Gamla Stan (Old Town)
Dating from the 1200s and crammed with must-see sights, attractions, cafés, authentic restaurants, and boutique shops, the area of Gamla Stan (Old Town) is a living-breathing museum in its own right. For many, this is the first stop on their journey of exploration. Certainly there’s no better way to instantly absorb the feel of Stockholm and get to grips with the city’s culture. Plenty of souvenirs and gifts are available in the Old Town, and you will find yourself transported back to medieval times as you meander through a bewildering labyrinth of tiny, winding streets. Mysterious vaults and ancient frescoes lurk behind picturesque facades.
The incredible Vasa battleship was intended to be the pride of the Swedish Imperial fleet, yet in a forerunner of the Titanic disaster centuries later, sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. An amazing salvage operation took place in 1961, and now you can marvel at this glorious time capsule, 95 percent of which is entirely original. The three masts on the roof of the museum are not just a tourist draw; they were reconstructed to the exact height and specifications of the original masts. This is the most visited museum in Sweden, and rightfully so.
Address: Galärvarvsvägen, 1411521 Stockholm
A tranquil oasis in the heart of the city, the island of Djurgården draws tourists and locals alike, particularly during the summer months of long lazy days and short nights. The park forms part of the Royal National City Park, and it’s a perfect place for a stroll and picnic as well as being home to several of Stockholm’s top museums and other attractions. Scattered about are pleasant cafés, restaurants, snack-bars, and hotels. You can hire bicycles to explore the forest trails or, if you’re feeling adventurous, take to the waterways in a canoe. The popular Vasa Museum and Abba the Museum are located here, as is the open-air museum Skansen and Gröna Lund amusement park.
The Royal Palace (Sveriges Kungahus)
A visit here could be a day out in itself. Located by the water’s edge on the periphery of Gamla Stan, this is the official residence of the King of Sweden. Interestingly, the Queen’s residence lies elsewhere, on the beautiful island and UNESCO World Heritage Site Drottningholm (Queen’s island), about a 45-minute ferry ride from Stockholm and an easy day trip. A rich taste of the once mighty Swedish Empire, the palace is one of the largest in Europe boasting in excess of 600 rooms and several museums. Dating from the 18th century and Baroque in style, the palace houses many gems.
The City Hall (Stadshuset)
Nestled at the water’s edge and topped by three golden crowns, the City Hall is one of Stockholm’s most iconic buildings and stars in countless images and postcards of the city. Dating from 1923, the hall opened on that most Swedish of dates Midsummer’s Eve. Housed within are assembly rooms, offices, works of art, and the machinery of civil democracy. The prestigious annual Nobel Banquets are held here. Recipients dine first in Blå hallen (The Blue Hall) and then move on to the formal ball in Gyllene salen (The Golden Hall), which has no less than 18 million mosaics adorning its walls. A particular treat is the chance to view the city from the famous tower.
Address: Ragnar Östbergs Plan 1, 11220 Stockholm
Skansen Open-Air Museum
The oldest open-air museum in the world, Skansen, on the island of Djurgården, is a wonderful attraction for families, particularly those with young children. Not only will you be treated to an authentic taste of Sweden as it once was, but also the wonderful Skansen Aquarium and the Children’s Zoo. More than 150 different buildings and houses were collected from all around the country and reassembled here. On display are distinct town districts, including manor houses, a bakery, the beautiful Seglora timber church, and a pottery, all brought to life by costumed staff. At the zoo are moose, bears, lynxes, wolves, and seals.
Address: Djurgårdsslätten 49-51, 11521 Stockholm