at the NOFO Hotel, WorldHotels Crafted. This delightful boutique hotel is in Södermalm, close to the Medborgarplatsen Metro Station.
- Villa Dagmar, in elegant Östermalm, is a perfect choice for a romantic stay. This boutique hotel features a decor that beautifully mixes classic and contemporary furniture, resulting in a unique style.
- Are you looking for a special treat? Bank Hotel, a Member of Small Luxury Hotels, is one of the best options in Stockholm. Elegant furniture and multiple amenities in the Norrmalm district, only a few minutes walk from Östermalm’s charming Strandvägen.
Before you go, don’t forget:
Remember to pack a travel adapter to recharge all your electronic devices.
Also, if you’re traveling from a country outside the EU, remember to buy travel insurance unless you already have one.
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