A flight to Stockholm transports you to a city of exquisite beauty, stretched across 14 picture-postcard islands with so much going on you will not want to leave.
The Swedish capital is crammed with fascinating museums, cutting-edge restaurants and hip bars. With all that, a holiday in Stockholm could leave you gasping for breath, so if you need a break just head to the water and set sail for the idyllic collection of islands formed by the Stockholm archipelago for some peace and quiet.
Records suggest that Stockholm sprang up in the middle of the 13th century as both a defensive fort to protect from invasion and a port to aid the iron trade. An imposing castle was built and in the ensuing hundred years Stockholm became Sweden's biggest and most important settlement.
The city continued to grow but had to fight off the approaches of the Danes. Cristian I besieged the city in 1471 but with little success, his army beaten by the Swedes in the shade of the city walls. In 1520 they came again with city burghers allowing Cristian II passage into the city, he promptly arrested the natives and beheaded over 80 people in the Stockholm Bloodbath. A two-year siege from Gustav Vasa followed and was eventually successful.
In the 1600s Sweden and Stockholm grew in prominence on the world stage and as a renowned military power under Gustavus Adolphus, who masterminded his nation's successful campaign in the Thirty Years War. Sadly this progress was to be halted by plague and famine, which decimated the population.
The recovery was to take a long time but in the 19th century the city began to boom again, with ambitious town planning shaping much of the city we know as Stockholm today. This upturn in fortunes was crowned with the Olympics arriving in the city in 1912.
Large-scale immigration has made Stockholm the multicultural city it is today and its vast number of restaurants, art galleries and fine architecture make it one of Europe's top tourist destinations.
In what is a very beautiful city, the Gamla Stan or old town is the most picturesque part and many of the city's most important buildings lie on its cobbled streets – you could spend an entire weekend in Stockholm wandering these meandering alleys. This part of the city dates back as far as the 14th century, the north German architectural style of the buildings lending them a fairytale appearance. The centre of the old town is Stortorget, the main square, which is lined with cafes and is also the home of the Stockholm Stock Exchange building. Elsewhere in Gamla Stan you will find the Nobel Museum – devoted to the famous Nobel Prize and the achievements of its many winners – the royal palace and the Stockholm Cathedral.
One of the best-known sights in the city is the Vasa, a 17th century warship preserved almost entirely intact. After she was pulled from the depths off the coast of Beckholmen over 30 years of painstaking restoration work went into restoring her to her former glory as the centrepiece of the museum at Galärvarvet. Since then over 25 million visitors have seen the ship as well as the treasures found by divers around where she lay on the seabed. The ship tragically sank in 1628, not far out of harbour, and when it was raised the bodies of 16 sailors were also found.
A scenic boat trip from Stockholm, Drottningholm Palace is a great day trip to take from the Swedish capital. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the palace is widely recognised to be one of the finest and best-preserved examples of 17th century palaces in Europe. Lavish gardens, a pavilion built in the Chinese style, and the Court Theatre are just some of the attractions on offer at what is to this day the Swedish Royal Family's permanent residence. The boat to Drottningholm leaves from just outside the City Hall and the palace can also be visited by bus or car.
Tip * Booking your Tours, Transfers & Airport Parking before you go will save your money & time and ensure a stress free start to your holiday
Stretching east from the city of Stockholm lies a jigsaw puzzle made up of some 24,000 islands that comprise the Stockholm Archipelago. It takes less than half an hour by boat from the city centre to reach this otherworldly destination. Only 1,000 of the islands are inhabited so for large stretches the archipelago makes for a blissfully tranquil getaway. A huge array of boats are on hand to take you out into the maze of islands and islets, including traditional white ferries which have been weaving between the rocks for over a century. From larger, densely forested islands to small rocky outcrops, you will see plenty of variety, whatever method you use to explore the archipelago.
The idea of fishing in most capital cities would be at best laughable and at worst dangerous, but with the vast amount of water surrounding Stockholm there are ample opportunities to catch something for dinner. Salmon and trout can both be found in the water between central Stockholm and the old town and as the weather warms you will see plenty of keen fishermen casting off from many of the city's bridges. If you’re not getting any bites you can always head for the archipelago and try your luck there instead.
Since his death in 2004, the novels of Stieg Larsson have become world renowned, and with Stockholm being the background for most of the action in his crime books you can visit the real life sites that set his imagination running. The Millennium Trilogy is mainly set in Södermalm, one of the 14 islands that make up the Swedish capital. Larsson worked for many years as a journalist in Stockholm and a tour is available tracing the movements of the main protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist. The Stockholm City Museum arranges the Millennium Tour along with other great-guided walks around the city.
Arlanda Airport is Stockholm's main international airport and lies 25 miles away from the city.
To get into town taxis offer a fixed fee for the 40-minute ride but fares will differ between companies. An express train, the Arlanda Express running every 15 minutes, will drop you at Central Station in half that time and is a more economical option. A standard train will also take you into the city and is even cheaper than the express route. A number of coach companies also offer transfers into the city.
In Stockholm, taxi is an expensive way to travel and not all drivers use their meter. It is best to inquire beforehand and if necessary set a price.
The Swedish capital's various public transport systems are linked when it comes to fares and work on a coupon system. Travellers buy a set number of coupons and the number used up depends upon the length of each journey, whether that be by metro, bus, commuter train, tram or ferry.
The metro system or T-Bana is extensive, with 100 stations covering almost all of the city. Trains run until 1am from Monday to Friday and all through the night on weekends.
The most pleasant way to get around Stockholm is to take to the water. From Skeppsbron in the old town, ferries leave three to four times an hour to Djurgården.
Stockholm operates operate a congestion charge during the working hours of the day. Although many car rental companies pay this charge for their customers it is worth checking. If you feel like having your own wheels to explore the surrounding areas, check out our car hire in Stockholm options.
When what was a furniture store was bought by the owners of Grill (Drottninggatan 89), they decided there was no need to waste money on new fixtures and fittings and simply reorganised the stock to create one of the world's most unique sets of dining rooms. Wacky and kitsch, toadstools, chandeliers, mannequins and objects from an American hunting lodge are just some of the paraphernalia you will come across here. As far as the menu goes, the clue is in the name, various meats and fish are thrown on the charcoal grill or roasted over an open fire to provide a range of hearty dishes.
Things are a little more traditional at locals' favourite PA & Co (Riddargatan 8) although the up-to-the-minute soundtrack keeps the place contemporary. The menu is made up of Swedish favourites as well as international cuisine. Do not let the relaxed surroundings fool you, this place is very popular and with bookings only allowed on the same day it pays to get there early.
Still going strong after a century in a city with rapidly changing tastes, Prinsen (Mäster Samuelsgatan 4) must be doing something right. Long a home for artists, it’s a place where down on their luck bohemians could pay for their dinner with their works of art, which stare down at you from the walls of the dining room. Fresh fish and meat dominate the menu in what remains a very traditional Swedish restaurant, boasting hearty local favourites that have been flying out of the kitchen since Prinsen or 'the Prince' opened its doors in 1897.
Set in the heart of the old town, the reflects all of the period charm of its surroundings. The rooms are furnished elegantly and in a way in-keeping with the 17th century history of the building while still offering the modern comforts one would expect of a good quality hotel. Within walking distance of this hotel in Stockholm you will find the Cathedral, Royal Palace and the Swedish Parliament.
Set on the leafy island of Skeppsholmen is the Skeppsholmen Hotel. The island is a very tranquil spot but still within the heart of the city and close to all the major attractions that go with that. Built in 1699, the building retains its historic character from the outside while inside a number of respectful modern touches have given it a more contemporary feel. However the original windows and wooden floors remain throughout the 80+ comfortable rooms.
The Victory Hotel is part of a family-run chain of hotels in the city and that homely touch is evident throughout. The owners are keen lovers of maritime history and Swedish folklore, and art reflecting these two themes adorns the walls and adds some real character to the place.
Malaria is not present in Sweden.
A trip to Sweden requires no compulsory vaccinations, but you should get the recommended vaccinations – including boosters – in the typical vaccination schedule in advance of travel. For trips to rural or forested areas between spring and autumn, a ticke-borne encephalitis vaccination is recommended.
For children the measles vaccination is advised, in conjunction with those for mumps and rubella
There has been a rise in theft in public places in Stockholm, so bear the following advice in mind:
Refrain from walking unaccompanied late at night or in dark areas.
Do not walk around with jewellery or other objects that may attract attention and do not take such belongings to the beach.
Do not leave personal belongings in parked vehicles.
Refrain from accepting drinks from strangers.
When driving keep in mind that snow tires are compulsory during the winter months and that driving with any alcohol in your system is against the law.
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