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What to do in Stockholm in a day

view of Stockholm, Sweden

Is 24 hours really enough time to explore the full scope of any city? Maybe not, but if planned correctly, it is enough time to scratch its surface and experience the city’s unique character, flavours, and historic landmarks. You may only have 24 hours in Stockholm, but this should not stop you from making every second count. 

Stockholm, known as the ‘Venice of the North,’ is a unique and incredibly walkable city. Surrounded by an archipelago, it is a medium-sized capital city perfect for exploring on foot. Imagine bridges, canals, a fusion of historic and modern architecture, and, of course, the iconic Swedish meatballs. Here’s what to do when you only have one day in Stockholm.

A very brief introduction to Swedish history

Although you may understandably associate Sweden with Viking conquests, humans have lived here since 12 000 BC. Several stone tools and stone-age dwelling places are evidence of communities from 8000-6000 BC that subsisted on hunting, gathering, and fishing.

Sweden’s most iconic historical period is the Viking Age (800-1050 AD). During this time, the Vikings expanded outwards to plunder, trade, and control trade routes of lucrative furs and slaves. In 1167 AD, Knut, also known as Canute I, unified Sweden and ruled until his death in 1196 AD. 

Stockholm, the city of bridges, Sweden

Image source:Janine Magnin

Stockholm city in a nutshell – the Venice of the north

Stockholm was officially founded in 1252 AD by Birger Jarl, a Swedish statesman. Although this claim is in dispute, his administration of Stockholm resulted in the city becoming the administrative centre of Sweden.  

The Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea swings in from the Atlantic Ocean and offered the Vikings an easy avenue to trade and raid. Stockholm is uniquely positioned where the Baltic Sea meets Lake Mälaren, making it a major port. 

Stockholm’s Archipelago

Stockholm is a cluster of 30,000 islands, skerries (rocky islands), and rocks, known by the locals as the ‘skärgården’. You can hop from island to island on a ferry or visit Fjäderholmarna, the closest island to Stockholm and only 30 minutes away. 

Modern Norrmalm – Stockholm’s city centre

Norrmalm is Stockholm’s ultra-modern city centre, known for its dining and shopping. The public transport system makes it easy to reach, and accommodation is cheaper here than in the old town.

Cobbled streets of Gamla Stan (Old Town)

Gamla Stan is Stockholm’s old town. You can find the Royal Palace here and watch the changing of the guards. It consists of four islands, beautiful churches, and cobbled streets.

Trendy Södermalm

Södermalm is Stockholm’s trendy area, known for its bohemian artisanal shops and music. Here, you can rub shoulders with celebrities and the hottest modern trend-setters. The Old Town is a short walk from the northern part of this hip and happening part of Stockholm. 

Affordable Kungsholmen

This island sits just to the left of the Old Town and offers open spaces, parks, and modern residential living. Accommodation here is usually more affordable.

Stockholm for the weekend: how to spend the perfect 48 hours

Stockholm for the weekend: how to spend the perfect 48 hours

Ginny Copestake
by Ginny Copestake Jul 08, 2015

Things to do in Stockholm

When you only have one day in Stockholm, you’ve got to be selective. Here’s a list of options to pick from. Why not make your own list and prioritise your top choices depending on your personal interests? Add extra options to fill in any spare time you might still have.

1. Explore Sweden’s nautical history at the Vasa museum

Named after the Vasa ship, which sank in 1628, the Vasa Museum is Scandanavia’s most visited museum and home to the world’s best-preserved 17th-century ship. You can download free audio guides and listen while exploring the museum and the history of Vasa.

The Vasa was named after the Vasa dynasty, which once ruled Sweden. In 1625, the Vasa king, Gustav II Adolf, commissioned four ships to be built to help make Sweden a European powerhouse. It was considered a fiasco, and the Vasa sank within one mile of its launch. It was a diplomatic nightmare and an expensive mess. 

Finally, over 300 years later, the Vasa was freed from its watery grave, restored and preserved over the course of 50 years. It is now available for the public to view and is an incredible example of a 17th-century Swedish warship.

Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden

Image source:Hongbin / unsplash

2. Amuse yourself at Gröna Lund’s amusement park

Founded in 1883, Gröna Lund is Sweden’s oldest amusement park. Here, adrenalin junkies can get their fix on thirty different rides, dine in a choice of restaurants, and enjoy live summer concerts. 

3. Enjoy panoramic views from Stockholm’s city hall

Considered one of Stockholm’s most iconic buildings, Stockholm’s City Hall tower stands 106 metres tall and offers incredible panoramic views of the city. Located in City Hall Park, you can walk along the water’s edge and discover sculptures, fountains, and quiet resting places. 

4. Become Abba’s fifth member at the Abba museum

Here, you can finally face your Waterloo and immerse yourself in all things Abba. Audio guides take you on an interactive journey along Abba’s incredible career, distinctive costumes, instruments, and gold records. 

5. Explore antiquity in Stockholm’s Cathedral (Storykyrkan)

Storkyrkan was built in 1279 and is found at the centre of the Old Town, Gamla Stan. It has been a Lutheran church since 1527 and houses some unique sculptures and paintings, such as St George and the Dragon (1489) and Vädersolstavlan, or ‘The Sundog Painting’ (1535). 

Storkyrkan’s rich history attracts the world’s finest organists, who play weekly concerts. What more can you ask for – fine art, world-class music, and services held within an ancient cathedral that has been the heart of a nation’s culture, politics and religion for numerous centuries? 

Enjoy Swedish traditions and Fika in Dalarna’s hidden gem: Torgåsgården

Enjoy Swedish traditions and Fika in Dalarna’s hidden gem: Torgåsgården

Charlie Fabre
by Charlie Fabre Oct 26, 2023

A day in Stockholm itinerary

1. Arlanda express

When you only have one day in Stockholm, time is of the essence. Getting from place to place can be time-consuming and eat into those precious 24 hours. So, you have to be selective. First, take the Arlanda Express directly into the town centre from the airport. With no stops, it’ll only take 18 minutes to get to the city’s central station.  

2. Walk around Gamla Stan

It’s only a 15-minute walk to Gamla Stan from Stockholm’s Central Station. Wander the cobbled streets, soak up the historic vibes, admire the facades, and enjoy the charming shops and restaurants. Keep an eye out for Viking runestones on the buildings on Prästgatan and Kåkbrinken’s street corners. 

Other places of note in Gamla Stan are The Nobel Prize Museum, the Royal Palace, the Royal Armoury and fashion history museum, Storkyrkan Cathedral, and the Jewish Museum.

3. Eat cinnamon buns

Ahh – cinnamon buns. What pastry better sums up the tastes and pleasures of Sweden? They even celebrate Cinnamon Bun Day on the 4th of October every year. These sweetly spiced, coiled delicacies are delicious, and a trip to Sweden would not be complete without a taste. Look for one of the Bröd & Salt shops, which is said to produce some of the best examples.

cinnamon buns

Image source:Contiki

4. Visit Stockholm’s bars and restaurants

Just a word of warning—always carry your proof of age. The Swedish bouncers won’t let you in without it, and I speak from experience. 

Den Gyldene Freden

Den Gyldene Freden has served customers in its present position since 1722 and is one of the oldest restaurants in the world. Anders Zorn, a Swedish painter, saved it from bankruptcy in the 1900s and gave it to The Swedish Academy – the organisation that chose the Nobel Prize laureate in literature. Members of the Swedish Academy still gather here to dine every Thursday night. 

Munkbron

We may only rent beer briefly, but we can still enjoy its taste and the environments in which we sip the golden brew. Stockholm is known for its many bars and beer culture. Munkbron is a microbrewery and beer hall in the Old Town that serves its own beer on tap.  

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An In-Depth Guide to Celebrating Swedish Midsummer

by Vy Spear Jun 20, 2016

5. Explore the Gröna Lund amusement park

If you’re done exploring the Old Town, why not hop on a ferry from Slussen and visit the Gröna Lund amusement park? The ferry ride is only 8 minutes long. This will take a significant part of your day, but it’s your day to spend as you want.

6. Visit the Modern Art Museum (Moderna Museet)

Moderna Museet is only a 20-minute walk from the Old Town and features prominent 20th-century and contemporary modern art collections. 

This is by no means a complete list of options. Stockholm is an ancient and fascinating city to explore, and more than 24 hours will be needed. But you can make it work if that’s all you’ve got. Know your budget and do some homework before you arrive. It’ll save you heaps of time and make the one day you’ve got far less stressful. 

If you’re exploring Sweden beyond your one day in Stockholm, you may be interested in staying in Torgåsgården. It’s a family-run hostel in the dense forests of Dalarna’s mountains, offering hiking, biking, and kayaking. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about Swedish culture and mythology and immerse yourself in evocative Swedish history and mystery.

Make it easy on yourself and visit Stockholm with Contiki!

Organised tours take out all the research and planning and make exploring new cities easy. They organise your accommodation and many of your meals and help you focus on the highlights of a city when time is of the essence. Contiki’s Scandinavia trip takes you from Copenhagen to Stockholm and includes an Orientation tour, an Old Town tour and a changing of the guards experience. 

Another option is this 17-day trip to Scandinavia and Best of Baltics, which takes you through six countries, including Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. It also includes tours of the Old Town and watching the changing of the guards at the Royal Palace.

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