By Stefani Novakovic, a very social tour guide who has been exploring Stockholm’s neighbourhoods since 2016.
Edited by Elodi Troskie
Since moving to Stockholm a few years ago, I’ve really been enjoying exploring the city. And luckily, as Stockholm consists of 14 islands which are connected by bridges, it makes things very easy to move around between the different areas, even on foot. If you’re planning a trip to the beautiful capital of Sweden, my first recommendation would be that you take a minute to decide what is most important to you when looking for accommodation: nightlife, food, shopping, sightseeing, or family-friendly activities? From there, all you need is my guide to the best neighbourhoods in Stockholm - I promise there’s one to suit whatever you’re looking for.
Södermalm is Stockholm’s hipster area. This is one of my favourite areas in Stockholm and always the first place I recommend visitors to stay. You’ll find the coolest and trendiest cafes and restaurants in this neighbourhood. If you’re looking for a laid-back, bohemian vibe, you’ll love staying in Södermalm. This neighbourhood is known to be LGBTQ-friendly and is particularly popular among the younger crowd. Nights in Södermalm are spent at alternative bars and live music events at underground gig venues. This is a good area to stay in Stockholm if you’re traveling on a budget and are looking for cheap eats and cool things to do on a dime. Södermalm has significantly been growing in popularity over recent years, resulting in the vibrancy this neighbourhood branching out to the surrounding, lesser-known areas like Hornstull, Skanstull and Mariatorget. And if that wasn’t enough, the red metro line makes for very easy access between Södermalm and the rest of Stockholm.
Gamla Stan is the heart of Stockholm’s old town. I’d recommend staying in Galma Stan if you want to sightsee Stockholm since this neighbourhood is right in the middle of all the tourist attractions. This area is home to many of Stockholm’s must-see sites like Parliament, the Royal Palace, a multitude of age-old churches and enough museums and art galleries to fill your schedule for several days! During the festive season, you’ll find amazing Christmas markets and street musicians that occupy the picturesque cobblestone streets. Gamla Stan also features a big variety of really cool restaurants, cafes and bars, so you’ll have more than enough to do at night. And tucked in next to Södermalm, you won’t be far from all Stockholm’s coolest, trendiest nightlife hangout spots. Gamla Stan is within easy access to other parts of Stockholm, and the nearby districts of Södermalm and Norrmalm can even be reached on foot by walking along the connecting bridges.
Norrmalm is where you want to stay if you’re looking for the best places to shop in Stockholm. Norrmalm is the city’s busy commercial area, packed with fashion outlets and luxury boutiques, and home to Drottninggatan, Stockholm’s best and most famous shopping street. Apart from the amazing shopping opportunities, this neighbourhood is also a cultural hotspot with the Royal Swedish Opera, the Kulturhuset Stadsteatern and the Stockholm Concert Hall. And if you need a break from all the shopping excursions, head to Kungsträdgården, a slow-paced public park lined with trees and pink cherry blossoms in spring – a great time to visit Stockholm. In the winter the park also has an ice skating rink. For food, visit Hötorgshallen, a food hall serving incredible cuisines at affordable prices, and the atmospheric market located on the adjoining square. If you want to stay in Norrmalm, I suggest looking for accommodation around the central station to make sure you’re well-connected to all parts of the city.
Östermalm is the most chic and sophisticated neighbourhood in Stockholm. It’s also the most expensive part of the city and is often compared to upmarket neighbourhoods like New York’s Upper East Side. This district is rich with high-end fashion boutiques and fine-dining restaurants serving delicacies like indulgent seafood and international wines. The Östermalmshallen Food Market is the best place to eat around here – a specialist indoor food market where you can treat yourself to all the local culinary favourites. For shopping, Stureplan Square is the go-to area, featuring a big variety of high-end shopping as well as trendy nightclubs and bars. Because this neighbourhood is so expensive, it may not be the perfect fit for budget-travellers. It’s still worth a day-trip to explore the area. Walk around the beautiful park of Humlegården that surrounds the Royal Library or visit the cultural spots, like Hallwylska Museum or the Art Nouveau Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern.
The residential area of Vasastan is just outside of the city centre, making it the ideal area to stay if you don’t want to be right in the middle of all the action but still want to be close enough to all the sightseeing destinations. Although Vasastan is hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced city centre, it’s still well-connected to the rest of Stockholm. I’d say this is the best neighbourhood to stay in Stockholm for families traveling with kids. With its old-worldly architecture and cobblestone streets, this area is so beautiful. Shopping-wise, you’ll find more vintage stores than mainstream fashion outlets. Vasastan doesn’t necessarily have the busiest nightlife, but it still has its fair share of cool restaurants and trendy bars. Be sure to visit Vasaparken, Odenplan Square and Sankt Eriksplan Square.
Another good option for families is Djurgården, an island separated from Östermalm with a short bridge you can easily cross by foot. Like Vasastan, Djurgården is a residential area, which means it’s generally tourist-free. This neighbourhood is quite slow-paced – ideal for taking leisurely strolls, relaxing in parks and hanging out in cafes. All the parks and greenery give Djurgården the feeling of a small countryside village. There’s not much nightlife in this area, but because Östermalm is just across the bridge, you’ll be within easy access to a multitude of classy restaurants and trendy cocktail bars. To make up for its lack of night-time watering holes, Djurgården houses quite a few museums as well as the Gröna Lund Amusement Park and Skansen, Sweden’s first open-air museum and zoo (the kids will love the latter!). The entire Djurgården neighbourhood can be explored on foot and alternatively you can take tram line 7 to commute around the island or go to the city centre.
Skeppsholmen is probably my favourite Stockholm island. Situated across from the old town, Skeppsholmen is relatively uninhabited and not very well-known among tourists – one of Stockholm’s best kept secrets! Skeppsholmen’s biggest treasures are its natural sceneries and amazing sunset viewpoints. If you like museums, design and art as much as I do, this island is a must-visit destination in Stockholm. There are so many great museums in this area and, as a bonus, most of them don’t charge anything for entrance! All the historic buildings, combined with the view of the impressive royal castle on the mainland of Stockholm, make Skeppsholmen very photogenic – a real Instagram-gem. From the city centre, Skeppsholmen can easily be reached by bus or ferry. Once you’re there, you can explore the island on foot by walking along the promenade that stretches all the way around the island.
Sundbyberg is an easy-going, colourful neighbourhood located in the northwest of the city. This is another hidden gem that is mostly only known among locals who live in the neighbourhood. Sightseeing-wise, there might not be much to see around here, but this quaint neighbourhood is a really cool place to stay if you’re looking for an alternative to Stockholm’s tourist-packed areas. A few decades ago, this neighbourhood was occupied by cheap rental housing and, although a lot of renovations have been done in this district, it remains a very budget-friendly residential destination – ideal for those traveling on a tight budget! A must-visit in Sundbyberg is Signalfabriken, a reconstructed telephone cable factory that now houses a number of bars, boutiques and even a local library. Sundbyberg wasn’t always within close reach of the city centre, but the recently improved transport links now makes it very easy to move around between this neighbourhood and the centre of Stockholm.
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