What to Know Before Visiting Stockholm Sweden

Updated: 5 days ago

Perhaps best known for meatballs, stylish yet inexpensive furniture and their love of house music, Sweden is a country that offers travelers a unique peek into Scandinavian culture.


Stockholm, the country's capital, is located on the eastern coast of Sweden along the Baltic Sea.


If you picture the other Scandinavian capitals of Oslo, Copenhagen and Helsinki as a giant European Bermuda Triangle, you'll find Stockholm located smack dab in the middle.


Stockholm Architecture
Some of Stockholm's iconic architecture on full display across the harbor

In this guide we'll cover a number of useful tips and activities you should know about before traveling to Stockholm, Sweden!


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What is the best way to reach Stockholm?


Most visitors will reach Stockholm by flying into Arlanda Airport which is located north of the city.


Hands down the best way to go from the airport into downtown Stockholm is to take the Arlanda Express train which departs from inside the airport.


Stockholm Metro
The trains throughout Stockholm make navigating the city a breeze

Buy your ticket in the airport or online and enjoy a super fast 18 minute train ride to Stockholm Central Station.


You'll see signs plastered throughout the airport to answer the question that many new visitors might be asking "Is the train faster?" to that their response is "Yes, the train is faster."


If you're traveling on from neighboring Scandinavian cities like Oslo or Copenhagen, you might also consider taking a train.


Expect to spend about four hours traveling to Stockholm from either capital city by train.


Also be sure to buy your tickets online in advance because these trains can sell out. You can book tickets online at Rail Europe.


Cruise ship near Stockholm
You'll come up close and personal with cruise ships if you head out on the water!

Lastly, Stockholm is a major cruise ship port. If that's your vibe consider booking a Scandinavian cruise that includes Stockholm as a stop!


Stockholm is an expensive city to visit


I am sorry to report that like many other major Scandinavian cities, Stockholm is on the expensive side.



Be sure to budget extra money for food, lodging and entertainment expenses.


Expect to pay New York City prices for a cocktail in Stockholm.


One saving grace is that the public transportation here is really great so you should be able to get by without a rental car.


Is the public transit in Stockholm easy to use?


The public transportation system is affordable and easy to navigate which makes getting around Stockholm a breeze.


You'll get your first taste of this if you take the Arlanda Express Train from the airport into town.


Also be sure to check out Stockholm's subways system while you're visiting.


Not only are the subways a fast and effective means for navigating Stockholm. But most of Stockholm's underground has an artistic flare unlike any other major city I've visited.


Stockholm metro system
Wandering through the Stockholm metro tunnels is like visiting an underground art museum

Stockholm also boasts an easy to use public bus system.


To utilize the buses I would recommend downloading the "SL" app ahead of time. The will allow you to purchase bus fare and map out your routes.


Be sure to rent a bike


Stockholm is a city built for bikers.


So at some point you should be sure to rent a bike and see what it feels like to get around like a local!


Nordiska Museet
Riding our bikes past the Nordiksa Museet on Djurgarden Island

There's a great place to rent a bike across from Bla Porten located on the island of Djurgarden. This is the one of the best areas in all of Stockholm to rent a bike and ride around!



Visit Djurgarden


You'll find the island of Djurgarden busy with tourists and locals alike.


Djurgarden is home to many popular areas of Stockholm including the open air museum of Skansen, The Nordic Museum, Grona Lund amusement park, restaurants and tons of park space.


Skansen Stockholm
One of the buildings scattered around Djurgarden

Check out Tabbouli Lebanese Restaurant in Djurgarden


Located in the northern central park area of Djurgarden you'll discover one of the most beautifully designed restaurants you'll ever experience.


Tabbouli is crawling with beautiful flowers and foliage.


Literally.


Almost every surface that could be home to some form of vegetation has a plant living on it!


Tabbouli Restaurant Stockholm
The interior of Tabbouli is lush with greenery

Even though we weren't planning on eating before our upcoming dinner reservations, this place was too incredible to pass up.



We weren't looking for a full meal so we split a couple of their hummus dishes which were some of the best I've ever had.


Since you'll have the advantage of knowing about Tabbouli in advance be sure to book a dinner reservation in advance!


Like many restaurants in Stockholm, seasonality will likely affect operating hours, be sure to plan accordingly.


Explore Stockholm from the water


One of the best ways to experience Stockholm is from the archipelago it inhabits.


This means you'll need to get yourself onto the water!


For a leisurely afternoon consider booking a boat tour that will allow you to explore the many islands that make up Stockholm's surrounding archipelago.


Along the way you'll learn about many of the historical buildings dotting the water and the general history of Sweden's capital city.


Boat in Stockholm harbor
A boat tour is a great way to explore Stockholm's archipelago

If you're seeking something more adventurous, then consider renting a kayak.


You'll cover less ground this way but it ensures you'll get to experience the archipelago on an intimate level.



Kayak rentals and archipelago tours can be booked easily through GetYourGuide.


When is the best time of year to visit Stockholm


Generally speaking you'll want to visit Stockholm in the summer to enjoy the best weather and highest amount of activity throughout the city.


Some bars and restaurants shut down seasonally so if you visit during the off season you'll have limited options for entertainment.


Stockholm also has a great reputation when it comes to music events.


I'd recommend planning a trip to the city around the concert of your favorite artist. The city often hosts the best musical talent in the world but these events are skewed towards the warmer months.


Seasonality can have a big impact on what is open


I can't emphasize enough that seasonality will have a huge impact on your travels to Stockholm.


Summers in Stockholm are mild and during much of June you'll only experience a few hours (if that) of real darkness.


Stockholm's northern location on the globe means you'll have long hours of summer sunlight as well as winter darkness.



Because of this the city is generally less active and certain tourist activities will be closed.


This is another reason why I recommend visiting Stockholm during the summer to enjoy the best weather. This will make dining outside or visiting roof top bars much more enjoyable!


Stockholm nightlife


Stockholm has a reputation for excellent nightlife and high end cocktail bars.


Before I highlight a few places we visited during our trip, there are a few bits of general advice you should be aware of when heading to Stockholm for the party scene.


Outdoor concerts and live music events are more common during the summer.


This goes back to my prior comments emphasizing how you need to factor in seasonality when visiting Stockholm.



It also may come as a surprise but despite how rowdy Stockholm can be on Friday and Saturday nights, it's relatively quiet here during the week.


If you're looking for a great cocktail our favorite speakeasy was Lucy's Flower Shop. The Herno Gin Bar is a great place to visit if you're looking to try some of Sweden's best gin.


Meanwhile Stockholm Under Stjarnorna is one of the liveliest rooftop bars in town.


Bar tenders are a great source of information so be sure to ask around to find out a venue that speaks to your style!


Fotografiska is a world class photography museum with a rooftop bar


Did you know that Stockholm is home to a world renown photography exhibit?


Casual observers and photography enthusiasts alike are sure to enjoy the exhibits at Fotografiska.


Fotografiska
Fotografiska is a must for photography enthusiasts

The average exhibit will take up to 90 minutes to thoroughly explore.


Be sure to plan your visit around a meal to enjoy the on site restaurant. A well timed visit will also allow you to enjoy Fotografiska's seasonal rooftop bar.


Check out Gamla Stan


Gamla Stan is known as the Old Town area of Stockholm.


The cobblestone lined streets of Gamla Stan are located on a tiny island that sits centrally within Stockholm's archipelago.


Gamla Stan
The iconic colorful buildings and fountain of Gamla Stan

Perhaps the most recognizable part of Gamla Stan is the Stortorget Square shown here.


Historic Scandinavian architecture dots the streets where you'll find a number of Nordic style restaurants and high end cocktail bars.


Not only is this a great area to grab a fancy cocktail or traditional Nordic meal but there are also a number of boutique shops in this area.


Gamla Stan is home to Stockholms Royal Palace which is our next can't miss stop on this guide.


Visit Stockholms Royal Palace


One of Stockholm's most impressive cultural sites is the Royal Palace.


The palace is located centrally within Stockholm on the island of Gamla Stan.


Stockholm Royal Palace
The Stockholm Royal Palace grounds are perfectly manicured

Visitors can walk through the interior of the palace which highlights the history and artifacts of past Royals who once ruled over the city.


Guided tours are an option if you're looking for a more immersive option.


Otherwise you're free to explore the palace grounds at your own pace.


Grona Lund is an amusement park on the water


If you're visiting Stockholm during the summer (seriously, take the hint) another entertainment option at your disposal will be the Grona Lund amusement park.


Grona Lund
Grona Lund is a great way to spend a summer afternoon

Grona Lund is located on the southwest corner of Djurgarden.


If you end up doing an archipelago tour by boat chances are you'll float past the park and catch a view of it from the water.


This is a great way to spend an afternoon. Some rides, such as the giant swings, offer incredible views of the Stockholm skyline.


Day trip to Gothenburg


If you're trying to see more of Sweden during your stay why not consider taking a day trip to the country's second largest city, Gothenburg.



Gothenburg is a cozy little big town located on Sweden's Western coast near Denmark.


Gothenburg is best accessed by taking the 3.5 hour train ride between cities.


Gothenburg Sweden
Views of Gothenburg from Skansen Kronan

When planning our trip to Scandinavia we were set on visiting Stockholm and then traveling on to Copenhagen by train.


If you're following a similar itinerary Gothenburg serves as a great midpoint to lay over for the night.



There isn't a ton to do and see in Gothenburg but you can certainly fill out a day here.


We enjoyed exploring the Haga area, renting a boat, walking the parks near the canal and checking out different restaurant during out stay.


Is English commonly spoken in Stockholm


Sweden is widely considered one of the best English speaking countries in the world outside of the USA or UK.


Rest assured you won't have any issues navigating Stockholm if you don't speak Swedish!


Alcohol is heavily regulated in Sweden


Another important thing to know when visiting Stockholm is that alcohol sales are heavily regulated throughout Sweden.


Generally speaking you can only purchase spirits, wine and beer at stores called Systembolaget.



You'll find low ABV beer (around 3%) in some convenience stores but if you want anything stronger you'll have to locate a Systembolaget.


In Stockholm you shouldn't have too hard of a time finding one near your accommodations, but you may have to venture out a few blocks or more to find the nearest location.


For a city with a great night life reputation, we were surprised at how difficult it was to purchase alcohol!

 

Be sure to read our guide on reducing airfare costs


One of those most unavoidable and dreaded travel costs is airfare.


Even if you budget carefully for food, accommodations and find budget friendly activities the cost of airfare can make many destinations prohibitively expensive.


But if you're a savvy traveler like me then you know there are ways to beat the airlines! I have a full post dedicated to all of the tips and tricks I use to pay the absolute minimum for airfare when I travel.



Looking for quick advice on how to book your next trip?


It's easy to forget how much time, effort and planning can go into putting together a vacation.


Booking flights, shuttles, rental cars, hotels, activities and making sure you've packed everything you'll need for where you're going is no small task!


Man at indian nose lake Atitlan
Photo taken at the top of Indian Nose - Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Not to mention all of these things tend to add up in cost very quickly. With so many things that can go wrong what's a savvy traveler to do? Read my post on travel planning hacks that's what!



In that guide I will highlight all of the strategies I use to streamline the trip planning process while making sure I cover all of the tricks I use to save money along the way.