Stockholm’s origins lie on tiny, atmospheric Gamla Stan island where merchants and monarchs occupied the medieval streets around the Royal Palace. To the north, Norrmalm, sometimes also called “City”, forms central Stockholm. Shops, clubs and restaurants spread out from here to wealthy Östermalm where rich Stockholm lives and plays. To the west lie the green spaces of tiny Ladugårdsgärdet and Djurgården island, home to world-class museums. The stately, redbrick city hall, Stadshuset, dominates westerly Kungsholmen with its government offices. The large and hilly island of Södermalm is home to alternative Stockholm with a vibrant mix of music clubs, vintage shops and galleries showing up-and-coming artists.
Start a Stockholm city break with a boat trip. It reveals a grand panorama of the capital’s architectural masterpieces from the City Hall to the domes of baroque churches, plus tantalising glimpses of the archipelago, boatyards and beaches. For some gentle exercise, stroll along Djurgården’s little paths to the organic outdoor café at Rosendals Trädgård. Go local and take a picnic out to Hagaparken or watch the world go by from a pavement café on Kungsträdgården.
Explore rural Sweden right in the city by wandering through the old farmhouses, manors and log cabins at Skansen’s open-air museum. The adventures of Swedish heroine Pippi Longstocking keep small children happy at Junibacken, while wannabe rock stars can bash out the rhythms at the Music Museum. Get a vivid idea of life on board a man-o’-war at the Vasa Museum where the huge 17th-century warship is marooned forever in the twilight. See Nordic art and the best Scandinavian furniture, brightly colored textiles and extraordinarily shaped glass at the National Museum.
Stockholm has a reputation for being expensive, but it’s easy to eat well without breaking the bank. After a hearty smorgasbord buffet breakfast at your Stockholm hotel, go for the good-value dagens lunch (lunch of the day) of one dish, bread, salad and coffee. Order herrings and aquavit in an old beer hall or splash out on modern Swedish cooking in settings as cool as the clientele. For a one-off experience, try the dishes of the previous year’s Nobel Prize banquet in the Stadshuset’s restaurant.
Savvy shoppers after sleek, clean Scandinavian classics head to Östermalm’s interior design shops like Jacksons and Modernity. Drottninggatan offers street fashion and high street shops; NK is the capital’s posh department store while international names cluster in and around Stureplan and its chic mall, Sturegallerian. For young designers, quirky gifts and vintage clothing, try the less rarefied streets of former working-class Södermalm.