Made mostly by Stadsholmen Island and its surround islets, Gamla Stan is one of the oldest sections of Stockholm, Sweden, dating all the way back to 1252; Appropriate considering that Gamla Stan literally translates to "old town" in English. This section of the city is a tourist hotspot and travelers from all across the globe can be found wandering the cobblestone streets and ogling the colorful centuries old architecture.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Gamla Stan, or Old Town, is one of the best preserved Medieval town in Europe dating to 1252. The heart-shaped island features narrow cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, intriguing history and probably the most photographed part of the Swedish Capital, the Stortorget Square.
Matthew's expert tip: The 80-centimeter-wide Mårten Trotzigs Gränd at the south tip of Gamla Stan is the narrowest street in Stockholm. Squeeze through it before gaining waistline at Chokladkoppen in Stortorget with its signature hot chocolate – one of the best in town.
Though not obvious on most maps, the southern region of Sweden is essentially one large archipelago. Within city limits, Stockholm itself is 33% water, making boat tours and cruises a terrific way to spend part of the day and see much of the city in a short amount of time. There are dozens of touring and excursion companies to choose from and they all offer something little bit different to tailor to individual tastes.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: One-third of Stockholm is water so the best angle to enjoy the floating city is on a cruise. Glide through the nearly 30,000 islands east to the city or stop by one of them for natural exploration. Various vendors run daily cruise tours to or through the Stockholm Archipelago. Strömma is the most popular.
Local Expert tip: For anyone who wants to spend a day in the archipelago, head to Vaxholm, an idyllic town with a breathtaking castle
Consisting of several different royal buildings the Stockholm Royal Palace is where the monarchs of Sweden used to reign over the Scandinavian kingdom. The changing of the palace guard also takes place on these grounds and has remained a tradition for nearly half a millennium. Touring the expansive grounds could easily take up the better part of your day if curiosity gets the better part of you, so plan accordingly.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The magnificent 600-room palace can keep visitors engaged for at least half a day. It comprises nine attractions, ranging from the Royal Apartments where the Kings and Queens lived to the Treasury where the crowned jewels are kept. The current monarchs don't dwell there however – they live in Drottningholm Palace west of Stockholm city.
Local Expert tip: Don't miss out on the Change of the Royal Guard which takes place every day at the Outer Courtyard. The time is 12:15 from Monday to Friday and 13:15 at weekends.
Being on of the few, if only, Swedish bands that American's regard as a household name, ABBA is widely regarded as one of Sweden's most widely recognized exports. As such it should come no surprise that the band that put Sweden on the musical map has its own museum documenting the band's pre-formation and their worldwide exploits through out their immensely successful career.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Opened in May 2013, Stockholm's youngest museum is the worldwide fan base of Sweden's most successful music band in history. The place tells the stories of the four members from their pre-ABBA day to the present via various interactive programs, such as karaoke studios and a hologram that allows visitors to perform with the band virtually.
Local Expert tip: Make sure to bring your credit card upon visiting as the entire museum operates on a cashless basis.
The Skansen Open-Air Museum is more than just a museum, it's a trip back in time. The museum takes up most of the island of Djurgården and the islanders are decked out in full 18th century attire and perform the trades most common in Stockholm during that time such as glass blowing, wood work, farming, and more. There's also a zoo that acts as the island's farm.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The expansive outdoor museum is a great way to spend a day in nature with some Swedish history in the heart of the city. Situated on Djurgården, a pleasant and green-abundant island west of Skeppsholmen, Skansen represents a Swedish lifestyle from the past. Craftsmen don costumes from the 18th-20th century and operate traditional trades like carpentry and glass-blowing in a mechanic and old-school settings. The open-air museum also includes a zoo which houses Scandinavian farm animals
Local Expert tip: Djurgården is a great place to relax, walk or cycle. The Rosendal's Garden behind Skansen is the café to be for a meal or drink in the green.
Perhaps one of the greatest free art galleries in Sweden, nearly 90% of Stockholm Metro stations are decked out in local and international art pieces spanning many different media and genres. Rose sculptures decorate one station platform while another underground station has it's ceiling beautifully painted in blues and whites. And many stations simply have their metro walls adorned with paintings ranging from impressionist to more modern takes. All you need is a metro ticket and you can enjoy some of the finest art in Scandinavia.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Not a mainstream attraction for a city but Stockholm has some of the most artistic subway stations. Nearly 90 out of its 110 stations are decorated with design and art elements. The most noteworthy ones are Kungsträdgården which has a mimic archaeological dig, T-centralen station which has a retro 1950s-style wall paint and Solna Centrum which resembles a red-sand cave.
Local Expert tip: Stockholm's local traffic authority SL runs a guide metro art tour in English at 3pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from June 4 to August 31. Meeting point is the SL Center at T-Centralen metro station. The tour itself is free of charge. The only thing you need is a valid ticket.
The largest amusement park in Sweden, Gröna Lunds Tivoli offers some of the world's tallest and biggest rides. The park was opened in 1883 and has since transformed into a sleek modern thrill park; a little slice of European Six Flags. The island of Djurgården serves as host for this high flying assortment of thrill rides and seven different roller coasters.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Thrill-seeking Swedes have come to the waterside amusement park for the past 130 years. The park has seven roller coasters as well as Europe's highest free-fall machine, the 80-meter-tall Giant Drop.
Local Expert tip: As a reward to the stomach-churning fall, the top of the Giant Drop provides an amazing aerial view over the scattering islands in Stockholm. Plus, your scream will be heard all over Djurgården.
Nordic architecture is unique to Scandinavian countries and Stockholm City Hall has all the hallmarks of the one of a kind style: towing height, imposing features, and brick facade. The inside of this seat of city government power looks as though it were ripped straight from the halls of a medieval castle and tours are given ever thirty minutes during the summer months.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The imposing 106-meter-tall structure dominates the Stockholm skyline and is the seat of the city government. Behind the grand façade made with eight million bricks are is one of the best examples of National Romantic architecture, a style unique to the Nordic countries. The Nobel banquet is held here every year.
Matthew's expert tip: The only way to visit the attraction is to join a guided tour organized by City Hall or certified tourist guides. City Hall operates tours in English every 30 minutes between June-August and hourly between 10am-3pm the rest of the year.
The current residence of the Swedish royal family, Drittningholm Palace is home not only to traditions and history, but beautiful art and sculptures as well. The seventeenth century palace has many oddities about it and offers visitors something new every time they take one of the many tours offered within the palace and on the grounds.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: A short cruise from Stockholm city will take visitors to the home of the current Swedish royal family. The 17th century palace was the first property in Sweden to be enlisted by the UNESCO's World Heritage in 1991. Tourists can enjoy the grand palace, a sculpture museum and elegant royal gardens.
Local Expert tip: Make sure to visit the Chinese Pavilion at Drottningholm Palace, a unique Rococo-meets-China-style pavilion built in 18th century as Chinese element was the highest fashion at the time in Sweden.
The Museum of Modern Art, housed in a striking building designed by Rafael Moneo, has one of the best permanent collections of 20th-century art in Europe. Some of the highlights – among the 5000 paintings, 25000 watercolors, drawings and graphics, and 100000 photographs – are works by Picasso, Dalí, Miró, Duchamp, Warhol and Klee. Don't miss "The first at Moderna" when, on the first day of the month, a unique, one-day-only event (exhibition, performance, video installation or other) takes place at the museum. The gift shop is excellent for unusual souvenirs. Free entrance to the collection; see website for admission prices to special exhibitions. Bus 65.