Stockholm is a stylish and dynamic city with a picturesque Old Town. According to studies, Sweden has one of the happiest citizens in the World. The capital of Sweden is a mix of 13th century colourful houses, open-minded people, and deep history. The city is located by the Baltic Sea and includes 14 islands and 57 bridges to connect them. For an active time in the capital of Sweden, here are the must-see, must-sense, and must-do things to experience on a 3 day visit to Stockholm.
Best time to visit Stockholm
Anytime is a good time to visit Stockholm in my opinion. However the weather can play a big part on your decision on when to visit Stockholm on your 3 day visit. Stockholm, and most of Sweden enjoys warm summers and very cold winters. And I mean very cold with plenty of snow. If you want to visit during the best weather I would suggest visit during the warmer months. However, if you are visiting while on a working holiday in Sweden you will experience all weathers and it doesn’t really matter when you visit.
I have visited Stockholm three times during my travels. The first was in May when Sweden was beginning to warm up, the weather was nice during the day, yet it was still cool at night. My next visit was during the summer months. I was on a tour and the weather was just beautiful. In fact, a little on the hot side which made being a tourist quite tiring walking around in the heat. My third visit was with a Swedish friend who invited me home to Sweden for Christmas with her family. I arrived with a temperature of -15 degrees Celsius. I can say I have never been so cold and it made being a tourist quite unbearable at times not just from the cold but from the ice on the ground that I slipped on many times. So when is the best time to visit Stockholm? I would say, it will depend on what activity you are heading to Sweden for.
Where to stay in Stockholm
If you’re wondering where to stay in Stockholm, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. The best areas to stay in Stockholm are in the inner city around Gamla Stan, Norrmalm, Östermalm and Södermalm. These areas house many of Stockholm’s main attractions, so they are the perfect base for your 3 days in Stockholm. Here are some options:
Hostel: Voted the best hostel in Stockholm by HostelWorld is City Backpackers Hostel, a popular choice for budget-minded travellers looking for some place close to the city centre. For more hostel options and to get pricing and to book, check out HostelWorld.
Budget: For a frugal, no-frills options near central Stockholm, Comfort Hotel Xpress Stockholm.
Mid-range: Scandic Sjöfartshotellet is a great choice if you are planning to stay in Södermalm – read about this suburb in this post.
Splurge: For some opulence check out Stockholm’s prestigious Grand Hôtel.
For more accommodation options in Stockholm have a look on the following map.
How to get around Stockholm
The best way to get around Stockholm is to walk as many of the popular sites are relatively close together. Stockholm is a very pedestrian-friendly city and you can truly appreciate what Stockholm has to offer when you walk.
TIP: When walking around Gamla Stan, the Old City, ensure to wear a comfortable pair of flat shoes as heels can get stuck in the pavement. And if walking around during the winter when snow is about, have shoes with very good tread to help stop slips on any hidden ice.
To get to some of the attractions further afield from Gamla Stan, definitely make use of the public transport system. Stockholm’s T-Banan (the subway, metro, underground) and the trams, regional trains and buses and the boat shuttle services are all top notch and make getting around Stockholm very easy. To use the transport you will need an electronic smart card called the SL Access Card which you load credit for your trips on the transport. You can purchase one of these at Pressbyrån kiosks, tourist information offices, and Stockholm Public Transport (SL) centres. You can also purchase single-use travelcards with tickets valid for 75 minutes or 24 hours. It depends on your plans. You can get more information on the tickets and using the transport in Stockholm at the SL site.
Stockholm Metro Art
One of the best things about travelling on the public transport system in Sweden, in particular the Stockholm Metro is that it is akin to being a mobile art gallery. Stations can have mosaics, installations, murals and sculptures and you can appreciate them all for just the price of a train ticket. The Stockholm Metor has more than 100 stations with about 90 having intricate art displays. My favourite station is T-Centralen (All lines). T-Centralen is decorated by blue vines and floral motifs intended to create peace and serenity for commuters. My second favourite is Rådhuset on the Blue line T10 and T11 which has numerous archaeological findings and exposed bedrock – magical! I will leave you to discover your favourites as you use the Stockholm Metro to travel around Stockholm.
T-Centralin, Stockholm – my favourite station
Hop-on Hop-off Tourist Bus
If you would like to get to know Stockholm very quickly so you can go back to certain places hop aboard the Hop-on Hop-off bus. It will take you to many of the top tourist spots. You can stay on the bus and do the entire route to provide you with ideas of where you would like to visit. When you know, simply hop-off the bus. Once you have enjoyed the spot, hop back on the bus to be taken to your next spot. You can purchase a ticket here.
Go Stockholm Pass
The Go Stockholm Pass formerly the Stockholm Pass is a pass providing free admission to most of the city’s attractions. It is great to beat the hassle of waiting in lines to purchase tickets. And say goodbye to paper tickets as you can download the pass to your phone and just show your pass at each attraction to enter. Easy!
Your 3 Days in Stockholm Itinerary
Day 1 – Gamla Stan and The Centre
Kick your first day off in Stockholm by getting a real medieval feel at Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. It is located mainly on Stadsholmen – the beautiful island in the middle of the city. This area dated from the 13th century consists of colourful medieval houses, cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways. In addition to having some of the major attractions in Stockholm, it has many cafes, bars, boutiques and restaurants to enjoy. The best way to enjoy Gamla Stan is to get lost in the labyrinth of streets and alleys. Hopefully, strolling through the peaceful alleys, you will find your way to Stortorget square – the oldest square in the capital. It is a popular spot to meet and for concerts and shows, and the spot for the annual Christmas market. Stortorget’s most famous building is that of the former stock exchange. If you need a rest and a pick-me-up, enjoy fika (coffee accompanied by some pastries).
One of the laneways in Gamla Stan, Stockholm
A stone’s throw away from the square sits the Royal Palace. The Royal Palace is the official residence of the King of Sweden. The Queen’s official residence lies elsewhere in the equally impressive Drottningholm Palace – which is on our list to see on day 3. The Royal Palace was designed by renowned architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger and was built between 1697 and 1754. The Royals have their offices at the palace and host offical state ceremonies. As well, the Royal Palace is home to four museums which you can visit. A large chunk of the palace’s 600 rooms are open to the public for you to admire the sumptuous interiors and priceless works of art however, due to its sheer size, you can get ‘palace fatigue’ and may want to move on to experience other things Stockholm has to offer. However, I do recommend a visit the Royal Palace’s Royal Armory. This is the oldest museum in Sweden having been founded in 1628 the name is misleading since it is not so much about weapons as the ceremonial aspects. It contains many Swedish artefacts pertaining to Sweden’s military history including ceremonial costumes and elaborate carriages.
Other buildings you will see while out and about in Stockholm are the Swedish Parliament Building, Stockholm Cathedral and the Stockholm Town Hall which is one of Stockholm’s most recognisable buildings. It is made of a 8 million dark red bricks and its tower has three golden crowns with the Swedish coat of arms. Quite spectacular. Even more spectacular is the inside with the Viking themed Council Chamber, the Blue Hall and the Golden Hall. The Blue Hall is known as the venue of the Nobel Prize banquet that takes place every December.
To end your day head to Östermalm aka the ‘Upper East Side’ or ‘Belgravia’ of Stockholm and is one of the largest and most populous areas of Stockholm. It is a big residential area but is also home tomany fashion boutiques and top restaurants and cozy cafes. To relieve your hunger, check out Östermalms Saluhall, the world’s 7th best food hall. It was first opened in 1888 and has been loved by world-famous chefs and locals alike ever since. You will find all kinds of delectable Swedish food including seafood, vegetarian, meats and sweets. End your day with a hearty meal after a long day of walking.
Day 2 – Djurgården, The Island of Museums
Fun Fact: Stockholm is home to approximately 100 museums with remarkable collections. It is one of the most densely packed museum-cities in the world. Get ready to explore some of them on day 2 of this 3 day Stockholm itinerary.
As mentioned Stockholm is spread over 14 islands and is often referred to as ‘The Venice of the North’ and so a tour of the canals is a must. So for day 2 on this day 3 day visit to Stockholm discover the Stockholm’s waterways. Only available during the warmer months as the canals freeze over during winter, a tour of the waterways of about 50 minutes will give a great insight into Stockholm. After this tour head to Djurgården, an island in the middle of Stockholm, famous for its amusement parks, museums, and galleries. There are plenty of places to visit including Swedish History Museum, National Museum and the Modern Art Museum however, my choice for today are these following. Another day to wear good walking shoes as you will be on you feet a lot!
Vasa sits waiting for a visit in the Vasa Museum
No visit to Stockholm would be complete without visiting the Vasa Museum. It is one of the most popular museums in Scandinavia. The maritime museum is home to the immaculately restored 17th-century warship, the Vasa, which sank in Stockholm harbour on her maiden voyage in 1628. Three hundred years later she was recovered and her restoration begun and completed. And believe me, she is impressive. The ship is massive, its length is about 69 metres with its main base more than 52 metres tall. What makes the ship so impressive is its decoration – some 500 sculptures and 200 ornaments. Yes, impressive. As well as seeing the ship there are some 12,000 objects that were pulled up with the ship that you can see. Plus, there are plenty of interactive exhibits allowing you to understand how the ship was built, what life was like in Stockholm during the ship’s building plus loads more. The Vasa Museum is open daily and you can easily spend hours here.
If feeling hungry, head to Ulla Windbladh, a fabulous restaurant known for serving traditional and modern Swedish cuisine. It is very popular with locals on Djurgården and you can enjoy the food too!
Next museum on the list could be the ABBA Museum, no matter whether you’re a fan or not. The museum tells the story of one of the most successful Swedish pop bands in the world. The band’s stage clothes, concert footage, interviews, and much more are gathered in one place for you to see. There’s even a possibility to dance and sing with the holograms of ABBA. The achievements of the group are showcased from a historical perspective, helping you to understand the phenomenon of the legendary band.
If you can fit it in, head to Skansen to see how Swedes lived many centuries back. It opened in 1891 and is the oldest open-air museum in the world, allowing you to discover the history of the country and the people. Wild animals, country houses, and farmlands make you feel like one of the locals. Some 150 historical farms and dwellings from over Sweden were transported to Skansen for their museum to showcase the life of Swedish peoples. Step back in time with glass-blowers, bakers and other craftsmen to discover their skills.
If you are in Stockholm between May to September you could visit Gröna Lund. This is Sweden’s oldest amusement park and has been around since the 1880s. With over 30 rides including a wooden roller coaster, there is plenty of food and amusements to enjoy – what a great place to end your day on Djurgården.
Day 3 – Another Palace, then shop till you drop with a beer or two
For the morning of day 3 on this 3 day Stockholm visit I suggest you head out to the beautiful Drottningholm Palace. It dates from the 17th century and is based on French and Italian architecture and Sweden’s royal family has been using part of the palace as a private residence since 1981. On your visit to the palace there are a number of areas to take in. The Court Theatre is the oldest in the world. There is the Chinese Pavilion, the surrounding English style gardens with a maze, and my favourite part, the Great Staircase dominating the centre of palace. Second favourite is Queen Hedvig Eleonora’s State Bedroom – very glitzy! The Palace was added to the World Heritage Site list by UNESCO in 1991.
After time at the Drottningholm Palace head back into Stockholm to enjoy some shopping. Sweden is known for products such as glassware, stainless-steel, ceramics, silver, furniture and textiles. Just north of Gamla Stan is Norrmalm, the commercial heart of Stockholm. It is well known for its department stores, shopping malls, exclusive boutiques, and nightspots. And some of the best streets for shopping in Stockholm are Drottninggatan and Hamngatan where you will find major department stores like Åhlens City, Nordiska Kompaniet (NK) and Biblioteksgatan which is like America’s Fifth Avenue of Stockholm and is home to luxury brand-name boutiques. There are also plenty of shops to pick up souvenirs like the Dala wooden horse. Can I say, I love using my treasured glass serving plate from ‘Boda’ that I purchased in Sweden.
If you still want more shopping head to Södermalm which is south of Gamla Stan. Södermalm is characterised by its dramatic landscape of craggy cliffs, turrets and towers. Once known as the ‘slum’ of Stockholm, this area has transformed itself after industry left and creative types moved in. Södermalm now features is most ‘hipster’ neighbourhood lists in the world. And you will see why when you walk around the streets where there are plenty of unique shops, vintage stores and galleries. Hornsgatan and Götgatan in particular are full of small shops selling bric-a-brac. Other hip streets of note to explore are Åsögatan, Bondegatan, and Skånegatan. The prettiest street, I thought, n Södermalm is Fjällgatan, an old-fashioned cobblestone street with old wooden cottages.
While ambling around Södermalm, check out Mariaberget, with its stone buildings, alleys and winding streets – so don’t forget to wear those good walking shoes you have worn for the last couple of days! While wondering around Mariaberget go to the Monteliusvägen Viewpoint. It is a narrow path on the shore of Söderalm. From there you can see the church Riddarholmskyrka, the royal palace, and Gamla Stan.
If you’ve read the bestseller books of the Millenium Trilogy from Stieg Larsson’s, you can join the Millenium Tour that takes you to the main spots of the novel. Mikael Blomqvist and Lisbeth Salander reside in Södermalm. Blomqvist lives in a penthouse at Bellmansgatan 1 just beside Monteliusvägen, while Salander lives in an apartment at Fiskargatan 9. Book your trip on the Millennium tour here.
With all the walking, sightseeing and shopping, why not cap off this 3 day Stockholm itinerary with a drink and a meal in one of the many pubs in Södermalm. There are a number of craft brews available in places such as Omnipollos hatt or Nostrano where you can also get great traditional, or not so traditional Swedish meals. What a great way to end your visit to Stockholm.
This is an action packed 3 day itinerary for Stockholm with lots of walking involved. But I’m sure, when you follow it – or choose which parts to follow – you will experience a lot of what Stockholm has to offer and the Swedish way of life. I’d love to hear if you have been, or are planning to go to Stockholm in the comments following. And if you want to extend your time in Stockholm or another part of Sweden find out how you could spend a year there on a working holiday.
Sharyn McCullum has travelled all her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. She loves travelling to different countries to immerse herself in the culture and in particular, enjoy the food. She currently calls Melbourne, Australia home.