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Stockholmers call their city ‘beauty on water’. But despite the well-preserved historic core, Stockholm is no museum piece: it’s modern, dynamic and ever-changing.
Kick off your stay with visits to Stockholm’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Royal Palace Drottningholm (the residence of the royal family) and the magical Skogskyrkogården, or Woodland Cemetery. Stroll the cobblestone streets of Old Town and over the picturesque bridges that span the city’s canals. The 19th-century Skansen was the world’s first open-air museum and is still a premier place to learn about Swedish history.
Stockholm’s old town, Gamla Stan, is a saffron-and-spice vision from the storybooks: one of Europe’s most arresting historic hubs, with an imposing palace, looming cathedrals and razor-thin cobblestone streets. The name Stockholm was first recorded in a letter in 1252, written by Birger Jarl, one of the original founders (and whose name you’ll see everywhere). Wandering the area today, it’s easy to appreciate the old city’s origins as a strategically placed fort designed to control the waterway between Lake Mälaren and the sea: Gamla Stan is surrounded by water and is ideally situated to encourage further explorations.
Though it’s spread across 14 islands, Stockholm is surprisingly compact and easy to navigate. Bridges (both foot and vehicle-traffic) connect most of the islands; ferries and the tunnelbana (metro) link the rest. Public transport runs smoothly to every imaginable corner of the city and surroundings. It’s also well adapted to wheelchair travel. English speakers will have no difficulty, as nearly all signs are written in both languages and most Swedes speak perfect English. Walking is often the best way to get around – check distances before setting out, as you might find you don’t even need a bus or metro ticket.
Stockholm’s beauty and fashion sense are legendary. Good design is simply a given – even the humblest coffee shop invests in attractive furniture, strategically placed greenery, sophisticated lighting and richly textured wall coverings. Hardcore fans of industrial design can choose from several museums that cover the subject, but it can be equally rewarding to hit the shops: whether you’re looking for fashion trends, interior design or clever packaging, you’re in luck, be it at the supermarket or the mall. Keep an eye out for no-fuss functionality, minimalism, natural-looking fabrics and big, bold prints.
Travellers will quickly discover that Stockholm is a city of food obsessives – no surprise given the bounty of ingredients it draws from the surrounding sea and farmlands. If a food trend appears anywhere in the world, Stockholm is on it: from raw food and açai breakfast bowls to truffle cheeseburgers and wood-fired pizza, all of which are executed with faithful attention to detail. As for traditional Swedish cooking, it’s still going strong – fried herring, meatballs, toast skagen and sill with hardbread are all menu standards, although these days many chefs enjoy taking inventive new approaches to the classics.
If Sweden had a national food, it would without a doubt be the cinnamon bun. It’s hard to avoid these delicious spiced rolls, which can be found in every café, bakery and food shop around the country – simply follow the scent of them baking! Made from lightly sweetened, leavened bread dough known as vetebröd (wheat bread), they can also be flavoured with cardamom, saffron and vanilla. These spices are a common feature in Swedish baking and are said to have been brought back when Vikings first traded in Istanbul. A kanelbulle is best served for a fika – the daily practice of sitting down with a cup of coffee and a little something sweet.
Sweden’s more luxurious version of a prawn cocktail is made with peeled prawns, mixed with mayonnaise, dill and lemon topped with fish roe and served on crisp, sautéed bread. Skagen is a fishing port in northern Denmark, though the toast is not a Danish dish. Despite slightly retro connotations, it has retained popularity at dinner parties and on restaurant menus alike. It was invented by the chef, Tore Wretman, who ran some of Stockholm’s top restaurants. Apparently, Wretman was sailing in 1956 when he created this classic starter from leftovers in a bid to cheer up the crew during a windless strait. When asked what the dish was called, the story goes that he looked out of the window at the distant Danish coast and exclaimed, “it’s a classic Toast Skagen!”
The Baltic and North Atlantic are awash with shoals of herring and Swedes are pros at cooking, pickling and smoking these small but flavoursome fish. The fish have two names in Swedish- sill, for the slightly larger fish found off the west coast, and strömming for the herring from the Baltic. Strömming is often enjoyed breaded and fried while sil is frequently pickled, in a variety of marinades and sauces. Matjes is among the more popular marinades, but sour cream, mustard and even curry are also popular additions. Or, why not try an S.O.S? This classic starter stands for Smör, Ost och Sill (‘butter, cheese and herring’) and is best served with crisp bread and washed down with a glass of aquavit, a traditional Scandinavian spirit.
Explore Stockholm from the vantage point of its waterways on this 50-minute canal tour. Cruise through the central islands of the city’s archipelago, relaxing while you chug past the neighborhoods of Södermalm and Slussen, then out to the leafy tranquil island of Djurgården, which is home to the Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde Museum and the Vasa Museum. Get views of Fjäderholmarna, the first island in the offshore archipelago, and a panoramic cityscape view on your way back to central Stockholm. Choose a time that fits your schedule; cruises depart every hour.
Explore Sweden’s oldest town founded in the Viking age and more in this 5 hour tour with
hotel pick up in Stockholm. Walk along the picturesque town, experience the old main street
with well-preserved traditional houses from the 18th and 19th centuries.Hear the city’s tales from its founding around 980 in the Viking age and feel the buzzing middle ageswith its shops and factories and hear more recent history. Get to know the people who has shaped Sigtuna and Sweden.We tell you about and show treasures found in the earth. We visit the local museum and three church ruins that are 900 years old.Visit the pretty 17th-century chateau of Wenngarn, it hosts one of the best preserved Baroque interiors in Northern Europe. Have lunch in the old vaults. Visit the village of Viby, uniquely preserved. One of few showing how Sweden’s villages looked in the 18th-century. Its cultural value is now protected by the Swedish government.
Learn about Gamla Stan’s haunted history on this 2-hour ghost tour in Stockholm. Hear tales of spirits and vampires, myths and legends about murders and unsolved mysteries. Follow a guide with a lighted lantern down the narrow alleyways of Stockholm’s oldest neighborhood, where history and mystery will come alive through storytelling.Meet your local guide in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town, and set off on this 2-hour walking tour of the city’s oldest neighborhood. Wear sensible walking shoes suited for the cobblestone streets and bundle up; Stockholm’s nights between November and March can be bitter. Walk down narrow alleyways and through tiny courtyards that most tourists and visitors never see. By the light of his lantern, your guide will entertain and horrify you with tales of poltergeists, plagues, public executions and murders. Experience the past brought back to life as you smell, taste and see what medieval Stockholm might have been like.
Please note: This tour operates in all weather conditions, and parental discretion is advised for children under the age of 8.