By Stefani Novakovic, a local tour guide who is always discovering new things to do in Stockholm and loves sharing that with visitors.Edited by Elodi Troskie
What I love most about Stockholm is how vastly the city changes in different seasons. In the summer, the long, warm days make it feel like you’re on holiday – making it the best time to visit Stockholm. The winters are cold and grey, but it’s still a beautiful place to see. So depending on the time of year you’re visiting Stockholm, your itinerary will differ quite a bit. Regardless, the scenic capital of Sweden is a must visit destination in Europe! Here are my suggestions for the best things to do in Stockholm in two days.
Kickstart your Stockholm trip with a relaxed walking tour of the city to orientate yourself. Start in the Gamla Stan district, which forms the heart of the Old Town. This is the area that’s the easiest to get to all the must-visit attractions in Stockholm from. Because it’s so centrally located, Gamla Stan is one of my top picks for the best neighbourhoods to stay in Stockholm, especially if you’re only visiting for a few days. The Old Town has a romantic feel to it with historic buildings, cobblestone streets, holiday markets and street musicians. Gamla Stan brings even more life to the area when its nightlife starts moving after dark. During the morning, however, you’ll have these picture-worthy streets all to yourself (and your fellow city-explorers). Have brunch at one of the cool cafes in the city centre. One of my favourites is Vete-Katten – a real hidden gem in Stockholm and a must-visit if you want to eat like the locals. Be sure to try their cinnamon buns!
From Gamla Stan you can easily reach the nearby neighbourhood of Östermalm, Stockholm’s most sophisticated neighbourhood. Stockholm’s 14 different islands are all within easy reach from each other and if you’re up for the walk, you can even move around between them on foot by crossing the connecting bridges. Östermalm is a relatively expensive area to stay in Stockholm compared to the rest of the city. The shopping options around here are mostly luxury brands and high-end fashion boutiques but I still encourage paying a visit to this part of Stockholm even if you’re traveling on a budget. The amazing culinary scene will make it worth your while! In addition to the high concentration of restaurants, cafes and bars, the Östermalmshallen Food Market is something you can’t miss out on. Visit this indoor food market for lunch before continuing your day-trip. Östermalmshallen’s restaurants are open daily from 11:00 until 23:00 (until 22:00 on Mondays and Tuesdays).
Östermalm offers quite a lot of cultural activities, so I suggest staying in this area for a few hours after lunch. If you’re a sucker for museums, like me, Östermalm won’t disappoint you! Within walking distance from Östermalmshallen, you’ll find the Andréhn Schiptjenko art gallery, The Performing Arts Museum and the Army Museum. If you want to take a breather, camp out in the beautiful Humlegården park that encircles the Royal Library. Next up, walk along Strandvägen Street which runs parallel to the beach, leading you towards the Djurgårdsbron bridge connecting Östermalm with the neighbouring Djurgården area. This ‘animal garden’ district offers just as much to do and is home to must-visit spots like the Gröna Lund Amusement Park, Vasa, a popular maritime museum, and Skansen, a one-of-a kind open-air museum and zoo (I might be going a bit crazy with the museums, so perhaps it’s best to narrow it down to one of two to leave enough time to explore the rest of the area). Stick around for the beautiful waterside sunset-view, after which you can take a ferry back to the city centre. Alternatively, tram line 7 will also get you back to the Gamla Stan area. If I can give you Stockholm travel tip, get a public transport day-pass which will grant you access to all the city’s ferries, trains, trams and buses.
Dinner & Nightlife
For dinner, head to Stockholm’s coolest restaurant, Aifur, located in the main street of historic Gamla Stan. This restaurant, bar and party room is quite the gem, sneakily tucked away in a basement out of street-view. Aifur has an exclusive feel to it because not many tourists know about it. There is room for quite a lot of people, but it’s best to book in advance. What makes this place so unique is the Viking-theme threading its way through every aspect of the restaurant - interior, menu, crockery and even live entertainment. The interior is decorated with elements of dark wood and leather. The menu features a great selection of both local and international dishes, complemented by the bar that is generously stocked with some of Sweden’s best beers. If you want to experience Stockholm’s nightlife, the Old Town has its fair share of cool bars and pubs. Alternatively, Stureplan Square in Östermalm is the go-to area for trendy nightclubs and bars.
Stockholm City Hall is one of the city’s most impressive sites and, as a result of the 8 million+ bricks that were used in its construction, is regarded the largest architectural project of the 20th century. The building itself is beautiful and the view it offers of Lake Malaren even more so. Although it’s primarily occupied by government offices, the building is open to the public. Entrance is free and guided tours are also available, starting at 8€ per person (tickets can be purchased on-site upon arrival). The tour will guide you through all the key features, like the Council Chamber, the handmade brick-constructed Blue Hall banquet room, the art-filled Golden Hall and the 106 metre tall tower. This tower is what fairy-tales are made of! If you make it to the top, you’ll have a breath-taking view of Stockholm. Another part of the City Hall I especially like is the open courtyard that can also be accessed for free. You can visit this architectural wonder any time between 08:30 and 16:00 daily.
Go for lunch at a restaurant in the area surrounding City Hall. A good option is Stadshuskällaren, a contemporary Swedish restaurant just a stone’s throw away from the City Hall, hence the name. This restaurant serves amazing local cuisine and is known for its specialty seafood dishes. Stadshuskällaren is open for lunch from 11:30 until 14:30 every day during the week. Another option is Tegelbacken, a colourful, upscale Japanese restaurant just across the water from City Hall. If you want to work in a quick nap after lunch, go to the peaceful public park, Kungsträdgården, where you’ll be surrounded by the beautiful cherry blossoms in spring or have the option of ice-skating in winter - great for families traveling with kids!
Though not quite as famous as the British royalty, the Royal Palace where the King of Sweden resides is quite a popular attraction in Stockholm. With more than 600 rooms, this is one of the largest palaces in Europe. The palace is open to the public and features five different museums. As impressive as all of this sounds, I’ve found that visitors are sometimes disappointed by their experience of the Royal Palace since it doesn’t quite live up to the high expectations. My suggestion is to visit the palace for a short while and to move on to exploring the Norrmalm neighbourhood (right next to Östermalm). Norrmalm has amazing opportunities for shopping, but apart from that, there’s a long list of cultural sites to visit, like the Royal Swedish Opera, the Kulturhuset Stadsteatern and the Stockholm Concert Hall.
Dinner & Nightlife
If you’re in Norrmalm, visit Hötorgshallen, an atmospheric food hall where you’ll find incredible dishes at very affordable prices. The other option is something a bit more alternative: dinner at Skinnarviksberget, the city’s highest natural point and one of the coolest places to visit in Stockholm. You may think venturing up a hill is a strange choice for dinner, but if you’re up for the 50-minute walk, you’ll be awarded with an unforgettable local dining experience. As one of Stockholm’s most beautiful viewpoints, Skinnarviksberget is a popular spot for sundowners. The locals have somewhat of a tradition to take small mobile barbeques with them and make a whole event of the hike. If you visit on a pleasant summer day, you’ll find a bunch of cheery people sharing barbecued sausages, drinking wine and playing music. This is one of those local experiences that really embodies the spirit of Stockholm, making it one of my favourite things to do in the city. If you want to head out to town later, I recommend going to Södermalm, one of Stockholm’s coolest and trendiest neighbourhoods. Södermalm is laid-back and relaxed yet the nightlife has much to offer with its alternative bars and underground gig venues.
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