A First-Timer's Guide To Stockholm

By Jessica Russo


Alright, you may know your way around your local IKEA, but Sweden boasts way more than just furniture, meatballs, and hard-to-pronounce names. Walking through Stockholm is like walking through a postcard. Stroll down the cobblestone streets of Stockholm's old town, Gamla Stan, and find cute cafes, candy-colored buildings, amazing architecture, and gorgeous sea views.

As the capital of Sweden, this vibrant city is bursting at the seams with things to see and do. Use this handy guide to make sure you do Stockholm right.


What's the weather like?

Let's put it this way - you'll never really need a swimsuit and flip flops. The warmest Stockholm gets is a pleasant 75 degrees in July. From April-June and August-October, Stockholm boasts cozy, crisp weather ranging from 70-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, for the fun part: winter! Swedish winters are chilly. From November to March, Stockholm's air averages at an icy 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, what do I pack?

  • If you're going in the summer: sunglasses, comfortable walking shoes, lightweight clothing, t-shirts, light jacket

  • If you're going in the spring or fall: comfortable shoes (sneakers and/or boots), light jacket, coat, pants, t-shirts, long-sleeves, sweaters

  • If you're going in the winter: good boots, sweaters, extra socks, scarf, gloves, hat, thermal underwear, winter coat

What to Eat


Photo by Instagram user @restaurang_brinken

Swedish Meatballs (Köttbullar)

Obviously.
It's no secret that meatballs are just about as Swedish as Swedish gets. That, however, doesn't negate the fact that these traditional meatballs are out-of-this-world delicious. Classically, Swedish meatballs are made of ground pork and beef, cream, egg, and onion, and are served with mashed potatoes, a thick brown gravy, and lingonberry jam. Sweet, savory, and perfectly scrumptious.


Pickled Herring (Surströmming)

Okay, so this may not be the most appetizing (or best smelling) Swedish tradition, but it is worth a try! Herring is much more than just a snack - it's a huge part of Sweden's culinary culture. When eating Surströmming, expect a salty, fishy taste. But, don't worry - it doesn't taste nearly as bad as it smells! Comforting, right? Usually, the herring is served on tunnbröd, a buttered crispy thin bread topped with onions, dill, potatoes, and cream. Bottoms up!


Photo by Instagram user @shocokim

Smoked Salmon (Varmrökt lax)

Scandinavians sure love their salmon, and rightfully so! When you order salmon in Sweden, you'll taste unbeatable freshness and delightful flavor. In Sweden, you'll be able to find thin smoked lox or full salmon fillets. If we were you, we'd try both!


Photo by Instagram user @wallflower76

Swedish Fish Soup (Svenska fisksoppa)

This savory soup is the perfect thing to slurp up on a chilly day in Stockholm. Made with fresh fish (usually cod and salmon), potatoes, onion, garlic, and spices, this creamy bisque-like soup will leave you wanting more tomorrow.


Where to Eat


Must-see sites

Gamla Stan (Old Town)

One of the largest and best preserved medieval areas in Europe, Gamla Stan is like walking through a pedestrian-friendly open-air museum. Weave through narrow stone streets lined with old shops, cute cafes, traditional restaurants, and historic sites. As soon as you step into Gamla Stan, you'll feel like you traveled back in time to 1252, when Stockholm was founded!

Stockholm Palace

Also called the "Royal Palace" by locals, this stunning spectacle is the official residence of the Swedish monarch. Nestled in Gamla Stan, this beautiful palace adds to the historical charm of the old town.

Djurgarden

Escape the bustle of central Stockholm and make your way to this tranquil island filled with amazing museums, beautiful views, and peaceful parks. Take a bike ride along the water, catch a thrill at Grond Lund amusement park, or channel your inner pop fan at ABBA: The Museum!

Monteliusvagen

Make sure you bring your camera! This quarter-mile walking path is the perfect stroll for a sunny day. Feast your eyes on a panoramic view of Lake Malaren, City Hall, and Riddarholmen on one side, and admire charming traditional homes on the other. These will be your postcard-worthy photos. For even better views, get there at sunrise or sunset!

Skansen

Located on the island of Djurgarden, this open-air museum and zoo showcases Sweden's history and how Swedes once lived. At Skansen, you'll become immersed in history!

How to Get Around

Luckily, Stockholm's public transportation system is safe, efficient, and punctual. Between buses, underground trains, commuter trains, trams, and ferries, Stockholm's "SL" system stops all over the city. You'll also see Stockholm's value of eco-friendliness in their SL system, as many of their buses run on ethanol instead of fossil fuels! Keep in mind: tickets can be purchased at SL Centers, underground ticket booths, news stands, or on the SL app. You will not be able to pay in cash on-board.

If it's nice out, wear comfortable shoes and get around on foot! There is no better way to see a city than exploring it from the ground. When you walk around, you're guaranteed to discover interesting shops, amazing architecture, and cute restaurants you would never find if you hadn't passed by!

In addition to public transportation and walking, taking an Uber or taxi is always a convenient option. Natives also love riding bikes, so consider whizzing around on two wheels!


First-Timer Tips

  • Swedes love their coffee. In fact, they love it so much that "fika," a coffee break, is a huge part of Swedish daily life! In Sweden, fika is a time to slow down and find peace of mind, while enjoying a rich mug of coffee, of course.
  • English is spoken almost everywhere. Don't worry if your Swedish is not perfect. Try to memorize a few common phrases, but rest assured that, especially in Stockholm, most people will speak fluent English.
  • There are bikes everywhere. And rightfully so! Stockholm is so beautiful, no one should spend a moment not exploring it. While biking is a wonderful way to see the city, be careful of zipping bikes in the street!
  • This one is no secret: Stockholm is not cheap. Any local will tell you so! This, however, is no reason to fear. Stockholm can easily be done on a budget. Many of the city's breathtaking sites are free, and getting to know a city is all about walking and exploring. There are also plenty of pretty harborside parks, which serve as the perfect place to have a lovely picnic, instead of dining out at a restaurant.
  • Bring good boots, especially if you're traveling during the winter. From November to March, expect the ground to be covered in "slask" a slushy mix of melted show and grit.
  • Don't bring tons of cash. While you should always carry some for emergencies, Stockholm aims to be as cash-free as possible. You'll find that many cafes, restaurants, and hotels are actually "card only," so be sure to have at least two credit or debit cards handy during your trip.

Useful Swedish Phrases

  • Hello - "God dag" or "Halla"
  • How are you? - "Hur ar det?"
  • Goodbye - "Hej da"
  • Have a nice day - "Ha en trevlig dag!"
  • Do you speak English? - "Talar du engelska?"
  • Please - "Snalla"
  • Thank you - "Tack"
  • Where is the bathroom? - "Var ar toaletten?"

Ha en trevlig resa!

Have a good trip!

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