Hard to believe but it took me almost 24 years until I finally made it further north than Germany and Poland.
It’s not like Scandinavia never fascinated me, quite the contrary. I’m just more of a summer, sun, beach and sea type if you know what I mean.
So whenever I had the choice between north or south, I went for the latter.
However, a couple of months ago when it was time for a trip again, I found an incredibly cheap flight to Stockholm. As the cheap flight hunter that I am, I couldn’t help but book the flight.
And if I had known that Stockholm is such an awesome city, I would have done this much earlier.
Since you came across this blog post, I suppose you finally booked your flight and are now wondering what to do for the first time in Stockholm. I tell you a little secret: You will find out the answers right here!
(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a certain percentage of a sale if you purchase after clicking.)
11 Unmissable Things to do in Stockholm For a Perfect First Time!
The following things to do in Stockholm are all suggestions based on my itinerary.
Depending on how much time you have, you can remove or add some. In my opinion, you shouldn’t miss too many of them because every single one made me fall in love with this city so much that I want to go back immediately.
And you probably too.
1. Explore The Historic Center of Gamla Stan
One of the first things to do in Stockholm is to explore the bustling island of Gamla Stan, also known as the city’s old town.
This small island is full of cobblestone streets, colorful buildings from the 17th & 18th centuries, and lovely cafés and bistros serving modern Nordic cuisine.
If you follow the narrow winding streets you will most likely come to Stortorget, the oldest and one of the most famous squares in Stockholm.
The square is surrounded by houses in green, red, and yellow which you’ve probably seen before since they’re iconic photo motives. I mean, they’re basically among the most famous landmarks in Sweden!
Other famous sights that can be found in Gamla Stan are Stockholm Cathedral, the Nobel Prize Museum, and the Royal Palace.
Unfortunately, we didn’t see a lot of the cathedral because it was covered due to renovation work so I hope you’re luckier than us!
The island is not only famous for its cultural sights but it’s also a popular nightlife spot with many bars and pubs. I personally recommend The Liffey, a cozy Irish pub right in the heart of the old town.
Stockholm’s Narrowest Street
Probably the most unusual thing to find in Gamla Stan tho is Mårten Trotzigs Gränd.
That weird name that probably gives you a knot in your tongue while trying to pronounce it, is Stockholm’s narrowest street. 36 steps with just 90 centimeters in width make it almost impossible for just only people to pass without touching.
Apparently, there’s a saying that if you walk along with your arms touching each side of the alley and make a wish, it’s supposed to come true.
To find Mårten Trotzigs Gränd it’s best to use Google Maps because there are no signposts for it.
Stockholm Palace & Kungsträdgården
Before leaving Gamla Stan, plan one last stop at the Royal Palace, the official residence of the Swedish monarch family.
The entire complex has more than 600 rooms on eleven floors including the royal apartments and three history museums. It’s open all year round and if you’re lucky, you can even experience an official reception.
Tickets cost around €16 for adults and €8 for people between 7 and 17.
If you decide to buy a Stockholm City Pass, entry to the palace is included.
After wandering through the royal chambers, head over to visit Kungsträdgården as well. Kungsträdgården, simply called Kungsan by the locals, is a centrally located public park where the royal gardens were.
In the warm summer months, it’s a popular hangout spot with outdoor cafés, concerts, and other events whereas in winter tourists and locals can go ice-skating on an ice rink.
2. Admire The Impressive City Hall
The Royal Palace is certainly not the only impressive architectural building in Stockholm.
On the eastern side of Kungsholmen Island is the Stockholm City Hall. Almost not to oversee with its 106-meter high tower, the city hall is one of the city’s most famous tourist sights.
If you look closely, you can spot the Three Crowns, the Swedish national symbol, on top of the tower.
We mainly went to see the city hall because of the fantastic views you seem to have from above. Unfortunately, the staff told us it’s closed and only open from May to September – we went there at the beginning of October.
Besides the tower, other things to admire at Stockholm City Hall are the lovely inner courtyard and the Blue Hall which is also known as the banquet hall for the annual Nobel Prize award ceremony.
Don’t let the name fool you, it’s actually not blue but red. Initially, the walls should be painted blue but when the architect saw the red bricks he changed his mind and left them as they were.
You can visit the building only on guided tours. For exact opening times and prices, check the official Stockholm City Hall website.
3. Look at Contemporary Photography at Fotografiska
For everyone interested in photography, another one of the best things to do in Stockholm is to plan a visit to Fotografiska.
Fotografiska is among the world’s largest and most significant photography museums displaying contemporary exhibitions of works by different national and international artists.
The location in an old industrial building on the island of Södermalm alone makes the visit a real highlight.
Inside you’ll find plenty of rooms showcasing the most impressive photos on specific topics. In addition to various exhibitions, Fotografiska offers lectures, workshops, and classes for photographers of all levels.
Maybe you want to spend a while in the museum shop where you can find posters, prints, books, and other creative souvenirs. Moreover, a restaurant and a café ensure that you don’t leave the museum hungry.
The museum is open every day from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm and the entrance fee is around €18. To avoid queuing, I recommend you buy tickets online in advance.
Tours you might find interesting:
4. Learn More About a Real Art Treasure at Vasa Museum
As you’ve probably already noticed, Stockholm has a lot of special things to offer that you won’t find anywhere else in this world.
The Vasa Museum on Djurgården island is definitely one of them.
But what makes it so different from most other museums?
Well, the answer is easy: On your visit to Vasa Museum, you can admire an almost fully intact ship from the 17th century that has been salvaged from the bottom of the ocean.
Yes, you got it right, a ship in its original size.
And it’s HUGE!
Usually, people build museums first and then decide what to display. In this case, however, they built the museum around the ship. No wonder, there was literally no other way to do it.
The first thing you will see upon entering is the bow of this enormous ship. It really leaves you speechless how it stands there in its full glory.
Before it’s time to wander around the museum to have a close look from all sides and discover all the small details, make sure to watch the 15-minute entry film about the ship’s history.
You’ll learn more about why it capsized and sank more than 333 years ago, how they managed to salvage it successfully, and even about the lives of the people onboard.
Plan enough time to explore the whole museum as there are many original objects from the ship exhibited as well.
Tickets cost around €17 and can be bought online to avoid waiting time.
5. Admire Modern Art at The Modern Art Museum
All good things come in threes and that’s why another museum made it on this list of best things to do in Stockholm!
The Modern Art Museum is located not far from the Vasa Museum and houses – as the name indicates – a great selection of modern and contemporary art pieces.
From Pablo Picasso to Salvador Dalí and Henri Matisse, just to name a few of the greatest artists.
The best thing tho is that entry is completely FREE. This alone is a reason to visit the museum if you want to save your budget.
Moreover is there a lovely café where you can enjoy yummy burgers, sandwiches, and bowls and some of them are even vegan!
Check the Moderna Museet website for the exact opening times and current exhibitions.
6. Stroll Along The Promenade of Strandvägen in Östermalm
So far we’ve heard about the islands of Södermalm, Kungsholmen, Djurgården, and Gamla Stan but let’s not forget the elegant district of Östermalm.
Östermalm is one of the most popular and exclusive residential areas, let’s say it’s probably the Notting Hill of Stockholm. Thus it’s where you find the classiest restaurants, chic boutiques, and trendy bars.
Plus it’s also home to many cultural venues such as the Swedish History Museum.
Undoubtedly the best address to go to in Östermalm is Strandvägen, a boulevard-like promenade on the seashore.
On the one side are just ferry and tour boat stops whereas on the other side of the promenade you spot high-class hotels and impressive residential and office buildings.
Along the promenade are fancy cafés and bars offering a good cup of coffee, refreshing drinks, or small snacks. You will also find enough benches to sit down, have a rest and enjoy the wonderful relaxing vibes of Strandvägen.
7. Try Different Food at Östermalms Saluhall
Just a short walk from Strandvägen up to the north and deeper into the Östermalm district is the location of Stockholm’s most famous market.
Östermalms Saluhall offers everything your heart and stomach desire. Besides fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, cheese, coffee, and tea you will find all kinds of fresh, smoked, and pickled fish.
There are 17 trades and a couple of restaurants plus seating options to try your newly bought delicacies.
The food hall is not only worth seeing for its wide range of goodies but it’s also interesting from the outside. Red bricks characterize the facade of the building which dates back to 1888 and is a listed monument.
8. Escape The Busy City Life in Ekoparken
Stockholm is a wonderful city with enough sights to fill every itinerary, but maybe you want to take a short break and escape the hectic for a while.
The best place to do just this is Ekoparken, also called Royal National City Park.
Established in 1995, this 26 sq km big area is the ‘world’s first national urban park’ and is located in the municipalities of Stockholm, Solna, and Lidingö.
It’s a beloved place for all people who need some time out in nature to relax, take a long walk, or do some outdoor sports.
Inside the park are several attractions such as the university area and Djurgården island with all the major museums.
Ekoparken stretches across large parts of Stockholm so you may end up walking through it without even realizing it.
Tours you might find interesting:
9. Take a Boat Tour to See Stockholm From Another Perspective
Of course, this list of awesome things to do in Stockholm wouldn’t be complete without a boat tour!
It can be hard to choose the perfect boat tour from all the countless options but one I can highly recommend is the Under The Bridges Boat Tour.
We took part in this tour almost by accident as we initially planned a trip to the Stockholm archipelago which was canceled. Luckily, the friendly lady at the counter showed us this as an alternative and after a short consideration, we bought two tickets.
The Under The Bridges Boat Tour costs €34 per person and takes around two hours. During these two hours, you can admire Stockholm from a whole different perspective and see some of the most iconic Swedish landmarks.
At the same time, you learn more about the city and its most famous sights by listening to recorded commentary in more than 10 different languages.
The boat sails under several bridges and you pass through a lock to get from the Baltic Sea to Lake Mälaren which is a pretty fun experience.
10. Find All The City’s Coolest Metro Stations
Number 10 on the list of best things to do in Stockholm is a bit of an unusual one.
It is not about a visit to a museum, a church, or a district, instead, I want you to explore the city’s underground system!
The Stockholm metro system is said to be the longest art exhibition in the world. Of 100 stations, about 90 of them have some art installation inside.
You will probably discover some of them on your journey through the city.
While many of them can be found immediately without instructions, others are better hidden and tricky to find so if you want to see the best metro stations it’s recommendable to do some research before.
11. Eat as Many Kanelbullar as Possible!
Last but not least, do you really think I can allow you to leave Stockholm without having eaten at least one Swedish cinnamon bun?
Of course not!
In Swedish called ‘Kanelbullar’, this sweet treat is indispensable at every Swedish coffee party. You can get them in every supermarket, cafe, and bakery right across Stockholm.
Because they’re available almost everywhere, it’s hard to decide which ones to try. We mostly went to locations of the local chain Bröd & Salt simply because they have super soft and tasty vegan versions too.
Maybe you want to make it your mission to find the best kanelbullar in Stockholm?
Like it? Pin it!
Do you want to travel like me?
Here are some of my favorite travel tips and resources:
Flights: I prefer using CheapOair or Skyscanner to book flights. The destination everywhere feature is perfect for finding some cheap deals!
Accommodation: Booking.com is my favorite site to find some great hotel deals. I do love staying at a local place as well, thus I book an Airbnb every now and then.
Travel Insurance: There are many reasons why travel insurance is important and I never travel without having one. I use the simple and flexible one from World Nomads to be protected against unforeseen events.
Tours: I love taking tours to explore destinations like a local. My favorite website to book them in advance is GetYourGuide.
Camera Gear: I use a Nikon D5300 camera with an 18-105 mm and a 10-20 mm wide-angle lens to take my photos.