An Introduction to Stockholm: A First-Time Visitor’s Guide

Last updated on:
Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission. Read the full disclosure policy here.

As the largest city in Scandinavia, Stockholm, Sweden, has always been on my radar. And yet, despite multiple trips to the region (mostly to Norway), it took me a few years to actually make it there.

Shame on me, I know!

Because while it's true that Stockholm is one of the more expensive cities to visit in Europe, it's also beautiful, historical, and just downright cool.

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden

My first visit to Stockholm ended up lasting just 3 days, but that was enough time to get a feel for the city and see some of its top sights.

If you, too, are heading to Stockholm for the first time, here are my tips for what to see and do:

What to do on your first trip to Stockholm

Explore Gamla Stan

Stockholm, Sweden

Chances are, if you've seen photos of Stockholm, you've seen photos of Gamla Stan, or Stockholm's “Old Town.” This is actually one of the best-preserved historic districts in Europe (it dates back to when Stockholm was founded in 1252!), and it's great to explore since most of its cobbled streets are reserved just for pedestrians.

Gamla Stan in Stockholm, Sweden

Some of my favorite spots in Gamla Stan included Stortorget (the oldest square in Stockholm and a great place to have a coffee and people-watch) and the Royal Palace, which houses a couple museums and also is where you can watch the changing of the guard ceremony every day in the summer months.

Stortorget in Gamla Stan, Stockholm
Gamla Stan doors
And look out for awesome doors like this in Gamla Stan, too!

To get to Gamla Stan from central Stockholm, you'll likely cross over a bridge or two since Stockholm is actually built on 14 different islands!

Climb the tower at City Hall

Stockholm City Hall

Stockholm's City Hall is one of the most recognizable in the city, with its tall square tower and brick facade. You can go on tours of the building itself, and I can personally recommend a trip to the top of the tower.

Climbing to the top of City Hall tower in Stockholm
Climbing to the top of City Hall tower

You have to climb a couple hundred stairs to get to the top, but I'd say the views are worth it!

Gamla Stan from City Hall Tower
Looking out over Gamla Stan

You do need to get a timed ticket to go up the tower (SEK 50, or roughly $6.30 USD), and they only hand out 30 for each time period – I went in the morning to get a ticket for the same afternoon, just to be safe.

Spend some time underground

Stadion metro station in Stockholm
Stadion metro station

After going up, how about going down? It might sound weird for me to tell you to spend some of your time in Stockholm underground, but Stockholm's metro system is actually like a super long art exhibit. Out of 100 stations, roughly 90 of them have some sort of artwork.

A few stations are even covered entirely in colorful murals. (My favorites include Stadion, T-Centralen on the blue line, and Solna Centrum.)

Solna Centrum metro station in Stockholm
Solna Centrum metro station

RELATED: The Stunning Subway Stations of Stockholm

Go to a cool museum

Stockholm is home to some seriously cool museums, a few of which are located on an island called Djurgården.

Djurgården in Stockholm

Some popular ones include:

  • Skansen Open-Air Museum
  • Fotografiska (a museum for contemporary photography)
  • ABBA – The Museum

My favorite museum in Stockholm, though, was the Vasa Museum. This unique museum houses the (almost fully-intact) remains of a 17th-century war ship called Vasa.

Vasa Museum in Stockholm
Look how cool this ship is!

The massive ship sank on its maiden voyage in Stockholm harbor in 1628 due to a combination of poor construction (with her double gun decks, she was too heavy) and just plain bad luck (including one big gust of wind and fully open gun ports). Vasa sat on the bottom of the harbor for more than 300 years, until she was re-discovered again in 1956 and then brought back up to the surface (quite well-preserved) in 1961.

Today, the Vasa Museum is built around the old ship, which is 98% original. You can see exhibits on multiple levels, including one on the ground floor that includes skeletons of some of the 30 people who perished when the ship quickly sank in 1628.

Vasa Museum in Stockholm
This is 98% original!!

For a history nerd like me, this place was SO COOL.

Enjoy a fika

Gamla Stan in Stockholm, Sweden

The Swedes have a lovely afternoon tradition of taking a coffee break (often accompanied by a yummy pastry). This tradition is called fika, and you should definitely indulge, too!

How to get around in Stockholm

The good news is that many of Stockholm's main sights are within walking distance from one another. (In fact, you probably could get by in Stockholm just using your feet for transport.)

But if you plan to explore some metro stations and want to hit up some museums, I recommend getting a travelcard. You can get these for either 24 or 72 hours, or even 7 days if you also add an SL Access smart card. These cards are valid on the metro, buses, and also some ferries (including the ferry that goes to Djurgården, where many of the museums are).

(This is also a great way to save some money in Stockholm – a 72-hour card runs about $30 USD.)

Where to stay in Stockholm

I stayed at the Central Hotel in Stockholm, which is only a block away from the city's Central Station. Not only is this handy for using the metro or getting to/from the airport, but it also puts you within walking distance of restaurants and Gamla Stan (which is a 10-15 minute walk away).

Central Hotel in Stockholm

I booked a single room at this hotel (which saved me some money!), which was small but perfectly fine for just me. The room had a super comfy bed, a nice bathroom, and even some free weights in the room so I could get in a little workout.

Central Hotel in Stockholm

Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a room here

Tours to check out in Stockholm

There's a lot to do in Stockholm, and if you don't have a lot of time it might be overwhelming to decide what to do. Here are some Stockholm tours that might be worth checking out:

Or, you can pick up a Stockholm Pass, which will get you entry to many of Stockholm's top museums, as well as a ticket for the hop-on hop-off bus and a boat tour. This is perfect for the independent traveler!

Have you been to Stockholm? What else would you recommend for a first-time visitor?


Pin it for later:

Things to do your first time in Stockholm
Things to do your first time in Stockholm


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

Join the ADB Community!
Sign up here to get exclusive travel tips, deals, and other inspiring goodies delivered to your inbox.

44 Comments on “An Introduction to Stockholm: A First-Time Visitor’s Guide

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. An excellent article filled with high quality photos. I loved it! My friend is living in Stockholm, inviting me there. I am saving for some money so I will get there soon. It was good to come across to your blog post. Inspiring!

      Hopefully you’ll get to visit soon and see the city for yourself!

    Stockholm is gorgeous! I see so many posts on Denmark and Norway but rarely ever any on Sweden. So thanks! I need a pic in front of that rainbow wall at the metro! But my favorite is def that Vasa ship!! By far! That is so freaking cool!!! <3

      Yeah I guess you’re right! I had no idea this Stockholm post would be so popular, but I’m glad to see such a positive response to it! Stockholm is such a cool city.

    I went to Stockholm a few years ago when a friend of mine won a BA flight for 50 of us, along with 25 hotel rooms and free passes to all the attractions. Best way to see it, as it’s not the cheapest place!

      Wow, what an awesome prize to win!

    I just went to Stockholm a couple of weeks ago! I did almost all that stuff, except visiting any of those museums (bad tourist xD) and going to the top of the City Hall tower. That is such a great view, I really wish I had done that! Oh well, next time I guess 🙂 Also, for a little different experience it’s easy to take a super cheap FlixBus to nearby town Uppsala. It’s a small university town perfect for those who like getting out of the big cities. The ride is only a little over an hour, so it’s a great day trip.

      Great suggestion! I love seeing all the Stockholm love here in the comments.

    I’ve been to Stockholm and like yourself, I went for the very first time! I went in May, and it was fantastic!

    I loved the Vasa Museum, and there’s a new Viking Museum that has just opened, but sadly, we didn’t have time to go there. There’s also an open air museum called Skansen too. And you MUST go to the ABBA Museum. It’s a scream. Oh, and the Ice Bar and if you were at the Central Hotel, it couldn’t have been far away. It’s freezing cold, but so much fun, and such a novelty.

    You’ve got to take a cruise, or just take a boat anyway. We ended up using the boats as our “local” form of transport, which explains why I totally forgot to go to the metro station!

    p.s. Even though food prices are outrageous, they weren’t for meat balls, mashed potatoes and berries!

      So much to do in Stockholm! Next time I will definitely hit up more museums.

    My goodness, this hotel room is the cutest thing ever! I love the murals!
    I’ve never had a chance to visit Stockholm but I hope to go one day. I’m on a lookout for some cheap flights and a nice weekend stay (I’m from Poland so it’s perfectly doable!). I love the architecture, your photos make a good show of it. Thank you for the recommendations, I hope to make a use of them soon 🙂

    Happy travels,
    A Woman Afoot

      I really enjoyed that little hotel room! And all of Stockholm, really. I would definitely go again!

    I went in the winter and it looked beautiful in the snow. We took the Royal Canal boat tour which was a great way to see the city and get a feel for it, without getting too cold!

    Would love to go again in spring/summer, from looking at your photos, it looks completely different!

    Sammy |

      Similarly, I would love to go back and see it in the winter!

As Seen On

As Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen On