Stockholm is not only the capital of Sweden, but it is also by far the largest city in the country. It has around 925.000 inhabitants in the city and almost 1.400.000 in its urban area. This means that almost one out of six people in Sweden lives in the capital.
Stockholm is nowadays a part of the county of Stockholm. It was previously a part of the provinces of Uppland in the north and Södermanland in the south.
We will here try to give you a little inspiration if you are going to visit Stockholm, are planning to travel here, or if you just want to know a little bit more about the city. This is also a post that most likely will be updated with more information in the future.
A Short History of Stockholm
The first written records of Stockholm date back to 1252. Its location at the straits connecting lake Mälaren – Sweden’s third largest lake – with the Baltic Sea made the city important for the iron trade. The city became the capital of Sweden in 1419.
One of the biggest events in Swedish history began in 1520 with the Stockholm Bloodbath. This was a time when Denmark, Norway, and Sweden formed the Kalmar Union. It was at this time that the Danish king – Christian II – decided to behead Nobels and burgers in Stockholm. This decision was the result of several earlier battles and sieges of the city. Many events followed and three years later Gustav Vasa besieged and conquered Stockholm, thus ending the Kalmar Union and becoming king of Sweden.
Even though Stockholm had the biggest population in Sweden at the end of the 15th century, it only had around 8000 inhabitants. This is also the time when Stockholm started to grow outside of the island where the Old Town is today.
The Royal Castle Tre Kronor was destroyed in a fire in 1697. It had been the seat of the king since the time of Gustav Vasa and it was located on the same spot where the Royal Palace stands today.
Let’s jump forward to modern history. The Stockholm metro began operations in 1933 and has since been expanded in several steps. It was in 1962 and 1967 that the demolition plans for large parts of Stockholm were accepted. This was to make way for what is today’s modern Stockholm.
10 Places to See in Stockholm
There is so much to see and do in Stockholm, so we try to limit ourselves to the center of Stockholm.
Stadshuset / The City Hall
The City Hall is probably one of the most iconic buildings in the city. The tower – with the three crowns on top – is probably one of the first sights you will see if you arrive by train from the south. It is also here that the royal family with guests celebrate the banquet for the Nobel Prize annually.
The construction of the City Hall was completed in 1923 and the tower is 106 meters tall. The building is the work of architect Ragnar Östberg. Today it is the home of the Municipal Council as well as offices for around 200 people. Especially during the summer couples queue in order to give their vows in the beautiful old building.
This is an open-air museum on Djurgården. Here you have the possibility to get to know Swedish traditions and history as well as the Swedish fauna. While walking around you see buildings from old farms, tents built by the Sami people as well as elks, bears, and other mammals. You find Skansen on the island of Djurgården, a few kilometers to the west of the Central Station.
On Tuesdays, during the summer this is the venue for the television show Allsång på Skansen. Artists perform, the crowd sings and people watch the show all over Sweden.
This is Sweden’s oldest amusement park dating back to the 1880s. It is here that you will find roller coasters and other rides. Here you enjoy a great view over Stockholm from the tower of Fritt Fall Tilt – an 80-meter tall tilting drop tower.
You will find Gröna Lund on the island of Djurgården, just next to Skansen.
Vasamuseet / The Vasa Museum
The Vasa Museum is a museum dedicated to the 17th-century ship Vasa. The ship was supposed to be the grandest of all ships in the Swedish navy. Engineering mistakes with the number of canons caused the ship to sink short after the start of its maiden voyage in 1628. The ship was salvaged in 1961 and is nowadays visible at the Vasa Museum. The museum is on Djurgården.
Naturhistoriska riksmuseet / The Swedish Museum of Natural History
The Swedish Museum of Natural History is located just next to the campus of Stockholm university in Frescati. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences founded the museum in 1819.
Here you find exhibitions about the dinosaurs, the polar region and a lot more. There is also an IMAX cinema, Cosmonova.
Gamla Stan and Riddarholmen
Most of the Old Town of Stockholm, Gamla stan in Swedish, is on the island of Stadsholmen. It also includes the surrounding islets of Riddarholmen, Helgeandsholmen and Strömsborg. This part of Stockholm is famous for its small and narrow streets and old architecture.
Here you find several of the main sights in Stockholm. Visitors and locals alike can explore the Royal Palace, the parliament building, the House of Nobility (Riddarhuset), the Stockholm Cathedral as well as the church on Riddarholmen (Riddarholmskyrkan). There are also great views across the water toward several other parts of Stockholm. You have a great view of the City Hall from Riddarholmen and of Skeppsholmen from the Royal Palace.
But you probably find the best view if you go to the hills on Södermalm, where you can see the whole Old Town from a distance.
Kungliga Slottet / The Royal Palace
This big block is hard to miss when you are walking around in the Old Town. The huge building has three floors and a total of 1430 rooms within its walls.
The construction of the palace began in 1697. However, it was not ready until 1760. Nicodemus Tessin the Younger and Carl Hårleman were the masterminds behind its construction.
You find guards around the palace and the guard change is something to consider spending some time seeing. The guard change occurs at 12:15 during the week and at 13:15 on the weekend.
Riksdagshuset / The Parliament Building
The building housing the Swedish parliament, or Riksdagen in Swedish, is one of the better landmarks in Stockholm when walking in the center. If you are walking along Drottninggatan the parliament building is just on the border when you are exiting the center and entering the Old Town.
The building was completed in 1905 and has since housed the parliament. It is the artwork of architect Aron Johansson.
This is one of the islands to the west of the center. It is here that you will find Skansen, Gröna Lund, The Vasa Museum, Junibacken, and several other attractions and sights. But it is also perfect for a walk in nature, to enjoy the view out over the water and the Stockholm Archipelago.
This is the island south of the Old Town. Here you find several great viewing spots that offer a nice view over the rest of Stockholm. This is also an area with several nice restaurants and bars.
Going to Stockholm?
Do you want to travel to Stockholm? Here are a few ways of going there:
- Car: A few major roads go through Stockholm heading both south, north and west.
- Bus: There are buses connecting Stockholm with almost all parts of Sweden and there are also some international lines.
- Train: There are long-distance trains connecting Stockholm with all corners of Sweden.
- Ferry: There are ferries connecting Stockholm with Mariehamn on the Åland Islands, with Turku and Helsinki in Finland, Tallinn in Estonia, and Riga in Latvia. Viking Line and Tallink Silja are the most important providers of ferry services on the Baltic Sea.
- Flights: There are 4 airports in the vicinity of Stockholm. Bromma is the closest to the center and it has mostly domestic flights. The largest airport is Arlanda, around 45 minutes from the center. Low-cost airlines usually fly to either Skavsta or Västerås.
The driving distance to Stockholm from 4 other major Swedish cities, according to Google Maps:
- Gothenburg – 471 kilometers (4 h 23 min)
- Malmö – 612 kilometers (5 h 34 min)
- Luleå – 904 kilometers (8 h 56 min)
- Linköping – 200 kilometers (1 h 58 min)
Find out more about other destinations in Sweden by visiting our page Exploring Sweden