One-third of Stockholm is made up of parks, another third is urban area and the rest is water. In my experience, water makes everything better so I knew I’d love Stockholm before I even arrived.
Each of Stockholm’s islands has its own character and offers something different to see and do. With a guide book in hand, my husband and I bought a 3-day bike rental card and set off to tour the best of them.
The first island on our list was Djurgården. Sitting on the north side of Stockholm’s harbour, right in the centre of Stockholm itself, the bike ride took us all of about 10 minutes to get there. Perfect! Much of the island is covered in green as it forms part of the Stockholm National City Park (the only one of its kind in the world). Feeling like we were playing in Stockholm’s backyard we rode the bikes all over and stopped several times to take in its many attractions.
There’s a small amusement park on the island (Gröna Lund) as well as numerous museums including, among others, Skansen – an open air museum with a zoo housing animals such as elks, wolves and polar bears – and Junibacken. Junibacken is a relatively new (1996) museum dedicated to Swedish children’s literature. My absolute favourite childhood storybook character is Pippi Longstocking, a precocious red-headed, pigtail-wearing nine-year old girl created by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. My Pippi Longstocking days are long over but it was nice to look back for a moment and I made a mental note to one day share the stories and movies about this head strong young girl with my own girls.
I’m not a big museum-goer, so a museum dedicated to a warship normally wouldn’t make it on my radar….at all. However, a friend recommended we go to the Vasa Museum while on the island and I’m sooooo glad we did. The museum is home to the only intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged. That alone would not interest me….at all. But! The story behind the Vasa was both fascinating and amusing.
One of the main reasons the Vasa was able to be salvaged is because it was brand spanking new when it sunk AND it went down right in Stockholm harbour. The darn thing took 2 years and a bundle of money to build and when it was finally completed and set off on its maiden voyage on August 10th, 1628, it sank after sailing a mere 1300 meters. As soon as its sails were raised and caught the wind, the ship heeled over to its port side, water rushed into the open gunports and down she went.
Seeing the storied ship inside the museum was an interesting and eery experience. The ship sits in the heart of the museum under dim lighting and the whole scene is very Pirates of the Caribbean-esque. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in Stockholm. The stories of its sinking, the salvage efforts and the continuing efforts to preserve it are well worth the visit.
An island on the western side of the city, Kungsholmen, is the site of Stockholm City Hall, the large brick building on the waters edge where the annual Nobel Prize Banquet is held every year. My husband and I biked over and parked our bikes in front of city hall to take a boat ride into Lake Mälaren and visit a few of its islands.
The old town (Gamla stan) of Stockholm, is made up of a few different islands and together they form the jewel of Stockholm. Characterized by its architecture, bustling narrow streets with shops and galleries and medieval cellars now home to popular restaurants, its the perfect place to explore and get lost in.
Gamla stan is also home to the Royal Palace. Not one to snub royalty, my husband and I took in the daily changing-of-the-guards while there and then continued on our bike ride.
This is the trendier and younger side of Stockholm where vintage boutiques and cafes abound. We biked over to the island and then chose to explore on foot so we could take in the beautiful views from its cliffs looking back at the main city.
Beyond the city there is a whole other world of islands and islets to explore; an archipelago of some 30,000+ islands. We didn’t have time to venture too far out but we did hop on board a ferry to take in the views of the city from the water and to visit the green island of Fjäderholmarna with its characteristic red wooden buildings.
On our last night we ventured out beyond the inner harbour again to Nacka Strand where we met friends for dinner at Restaurant J – a wonderfully delicious seafood restaurant sitting on the waters edge with a beautiful view of the bay. It was the perfect end to a perfect island-hopping trip.
On the flight home the next morning my husband asked me the same question he asks me every time we visit a new city: “Could you live there?” I said “yes”.