Traveling around Stockholm can get expensive fast if you let it- there’s so much to see and do that it can be hard to fit it all within your time and budget.
I’m a big fan of planning a few low-and-slow days into my itinerary, to take it easy on both your wallet and your schedule. Practically required if you are traveling with young kids!
Fortunately the outdoorsy Swedes have packed Stockholm with options that won’t make you feel like you’re missing out on anything – especially if you visit in the late Spring / early Summer months like May.
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Relax and enjoy the sights of Stockholm at your own pace and budget
Estimated time: Few hours or so
Available Side Quests:
Now lace up your walking shoes and get ready to soak up some history and natural beauty in the heart of Stockholm, Sweden!
All Aboard the af Chapman
You’ll see her before you even set foot on the bridge to Skeppsholmen. A fully rigged steel beauty waiting calmly in Stockholm’s harbor, the af Chapman has lived quite the adventurous life. Launched in 1888 she once sailed around the world as merchant vessel, navy training ship, and naval barracks during World War I.
Now the af Chapman serves a new mission: in 1949 she became Stockholm’s first hostel, run by the Swedish Tourist Association. Saved from the scrapyard and repurposed to host all kinds of adventurers, she currently offers 100 beds and 77 rooms to famlies, gap year students, and business travelers looking for a unique experience in an already unique city.
The yellow navy barracks just across the path is also part of the hostel facilities, both as sleeping quarters for those who prefer to keep their feet on land as well as serving up the main dining and lounging options for guests. Both the barracks and the ship boast their own bars as well, perfect for a sunset toast against the historic Stockholm skyline.
If this sounds right up your alley, you’d better hurry- while you can usually find a well priced bunk in the barracks or even aboard ship, if you want to reserve the Captain’s Cabin with it’s double bed and private bath (and you do – it’s absolutely stunning) then you might have to book up to 5 months in advance.
Am I gushing a bit too much here? It can’t just be me who’s excited by the chance to sleep surrounded by so much history, right?
In the springtime, the gardens explode with a rainbow of color as as you stroll along the seaside path.
Although Skeppsholmen is home to several museums (including Bergrummet, a neat-looking toy museum I hope to visit soon), it seems almost a shame to waste Stockholm’s stunningly lovely springtime weather indoors when there’s so much outside still waiting to be discovered.
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Since at least the 1660s the Swedish flag has been flown on this island to salute passing ships and signal whether the nation was at war or peace.
In 1667, the islet’s humble guard cottage was upgraded to a larger octagonal fort that was also used to store gunpowder. Over time the structure was further developed and additions made- like cannons and so on. Of particular note, a laboratory was built onto the structure to produce cartridges.
And then in 1845, the whole thing exploded.
Official reports don’t specify if this was due to the close proximity of the laboratory to the gunpowder stores, but even during the early rebuilding plan special effort was made to separate the lab from the main structure.
The current Kastellet was completed on the same site in 1848 and now can be rented out for some pretty epic events.
The Military Ensign of Sweden flying over the tower is a triple tailed banner that’s raised and lowered every day to signify Sweden is at peace.
In 1996 some cheeky Norwegians almost caused a diplomatic crisis by hoisting up and flying Noway’s flag from the tower’s flag pole.
To put that in perspective, Sweden hasn’t been (officially) at war since 1814 against the Norwegians. (Admittedly, the Swedes started -and ended- that one.)
All in all Kastellholmen may be small, but it has some spectacular views and is relatively quiet and undisturbed whenever we stop by. The miniature island is a perfect tree shaded spot for a picnic or to just soak in the amazing scenery while the kids run around.
If you’re looking for some real high seas adventure, then set sail with the Tre Kronor moored at the southern tip of Kastellholmen.
Translatable as the “Three Crowns” (the national emblem of Sweden) it was named by Crown Princess Victoria and launched in 2008. As godmother to the Tre Kronor the Crown Princess is technically part of the crew, as well as a sort of sponsor and advocate for the vessel and it’s mission.
Today the Tre Kronor strives to educate people around the world about both sailing traditions and a more sustainable Baltic Sea for everyone to enjoy.
Near the Tre Kronor‘s dock is the Kolskjulet. Once a humble coal shed supplying the shiny new steamboats of Sweden’s naval fleet, now it’s been turned into a gorgeous party hall that can be rented out for events overlooking the Stockholm harbor.
Unfortunately Kastellholmen’s seaside path hits a dead end here, so we turned back around to recross the bridge to Skeppsholmen and continued eastward a short way to the ferry dock.
Often called the Venice of the north, Stockholm has a well developed ferry system that can take you all around it’s archipelago – or even just for a cheap and breezy boat tour around some of it’s most popular islands.
While there’s several companies that shuttle passengers between Stockholm’s many docks, the Djurgården-Skeppsholmen-Slussen line that stops here is part of Stockholm’s public transportation service (Storstockholms Lokaltrafik, or more commonly just SL).
That means the same ticket pass you use on the buses and trains will work here too. Excellent news for anyone who got an all-inclusive Travelcard.
Djurgården by Ferry
Once, the whole island of Djurgården (or Kungliga Djurgården – The Royal Game Park) was the King’s private hunting ground. Now it’s open for everyone to enjoy, sporting a great many amazing museums and even a boardwalk amusement park.
Top Picks for Djurgården:
- ABBA: The Museum (based on the internationally renown Swedish band behind hits like Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen, and roughly 8 billion other hits)
- Gröna Lund (Stockholm’s boardwalk amusement park, see photos below)
- Junibacken (a fairy-tale world based on characters from Swedish children’s literature such as Pippi Longstocking, Ronja the Robber’s Daughter, and also some other works not by Astrid Lindgren)
- Nordic Museum
- Skansen (the world’s oldest open-air museum plus zoo, mini-amusement park, and aquarium)
- Vasa Museum (a 17th-century ship that sunk shorty after it’s launch, raised from the sea bed centuries later and fantastically preserved)
- plus several of the most expensive properties and homes in the city (the Crown Princess’s brother lives here), creating a fascinating variety of architectural styles to enjoy for free as you stroll along the shady sidewalks
Gröna Lund (as seen from the ferry)
Gröna Lund is Sweden’s oldest amusement park and quite popular during the summer.
It currently has seven roller coasters (with an eighth opening in 2020), several drop towers, a fun house, tunnel of love, and something like 25 other rides – plus hosts various big name concerts and events over the years.
I believe that one with the wings is Ikaros (named after the Icarus myth).
95 meters high (311-and-some-change feet), and it flips the riders at the top to plunge you face first towards the ground.
It looked terrifying.
Gamla Stan by Ferry
Disembarking at the ferry’s Slussen stop lands you in the heart of Stockholm – the Scandinavian capitol’s old town known as Gamla Stan.
Here cobblestone streets are towered over by historic buildings with architecture I could stare at for years.
But first you’ll be greeted at the dock by this guy:
Called Sjöguden (Sea God, 1913) and sculpted from red granite by the internationally renown Swedish artist Carl Milles, this duo makes quite the impression.
More of Carl Milles’s work can be found throughout Stockholm, especially in Millesgården – the art museum, sculpture garden, home, and burial site of both Carl Milles and Olga Milles, his fellow artist and wife.
Follow the seaside walk north / northeast and you’ll come to the Royal Palace of Stockholm, where you can tour the Royal Apartments, Treasury, Armory and more.
Or if you’re hungry, you can find plenty of cafe’s, restaurants, and shops lined up to offer tourists all the viking and dala horse themed souvenirs their hearts could desire.