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Stockholm, Sweden

Our cruise aboard the Viking Jupiter disembarked in Stockholm, the capital of the Kingdom of Sweden. This city of fourteen islands connected by 57 bridges is found on the east coast of Sweden where the fresh water of Lake Mälaren flows into the salt water of the Baltic Sea.

With the current exchange rate of nearly ten krona to a dollar, a stay in Stockholm is more affordable than you may think. We decided to stay for a week.

Where to stay

We searched for a centrally located hotel with easy access to Stockholm’s public transportation system and chose the newly renovated Radisson Strand. Swedish actresses Ingrid Bergman and Greta Garbo are among the notable guests who have stayed here. It is in the beautiful cultural district, and its decor, like that of the Viking Jupiter, exemplifies Scandinavian simplicity. 

The view from our hotel room stretched from the Royal Dramatic Theater all the way to Djurgården and gave us a birds-eye view of the commuter ferries and tour boats coming in and out of the harbor.

The Radisson Strand is in the beautiful cultural district, and its decor, like that of the Viking Jupiter, exemplifies Scandinavian simplicity. 

The room rate includes an à la carte menu as well as a bountiful breakfast buffet of traditional and Nordic favorites. Breakfast is served in the urban-chic brasserie, which is also a popular spot for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.

Some days we stopped back at the hotel for a Swedish fika (coffee and a sweet). Complimentary cinnamon buns and other treats are offered in the lobby. We enjoyed them in our room with one of our favorite views of the city.

The Attractions

The walk to the medieval Old Town and royal palace and takes about ten minutes. Stockholm’s water is so clean people fish there.

It is also an east walk to the National Museum, a showcase of Sweden’s finest art from the Middle Ages to the present, and the History Museum, which dazzles with its Gold Room and the world’s largest collection of Viking artifacts. A new exhibit on Viking culture beyond the warriors is scheduled to open there in June 2020. Admission to both museums is free of charge.

Strandvägan

The Radisson Strand faces Strandvägen, the elegant boulevard built for the 1897 World’s Fair. The waterfront esplanade along Strandvägen leads to the island of Djurgården, the former royal hunting grounds that is now a green oasis and playground for all. 

Djurgården

Djurgården is a place to dine, visit some of the city’s top museums, or find thrills at an amusement park. We walked as much as possible, but buses, trams and ferries run frequently to and from Djurgården.

Blue gates mark the entrance to Royal Djurgården Park, a green oasis and 18th and 19th century game park of kings. It’s the perfect place for a stroll, a picnic, or to simply relax and enjoy the view..

The Vasa Museum is the most visited museum in Scandinavia. Built as the most powerful warship in the Baltic during Sweden’s Great Power Era, the grand but top-heavy Vasa capsized in the harbor on its maiden voyage in 1628.

It was located and raised intact over 300 years later. The Vasa is now the best preserved 17th century warship in the world.

Learn about Swedish cultural traditions going back as far as 1523 at the adjacent Nordic Museum. See fashions through the ages, jewelry, folk art, glass and porcelain. There is also an exhibit on the Sami, Sweden’s indigenous people.

Table settings from the 16th century to the 1950s offer a fascinating insight into homes and interiors through the ages.

You can ride the story train through Pippi Longstocking’s adventures for a fanciful experience at the nearby Junibacken. Children can climb and play in exhibits based on books by Astrid Lindgren.

If you like Colonial Williamsburg you will love spending the day at the museum that inspired it. Artur Hazelius founded Skansen, the world’s oldest  open-air museum, in 1891 to show how Swedes lived in the past.

Craftspeople and other interpreters are found throughout the area of over 200 houses, farmsteads and other structures that have been moved here from every part of Sweden. It’s the only open-air museum with wild animals.

Skansen is near the ABBA (“Waterloo,” “Dancing Queen” ) Museum, an interactive experience all about legendary the pop stars from the 1970s.

Go onstage or try on their costumes with virtual reality. Log your experience on your ticket and access it for 15 days.

Prince Eugen (1865-1947) was one of the foremost landscape painters of his time and an avid art collector. See his works and collections in his mansion, Waldemarsudde. The Prince’s Private Apartments are largely unchanged and two upper floors are used for exhibits. It is surrounded by a beautiful sculpture garden with works by Carl Milles, Rodin and others.

Hungry? Try the greenhouse or the terrace at Rosendals Trädgard’s garden café and wood fired bakery. The fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs are the product of biodynamic farming and organically certified. In summer, pizza is served in the Garden Bar with garden beer, natural wine, or lemonade on Sundays.

Gamla Stan, The Old Town

Visitors and locals alike enjoy strolling along the cobblestone lanes of the pedestrian-friendly Old Town, Gamla Stan. This well-preserved medieval city center is a living museum where you can shop, stop for lunch or a fika, dine in a Michelin star restaurant, bask in royal splendor at the Royal Palace or simply enjoy the sights. 

Stortorget, the “big square,” is the historic center and now the site of the Nobel Museum, cafés and a Christmas market featuring handicrafts and food. But it wasn’t always so alluring.

The 82 white stones on the 15th century red house there are said to have been added in the 1600s to represent the anti-unionist nobles executed in the 1520 Stockholm Bloodbath. This three day siege after the coronation of the Danish king Christian “the Tyrant” II as King of Sweden outraged supporters of nobleman Gustav Vasa. They drove the Danes out, winning Swedish independence and making Gustav Vasa king.

The busy main streets, Västerlånggatan and Österlånggatan, offer an array of both high quality and touristy shopping and dining. It is also fun to explore beyond them.

A little tunnel might lead to a tiny café.  There are passageways and alleyways, like Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, which narrows to under a yard wide.

And you might stumble upon little doorways like that of the Draymen’s House, built around 1600 for the guild licensed to distribute wine and spirits and now a museum.

There are enchanting shops, like Tomtar and Troll, filled with handmade creatures from Swedish folklore, that make unique souvenirs.

The Royal Palace is the official home of the King and Queen of Sweden. With over 600 rooms it is one of the largest palaces in Europe. Visit the reception rooms and surround yourself with treasures like Queen Kristina’s silver throne.

The adjacent Stockholm Cathedral, built in 1279, is where Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel were married in 2010. There’s a magnificent 15th century statue of St. George and the Dragon inside. 

There are also five palace museums — Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities, the Tre Kronor Museum, the Hall of State, Halls of the Orders of Chivalry, and the Treasury. 

The Armory, with its gilded coronation carriages and coaches from the Royal Stable, splendid royal costumes and, of course, royal armor, is in the old vaults of the Royal Palace. It is the the oldest museum in Sweden.

And let’s not forget the military marching band and parade through the city and the daily changing of the guard at the Royal Palace.

The archipelago

A trip to Stockholm is not complete without getting out to the Stockholm archipelago, which is is made up of about 30,000 islands, islets and rocks.

Although many coastal islands are also accessible by car, train, bus, or bike, thanks to the bridges, tunnels and car ferries, the best way to get out there is by boat or ferry. Get around on foot or with a rental bike.

The islands offer an escape to Grinda’s beaches, Sandön’s kayaking, and Sigtuna’s rune stones and Viking Age heritage, to name a few. Limited time? Browse the artists’ studios and stroll the loop around Fjäderholmarna, just a 20 minute boat ride from the city center.

Stay overnight or just cruise around the islands and enjoy the ride. Be sure to check the schedules of return times and be aware that some tour boats run only during the summer season.

Dining in Stockholm

Dining choices run from traditional meatballs with potato purée, pickled cucumbers & lingonberries to inventive Michelin-star cuisine. Our hotel was in an ideal location for sampling it all.

Inexpensive meals are found at places like NK Department store or the “dagens rätt,” or lunch plate of the day, abound in Gamla Stan. The ultimate splurge is the New Nordic dining at Frantzén, the only 3 Michelin star restaurant in Sweden. 

Two Michelin star restaurants in the area include Oaxen Krog, in Djurgården, (Its a sister brasserie, Oaxen Slip, is said to serve the best Sunday roasts in town) and the minimalist Gastrologik, which features “logical gastronomy” that takes farm-to-table to the max.

One star options include Operakallaren, with its gilded panels and crystal chandeliers, and the informal Matbaren, in the basement of the 5-star Grand Hotel. 

For seafood like Baltic herring and the shellfish bar there’s Sturehof, in a unconventional yet traditional restaurant.

At B.A.R., just behind the hotel, choose your own fish, shellfish or meat right at the counter, order à la carte or, like us, try a combination like the Mixed grill for two.

Discount passes

The Stockholm Pass, with unlimited Hop On Hop Off Bus tours, Royal Canal Tour, Drottningholm Palace Boat Tour, free entry to 60 top attractions, museums and tours and a guide book,  is a good value if you plan to take bus and boat tours and visit numerous museums. https://www.stockholmpass.com/stockholm-pass-prices.php. Available as 24, 48. 72 and 120 hour passes. The Travelcard for public transportation is available separately.  

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