Stockholm for beginners
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Take a break in a city on water and there’s always something
to keep you entertained. Join a boat
excursion; take a stroll by the waterfront, or just sit and watch the comings
and goings of nautical folk. So when a
city has as much water frontage as Stockholm, you know you are on to a
winner. The Swedish capital is built on
islands, each with its own character, but is remarkably easy to explore.
You’ll find plenty here to fill a long weekend from outdoor
activities to museums and galleries, but if – like me – you have limited time,
you can still comfortably enjoy the main sights in a couple of days. I booked two nights at the stylish Radisson
Blu Waterfront before setting off on a Baltic cruise, so here are my
recommendations for six Must-Do experiences for first-timer visitors to Stockholm.
Explore the Gamla Stan or Old Town
This is where the city really began so expect narrow medieval
streets, cobbles, and – on the main thoroughfares – a constant bustle of
walkers. But it’s easy to escape down a
quiet side street too and take time out to look up at the coloured facades and
stop off at a cosy cafe. Biggest visitor
attraction here, in every sense of the word, is the 18th century Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet), one
of the largest in Europe with more than 600 rooms and a vast courtyard. The Palace houses five museums, but the real
must-see is the sumptuous suite of Royal Apartments.
Take a hop-on hop-off tour
When you have limited knowledge of a destination, a city
sightseeing bus is a great way to get your bearings. Stockholm goes one better. As well as a ubiquitous red bus tour,
there’s a harbour tour too which links the Old Town with several of the city’s
top visitor attractions. Even better, a
Stockhom Pass includes free travel
on both the bus and the boat trip, as well as entrance to many top attractions,
and because the city centre is so compact, you won’t find yourself rushing
madly to try and get your money’s worth from the Pass. Prices in Summer 2019 start at 669 SEK
(£56.71) for a 1 day pass; 929 SEK (£78.75) for 2 days.
Visit the Vasa Ship
Awesome doesn’t even come close when talking about this 17th
century warship which sank just 20 minutes into her maiden voyage in 1628. Too high and too narrow, with insufficient
ballast to keep her upright, the lower decks were swamped with water as the
Vasa keeled over, sending her to the bottom. In 1961, the warship was recovered from the seabed and is now housed in
an impressive ship hall. Amazingly, she is 98% original and as I
viewed her from different levels and angles, looked at artefacts recovered from
the sea bed, and got close to the heavily sculpted stern, I felt a real sense
of looking back into another age at a ship we were never meant to see.
Living History at Skansen
Just a short walk from the Vasa ship and accessible from the
same hop-on hop-off boat pier, Skansen is
a large historical site that brings together Swedish traditions and
craftsmanship, open all year. The world’s
oldest open-air museum, it was founded in 1891 to show how people lived in Sweden
from the 17th century onwards and now includes some 150 buildings
reassembled from all over the country. We
also enjoyed the livestock area that includes Swedish wild animals, a children’s
zoo with pets and small reptiles (plus some lovely inquisitive lemurs!), and
the aquariums of the Baltic Sea Science Centre.
The nearby ABBA Museum may be your idea of heaven or hell,
especially given the 250 Krone entrance ticket (£21), but there’s a well-stocked
shop if you simply want a T-shirt, fridge magnet or mug for a devout fan.
Take in the City Hall
Although close to our hotel, with a cruise ship to catch we
didn’t have time for a guided tour of the red-brick City Hall we could see from
our bedroom window. But we did have time
for a quick look at the iconic view across the water to the Old Town from the
riverside garden terrace. Judging from
the tour groups in the courtyard, the Stadshuset, built in 1923, is a popular
attraction for its Golden Hall decorated in mosaics and magnificent Council
Chamber. You can also go up the tower
for a panoramic view.
A taste of Sweden
No trip to Stockholm would be complete without sampling
Sweden’s signature dishes. At Magnus
Ladulas tavern in the Old Town, we sampled the popular starter of diced
shrimp flavoured with dill, followed by traditional meatballs in cream sauce
accompanied by mash potato and lingonberry jam. If you’re a fish fan, don’t miss a plate of Gravadlax – a perfect light
lunch for me at the pretty waterside Villa
Godthem, close to the funicular leading to Skansen. And whilst a speciality whisky bar doesn’t
sound like the place to enjoy Swedish gourmet fare, I enjoyed a
mouth-wateringly-tender fillet of reindeer at Ardbeg Embassy in the Old Town. For a snack with coffee, pick up a cinnamon
bun at one of the city’s many bakeries. Scumptious!
If you are lucky enough to be leaving Stockholm on a cruise
ship, stay on deck to enjoy navigation through the Stockholm Archipelago of
some 30,000 islands. City- breakers can
also use their Stockholm Pass to board an excursion boat from the town centre
harbour for a more compact cruise. A
delightful city with so much water and so many ways to enjoy it.
For city breaks Silver Travel Advisor recommends Classic Collection Holidays.
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