4 Days 3 Nights First-Timer Guide to Stockholm, Sweden

As consumers we are obsessed with Scandinavian aesthetics, and the easiest access to it would be IKEA. We sit in showrooms for furnishing ideas, we experience a sense of ‘home’ and 'domesticity' as a couple and as a family there, and we too love the Swedish meatballs.

Our travel dates coincided with Euro Pride 2018

However, it is the spirit, the culture and the lifestyle of the people I truly wanted to experience. Simply more than the simplicity, the functional and minimal designs of furniture that we so love to adopt in our daily living. I struggled to decide between Norway, Copenhagen, or Stockholm in the beginning as we can only choose one due to time and budget constraints.

Ultimately, we chose Stockholm. 

There are 14 islands, connected by 57 bridges over Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea.  I couldn’t agree more when some called it the “Venice of the North”. The summer weather in August was just perfect, as it doesn’t get too warm even with the bright sun. The wind blows gently and you wouldn’t even sweat walking the whole day. Our minds quickly shifted from Iceland’s landscape to the rich historical museums, sites, parks, and all lies in contrast between the modern and the extravagance.

Getting to the city from Arlanda Airport

We opted for The Arlanda Express Early Bird 90-days Advanced Purchase for SEK154 (SGD 24) per pax for a single trip. The trip from Arlanda to Stockholm Central Station is less than 20 minutes and we needed that as our flight was rescheduled from Iceland by 6 hours and we were left with shorter time in Stockholm. In any case, we found out that there’s a promotion going on for the tickets when we arrived, and the fare is equivalent to our early bird purchase. So even if you didn’t purchase beforehand, there may be discounts on the spot too. And it’s usually cheaper for a larger group so you may consider purchasing with other travellers.

Bus and commuter trains take about 40 minutes to the city and you can find more information in this link here.

Tips for you before we dive right into our itinerary!

1.    Stockholm Travel Card

We purchased a 72-hour travel card for unlimited public transport ride. When we arrived in Stockholm Central Station, we first activated the card to Sodra Station where our Airbnb is by commuter train. This allows us to still use the card on the 4th day (last day) to travel from Sodra Station to Stockholm Central Station, before taking the Arlanda Express again.

Stockholm Central Station. And wait can you spot the dad with the baby stroller? I am serious when I say we noticed a lot of dads only with their babies or children walking along the streets on the weekends. Where did all the mums go?

2.    Stockholm Pass

We originally thought our 2 days Stockholm Pass could be self-collected in Stockholm Visitor Centre at Sergels Torg 5, which is 7 mins walk from Central Station. We got there late on the Saturday where the office closes by 3pm from the month of June-August. In the end we had to go further to Royal Djurgården Visitor Center to collect as the office closes later at 7pm. It was a mistake that we overlooked the closing hours for the office, thinking that they should probably be open till evening during summer peak season.

We also read up a lot if it’s really worth the value in getting the pass. After calculating the entrance fees for all the museums and sites we plan to visit, it is cost saving on one hand, and the other is you get to enjoy hop-on hop-off bus tour and boat trips if you want. I believe we have tried to utilize it as much as we possibly could! Read more about the pass here

Is 4 days 3 nights sufficient?

Well I would say it is, for a taste of Stockholm! Here’s our suggested itinerary on how you could schedule your visits for first-timers as a reference.

Itinerary Overview

Day 1: Pelikan Restaurant (Södermalm) – SoFo area (South of Folkungagatan) – Katarina Church (Katarina kyrka)   – Monteliusvägen

Day 2: Nytorget Urban Deli – Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset) – Culture Centre (Kulturhuset) – King’s Garden (Kungsträdgården) – Stockholm Palace with Guard Changing Ceremony (Kungliga Slottet) – Riddarholmen Church (Riddarholmskyrkan) – Gamla Stan – Nobel Museum (Nobelmuseet) – Mårten Trötzigs Gränd Nystekt Strömming – Fotografiska

Day 3: Ostermalm Saluhall Stromma Ticket Booth, along Strandvägen to Djurgâdsbron Bridge – Nordic Museum (Nordiska Museet)  Children’s Museum  (Junibacken) – Vasa Museum (Vasa Museet) – Fjäderholmarna island – Sushi Yume@Ostermalm – Underground metro stations – Tantolunden

Day 4: Greasy Spoons@Tjärhovsgatan – Stockholm Public Library (Stadsbiblioteket) – The Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design (ArkDes)

Don’t miss out some of the details, which I am going to cover them now!

Itinerary Breakdown

Day 1:
Pelikan Restaurant (Södermalm) – SoFo area (South of Folkungagatan) – Katarina Church (Katarina kyrka)  – Monteliusvägen

Due to our 2 days Stockholm Pass, we decided to push anything that requires the pass on the second day onwards and explore the island of Södermalm as we were already quite drained from last night in Iceland.

Pelikan Restaurant is known for their traditional Swedish cuisine since 1733, served in a rustic and majestic hall with high ceiling, warmly lit up in hanging chandeliers and natural lighting from the round arch window. It’s not as formal as it may seem and people are all quite relaxed in such a grand setting.

Knäckebröd, swedish crackers as starters

Without asking the waiter for recommendation, we ordered Swedish meatballs (köttbullar), and potato dumplings stuffed with Morels. The person taking our order nodded his head silently in approval with a smile.

I only saw the recommendation to try Steak tartare (råbiff) as I was drafting this post, which is a dish with raw minced beef patty with other side servings, as well as roasted reindeer steak. Sadly we didn’t managed to try both, we wouldn’t be able to eat them all in any case.

Needless to say as the picture shows how gigantic those meatballs were. The rich gravy spreads around the buttery mashed potato, sweet lingonberries and sour pickles. Our first few bites were beyond satisfaction as the texture and slight saltiness compliments with other servings as we chew on the meatballs. But because we also ordered potato dumplings, we could barely finish the meal. We have never imagined potato could have such a sticky and chewy texture. It truly was a memorable and classic meal for our first night.

After our meal we explored SoFo area, a hipster neighborhood with all sorts of stuff you can find and see. Wander around newly established Moseback Design District where you’ll find local emerging artists, designers, and musicians.

The laid-back atmosphere can be felt even on weekdays as people drink in restaurants and bars there till late night. Walking pass the noise of drinking and chitter-chatter, the rests of the streets are mostly empty and silent in the evening. It’s unfortunate every time when we walked around here the stores were already closed. We took random strolls at every turn aimlessly and stopped by at Katarina Church.

Our last stop for the day was to catch the beautiful sunset along Monteliusvägen at the northern shore of Södermalm. The wooden path up a sloping cliff lets you oversee the sight of Lake Mälaren, Town Hall, and Riddarholm Church. People picnic around the area, and we also witnessed a proposal scene with the backdrop of a setting sun. With such a view, we took slow walks back to our Airbnb for a restful night.

If you have time, visit Hornstulls marknad – an outdoor street market where food stalls are also available. It’s on every Sat and Sun from 11-5pm, April to October.  You may schedule to visit this market together with Tantolunden park, where people sunbath or swim along the waters during warmer months.

Day 2:
Nytorget Urban Deli – Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset) – Culture Centre (Kulturhuset) – King’s Garden (Kungsträdgården) – Stockholm Palace with Guard Changing Ceremony (Kungliga Slottet) – Riddarholm Church (Riddarholmskyrkan) – Gamla Stan – Nobel Museum (Nobelmuseet) – Mårten Trötzigs Gränd Nystekt Strömming – Fotografiska

We woke up early on a Sunday morning at 7am but many eateries were still closed. Nytorget Urban Deli was the only option we could find around the area other than 7- eleven and we waited for the store to open at 8am. You can choose between their breakfast set or à la carte menu and buy their pastries to dine in.

This was taken during their busy hours

We then boarded a bus to Stockholm City Hall where Nobel Price is held, except for the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony that is held in Norway.
We joined the first English tour of the day around 9:30am, though I couldn’t remember more than half of the history now but I had felt the tour gave better insights to appreciate each hall, embellished with gold and mosaics. If you are interested to join the tour and/or to go for the tower view, I’ll advise you to be there earlier than 9am as groups of 30 are limited up there every 40 minutes. The tower opens at 9am and requires a separate ticket different from the entrance to the City Hall.

Pillar designs are non-identical 

Thereafter we walked to the Culture Centre. We didn’t spend long there and ended up in H&M stores around the area picking up clothes at discounted price.

If you are a shopper, you may want to refer this link for tax-free shopping where you’ll get high tax-refund for branded goods. We went in to NK merely to window shop.

At King’s Garden, we grabbed a rich silky gelato with Nonna’s. I highly recommend it. Coincidentally we hear bands playing and guards on horses marching towards the Royal Palace, and we followed them. We didn’t plan on watching the guard changing ceremony at first but were still glad to catch it.

We initially stood watching and tiptoeing all the way across the street. Until we realised the best spot is actually going into the courtyard by entering through the souvenir shop of Royal Palace. You can get a toilet break there too if you’re a Stockholm Pass holder or with the entrance ticket to Royal Palace.

One can easily spend hours there if you take your time at each of the rooms in The Royal Palace, and be captivated by the grandeur of each room, hall and chapel. We also ordered a light meal from the only food stall by Cafe Schweizer in the courtyard.

He seemed particularly drawn to the badges

A few minutes walk away we arrived at Riddarholm Church, the resting place of the Swedish monarchs, for both the young and the old. It is only open to public during summer and autumn.

And we finally stood in Stortoget, one of the oldest squares in Gamla Stan, the iconic Stockholm’s “Old Town” and best-preserved medieval city centres. Spend some time fika like a typical tourist watching other groups of tourists come and go around the public square. You may find street musicians performing there too.

Fika is basically a time of the day when you enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, with local pastries. We craved for cold beer instead, and ordered cinnamon roll at Chokladkoppen. Cinnamon and cardamom sweets are a must they said, but we honestly felt the cinnamon roll wasn’t really that extraordinary. We had compared it with the one from Pret A Manger in London we tasted in the beginning of this trip.

After some rest, we both took our time in Nobel Prize Museum and I must say it is quite a rewarding experience knowing about the awards in detail, and to have a brief overview on each recipient in their respective field in the past years. There are also tours available and I do recommend you to join one if the schedule works out.

There’s a lot of hype about a narrow ally - Mårten Trötzigs Gränd in Gamla Stan and we went to look for it. It is slightly wider than imagined and you’ll find people walking up and down for photographs, just like us. Lucky for us as there weren’t many people when we found it.

We chanced upon Bröd & Salt, a local chain of artisan bakeries, and we were eager to know if the cinnamon roll here could taste better than the one we had earlier. Too bad I wasn’t impressed either. They are prepared slightly differently; the one in Bröd & Salt is plainer compared to the one in Chokladkoppen where honey and caster sugar is sprinkled on top with tiny bits of orange with a touch of citrus. We stopped looking for it after this but you may find these buns to your liking so go ahead and try it anyways.

For dinner we went for something light at Nystekt Strömming, it is actually a Swedish term for ‘freshly fried herrings’. You may find a picture of the menu below for selections of combo plates you can choose from. The herrings tasted fresh and were very crispy.

The main is out of focus here. But too late, we ate it before realising it. 

the modern photography museum just along the water is another of my favorites back in Södermalm Island. The variety of works curated and displayed were provoking and stimulating. I somehow felt refreshed looking at a different scene of fine art photography works here.

We stood outside for a while looking across Grona Lund Tivoli Amusement Park where you can still hear screams of excitement and the scenic night view. Another beautiful and tiring day ended after we went to 7-eleven to grab yogurt, where they have promotions almost everyday.

Day 3:
Ostermalm Saluhall Stromma Ticket Booth, along Strandvägen to Djurgâdsbron Bridge – Nordic Museum (Nordiska Museet)  Children’s Museum  (Junibacken) – Vasa Museum (Vasa Museet) – Fjäderholmarna island – Sushi Yume@Ostermalm – Underground metro stations – Tantolunden

We ate in the temporary building of Ostermalm Saluhall for breakfast, where the original market and food hall undergo refurbishment. There were many options to choose from and easily take-away boxes are available. As salmon-lovers, we ordered their gravadlax (Swedish cured salmon), seasoned with salt, sugar and flavored with fresh dill.  The other dish is served warm, comes with baked potatoes and salmon slices in-between. Again, potatoes make it incredibly filling.

Some have given good reviews to dine at Lisa Elmqvist but the price is slightly higher

Östermalm district is also known for their exclusive high-end fashion, as well as art and design stores. We didn’t spend much time there and moved on to the pier along Strandvägen, a prestigious boulevard along the waterfront.

Plenty of restaurants along the pier

Someone recommended us to go to the ticket booth earlier the same day to collect or purchase the boat sightseeing ticket as it will be crowded during summer. We went to enquire about the boat ride to Fjäderholmarna Island and was told the pier’s platform number, and we could just go there near the time of boarding.

The path leads to Djurgâdsbron Bridge where you will get to Djurgården, the museum island in no time. My favorite section in The Nordic Museum was the history of food and table settings from the 16th century. Besides that, you will find very informative displays dedicated to the Swedes’ trends and traditions, from lifestyle to furniture and fashion.

With our pass we also entered into Junibacken, with some people staring at us strangely as we did not bring any children along. But I must say I enjoy just as much by looking at how kids play and interact in the museum itself, with the variety of rooms to imagine and be intrigued. Even though we didn’t understand a single thing from the outdoor musical play that was going on, I was really eager to be able to bring my kids to Junibacken one day.

And then comes to Vasa Museum, who doesn’t get away being astonished by the scale of it in an indoor space the moment they walked in with the world’s only preserved 17th century ships. The entire space archives about the story of the era, details of the ship and its usage, a film on the salvage, artefacts, sculptures including human bones that were recovered, with speculative information on the people who died onboard, as well as the continuous challenges in preservation the entire ship.

We didn’t go for Skansen, an open-air museum and zoo. Go ahead if you have a couple of hours to spare. ABBA Museum isn’t included in the Stockholm Pass and we opted out on that too. You can visit Aquaria Museum and Gröna Lund Tivoli Amusement Park just around the corner.

From here we made a choice of not going to Skeppsholmen Island where the Modern Museum and ArkDes are. But we did go to ArkDes on the last day as we still have some time. Right after Vasa Museum, we walked back to Strandvägen, optimised our last day of Stockholm Pass for a little boat ride to Fjäderholmarna Island, the closest archipelago island.

View from our boat ride and we took a short nap too!

If you have an extra day or time, you may choose the boat tour to Drottingholm Palace, as a single trip takes 2 hours and we can’t fit that into our schedule. There are also plenty other boat trip choices and you just have to plan accordingly.

We thought we might spend longer time in Fjäderholmarna Island, turned out we were ready to leave after about an hour there. We didn’t have dinner on the island in the end but took strolls by the small beach, and saw glassblowers at work. There weren’t much to do really if you are not planning for a quiet and undisturbed picnic, or to have a drink. It was still a very pleasant boat ride and worth taking for a short trip.

At this point we craved for some Asian food, especially sushi and we ended up in Sushi Yume back in Ostermalm with high reviews online. There was a long queue for take-away orders and the limited seats were all packed too. The choices are pretty limited and rather focused. We ordered their specialties and the food was really up to expectation. 

Surely you have heard of the artistic underground metro stations in Stockholm. Going there in the evening is a good idea as there are lesser people. We went to T-Centralen, Stadion, Solna Centrum, Kungsträdgården, Östermalmstorg, Rådhuset, Tekniska Högskolan, and Hornstull (not in order of visit). You may customize which line to go first along with other attractions.

Our last evening is spent in Tantolunden Park under the pink and purplish sky. Our host has asked us to swim but we felt it is still a little cooling for a dip. There are other beaches around and here’s something you can refer to.

Day 4:
Greasy Spoons@Tjärhovsgatan – Stockholm Public Library (Stadsbiblioteket) – The Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design (ArkDes)

Our host was extremely kind to allow us in collecting our luggage at a later time so we didn’t have to store our luggage at Centralen T-Bana as we have an evening flight. I read up a review with an option to store luggage at Ahlens, a department store outside of Centralen T-Bana at a cheaper rate. Check it out if you need.

For breakfast we went for Greasy Spoons, ordered a Full English Breakfast and Eggs Benedict. The meals were done well and the portion for Full English Breakfast is big too.  

We made our way to Stockholm Public Library right after, took some time browsing through the books, and went merry-go-round photographing. I especially liked how Atlas Obscura describes it as a bibliophile temple. We tried to stay quiet and careful walking up the stairs and taking photographs to avoid unnecessary distractions.

With some extra time we headed to ArkDes. Urban designs and exhibitions were on display to stimulate thoughts on how the city of Stockholm can be improved and what are some of the issues they are facing. After our lunch at King’s Garden where there are plenty restaurants to choose from, we went back to collect our bags and headed back to Arlanda Airport.

Entrance to ArkDes at the time of visit

That’s it!

And that sums up our entire experience in a short 4 days 3 nights in Stockholm. It has been a very insightful visit and you can surely spend even longer time there to study in-depth about the culture, history, every in and about the country. I sure am excited to visit other Scandinavian countries one day to have a comparative view on their lifestyle, especially when travellers tell me how they had preferred Copenhagen over Stockholm, and how landscapes in Norway is also stunning. For now, I am in love with Stockholm and am still mesmerised by the view of sunset we had on the first night.

Our cosy corner at the stylish Airbnb




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