I’ve never had as much fun wandering around a city as I did in Stockholm. I’ve also never run out of space on my memory card(s) so quickly, thanks to every street and corner providing what seemed like the best views in Stockholm.
I was going to include a picture of my bruised feet at the end of a day of exploring, but then I took pity on you, dear readers. Just know that the struggle was real.
On to my main point: have you ever completely fallen in love with a city? I know I have because I fall in love with more cities than people. But let’s move on
from things I should discuss with a therapist.
I arrived in Stockholm this summer and something about it just…fit. This post is my feeble attempt to explain that feeling. If you also want a good list of fun things to do in Stockholm, check out Inspired by Maps.
All Swedish words in this post about the best views in Stockholm are given without their pronunciation. Seek expert assistance before attempting to say words like Österlånggatan and Kungsträdgården on your own. Lose the Map is not responsible for any misunderstandings, embarrassment, or cabs driving you 10 miles in the wrong direction as a result of you thinking “you got this”.
So Why Stockholm?
Stockholm is imbued with a sense of relaxed order – everything is clean, well-kept, and organized, but charming and filled with personality nonetheless. The city lacks that clinical vibe other exceptionally well-kept places occasionally develop.
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The city’s historic beauty, great food and nightlife, and its laid-back, youthful atmosphere really come alive in the summer. That’s why in my opinion, the best time to visit Stockholm is in the summer.
he inviting streets at this time of year, combined with the strange (to me) daily phenomenon of seeing the sun dip below the horizon after 10 PM and come back up again a few hours later, in what should be the middle of the night, was amazingly breathtaking.
The slight breeze and brisk temperatures (brisk for an LA girl) give the air a wonderful, permanently fresh smell. This is only occasionally overtaken by a slight saltiness when you approach the surrounding waters. I was always getting lost (I’m very serious about my “Lose the Map” philosophy) and somehow ending up by a ferry terminal.
Speaking of the best views in Stockholm – I apologize already for the objectification – it seems that everyone is tall and beautiful. Ev-ery-one. That definitely helps as well.
This post includes affiliate links for services I use and endorse, such as Booking.com. I get a small percentage if you book through the links, but your cost is not affected at all. As always, opinions and reviews are my own.
Walks in the Old Town – Gamla Stan
Exploring Gamla Stan was the first order of business, and it completely delivered. I didn’t put my camera down for over an hour. If you asked me what to see in Stockholm in one day, this is the area I would direct you to visit.
In my opinion, this makes Gamla Stan possibly the best area to stay in Stockholm. If you find the hotels there too pricey, look at hotels in its immediate walking-distance neighborhoods across the water.
Gamla Stan is Stockholm’s Old Town, established in the 13th century, easily making it one of the oldest preserved historic centers of Europe. It’s pedestrian heaven. Narrow cobblestone streets wind through bright yellow, orange, and red buildings. An occasional car does manage to sneak through, but overall, this neighborhood is built for people.
The area includes a lot of things to see in Stockholm in one day, so it’s a great destination but also fills up with tourists. Stockholm guided tours also make the streets of Gamla Stan major stops.
However, once you’re outside the main square of Stortorget (again, you think you’re pronouncing that correctly, but I guarantee you, you are not) you can avoid most of the crowds if you duck into the narrower alleys.
Local Tip: A couple of cool places that seem to attract more locals than tourists are on the east side’s Österlånggatan Street. Check out Tradition Gamla Stan, which serves authentic Swedish cuisine, and Österlånggatan 17 (or just ask for Bar 17). Book great Gamla Stan accommodation at Booking.com, or stay where I did, at Castle House Inn.
Stockholm: Making Transportation Cool
Stockholm is an archipelago built on fourteen islands, so water is pretty much everywhere, which I love. The good thing about this unique urban design is that it also gives travelers a lot of transportation options.
One of the first things I noticed in Sweden, besides the stunningly clear sky when it was sunny outside, was the insane amount of bikes everywhere. Biking in Stockholm seems to be a preferred mode of transport.
At first, it may seem much more likely you will be run over by a wayward bike than a wayward car. However, you have nothing to fear here. Bikers and drivers alike are much too polite to allow for either cycling mishaps or vehicular manslaughter.
Thanks to Stockholm’s archipelago status, boat hopping and bridge crossing are also quite common as a way of getting around.
Or if you’re not in the mood for that, you can always take the super-artistic metro. The main transportatin hub of Slussen is right over the bridge from Gamla Stan, in Sodermalm. The metro will take you to any stop you may desire on the Stockholm tourist map, and beyond!
Folkhemmet and the Art of the Metro Station
Almost every metro station in Stockholm has its own theme, which makes taking public transportation pretty cool instead of a mind-numbing exercise in avoiding eye contact. It is basically a never-ending art installation. Mosaics, sculptures, and designs within the stations take commuters through five decades of European art.
This project started in the 50s, as part of a political ideology called “The People’s Home” (Folkhemmet). One part of the Folkhemmet philosophy involved spreading art to all Stockholmians (that’s a word, right?), regardless of income level – thus the metro project was born.
Little touches like these throughout the city make you appreciate the country’s unique philosophy, influenced by its more socialist attitudes. Of course, Sweden also had the luxury to spend money on such projects because it was extremely lucky for a European country in that it managed to opt out of World War II entirely.
In fact, Swedes just marked 200 years without war in 2014. This peaceful legacy is evident in the abundant historic buildings of Stockholm, which remain beautifully preserved since the city has blissfully escaped destruction and reconstruction for some time.
Art and Ships at the Best Museums in Stockholm
Moving on from the metro, I found my favorite kind of art – photography – at the incredible Fotografiska museum. When I visited, there were exhibits on urbanization and pollution in Africa, the life of Romani people, and Greta Garbo, among others. No matter what you’re into, you will find something to enjoy, so I absolutely recommend a stop here to see art in Stockholm.
I got a small taste of old, rural Sweden at Skansa, a giant open-air museum on Djurgården, which is basically Museum Island. Skansa is a bit kitschy, but fun to tour and see how the older generations lived.
Travel Tip: Get the Stockholm Pass to get entry to over 60+ attractions for free, plus use the Hop On Hop Off Boat Tours to quickly get to different islands. I got the 2-Day Pass for 795 SEK (about $90), which sounds like a lot, but if you’re planning on touring more than 3 museums and using transport, it saves you so much money. Use the pass to visit places like The Vasa Museum, The Royal Palace, The Nobel Museum, and others, though some (like Skansa) are not included.
The second-coolest museum is hands down the Vasa Museum. The museum’s opening hours are 10 AM to 5 PM daily, except for Wednesdays when it’s open until 8 PM. Admission Price: SEK 150 ($16).
A few decades ago, a group of probably insane but highly-motivated people decided to spend a massive amount of money in order to raise a sunken ship from the waters around Stockholm. Bless their insanity, because the resulting exhibit is jaw-dropping. The Vasa, built in 1628, is now the oldest such preserved ship in the entire world.
In addition to the ship itself, plenty of excavated objects and remains are exhibited throughout the museum, giving you a sense of how people lived back in those times. That history, plus the telling of the complex excavation project in itself, is worth a trip to Vasa.
Summertime Fun in Stockholm
If you know me at all, you may be wondering around now, “Hey, you said you fell in love with this place, so how does beer factor into all this?”
Not to worry. In addition to biking, outdoor drinking also seems to be high on every Stockholmian’s summer priority list. Scenes like the one below are pretty much everywhere you turn during the long summer days.
Everywhere I looked, tables surrounded by happy drinkers filled outdoor patios and sidewalks. Myself personally, every time I would see the price of the beer I had just purchased, I would quickly drink another one in hopes of forgetting my eventual credit card bill.
*Local Tip: A lot of cool, young Stockholm people (you want to be cool, right?!) love going out in Södermalm, the hipster-y area of Stockholm. For the best bars in Stockholm, bar hop down Götgatan (pictured below) and grab some food and drinks. If you have the energy to walk all the way down, you will end up near the south end of Södermalm at a very laid-back bar/club called Trädgården. Commence partying.
Take a Break From City Views in the Parks
If you want a more relaxing experience, head to Kungsträdgården.
Families with baby strollers make the rounds of the park and young children splash around to refresh themselves in the water. Friends lounge on the steps and catch up, all while the light splashing of the fountains goes on in the background.
There’s always a hint of flowers in the air, as all kinds of flower varieties overflow throughout the park. Even though there are plenty of people throughout, the noise never rises above a pleasant murmur.
Kungsträdgården is one of the most relaxing places in the city. And if you’re lucky in your afternoon stroll, you’ll catch an outdoor concert.
Local Tip: If you’re looking for summertime trips from Stockholm, head west to lovely Lake Mälaren.
Best Views in Stockholm at Night
After 9 PM, the sun hung low on the horizon and a pink tinge deepened minute by minute in the sky. I walked back through the alleys of Gamla Stan, which now had a calm, abandoned, fairy tale vibe to them.
There’s nothing like evening walks in Stockholm. Challenge your legs and walk from the east side of Gamla Stan up to Norrmalm/Östermalm. You can explore the restaurants and bars around Kungsträdgården. Otherwise, continue on to Stockholm Nybrokajen – the ferry terminal – just a couple of minutes away.
*Local Tip: My favorite bar in Östermalm was Riche, a restaurant/bar/dance club that you can stay in the whole night. Enjoy your time there from your first bite to that ill-advised last drink that will all but ensure a piercing hangover the next day. Heads up though, Östermalm is a posh area so expect higher prices. And, of course, some rich kids and businessmen in attendance at all times.
Why do I love Stockholm? If you heard the words “ferry terminal” and wondered why on earth I would send you to an overcrowded, exhaust-filled, unbearable at low-tide location, don’t worry. The ferry terminal in Stockholm looks like this:
Even the areas that should be shitty manage to look spectacular.
Do you need one more reason to fall in love with the city?
Enough said. This is one of the best views in Stockholm to watch the sunset, on the Stadshusbron bridge.
Have you ever fallen for a city? Which one, and what was your experience like? If you liked this post and want to spread the love, share or Pin below!