I really enjoy reading Trip Reports for inspiration, so it’s now time to give something back with my first report.
The two of us decided to spend 2 weeks in Stockholm, which although a popular destination for a long weekend away, isn’t generally viewed as a place for a fortnight’s holiday. Having read the guidebooks though, it looked as though there was plenty to keep us occupied. We love city holidays, and love to pack our days to the max, so do bear that in mind if you decide to read further. We enjoy museums and try to get as much out of them as possible. I’ve given an idea of how long it took us to explore attractions, but we generally notice other people go at a much faster pace, so it may take you half the time, or even less.
I’ve written this with a level of detail which I hope will prove useful to those planning a trip, but you may want to be selective when reading.
I hope you find something helpful!
THE STOCKHOLM CARD - Like a lot of people, I wondered whether it was worth getting the Stockholm card. This gives free entry to 80 museums plus free public transport, but is quite expensive. It is considerably more cost effective if you are staying long enough to get the 5 day card which equates to 179 SEK per day, compared with the 1 day card at 425 SEK. We decided on the 5 day card, which did save us plenty, but you do have to plan carefully to get your money’s worth and you do run the risk of rushing everything just to get pay-back! Because we had 2 weeks to play with, for the 5 consecutive days when we used the Stockholm card, we selected the most expensive attractions and those we didn’t think required much time to see. We started using the card on Day 2 below, and I show the saving we made PER PERSON, PER DAY, EXCLUDING PUBLIC TRANSPORT compared to buying individual admissions. This does however significantly understate the full savings, as individual journeys on public transport can be very expensive and having the included travelcard is very convenient. In total, we saved 620 SEK per person on entrance fees alone PLUS public transport costs for 5 days.
Arrival – Saturday
There are a number of options, which are usefully summarised here: tripadvisor.com/Travel-g189852-s301/Stockhol… We decided to get the Arlanda Express, which at this time of the year has a special weekend offer of 280 SEK for 2 people travelling together which saves you 120 SEK PER PERSON on the standard single fare.
Day 1 Sunday
KUNGLIGA SLOTTET (THE ROYAL PALACE) We bought the combination ticket which allows you into 4 areas (the Royal Apartments, the Treasury, Tre Kronor museum and Gustav III museum of Antiquities) which you would otherwise have to pay separate entrance fees for. If you are unable to see everything, the unused part of your combination ticket is valid for 30 days. As it turns out, even though we arrived at opening time (10.00am) we found we only had enough time to see the royal apartments and Gustav III’s museum.
THE ROYAL CHAPEL. This is actually free. Takes approx 15 minutes
THE ROYAL APARTMENTS. You can explore independently, but we wanted to take the free tour – the first English tour was at 11.00am so we had some time before the tour to explore the first few rooms about the history of the Swedish orders of merit, which turned out to be a good call as the tour merely walks through these rooms to the starting point in the apartments. The guided tour was excellent and takes 45 minutes, they do however ask you not to take photographs or linger too long during the tour, but make it clear that you are free to go back and take photos at your leisure after the tour. When the tour was over, we did go back to see the guest apartments and to go back through the rooms of the tour at a more leisurely pace and so that we could look at the display cases.
CHANGING OF THE GUARDS. Takes place at 1.15pm on Sundays (12.15pm other days). Quite a crowd.
Stopped for lunch at a nearby cafe.
GUSTAV III MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITIES. There is only 1 tour a day in English, today’s was at 3.00pm. This is a small museum with 2 halls displaying the king’s collection of statues. The guide was extremely knowledgeable and presented the collection in an entertaining and informative manner (45 minute tour). When the tour finished, we explored the collection further alone (there is also a short film that you can watch). We thought it was too late to get the most out of the remaining attractions before the 5.00pm closing time, so thought we’d hold on to our tickets for the remaining 2 items as we had 30 days to use them.
Day 2 Monday (Stockholm Card day 1 - saving 281 SEK)
Time to start using our STOCKHOLM CARD – we bought the 5-day version which is stamped with the date and TIME first used, so to get the best value, you can actually use it on day 6 up to the time it was originally stamped. As most attractions don’t open until 10.00am, you could for example start using it at 11.00am on day 1 and then use it for the last time at 10.00am on day 6 (ie calculated as 120 hours)
Morning: HISTORICAL CANAL TOUR. We were aiming for the first tour at 10.30am, but this was already fully booked when we arrived at 10.15, so we decided to visit Statshuset (City Hall) first which was just around the corner. So we booked the historical canal tour for 12.30pm and rushed off for the next City Hall tour at 10.30am. It seems the early morning tours do book up quickly, so bear this in mind.
STATSHUSET (CITY HALL) TOUR. The city hall can only be viewed on a guided tour (English tours every 30 minutes, with other languages available less often). This lasts about 45 minutes and does feel very rushed, but the rooms are spectacular. You can climb the tower for an additional cost, but of course this is included in the Stockholm card, so no additional cost for us. We aimed to climb the tower before the canal tour, but again found that the timed session we were after was already fully booked so we booked the 13.55pm slot. So again, be prepared to book a little in advance. With about an hour to kill before the canal tour we explored the grounds of the city hall.
HISTORICAL CANAL TOUR. This is the only canal tour included in the Stockholm Card free of charge, so unsurprising is particularly popular. It takes approx 50 minutes with an audio guide in various languages and is a lovely introduction to Stockholm.
STATSHUSET (CITY HALL) TOWER. Back to the City Hall tower for our 13.55pm slot. You are only allowed 35 minutes in the tower, with a group of only 30 allowed in at any one time. As the stairs are narrow, it is essentially one-way only, so one group has to go up and come back down and out, before the next group is allowed in. They keep very strictly to times. A lift is available to take you half way about, but this fits only about 6, so worth taking to save some time walking up if you’re at the front of the queue, but otherwise forget it, walk up and keep an eye on the time. There is a small museum just over half way up, but you can’t linger too long. The view from the top is great.
Afternoon: RIDDARHOLMSKYRKAN (CHURCH). This is approx 15 minutes walk from the City Hall, so as we’re maximising our use of the Stockholm Card we add this as an impromptu stop-off. This was the main location for royal burials and well worth a quick visit. We spent about 30 minutes here.
STORKYRKAN (CATHEDRAL). Approx 15 minutes walk from Riddarholmskyrkan. This is an imposing cathedral and again well worth a visit with an impressive statue of St George and the Dragon and incredibly ornate pews for the royal family. We spent about 1 hour here.
FOTOGRAFISKA (PHOTOGRAPHY GALLERY). This is relatively new (opened in 2010) and is one of the few Stockholm attractions open late – it closes at 9.00pm. The exhibitions vary throughout the year. We spent about 4 hours here and really enjoyed it.
Day 3 Tuesday (SC day 2 - saving 1 SEK)
Not much of a saving today re museums, but we did use public transport, so still quids in.
Morning: ARMY MUSEUM. We used the audio guide (free of charge) which was excellent. The displays were very well done, with extensive use of life size models set within scenes to bring stories alive. Took about 4 hours listening to all the audio guide posts, but we didn’t look at every display case in detail.
Afternoon: MODERNA MUSEET (modern art, late night opening until 8pm on Tuesdays). The free audio guide for the permanent collection takes about 1hour, but additionally there are temporary exhibitions we many explanation boards in English. We spent about 4 hours here in total although the collection isn’t particularly extensive and we found the experience a little disappointing compared with other modern art museums. Probably not worth going to if you’re pushed for time.
Day 4 Wednesday (SC day 3 - saving 41 SEK)
Skansen day today. To make the Stockholm card worthwhile, we went into the Stockholm aquarium which is an additional cost.
Morning: SKANSEN AQUARIUM. This is located inside Skansen, so you would have to pay the 120 SEK entrance fee for Skansen, before then paying the additional 100 SEK for the Aquarium. It is a bit misleading to think of this as just an aquarium as fish probably comprise less than 10% of the animals. There were marmosets, meerkats, lemurs, baboons and reptiles. We found this really enjoyable as there were a number of very cute animals including babies. We spent about 3 hours here even though it isn’t really very large.
Afternoon: SKANSEN. At this time of the year, Skansen is open until 10.00pm, but I’m not convinced there is a huge amount to do in the evening. The historical buildings that are open, generally close at 5.00pm, but it felt as though only about 30% of the buildings were open. There are about 150 buildings in the park, and I guess they can only open when manned. The park is huge and we didn’t manage to see the inside of many buildings. After 5.00pm we headed for the area with native Swedish animals, many of which you can still see in their open-air enclosures in the evening. We really enjoyed the animals and the houses we did manage to get into. We left at about 8.00pm, with in theory another 2 hours until closing time, but feeling that we hadn’t really had a chance to see everything and that it wasn’t worth staying any longer.
Day 5 Thursday (SC day 4 - saving 196 SEK, but too rushed!!)
OK, I’ll admit, I made a bit of a mistake with my planning today, thinking the National Museum was open until 8.00pm tonight and so planning to pack as much in today, anticipating at least 4 hours at the National Museum with late night opening. However, at this time of the year it closes at 5.00pm on Thursdays so we didn’t really have enough time (so check opening times carefully!)
Morning: SKYVIEW ON TOP OF THE GLOBE. This should cost 130 SEK, so the plan was to get here early and start making huge savings using the Stockholm card. This is a trip in a glass capsule up the outside of the Globe arena for views over Stockholm. I have to say, this really would not be worth the cost if it wasn’t already included in the cost of the Stockholm card. The whole experience takes about half an hour including an introductory film. The views are a little disappointing and don’t really compare with those at the top of the City Hall.
NOBEL MUSEUM. We paid 20 SEK for an audio guide which added to the experience, making for an informative 3 hours.
Afternoon: LIVRUSTKAMMAREN, ROYAL ARMOURY. As this wasn’t included in the combination ticket for the Royal Palace we thought we’d pop in here as it is just around the corner from the Nobel museum. It is a little misleading calling it just the armoury, as there was alot of additional royal displays about royal life. We didn’t get the audio guide (which would have been an extra 20 SEK) as we didn’t give ourselves enough time to appreciate it, but there were plenty of audio points. We only spent about 45 minutes here, but to really appreciate it, especially with an audio guide I imagine you need about 2 hours.
NATIONAL MUSEUM. We arrived here at about 3.30pm only to find it closed at 5.00pm rather than the 8.00pm that I thought. 1½ hours really isn’t enough, 4 hours would have been much better, and again for an extra 30 SEK you can get an audio guide. One floor holds the art collection and another floor shows Scandinavian design and applied art over the last century.
Day 6 Friday (SC day 5 – saving 11 SEK)
DROTTNINGHOLM PALACE. We used our Stockholm card to get here by public transport. We spent a full day here. It’s worth taking the free English tour of the palace as there aren’t any explanatory information displays in the room as the palace isn’t really a museum, but the royal family’s home and still used for royal functions. We also visited the Royal Theatre and Chinese Pavilion, both of which had guided tours. The buildings generally close at about 4.00pm, but the beautiful, expansive gardens are always open and free of charge.
We did originally plan to use our Stockholm cards to go to the Grona Lunds Tivoli amusement park in the evening (which at 90 SEK for entrance only seems extortionate), but energy levels were sadly sagging !
Day 7 Saturday (SC day 6 – saving 90 SEK)
Morning: Because the Stockholm card is time stamped, we have until 10.30am before it runs out today, so we manage to get to the HALLWYLSKA MUSEUM at 10.00am opening time to eke out our last savings. This is an impressive mansion, well worth a visit. You can see a number of rooms yourself, but in order to see all the available rooms you have to pay extra to go on a guided tour (no extra cost of course with the Stockholm card !). Unfortunately, there is only 1 guided tour each day in English at 12.30pm and as we didn’t want to wait around we joined the first tour in Swedish. This wasn’t really the best way to get the most out of the visit, but they do give you a brief summary of the rooms to read in English, and it is the only way to see rooms which would otherwise be closed to you.
As we were close by, after the museum we went to the OSTERMALM SALUHALL, which is an atmospheric food hall built in the early 1900s and has some good options for lunch.
Afternoon: TRE KRONOR MUSEUM. We still had our Royal Palace combination ticket, so ticked off another item by visiting this small museum about the old palace which burnt down in 1697. Again, brought to life by the excellent free guided tour (1 tour in English per day at approx 4.00pm). Although this is quite a small museum, we still managed to spend about 3 hours here, including the guided tour.
We then went for a walk around GAMLA STAN. See here for a self-guided walking tour: frommers.com/destinations/…0066020033.html.
Day 8 Sunday
No more Stockholm card, but we did find the travelcard element convenient, so we decide to buy a 7 day all-zone travelcard, which allows you to use the metro, buses, trams, trains and Djurgarden ferry. You can buy cards for a shorter duration, but you need to work out if it’s worthwhile for you. The 7-day pass is quite economical, working out at 37 SEK per day, but the 3-day pass is 67 SEK per day and the 1-day pass is 100 SEK.
NORDISKA MUSEUM. We spent the whole day here and still didn’t quite manage to see it all (!!) You can get a free audio guide which I recommend, but this does mean that you take longer to get around, especially if you listen to all the audio posts. This is a really interesting museum about Swedish life and culture (it was originally planned as a museum for all Nordic nations, but eventually restricted itself only to Sweden).
Day 9 Monday
VASA MUSEUM. This was a highlight of the trip – a highly ornate 17th century royal warship which sunk 30 minutes into it’s maiden voyage and was rediscovered in the 1950s. The museum is state of the art, but as is to be expected from such a popular attraction can get very busy, particularly with the cruise ship crowds in the morning. The museum’s opening hours are 8.30am to 6.00pm and I wish we got there a little earlier than we did (we arrived at about 10.00am and stayed until closing time). There is plenty to see. It’s worth downloading the MP3 guide from the museum’s website as there are no audioguides available at the museum itself, but all the MP3 audio points are clearly indicated. We also joined one of the free guided tours which takes approx 45 minutes and had lunch in the museum. If you go on a hot day make sure you take an extra layer with you as the museum’s climate control is a little cold.
After closing time, we took a short stroll around the island of DJURGARDEN where the museum is located.
Day 10 Tuesday
Morning: Finally finished using our Royal Palace combination ticket (valid for 30 days) by visiting the ROYAL TREASURY. It isn’t clearly advertised, but there is an audio guide available to explain the exhibits which I highly recommend (no extra charge) – the audio guide handset also has a video screen which shows pictures and videos of the regalia being used. Although this is a very small museum with only 3 small rooms, it takes us about 1 hour with the audio guide (without, we probably would have skipped through in 15 minutes)
Afternoon: STOCKHOLMS MEDELTIDSMUSEUM, MUSEUM OF MEDIEVAL STOCKHOLM. One of Stockholm’s very few FREE museums, although we did get the audio guide for 20 SEK, which as usual made the experience far more interesting. This was very well presented and although it is quite small, we did manage to spend 3 hours here.
We finished the day with a walk around the Ostermalm area, with a self-guided walk from our guidebook.
Day 11 Wednesday
A trip out of Stockholm today. We used our 7-day travelcard to get to SIGTUNA (Pendeltag commuter train 39 from Stockholm central station to Marsta, then either bus 570 or bus 575), the journey takes about an hour. This is a lovely day out on a sunny day. Sigtuna is very small, but very picturesque, set alongside beautiful Lake Malaren. We picked up a map from tourist information, which is easy to find when you get off the bus. We spent the day leisurely wandering around.
Day 12 Thursday
Morning: RIKSDAGSHUSET, SWEDISH PARLIAMENT. This makes for an interesting overview of the Swedish parliament buildings and government. Entrance is free and there are several English tours throughout the day, taking about 1 hour – we took the first one of the day at 12 noon.
Afternoon: STADSMUSEUM, STOCKHOLM CITY MUSEUM. This is a free museum with late night opening until 8.00pm on Thursdays. This museum is more traditional, not particularly high-tech, but nevertheless quite interesting, with various exhibitions. The top floor reconstruction of 2 rooms occupied by poor families before the introduction of the welfare state was particularly interesting We spent about 3 hours here.
We then went for an evening stroll around SODERMALM. See here for a self-guided walking tour: …nationalgeographic.com/travel/…. We particularly liked the southern part of the island around Eriksdalsbadet, where there are some beautiful allotments alongside the water’s edge with beautiful flower gardens and pretty huts.
Day 13 Friday
HISTORISKA MUSEET (70 SEK). Museum of Swedish history and pre-history. Exhibitions include the Vikings, the impressive “Gold Room” full of treasures and various temporary exhibitions about Swedish history. Again, worth getting the free audio guide. We spent the whole day here.
In the evening, we went for a walk around the DJURGARDEN PARK. We particularly enjoyed the grounds of the Prins Eugens Waldermasudde museum – the extensive gardens are free and open until 9.00pm, beautifully laid out with several sculptures dotted around the garden.
Departure - Saturday
As this is the last day of our 7-day travel pass and our flight doesn’t leave until the afternoon, we decide to use public transport to get to Arlanda Airport so we don’t incur any additional costs. You get the Pendaltag commuter train from the central station to Marsta and then the connecting bus 583 to the airport. The whole journey takes just under 1 hour. If you don’t want to get the bus, you can change at Upplands Vasby instead of continuing to Marsta for another train to the airport, but this costs a supplement of 60 SEK.
So, that was our wonderful 2 weeks in Stockholm. I hope you found some useful tips, and good luck with planning your holiday. I look forward to reading any comments you may have.