The centre of Stockholm is easy to get around on foot. See our transport guide for public transport information, especially regarding boats and trams.
Kicking off on a negative, public toilets are a bugbear of ours in Stockholm. For all Sweden’s talk of equality and social welfare, one of the most fundamental human requirements can be expensive or difficult to achieve. Public toilets are not widespread, and those that are available usually cost either 5 or 10 SEK for entry. Our top tip is always to keep a couple of coins on you. Even McDonalds and most other restaurants require a code to enter – meaning you have to buy before you pee. We have highlighted those pleasurable free public toilets we have found so far in each area.
The island of Djurgården has been a royal park for centuries, and you can enjoy a stroll around the island, visit museums or other attractions just minutes from Central Stockholm. Let’s get this out of the way, your first choice of museum is likely to be ABBA the Museum which is hosting the “Good Evening Europe” exhibition from May 8th. We went along to the ABBA museum in 2015, and our review can be found in this old edition of the ESC Insight Newsletter. Tickets cost 195 SEK which is on the steep side, so make sure it’s a highlight of your day.
We would advise that you pre-book your timed entrance slot well in advance, as undoubtedly the place will be heaving in Eurovision week. Sadly Mamma Mia the Party, an immersive theatre/ dinner experience in the nearby Tivoli restaurant is already fully booked for the whole Eurovision period. To complete your Eurovision experience you could stay at the Pop House Hotel, run by Bjorn. They even have a few packages including tickets for the Semi Final shows left.
While you are on Djurgården, you might want to soak up some Swedish culture at Skansen. It’s a bit early for their annual Allsång concert season (this year hosted by Sanna Nielsen), but you can visit buildings from all around Sweden and see Scandinavian animals like reindeer and bears. It’s the cute kind of traditional and we approve. If you are inspired to embrace Swedish cultural history further, the Nordiska museum is located next to the Djurgården bridge. It is open late on Wednesday evenings with free entry from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Otherwise it might not be worth the 100 SEK entry fee unless 18th century furniture is your thing.
The Vasa museum gives you the opportunity to see what was for about five minutes the flagship of the Swedish fleet. Built in 1628, the ship was poorly designed and sank as soon as it left harbour. It was brought to the surface between 1957 and 1961 and painstakingly restored for nearly thirty years before being opened to the public. 130 SEK will get you entry to the extensive museum, built around the ship, and telling the story of the construction, sinking and restoration of this impressive vessel. It’s widely regarded as the premier museum in Stockholm.
Agnete from Norway and Nina from Croatia must come together just outside the Vasa Museum, as moored in the harbour you will find the icebreaker Sankt Erik and the lighthouse ship Finngrundet. Eurotastic.
Free publicly accessible toilets can be found at Rosendals Trädgård, the ultimate in garden centre café experience located in the centre of Djurgården. This is worth the 20-25 minute stroll along the canal to reach for a flavour of idyllic city centre living.
Other attractions on the island include Gröna Lund theme park – until recently the host of Lilla Melodifestivalen, an aquarium, a museum dedicated to alcohol (it’s not free), the childrens’ museum celebrating the stories of Astrid Lindgren, and a few art museums. This is Stockholm pleasure island and is the place to be when the sun is shining, strolling around it’s 10 km coastline.
Back On The Mainland
If you need to pick up maps and orientate yourselves, Kulturhuset should be your first destination. The tourist information centre is located here, and a scale model of the whole of Stockholm can also be found in the main building. Just head out of the Sergels Torg T-Centralen exit, and you can’t miss the giant concrete building. We are hoping for water to return to Sergels Torg’s fountain before May as if Sweden wins it will become the destination for all celebrations – now with compulsory nakedness (thanks Samir and Victor).
Kungsträdgården, just around the corner, will not only be the home of Eurovision Village, but will also host the City Skyliner. This tower is being erected especially for Eurovision to come together 81m above the city centre, giving you a bird’s eye view of Stockholm for 100 SEK. If you are a fan of tall towers, the Kaknäs TV tower located to the north of Djurgården is 155m tall, and at 55 SEK is a cheaper option. If you book a table for lunch on a weekday you can get lunch and entry for only 114 SEK. That counts as a bargain in this city.
Norra Djurgården is also home to a number of museums. The Tekniska museum of Science and Technology is interesting, but maybe a little pricey at 150 SEK. The Maritime Museum and Sport Museum are notable for free admission (and therefore that godsend of free toilets). If the Ethnography Museum is your thing you can check that out in this little cluster as well.
Stadion hosted the 1912 Olympic games and is the most historic stadium on the Diamond League circuit. A little known fact is that often the last gate on Lidingövägen is often, meaning you can enter the stadium for free and is you are feeling cheeky run on one of the most famous athletics traks on the planet. Even if you don’t run it’s certainly atmospheric.
About a 15 minute walk south of Stadion is Historiska. If you are interested in the Vikings, this is the museum for you, exploring Sweden from pre-history to medieval times. You can enjoy free entry, and free toilets!
If you are hoping to pick up some classic Scandinavian style, the area to the North and East of Kungsträdgården has NK department store and all the top designer shops, as well as more H&M stores than you would ever need. Design Torget on Nybrogatan is a great shout for unique Swedish design accessible in theory for all budgets.
Stockholm’s City Hall, located on the waterfront on the island of Kungsholmen, will be host to the opening party on Sunday 8th May. If you don’t have an invitation you can take a guided tour of the opulent Golden and Blue halls, home to the Nobel banquet and Eurovision allocation draws.
The Island You Will Meet On
From Sergels Torg, Drottninggatan is the pedestrianised street which will take you into the heart of Gamla Stan. You can walk through the middle of the Swedish Parliament, with free tours in English available on weekends at 13:30. Get there early as they have a limit of 24 people on each tour.
Carrying on through Gamla Stan will take you past all the tacky yet essential souvenir shops (if you need a flag of a Nordic nation to wave in the arena, buy it here), cute cafes, and restaurants of the old town. Take a diversion off the main street to the main square, where you can visit the Nobel Museum. If you are around on a Tuesday evening you can get free entry from 17:00 to 20:00, otherwise the 100 SEK entry fee is overkill for the relatively small size. The cathedral and Royal Palace can be found just behind the square, and of course behind the Royal Palace will be the EuroClub and Fan Cafe complex. Not only will it be fabulous, there should be some free toilets too.
Nestled under a bridge connecting the Parliament with Gamla Stan is the Medieval Stockholm museum, another with free entry. The whole museum is an archaeological dig comprising the old city walls, and if you are interested in the city’s history you can spend an enjoyable hour exploring the surprisingly large museum that requires zero detour.
Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen to the east of Gamla Stan are attractive islands which also home to a number of museums, including the Modern Art Museum, Architecture Museum and East Asia Museum, each with free entry.
Being Cool And Hip On The Southside
Södermalm is the cool hangout for Swedish hipsters, voted the coolest neighbourhood in Europe by Vogue. SoFo, South of Folkungagatan, is the hottest area, with cool cafes and independent shops. Wander the streets on a quiet hour and bamboozle yourself with the eclectic collections of cultures on show.
Fotografiska photography museum next to the water on the north edge of the island is highly regarded as a top attraction by many. Interestingly on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights the museum stays open until 1am which is ideal for those post-show intellectual moments.
Katarinahissen is a viewpoint accessible from Slussen looking over Gamla Stan. Sadly, the lift is currently out of service, but you can get onto the walkway from Mosebacke street up the hill. The restaurant/bar Gondolen is located along the viewpoint, giving you the same view while drinking an expensive cocktail.
Great views of central Stockholm can be gained from the whole northern edge of Södermalm. We would recommend the footpath Monteliusvägen, just head west from Slussen past the Hilton and up Bastugatan, and the entrance to the footpath is on the right hand side. Alternatively if trams and buses are more your thing, the excellent Transport museum costs 50 SEK. Most of the information is in Swedish, but there are plenty of old vehicles to interact with and a cute giftshop for those of you with trainspotters among your nearest and dearest.
If you are in need of a workout, Eriksdalsbadet on the Southern end of Södermalm has a 50m swimming pool, entry 90 SEK. Just outside the swimming pool is a superb outdoor gym – as found throughout Stockholm, which is free to use. A warning to fans from across Europe, Stockholm’s outdoor gyms involve lots of lifting of heavy tree trunks. No wonder the Swedes are so fit.
Just beyond Eriksdal is one of our favourite suburbs. Hammarby Sjöstad was originally conceived as an Olympic Village and is the archetypal modern, ecological urban design case study. The urban planner in me loves hanging around the well-designed squares and waterfront. If you fancy a calming break from Globen, you can take the tram from Gulmarsplan towards Sickla Udde, get off at Sickla Kai and head to the water. Just behind the apartments is the ski hill Hammarbybacken. Climb to the top of the hill for the invigorating combo of a good cardio workout and stunning view.
Day Tripping Away
If you have either a half or whole day free, there are plenty of places to visit.
Drottningholm is the summer palace of the Swedish Royal Family, with gardens modelled on those at Versailles. While maybe lacking the warmer weather, the gardens still flourish through the summer months and the location on the waterside is picturesque. You can pay to go in the palace itself and the Chinese pavilion, or wander the grounds for free, and it’s a great place for any royal enthusiasts. The most conventional way here is to travel on the tunnelbana to Brommaplan, and change onto the 176 or 177 bus southwards.
The crazy touristic alternative is instead to take to the water. Stromma runs a range of boat tours, one of which heads to Drottningholm with a fancy buffet, which can be combined with the hop-on-hop-off bus. If you are planning to take a lot of these tours, the Stockholm Pass may suddenly appear to be good value.
On a sunny day there aren’t many better things to do than take a boat out to the archipelago, and visit one of Stockholm’s 24,000 islands. Waxholmbolaget are the company which run the ferries, leaving Strömkajen in central Stockholm. You can buy tickets onboard, check the available routes online, and get inspired here. If you want a simple journey, a trip to Vaxholm is recommended. Vaxholm is considered the gateway to the archipelago, and the boat will take about one hour. Alternatively SL’s bus 670 will take you from Tekniska högskolan (on the red T-bana line) to Vaxholm in 45 minutes, all included in your Access card price. It’s a cute seaside town with typically Swedish wooden houses and the ideal place to eat ice cream, drink a beer and watch the world pass by.
Far to the north of Stockholm are two former capitals of this blue and yellow nation. Uppsala is located about one hour on the train, a lively university city where cafe culture is king and the gardens are a thing to behold. Carl Linneaus, the world famous botanist, made the binomial naming culture we still use today in this very city, and his garden is maintained to this day.
Southwest of Uppsala is the town of Sigtuna, which was the first capital of the Swedish nation. The town has moved a few hundred metres inland from its coastal beginnings, leaving a cobbled-street centre set away from the sweeping paths by the water. It’s also about an hour from Stockholm, change from the train onto a bus at Märsta.
Stockholm offers plenty to do for a city break beyond the five stops between Globen and Gamla Stan. We hope this guide helps you plan your time effectively to enjoy this beautiful city as much as the Song Contest itself.
In next week’s Travel Guide we are giving you the top tips on food and drink, from the fanciest restaurants to the best cheap eats around the city.