The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Stockholm, Sweden

Photo of Stockholm From Södermalm

Stockholm holds the same intrinsic reserve that most Nordic cities do, but it’s certainly not shy. Its slogan—“The Capital of Scandinavia”—hardly fits in with Janteloven

One could argue that said slogan has an element of truth; after all, Stockholm is the largest city in Scandinavia. And whenever people think of this part of the world, many likely think about snow, ABBA, and meatballs. 

But Stockholm is much, much more than clichés. Sitting alongside its timeless architecture is a thriving technology sector that has inspired some of the world’s biggest companies, including Spotify and Klarna. Food hasn’t been spared from that innovation, either; new restaurants with global influences have popped up all over town. 

Sweden’s capital seamlessly blends in with its environment. The city is waiting for you to explore it, and this beginner’s guide will tell you everything you need to know—including how to get here and ways to navigate it when you arrive. 

Basic Information

  • Currency: Swedish Krona (SEK) 
  • Official Language: Swedish; English widely spoken
  • Time Zone: CEST (One hour ahead of GMT) 
  • Population: 975,551 (2020) 

What Are Stockholm’s Main Neighbourhoods?

As a metropolitan area, Stockholm is pretty spread out. But if we’re talking about the city centre, the main neighbourhoods you’ll stay in and explore aren’t far from each other—and they’re all connected by a vast network of bridges. 

To help you navigate your way around, you can find a description for each of Stockholm’s main neighbourhoods below. 

Gamla Stan

As a first-time visitor, Gamla Stan should be the first neighbourhood you explore. Yes, it’s crowded—but Stockholm’s old town is one of those touristy spots that is justifiably popular. 

Gamla Stan is the Swedish capital’s geographical centre. You can easily feel like you’ve suddenly been transported to a cute Italian town when wandering its cobblestone streets and admiring the adorable old houses; the only difference is that the weather is slightly chillier.

The best way to explore Stockholm’s old town is to not follow any route whatsoever. On each of the main streets, several smaller pathways branch off in various directions. Take the time to detour and take in each of these; each is a hidden gem with nowhere near the same level of crowds. 

When you visit Stockholm, Gamla Stan is a convenient place to stay. Moreover, you’ll find plenty of places to eat and grab a coffee. Keep in mind, though, that prices are higher in this part of town.

Södermalm

Okay, I’m just going to let bias creep in for a moment—Södermalm is by far my favourite neighbourhood in Stockholm. This district lies just south of Gamla Stan and is a hotbed of trendy second-hand stores, with some great views of the city thrown in. 

Södermalm has transformed from a working-class district to a hip part of town with a creative crowd. It’s a laid back district with several parks to enjoy the long summer days, plus some excellent bakeries and cafés where you can enjoy fika while the weather doesn’t play fair. 

Perhaps some of Södermalm’s creative atmosphere stems from how accommodating it is for photographers. Here, you’ll find Fotogafiska—one of the world’s best museums dedicated to the craft. And from Monteliusvägen, Skinnarviksberget and Fjällgatan, you can capture some superb shots of the city from above. 

Södermalm is connected to Stockholm’s other central districts by the Metro; Slussen is the primary entry point, with several lines running from T-Centralen and Gamla Stan. The district also has a wide network of buses travelling to the outer suburbs, plus a ferry terminal so you can travel to Djurgården. 

Norrmalm 

Norrmalm is the first entry point for most visitors to Stockholm. The city’s main train station is located in this district, which stretches north of the city centre. 

This district is less residential than many of the capital’s other central areas. It’s home to several stores, many of which you’ll find on Drottninggatan and in the huge Åhléns department store. It’s a great place to stay, though, with several hotels—some of which are a fraction of what you’ll pay in other parts of Stockholm. 

Norrmalm has several transport links to the city’s other districts. Every metro line feeds into T-Centralen, with the tram taking you to Djurgården and commuter trains taking you to areas further afield. You can also catch trains and buses to Arlanda Airport. 

Östermalm

Östermalm screams elegance as soon as you enter the neighbourhood. Besides being one of the most expensive parts of Stockholm to live in, it’s also where the wealthy play at night. 

Östermalm has a considerable selection of high-end restaurants and cocktail bars, along with a popular food hall. The district is also home to several museums, including the Swedish History Museum. You can also find several high-end Swedish fashion brands here, including Acne Studios and J. Lindeberg. 

You can reach Östermalm by foot from several parts of Stockholm, and the walk along the waterfront is particularly pleasant during the summer. But if you’re feeling lazier, you can get here by tram, metro, and bus. 

Kungsholmen

Kungsholmen is one of the Swedish capital’s lesser-explored districts and also one of the most residential. It’s a stone’s throw away from central Stockholm, with the city hall being located on this island. 

But besides the imposing city hall, this sleepy district has a lot to offer if you’re looking to get away from the crowds. Kungsholmen has several bars and restaurants, in addition to a number of green spaces. You can also go for a peaceful walk or run along the waterfront, which is satisfying in both summer and winter. 

Kungsholmen is connected to central Stockholm by the metro, with Rådhuset being the primary station. You can also get to the other districts by bus. 

Further Afield

Besides its main central districts, Stockholm has a couple of other suburbs that might take your attention. 

Hammarby Sjöstad is technically part of Södermalm, but it feels like a separate district in its own right. This part of the city is a former industrial area that has been redeveloped into swanky modern apartments, with good connections to the city centre by bus and ferry. 

Solna, meanwhile, is just outside of the city centre and one of Sweden’s most sought-after areas to live. The Friends Arena is located here, with several sporting events and concerts taking place throughout the year. 

You’ll also find the huge Mall of Scandinavia in Solna, where you’ll find several shopping opportunities. The district is connected to central Stockholm by the commuter train and metro. 

Stockholm’s Inner City Islands

In addition to the huge archipelago that spreads out into the Baltic Sea, Stockholm has several other inner-city islands that will almost certainly form part of your visit. Below, you’ll find a brief overview for three of the most important ones. 

Djurgården

Scenic Djurgården is perfect for getting out of the city and into nature. This sizable island has extensive walking and cycling routes, plus some of Stockholm’s best museums. 

Djurgården is home to the impressive Vasa Museum, where you can see a huge vessel that sank in the 17th century. Also worth checking out is Nordiska Museet, which does an excellent job at showcasing the people and cultures that make the Nordic region so unique. 

On Djurgården, you’ll also find Gröna Lund—a popular theme park for Swedes and visitors alike. 

The most scenic way to get to Djurgården is via the ferry, but buses and trams also serve this part of Stockholm. 

Skeppsholmen

It’s easy to get Skeppsholmen and Djurgården mixed up; like its larger counterpart, Skeppsholmen has some interesting museums worth exploring. The Stockholm Toy Museum is located here, and so is Moderna Museet. 

But the most pleasurable activity on Skeppsholmen is to walk around and take in the waterside views of Gamla Stan, Södermalm, and Djurgården. The island is pretty small, making it easy to explore if you’re short on time. 

To get to Skeppsholmen, head over the bridge connecting the island with central Stockholm. Alternatively, you can take the ferry from Djurgården. 

Riddarholmen

Quaint Riddarholmen is an excellent introduction to Gamla Stan. The island has one of Stockholm’s most beautiful churches and is a great spot for photography. 

Getting to Riddarholmen from other parts of Stockholm is simple. Gamla Stan’s metro station isn’t far away, and you can also walk here from the central part of the city. 

Transport in Stockholm

If exploring Stockholm seems a little confusing for you at the moment, don’t worry; the city has an excellent public transport system. Below, you’ll see an overview of the different ways you can get around Sweden’s capital—plus information on how to buy tickets. 

Metro

Stockholm’s metro network consists of 100 stations. It has seven lines, all of which feed into T-Centralen. These lines are colour-coded as follows: 

  • Blue: Line 10 (Kungsträdgården-Hjulsta); Line 11 (Kungsträdgården-Akalla) 
  • Green: Line 17 (Skarpnäck-Åkeshov); Line 18 (Farsta Strand-Alvik); Line 19 (Hagsätra-Hässelby Strand)
  • Red: Line 13 (Norsborg, Ropsten); Line 14 (Fruängen-Mörby Centrum)

Stockholm’s metro trains are frequent and reliable. On weekdays, they begin running at 5am and stop at 1am—and on Fridays and Saturdays, they run round-the-clock. 

Ferry 

The prettiest way to get around Stockholm is by ferry. You’ll almost certainly use the Djurgårdsfärjan route, which operates between Slussen, Skeppsholmen and Djurgården. 

You might also use Line 80, which stops in a lot more places than the previously-mentioned one. This route runs between Nybroplan to Ropsten, stopping at the likes of Nacka and Frösvik along the way. 

Also part of SL’s ferry network is Line 89, running between Klara Mälarstrand and Tappström. 

If you want to experience the Stockholm archipelago, Vaxholm is the easiest to reach from the city centre. You can use Line 83 to get there, but this is operated by Waxholmsbolaget. 

Bus 

Stockholm has several bus routes that take you from the suburbs into the city centre in little time, along with connecting you to each central district. In central Stockholm, you’ll find the bus particularly useful if it’s cold and you don’t want to walk to the closest metro station. 

If you’re coming in from the suburbs, the bus might not run straight into the city centre. Instead, you’ll be transported to another means of transport—such as the metro—where you can continue your journey. 

Train 

Stockholm has a small but effective commuter train network. Trains stop at several outposts, including Solna and Sollentuna. 

You can get the commuter train all the way to Uppsala, which is a popular day trip from the capital. However, if you plan to travel beyond Upplands Väsby—including to Arlanda Airport—you must buy a ticket that covers this distance. 

Tram

Stockholm has a small network of trams; in the city centre, Line 7 is  an efficient way to get from the main square to Djurgården. From Norrmalmstorg, you might also get lucky and have the chance to hop on the 7N heritage line towards Djurgården. These run daily in the summer, with a limited schedule in the winter months. 

Elsewhere, Lines 30 and 31 operate between Solna and Sickla. Meanwhile, Line 21 transports passengers from Ropsten to Gåshaga Brygga—and Line 12 runs between Nockeby and Alvik. 

How to Buy Transport Tickets in Stockholm

Most of Stockholm’s public transport is included within a unified ticket, meaning that you can combine different modes—such as the metro and ferry—without needing to purchase separate journeys. You can buy tickets from the machines in every station, while it’s also possible to do so through the SL smartphone app.

A single ticket costs 38 SEK and is valid for 75 minutes. You can also buy tickets that last for longer; these let you travel unlimited within those specific timeframes and are priced as follows. 

  • 24 hours: 160 SEK
  • 72 hours: 315 SEK 
  • Seven days: 415 SEK

If you love Stockholm so much that you decide to stay longer, you can buy tickets that last 30 and 90 days; these cost 950 and 2,760 SEK respectively. Meanwhile, annual tickets are priced at 9,980 SEK. 

If you’re under 20 or over 65, or you have a Swedish student ID card with the SL logo, you can get discounted fares on your journeys. 

How to Get To and From Stockholm

Thanks to a whole host of transport options, Stockholm is easy to reach from all corners of Europe. Below are the different ways you can get to and from the Swedish capital. 

Air 

Stockholm is primarily served by Arlanda Airport. 

The Arlanda Express is the quickest way to get into the city centre, with the average journey time being 18 minutes. However, it’s also the most expensive. A single-person return ticket if you’re aged 26 and above costs 579 SEK. 

Travelling on the Arlanda Express is a lot more affordable if you’re under 25, with a return costing 298 SEK. 

Children aged eight and under travel for free on the Arlanda Express, and the same is true for those from 8-17-years-old that are accompanied by a paying traveller. 

If you travel as a group, you can knock the full price down quite significantly: 

  • Two tickets: 379 SEK return
  • Three tickets: 479 SEK return
  • Four tickets: 579 SEK return 

A cheaper way to get into Stockholm is the commuter train, which costs 159 SEK for a single ticket; the journey takes roughly 36 minutes. Coaches are the most affordable mode of transport between the airport and city, with the journey taking anywhere from 34-45 minutes. 

Bromma Airport is much closer to the city centre. It mainly serves domestic flights, with a small selection of international routes to the likes of Helsinki, Riga, and Brussels. To get into central Stockholm, take the tram to Alvik and change for the metro to T-Centralen. 

Many budget airlines fly to Skavsta Airport, but beware—it’s around 100 kilometres from Stockholm. The coach costs 199 SEK, and the journey time is roughly 80 minutes. 

Sea

Perhaps the most scenic way to travel to Stockholm is by sea. Several international ferries and cruises serve the Swedish capital, including Tallink. 

Stockholm is reachable from Helsinki and Turku in Finland, along with the Åland Islands. You can also travel in this way from Riga and Tallinn. 

Rail

If you’re travelling from somewhere else in Scandinavia, getting to Stockholm by train might be a little less stressful than flying. From Stockholm Central Station, you can travel all the way to Narvik in the Norwegian Arctic. 

Stockholm also has direct trains to other parts of Sweden, including Gothenburg, Malmö, Kiruna and Luleå. Further afield, you can hop on a high-speed train from both Copenhagen and Oslo. 

Long-distance travel in Sweden is efficient, comfortable, and affordable; the best way to save money is by booking at least a few weeks in advance. If you’re under 26, you can get discounts on your tickets. 

Weather and Daylight Hours 

Stockholm has four very distinct seasons. Summer days are long, with over 18 hours of daylight in June. Moreover, the weather is often agreeable. 

Contrastingly, the winters are long, cold, and dark. In December, the sun sets before 3pm and you’ll get little over six hours of daylight—though cloud cover can make it sometimes feel like you’re in never-ending darkness. 

Spring and autumn are a little more volatile weather-wise, and it’s worth noting that both seasons are shorter than in other parts of Europe. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of the weather and daylight hours in Stockholm throughout the year: 

Spring

Temperatures

  • March: Between -2ºC and 4ºC, with warmer temperatures towards the end of the month
  • April: Between 2ºC and 10ºC, with some days creeping into the teens
  • May: Between 7ºC and 16ºC; mornings are still quite chilly

Daylight Hours

  • March 21: 05:46 (Sunrise); 18:04 (Sunset)
  • April 21: 05:16 (Sunrise); 20:17 (Sunset)
  • May 21: 04:02 (Sunrise); 21:27 (Sunset)

Summer

Temperatures

  • June: Between 11 and 21ºC; higher temperatures are possible
  • July: Between 14ºC and 23ºC, with the possibility of mid to high twenties
  • August: Between 14ºC and 21ºC; cooler temperatures towards the end of the month

Daylight Hours

  • June 21: 03:30 (Sunrise); 22:08 (Sunset)
  • July 21: 04:08 (Sunrise); 21:38 (Sunset)
  • August 21: 05:18 (Sunrise); 20:21 (Sunset)

Autumn

Temperatures

  • September: Between 10ºC and 16ºC; expect colder mornings towards the end of the month where the temperature drops into single digits
  • October: Between 5ºC and 10ºC; colder morning temperatures are possible 

Daylight Hours

  • September 21: 06:29 (Sunrise); 18:50 (Sunset)
  • October 21: 07:39 (Sunrise); 17:23 (Sunset)

Winter

Temperatures

  • November: Between 1ºC and 5ºC; colder temperatures likely towards the end of the month 
  • December: Between 2ºC and -2ºC; not uncommon for temperatures to remain below freezing for several consecutive days 
  • January: Between 0ºC and -4ºC; days where it drops to -10ºC and below are possible 
  • February: Between 0ºC and -4ºC; can still drop significantly below freezing

Daylight Hours

  • November 21: 07:55 (Sunrise); 15:10 (Sunset)
  • December 21: 08:43 (Sunrise); 14:48 (Sunset)
  • January 21: 08:21 (Sunrise); 15:37 (Sunset) 
  • February 21: 07:08 (Sunrise); 15:56 (Sunset) 

What to Eat in Stockholm

If you were to discuss foodie destinations with your friends, Stockholm probably wouldn’t be the first name you mention. However, Sweden’s capital has a broad range of culinary experiences—and its scene will surprise you if you give it the chance to. 

So, what should you eat in Stockholm? Let’s take a look.

Meatballs 

We might as well deal with the elephant in the room straight away. Anyone who has spent longer than two seconds in IKEA will know all about Swedish meatballs, and Stockholm is the perfect place to try them in their natural habitat. 

Throughout the city, you’ll find several places to try this popular dish. Options include: 

  • Husmann’s Deli, Östermalm 
  • Meatballs for the People, Södermalm
  • Nomad Bar, Norrmalm 

Seafood

Sweden’s coastline is huge and as you might expect, seafood is an important part of the country’s culture. From personal experience, I’ve found this to be less so in Stockholm compared to the West Coast—but that doesn’t mean it’s a culinary wasteland. 

Almost every hotel will serve some kind of salmon with their breakfast buffet, and pickled herring is also popular. If you want to go out to a restaurant and try something bigger, consider Wedholms Fisk near Kungsträdgården and Sturehof in Östermalm. 

Buns

Without exaggerating too much, it should be mandatory to consume at least one cinnamon bun when visiting Sweden (unless you’re allergic or something). You’ve got no shortage of options in Stockholm, and almost all of them are good.

If you don’t like cinnamon buns, you might find that cardamom buns are an attractive alternative. You’ll find these in almost every bakery throughout the city. 

Things to Do in Stockholm 

Stockholm is one of those cities with something for everyone. To ensure that you have the most rewarding trip possible, below’s list consists mainly of authentic local experiences—with a bit of the touristy stuff thrown in for good measure. 

Fika 

Many people, myself included, mistake fika for being a pastry when they first hear the word. And while it often includes some of the sweet stuff, buying a cinnamon bun isn’t mandatory. 

Fika is hard to directly translate in English, but it effectively involves taking a break. Coffee and pastries are often involved, and you’ll see plenty of Swedes Fika’ing (or whatever the verbal term of the word is) in cafés throughout Stockholm. 

Three places to enjoy a Fika break in Stockholm include: 

  • St:Paul Bageri, Sankt Pauls Gatan 
  • Skeppsbro Bakery, Skeppsbron 
  • Bröd och Salt, Citywide  

Winter Bathing

When it’s cold for so much of the year, you might as well make the most of it. People from the Nordics take this to the extreme with winter bathing, which is also popular in Sweden. 

Dipping in cold water has several health benefits. It can relieve stress and improve your immune system, while also helping you get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

If you choose to winter bathe, remember: 

  • Only swim in designated areas
  • Never swim while intoxicated 
  • Breathe 

Tours 

To learn about Stockholm on a deeper level, it’s a good idea to join one of the many tours available in the city. Consider joining a free walking tour, where you can learn from a local guide about Stockholm’s most iconic spots; you can choose to pay them however much you want to. 

Considering that water is such a crucial part of Stockholm’s geography, you should also consider hopping on a boat tour. Stromma operates several tours throughout the day, with various departure points. 

Money 

Whether you think Stockholm is expensive or not will depend on where you come from. I grew up in London and live in Copenhagen, so to me, the city isn’t pricey at all. If you’re from Southern or Eastern Europe, however, you’ll notice a significant price difference. 

One thing to note is that alcohol is expensive in Stockholm, and eating out can cost a lot too. Below is a rundown of what you can roughly expect to pay for various items: 

  • Filter coffee: 35 SEK 
  • 0.5cl beer: 50-60 SEK 
  • A restaurant meal: Anywhere between 120 and 300+ SEK

If you live outside the EU (apart from in Norway or on the Åland Islands), you can take advantage of tax-free shopping in Sweden and get up to 17.5% back when you spend 200 SEK or more. Global Blue has more information about that here.

Stockholm Has a Lot to Offer

Stockholm is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and has a lot to offer regardless of the time of year you travel. The Swedish capital is a strong global innovator with a sense of tradition, making it an intriguing place to explore. 

Getting to the Swedish capital is simple, and navigating your way around is even easier. You could easily spend a week here and not get bored, and the same is true even if you visit several times in the future. 

Having read this guide, you should have a basic understanding of what you need to know when visiting Stockholm for the first time. All that’s left for you to do is book your flights and get exploring!

Published by Danny Maiorca

Danny is a freelance writer living in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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