Close the guidebooks and let a local lead the way.
By Sandra Carpenter
Despite living in Stockholm for 12 years, I still can’t get enough of the long days of summer. Since the sun is fully up by 3 am, there’s plenty of daylight for exploring the mix of old-world charm, top-notch cuisine, and cutting-edge technology, fashion, and design.
Stockholm’s center is made up of 14 islands and its archipelago has 24,000 more. Sailboats and wooden motorboats seemingly lifted from the 1950s French Riviera cruise around the islands and serve as a reminder that one of the best ways to see the city is from the water — try the classic Stromma steamboats or chart your own course on a GoBoat.
Stockholm’s neighborhoods have different personalities and Södermalm, for instance, is where writers like me and other creatives live. Incidentally, it’s also where the good guys in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo live.
If you’re spending time in Stockholm during your summer cruise, here’s how to make the most of your time.
The Old Town, Gamla Stan, is where all visitors go and for good reason. This island has winding cobblestone streets, charming squares, churches, museums, a castle, and all kinds of restaurants, cafés, bars, and places to shop. Västerlånggatan and Österlånggatan are the busy main streets, but to escape the crowds, create your own experience.
First head to Stortorget — the oldest square in Stockholm — to see the colorful collection of buildings dating from the 1400s to the 1700s. Then wander down any of the tiny streets off the square to explore the many nooks and crannies.
Use a map to find Mårten Trotzigs Grand, the smallest street, and Brända Tomten Square, where you can relax under the big chestnut tree. Check out neighboring islet Riddarholmen to see the church, one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm. Chances are good that you’ll find quiet here, too.
Make your way around with an SL card, which you can use on the subway, buses, and ferries. The subway system is referred to as the “world’s longest art exhibit” because of its nearly 70 miles of subway stations, most of which are decorated with sculptures, mosaics, paintings, installations, engravings, and reliefs by more than 150 artists. At the very least, check out the Kungsträdgården stop’s “archaeological excavation” and murals.
If It’s Free, It’s For Me
The Stockholm Free Tours are good and yes, they are free. (That said, you can tip if you’d like.) Several tours are….
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Photo: Jeppe Wikström/mediabank.visitstockholm.com