Scandinavia has always been a part of Europe that has intrigued me and somewhere that I have wanted to visit for a long time. Having previously visited Copenhagen in Denmark and enjoyed the Danish culture, we were excited to head deeper into Scandinavia and experience the beautiful nation of Sweden. What better place to start than the capital city of Stockholm! We want to share a few of our ideas based on our experiences of how to make the most of spending 24 hours in Stockholm.
The Stockholm Stereotype
What is the first thing that pops into your mind when you think about Sweden or specifically Stockholm? Perhaps the stereotype that all Swedes are blonde (by the way that is false!), Sweden is an extremely expensive country to visit (depending on where you are visiting from, that could be true!) or the infamous IKEA multi-national corporation. I personally think that all these stereotypes are legitimate, minus the blonde assumption but we should look at what exactly attracts visitors to Sweden.
Modernity meets tranquility. Trend-setting restaurants and vibrant nightclubs next to idyllic archipelago.
The local tourism board, Visit Stockholm, summarizes with the above quote exactly what attracted us to this part of the world. Ok, so maybe we are not active party seekers in nightclubs but the diverse culture and the vibrant blend of modernism along with the tranquil ‘Gamla Stan’ are attractive reasons why Stockholm is so popular.
24 Hours in Stockholm – A Possible Itinerary
We spent a little over 24 hours in Stockholm staying at the beautiful Scandic Grand Central Hotel which is in the perfect location to explore the city. We want to share an itinerary of how to best spend your time in and around the city.
We had the opportunity to use the Stockholm Card which unfortunately has now been discontinued, but this was a great way to check out some of the top attractions. Let’s take a look at what we recommend seeing in Stockholm in only one day.
- Stockholm City Hall
- Riddarholm Church
- Gamla Stan
- SkyView Observatory
- Vasa Museum
Stockholm City Hall
Our self-guided tour of Stockholm started in the heart of the city, just a short walk from the Central Station at the Stockholm City Hall. Dating back to 1923, the 348 feet tower is an iconic part of Stockholm and one of the tallest buildings in Scandinavia.
What is the Stockholm City Hall? Apart from being one of the most famous buildings in Sweden, it is the location for grand ceremonial celebrations such as the Nobel Prize banquet that is held every year in December. From high-profile, elaborate wedding celebrations to municipal council events, the City Hall is a perfect venue for a wide variety of functions.
Guided tours are the only way to explore the interior of Stockholm’s City Hall. A public tour is available daily for 100 Swedish Krona and scheduled on the hour. Through the summer months, additional tours are made available every half hour.
City Hall is filled with gorgeous architecture and ornate decorations that combine to make the perfect venue for the myriad of celebrations that take place here. As we stood in the iconic ‘Blue Hall’ on the ground floor, our tour guide painted a picture of how the Nobel Prize banquet takes place and how the main guests would gracefully stride down the gorgeous staircase and make their entrance while everyone else was already seated.
Please bear in mind that the Blue Hall is a decent sized room, but with over 1300 guests here each Nobel Banquet including the Swedish Royal Family, it certainly gets a little crowded.
The hall was originally designed to be painted blue but architect Ragnar Östberg, had a change of heart when he saw the red brick that was used to construct the hall and opted for this design instead. However, the ‘Blue Hall’ name was already being used so this immediately stuck!
The tour continued throughout the gorgeous building, passing through the area where the municipal council meets and into the Golden Hall which is the ultimate room for elaborate and ornate design.
The walls are decorated with a variety of beautiful mosaics and it is no surprise to hear that the ball after the Nobel Banquet is held here.
As we left City Hall, we couldn’t help but admire the stunning views across the river. Stockholm may not be the first city you think about exploring when heading to Europe, but it quickly became one of our favorites after this trip.
A short walk from City Hall saw us cross over to the island of Riddarholmen which is the location of the historic Riddarholm Church. This is one of the most famous churches in Stockholm, primarily because it is the burial church for Swedish monarchs dating back to the 13th century when it was first opened.
It was initially opened as a monastery but after the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, it closed and shortly after reopened as a Protestant church. The architecture of this church is typical of many European parishes, with the most impressive feature being the cast iron spire that dates back to the mid 19th century.
Unfortunately, the church is today only used for burial and commemorative purposes rather than for congregations. It is also closed between November and May which prevented us from exploring the inside but just knowing the history behind this church made this an attractive landmark to experience while heading towards the Gamla Stan neighborhood of Stockholm.
If you love medieval history, stereotypical European style streets, gorgeous architecture and some fine cuisine we have the perfect spot in the heart of Stockholm.
The Old Town locally referred to as Gamla Stan, is a great part of the city to explore on foot and provides a true modern day reflection on Stockholm’s rich history dating back to the mid 13th century.
The narrow cobblestone streets are one of the key aspects to providing Gamla Stan with the unique character that we see today. We thoroughly enjoyed our time wandering around the beautiful medieval quarters and visiting iconic landmarks such as the stunning Stockholm Cathedral.
The quaint designs of the architecture throughout Gamla Stan combined with the colorful facades that seem to be stereotypical of historic Scandinavian towns, makes this a perfect location to spend a couple of hours.
Whether you are ready to collect a local souvenir or two, it is unsurprising to hear that this is probably the best area of Stockholm to find a bargain.
Local stores offer typical home-made Swedish merchandise but perhaps the most intriguing aspect about Gamla Stan is the myriad of restaurants and cafes waiting to entice you through their doors.
The Royal Palace of Stockholm is also located in the Gamla Stan district and guided tours are available on certain days. Unfortunately it was closed when we visited but walking around the grounds is enough to justify wanting a return visit here to explore further.
One of the most impressive aspects of Stockholm is the blend of historical and modern architecture throughout the city. After spending some time exploring Gamla Stan, we were ready to see of modern Stockholm and what better place to start than the SkyView Observatory. This is part of a sporting complex that is a revolutionary venue for events ranging from soccer to hockey among other popular activities in Sweden.
The Ericsson Globe is the world’s largest spherical building and the SkyView experience is located on the side as you are transported from the base to the summit in pods. These pods offer stunning panoramic views around Stockholm.
Visitors can pay 150 Swedish Krona to experience a short ride to the top and although the journey is over pretty quickly, the views are well worth the admission fee alone.
A short video describing the technologies and modern infrastructure around this complex is shown to visitors prior to entering the pods, but if you love beautiful panoramic scenes then this is definitely an attraction you should consider adding to your Stockholm itinerary.
We enjoy visiting museums although I have to admit that many art and cultural museums tend to be very similar. Unless you are an aficionado of that particular domain, to put it mildly, they can be a little boring.
I can honestly admit in hindsight that you should never judge museums collectively because the Vasa Museum was an amazing experience, and unlike any other museum that we have previously visited!
In 1628, the Vasa ship capsized and sank in Stockholm. Over 300 years later, this vessel was salvaged and today it is the world’s only 17th-century ship on display that has been recovered from the seabed.
From human remains that were recovered during the salvage process to the immaculate restoration process of the original Vasa ship, the museum today holds many artifacts and images depicting the chain of events.
Walking around the museum is an unbelievable experience. There are several levels where you can view from the Vasa from a variety of angles while at the same time learning about the rich history and timeline that saw the Vasa quickly go from the most powerful vessel in the Baltic to a destroyed wreck at the bottom of the sea.
I was particularly interested in learning more about the condition of the Vasa. Given that this vessel is almost 400 years old, it is in remarkably good condition. However, it is noticeable that the wood is deteriorating with time.
Scientists and researchers are constantly working to look for ways to preserve the wood. Hopefully, they will succeed because it would be a real shame to see the Vasa disappear.
Spending only 24 hours in any city around the world is a challenging prospect but one that we love to experience. Stockholm is a beautiful city, filled with rich history depicted through architecture, local culture and of course, museums such as the Vasa Museum.
With so much to see and experience, I strongly encourage you to spend more than 24 hours in Stockholm but if you have time constraints, why not follow our recommended itinerary and visit some of the aforementioned attractions – you won’t regret it!
What are your recommended attractions in Stockholm?