One of the best things about living in London is your close proximity to multiple airports. This in turn brings competitive flight pricing. Which means cheap trips! Browsing Skyscanner is one of my favourite hobbies, so when I saw return flights to Stockholm for just £30, I couldn’t not. I booked my flights from Stansted for the following week and prepped for my first ever solo trip, to Sweden. With so much to do in the Swedish capital, I planned out what to do when I got there. One of my first stops would be Gamla Stan, the city’s old town. From pictures, I saw cobbled streets and beautiful, bold coloured buildings.
Arriving in Stockholm
I flew in early to Stockholm Skavsta airport, to a myriad of multicoloured trees. Turns out autumn is a great time to visit. Skavsta Airport is also located out in the Swedish countryside, which makes for some pretty scenery.
Conveniently, right outside Skavsta Airport, you can catch the Flygbussarna for around 25 pounds return. It takes around an hour, but is a comfortable ride with WiFi and sockets onboard. Sit back and relax while watching the Swedish countryside turn into urban scenery. There are so many pretty, colourful houses about that mimic the Swedish picture I had imagined.
Arriving into the city, I walked up to my hotel. I’d booked the Elite Hotel Arcadia, having found a good deal on Expedia. It was perfect – comfortable, clean, and modern. A buffet breakfast is also included in the price, which I think is fairly common within Scandinavia.
I found some lovely coffee table books on the desk in my room. One was a lovely guide to Stockholm, outlining key activities to do and how to make the most of your trip.
After dropping off my suitcase, I headed out for a walk to explore Stockholm. The architecture is simply stunning. I always recommend walking in new cities, as that’s where you’ll find the authentic city and some hidden gems along the way.
There are so many deliciously cosy coffee shops in central Stockholm. If you’re not aware of ‘fika’, it’s a key part of Swedish life. Often translated as ‘a coffee and cake break’, the Swedes believe it’s so much more. Essentially, it’s an attitude – they make time for it in the day, to meet friends and take a pause from the chaos of daily life.
Östermalm Market Hall, Stockholm
One of my first stops on my venture into Stockholm was Östermalm Market Hall. It’s a beautiful market hall that dates back to the 1880s. Each of its stalls are packed with delicious Swedish cuisine. There are various cafes and restaurants inside too, where you can sit back and enjoy a beer and some tasty food.
There is, of course, an emphasis on Swedish fare (which locals call ‘husmanskost’), with plenty of seafood in particular. Just look at the wide selection of local lingonberries on offer.
You can sample some reindeer meat if you’re feeling bold, and there are plenty of tasty looking seafood arrays on crisp bread. Do note that Sweden is notoriously expensive, so you may want to keep some cash aside for Östermalm Market Hall.
The surrounding area is equally lovely, with lots of independent boutiques full of gorgeous home products and bespoke clothing. I wandered towards the water and grabbed a Joe and the Juice.
Head towards the water from Östermalm and you’ll find yourself near Strandvägen. It’s a beautiful street in Stockholm, and one of the most iconic images of the city. Here, you’ll see boats lining the quayside and the private eighteenth century mansions and palaces.
The architecture of the buildings here is admirable. All of these lodgings were once owned by wealthy Swedish business people, wood barons, and press magnates. Stockholm itself is made up of fourteen islands and over 50 bridges across a Baltic Sea archipelago. Each of the islands has its own character and style. Even though I knew Stockholm was on the water, there are so many paths you can take along the ocean. It makes it a calm and relaxing city that’s perfect for walking.
I walked towards Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town. The sun was setting and the skyline looked beautiful. It’s a short walk across some bridges and you’ll soon notice the architecture begin to change.
Gamla Stan (Old Town), Stockholm
In Gamla Stan, you’ll find the cobbled streets and colourful buildings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. On one of Stockholm’s most interesting islands, here you’ll find the medievals Storkyrkan cathedral and the Royal Palace. This is the official dwelling of the king. It really sets the precendent for the feel of this gorgeous and historic part of Stockholm.
Gamla Stan is very walkable and pedestrian friendly. This makes it perfect for exploring the local sights, cafes, bars, and independent shops. The paths are cobbled, and the colourful buildings make it an aesthetic dream. Västerlånggatan and Österlånggatan are Gamla Stans primary streets for shopping and grabbing a fika.
Arguably the most beautiful area in Stockholm, Gamla Stan is also home to a number of key attractions. The thirteenth century Storkyrkan Cathedral is based here, as is the Kungliga Slottet Royal Palace. Head to Stortorget, Gamla Stan’s main square, and you’ll also find the Nobel Museum. It’s all about the Nobel Prize, which was founded here.
In Stortorget, you’ll also see the gorgeous iconic multi-coloured houses that are an iconic emblem of Stockholm. These are the only private properties of the square. They’ve had various interesting occupants and stories through the years.
Besides the beautiful museums and attractions in Gamla Stan, it’s worth walking off piste to get a feel for the historic Old Town. The food in Gamla Stan is particularly excellent, with various chic restaurants. You can find New Nordic cuisine, classy cocktail bars and elegant pubs. Of course, if you get peckish afterwards, you can always pick up some of the delicious native Marabou chocolate. It comes in tons of flavours and is truly amazing.
After a thorough exploration of Stockholm’s stunning Gamla Stan, I moved on to a museum I’d heard a lot about. Recommended to me, Fotografiska is located on Södermalm Island. This fascinating museum is home to to contemporary photography exhibitions. As I arrived at the museum, I looked out and took in the stunning sunrise across Stockholm’s skyline.
You can grab a glass of champagne from the cart at the entrance and slowly make your way around. The exhibitions are carefully curated, and each is fascinating. You’re introduced to each of the photographers and the concepts behind their exhibits. Jimmy Nelson’s Homage to Humanity is striking, with his close-up encounters with indigenous people. I loved this particular photograph, which reminded me so much of my visit to the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City.
Another exhbition that stood out to me in particular was Saga Wendotte’s In Between Realities. Reminiscent of childhood, all her images depict fairytale scenes of adorable children. After looking a little closer, you’ll see background images that aren’t as harmless as at first glance. It’s a real question about humanity and the world we live in today.
You move around the photography museum, slowly climbing floor by the floor. Once you reach the end of the exhibitions, there’s a number of dining choices – a cafe, a restaurant, and a bar. In my opinion, this was one of the highlights of my trip. Grab a drink or maybe a fika, pull up, and enjoy the view. It’s open until late, too.
There’s my first day in Stockholm, and I loved Gamla Stan. Where are your favourite places to explore in this fascinating Scandinavian city?