Known as the Venice of the North, Stockholm is a city defined by water; it’s in the soul of the city’s inhabitants. Cold and icy in the winter and ready for sailing and bathing in the summer, water is as much a symbol of Stockholm as Old Town and the Royal Palace. This makes the Swedish capital the ideal hub for adventure – the chance to blend an urban center with the beauty of the outdoors.
Swedes are known for their deep connection to the outdoors. Nature is a part of Swedish literature, art, music and everyday life, and you’ll find this throughout Stockholm. From boat trips out into the Stockholm Archipelago to afternoon walks around Djurgården, Stockholm is the city for those that love the outdoors. In a time when Scandinavian culture is at the top of every travel hit list, Stockholm and its outskirts are worth an exploration for those that are looking to blend the big city with the beauty and possibility of the outdoors.
You can’t know Stockholm without exploring its waterways. For anyone that loves life on the water, there are plenty of options. The archipelago is a hub for summer sailing trips, and kayaking is another easy way to get to know the area. Renting a sailboat for a week and touring around the islands is a popular summer pastime of Swedes. If your sailing skills aren’t quite up to par, you can go on an organized sailing tour with Event Segling. An excellent way to explore the city of Stockholm is to kayak the waterways. The Stockholm Tourism Office has a list of companies that have kayak rentals in the city. You can also go out for a day in the archipelago and rent a kayak on one of the islands. Horiston Kajak offers guided tours of the archipelago, as well as rentals and help for organizing a self-guided trip. For even more water-based adventures, check out Stockholm Adventures, which organizes everything from kayak trips to hiking tours.
Because of its many parks and the surrounding natural areas, if you like trail runs or hiking, you’ll have plenty to explore in Stockholm. Get a good feel for the city with a Waterside Jogging Tour from Stockholm Jogging Tours, which will take you around all of the central city’s well-known waterways and monuments. If you are looking for a more urban adventure, check out the guided Rooftop Tour, a combination of climbing (in harnesses of course) and sightseeing. For a slower pace, there are a variety of hiking trails easily accessible, providing the opportunity for day trips or even multi-day excursions. In the vicinity you will find Sörmlandsleden, Upplandsleden and Roslagsleden. Stockholm Adventures organizes hiking tours, but you can also take off on your own. In Sweden you are able to take advantage of Allemansrätten, the Right of Public Access. It is an important part of Swedish outdoor culture and allows you to fully explore areas, even if they are on private land.
If you want to really learn how to be Swedish you will get on a bicycle because in this country, cycling is a way of life. Stockholm City Bikes is the local bike share system and allows you to use one of the bicycles for up to three hours at a time. A three-day card can be purchased for 165 SEK at various retailers around the city. If you are staying for more than three days, consider getting a season card for 300 SEK. If you want to rent your own bike instead of using the bike share system, check out Rent a Bike, located right by the water on Strandvägen. Pick up the Stockholm Bike Map from the tourist office or the department store NK and you will have a good guide to exploring the city. There’s also a digital version you can use to find a route from point A to point B. For guided tours, check out the following companies:
- Bike Sweden – Bike tours in the city and in the archipelago. They also do multi-day trips starting at 2390 SEK/person, including lodging.
- Guide Stockholm – Guided bike tours of Djurgården.
- Stockholm Adventures – Stockholm on Two Wheels Tour, a tour of all the classic Stockholm sites for 300 SEK/person.
Home of Lidingöloppet, an annual 30-kilometer run around the island that’s popular for Stockholm residents that want a dose of the countryside. It’s also home to Långängen-Elfvik National Park, which has 125 acres of open farmland and also houses one of the largest old farms, Elfviks Farm, which is still functioning today. In the winter the island is home to both cross country skiing trails and long distance ice skating routes, and in the summer it’s a hotspot for anyone interested in being close to the water.
Skärgården – Stockholms Archipelago
Stockholm’s Archipelago is made up of approximately 30,000 islands and islets, meaning there is more than enough to explore. Some of the most popular islands are Vaxholm, Sandhamnm, Grinda and Utö. The easiest way to access the archipelago is by ferry. Waxholmsbolaget runs an extensive network of boat services to many of the bigger islands. Visit Skärgården is the archipelago’s own tourist bureau and a good resource for planning a trip to the islands. The Right to Public Access allows you the right to pitch a tent in public places, so for a budget adventure, bring your accommodations with you and sleep on a beach by the water.
A 20-minute trip from Slussen, Hellasgården is an outdoor area that’s full of bike paths, hiking and running trails, swimming areas and even beach volleyball courts. In the winter you’ll find ice-skating as well as cross-country skiing trails. After a day on the snow you can go sit in the sauna for 60 SEK/person as well. From Slussen, take buss 401 to Hellasgården I Älta, or take subway line 17 towards Skarpknäck and get off at Hammarbyhöjden.
Where to Stay
Centrally located on the island of Skeppsholmen, Af Chapman is one of Stockholm’s most well known budget accommodations as it’s a hostel on a boat. Since you’re staying on Skeppsholmen, you’re well located for a morning run around the small island and into the city. Staying right on the water also gives you a very different feel of the city than staying in a standard hotel. Starting at 260 SEK/night.
Cabin Rentals in Stockholm’s Archipelago
If you’re looking to explore Stockholm’s archipelago for more than a few days, consider renting a cabin. There are plenty of accommodations available throughout the archipelago, on both the big and smaller islands. This gives you the chance to enjoy a summer week like a true Swede. Prices vary. www.skardgardsstugor.se
Renovated in 2008 the Crown Remand Prison was turned into the Långholmen Youth Hostel. Today the dorm rooms are built in old prison cells. There’s beach access to Mälaren and a jogging trail, so you get plenty of chances for fresh air while at the same time living centrally in the city. Starting at 255 SEK/night. Långholmsmuren 20. www.langholmen.com
Where to Eat
Craving raw, organic and vegetarian food? 8T8 is the place to go. An environmentally conscious restaurant and café, 8T8 has breakfast, lunch and the classic Swedish “fika” offering of a variety of goodies to go with your coffee or tea, all with raw and vegan options. Perfect for the health conscious adventurer. It’s centrally located close to Mariatorget. Swedenborsgatan 1, www.8t8.se.
There is no more classic Stockholm café than Vete-katten. This is the place to go for a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll or a freshly baked scone. During the summer months you can even sit in the inner courtyard to get a dose of sunshine. Kungsgatan 55. www.vetekatten.se
Located on the top floor of Stockholm’s centrally located Kulturhuset, Café Panorama offers simple Scandinavian fare in a classic cafeteria setting with an excellent view from above the city. You can come here for a full lunch or just an afternoon coffee. www.kulturhuset.stockholm.se
Central Stockholm is easy to navigate by foot. For longer journeys there are buses and a subway system, as well as a bike share system from April – October. One-way tickets on public transportation within Stockholm are 12.50 SEK, and you can get a seven-day unlimited pass for 300 SEK.
Depending on your sport of choice, seasons in Stockholm are very different. Winter is dark and cold, but perfect for winter activities like long-distance ice skating and skiing. Stockholm even has its own downhill slopes at Hammarbybacken. For trips out to the archipelago, summer is a better bet. Many Stockholmites flock to the islands during the summer, which means that stores and cafes that are closed during the off-season come back to life. You’ll find that during the summer there are certainly more visitors to Stockholm and the surrounding areas, but the weather is ideal and you’ll get to take advantage of the long hours of daylight.
Sweden in general is a very safe place to travel. As in any big city, in and around Stockholm, be aware of your surroundings and stay street smart.