I’ve always heard great things about Sweden’s capital, but somehow I was never drawn to actually explore it. Or maybe it was the price tag linked to the Northern part of Europe that somehow kept me away. Or the fact that I had visited Oslo some years ago and was not really impressed and found the city cold, grey and dull (pretty much like I was at that stage in time). But a few months ago, on a whim, I decided to buy a plane ticket and spend three days in Stockholm.
What would I say now that I’m back? I’d say I’m sorry I’ve waited so long to go and that I’m sorry I’ve only spent three days in Stockholm. The city and its surroundings really had me at Hello!
And since I loved it so much and am currently thinking about getting back someday, I will try to help you out if you are still struggling to decide whether you want to visit Stockholm, or if you have already decided to do it, I’ll tell you what to see in Stockholm in 3 days, the best place to stay Stockholm, what not to miss and basically how I spent three days in Stockholm.
Three days in Stockholm // The best place to stay in Stockholm
For me, the best place to stay in any city should tick the following boxes:
- Proximity to the tourist attractions or at least really close to a metro/bus stop so that I won’t have to spend a lot of time getting to the “it” places.
- Great service – from the moment of the booking up until the checkout.
- Good facilities – depending on the destination, I always try to choose hotels that offer access to SPA, gym or a great rooftop bar/restaurant.
- Beautiful views from the room – if you have seen my post about my stays in Cinque Terre (that breathtaking view over Riomaggiore), Colombo (the view from our room was just stunning) or Athens you’ve understood by now that my heart ticks for the beautiful views.
- Delicious breakfast and food options for dinner in case I’m too tired to spend the night in town – for me, breakfast is maybe the most important meal of the day, especially in a city break when I will most probably spend the whole day on the streets burning a lot of calories.
- The fair price taking into account the quality and all the facilities available.
And the place to perfectly fit into all the above was for me the Birger Jarl hotel where I’ve spent my three days in Stockholm in a very zen room. The hotel has rooms with totally different character and personality, being designed in the well known timeless Scandinavian style.
I really loved everything about this place, from the fact that it was walking distance from the center (we not even once took the public transport, even though the metro station was a few minutes away), to the great breakfast and the very cozy room with a great view over the colorful room (we stayed at the 6th floor). And let’s not forget the beautiful hotel restaurant with its bright colors making you want to at least step in for a refreshing night cup.
Everything from the booking up until the checkout at 4:30 AM was smooth and the friendly staff even helped me with some tips and tricks on taking the best pictures in town, which is always helpful since locals know their town best and these little secrets can totally make the difference.
What to see in Stockholm in 3 days?
I will include here what we’ve done and what we wanted yet to go and see but I think you can easily include in a three days Stockholm itinerary.
The Royal Palace
As you might know, Sweden is a constitutional monarchy, thus you will find plenty of palaces for you to visit, the main one being the Royal Palance in the center of Stockholm, the official residence of His Majesty the King of Sweden.
It won’t be easy for you to miss it since the building is one of the biggest Palaces in Europe, very imposing, overlooking the city from a small hill.
The Palace is open to visitors year round, has over 600 rooms and you will need to dedicate at least half of day to visit it, we at least spent many hours exploring it and allowing ourselves to be wowed by all the imposing architecture and sumptuous rooms.
You can choose to visit the Royal Apartments, The Treasury, Tre Kronor Museum, the Royal Chapel, Royal Guard and Royal Armoury with a 17.5 EUR ticket or you can choose to visit only the Royal Palace for the cost of 15.5 EUR (you can buy your ticket online here or you can have access to it with the Stockholm Pass).
Also known as the “World oldest open-air museum“, opened in 1891, Skansen is another place where you will want to spend plenty of time since it offers all kinds of cool and interesting activities and sights.
We arrived here close to its closing hour and only had a few hours to explore, without having the chance of visiting the many houses where you can see the local customs and traditions, as they have been kept throughout the years. If you are passionate about local traditions, storytelling, craft mastership and simply learning about how the Nordic people lived, this is the right place for you.
Walking on these streets will make you feel like you turned back time and are living in an old Nordic village, which in my opinion is a great way of learning about the locals. Carriages on the stone paved streets, old gas pumps, an old pharmacy with paper wrappings and an old bakery, are only a few of the places that will charm you.
Another thing we liked a lot and made the place even more interesting and unique was the area where they have both Nordic and domesticated animals. From bears, wolves, and moose, to cats, rabbits, sheep and cute little pigs, if you are traveling with kids this is the one place they will love most.
The admission fee is 12,1 EUR, and if you are looking to have an even more interesting experience, take the funicular and admire the city from above.
Take a boat tour to Drottningholm Palace
If you are looking for less stressful day and one in which you would pare your feet the walking (you will still be doing a lot of walking but at least you will have some hours to sit back and enjoy the view), take the boat trip to Drottningholm Palace.
Departing from the front of the City Hall, the trip will offer you some memorable nature views and it will take around 45 min for you to reach the Palace, for a 21,5 EUR with one of the available boat tours. Upon arrival, I was swept away by its beauty and since we took the first boat in the morning (10 AM), we had some time to enjoy the palace’s surroundings without being bothered by the crowds of tourists.
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage, I personally think it is totally worth it to include the setting in your itinerary even if you are only spending three days in Stockholm, because the building and its gardens, fountains, labyrinths, will leave a mark.
I have to admit that we did not visit the interior, influenced by the French prototype, but if you want to let yourself immersed into the royal opulence, expect to pay 18,5 EUR for a combination ticket (which includes access to the Palace and the Chinese Pavilion).
If like us, you want only to take a walk in the palace’s huge gardens, have a picnic by the lake, climb the hill and see the palace from above, you won’t have to mind paying an extra fee. Just make sure to stop by at Karamellan Café & Restaurang på Drottningholm for a delicious coffee and piece of cake.
Under the bridges boat tour
If we are on this topic and if you still have time to spare and are not sick of spending time on the water, take this tour that will offer you a view over the most important sights in Stockholm.
Throughout 2h30 hours, we’ve seen the inner city, the Old Town, the islands Södermalm, Lilla and Stora Essingen, the new area Hammarby Sjöstad and the green areas of Djurgården, while listening to a lot of cool and interesting facts about Sweden.
Whaat? I have to admit that before visiting Stockholm I wasn’t familiar with the “fika” concept, or at least with this name.
If this word does not tell you anything, after learning its meaning, trust me your reaction will be somewhere along the lines of “aww, yeah I totally fika!”. Fika is considered a social institution in Sweden; it means having a break, most often a coffee break, with one’s colleagues, friends, date or family. The word fika can be used as both verb and a noun.
Throughout your three days in Stockholm, you will definitely stop for a coffee and don’t be shy, indulge in the delicious cinnamon buns you will find everywhere. We chose to do so in Gamla Stan (the Old City Center) at the Cafe & Restaurant Under Kastajen where prices were decent for a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun.
Or the amazingly beautiful Old Town, however you choose to call it, could easily get on the top of my list of things to do in Stockholm.
Maybe the fact that we got there relatively early in the morning and got to explore the streets while they were still not crowded played a major role, but walking around the narrow streets, with the gentle morning light making its way, seeing the small tunnels with bicycles at the entrance, the colorful walls and old buildings, made my heart skip a beat.
And there’s no doubt about it, The Old Town is as beautiful from the water as it is from the inside. I think that I would never get enough of it even if I were to live here. I know, I know, I’ve always said that whenever you live somewhere you somehow forget to appreciate the local beauty and no longer get out and look around at buildings, bridges, stunning architecture. But somehow I think that living in this town could be different.
But I’m just rambling now and I’ve only spent 3 days in Stockholm, and Spring is the perfect season in my opinion.
Something else I’ve noticed when it came to the Old Town was that starting at around 10 AM crowds and groups of tourists will start to flood the streets and it will be harder to capture a decent picture of the streets.
Also, don’t try sitting for a coffee at the cafes in the central square (Stortorget) unless you are prepared to pay a fortune for it. We sat at this cute little table at one of the Italian places out there and when I’ve seen the menu I could not find the exit faster (or maybe I dd not see correctly, but I’m really not spending 16 EUR on a cup of coffee).
Walk around and drink something on Strandvägen avenue
Translated as “Beach road”, here is where you will see the most expensive buildings in the Scandinavian capital, patiently overlooking the water over one kilometer. Thus, if you are looking to spend some chill time, sit back and relax over a cup of wine or coffee at one of the many restaurants that you will see all around (also on boats).
The boulevard is one of the most pleasant in Stockholm, definitely the best area to stay in Stockholm, and you won’t regret the time spent here, even if you don’t choose to stay at a terrace (understandable if you are on a tight budget) and buy a bottle of something and chill on one of the quays.
This is something we, unfortunately, did not have the time to see, mainly because Birger Jarl hotel was so perfectly located so that we did not have to use public transportation. But I say unfortunately because, if you did not know, Stockholm’s metro system is said to be the world’s longest art exhibit.
I really wanted to go and see for myself at least a few of the 90 stops beautifully decorated with works of art such as sculptures, mosaics, paintings, installations, engravings – the ones I’ve seen so many times in amazing pictures on Instagram and on other social media channels.
I personally find this interesting not only because the metro stations are pleasant to the eye, but also because I usually associate traveling by public transport (at least based on the experiences from my hometown) with not very nice moments of the day.
If you want to be informed and choose the best of the best, I recommend you head over to the VisitStockholm website and read this comprehensive article about the 14 most beautiful metro stations you don’t have to miss.
Fotografiska Museum and Cafe
Another thing we, unfortunately, did not have the time to visit, I find this museum to be one of the coolest in town (or at least that’s what I think after doing some reading about it). One thing is sure: here is where you will find the best coffee in town! (according to many feedbacks I’ve received, including one of my dearest friends who used to live in Stockholm).
So, if you passionate about contemporary photography or just looking for one of the best views in town, best restaurant or best cafes, look no further. I know, a lot of “best” for me to miss it, but at least I have a good reason to come back to Stockholm.
Other useful tips for your trip (be it for three days in Stockholm, if you’re visiting Stockholm in 2 days or only for one day)
- Airport transfer – I landed at Skavsta Airport (this is where Ryanair and Wizzair land) and took the Flygbussarna bus to town, paying around 15 EUR for a 45 min ride. The buses have connections from all Stockholm’s airports so you can choose it either way and the ticket from Arlanda Airport is 10 EUR. Also, from Arlanda, you have the option of taking the Arlanda Express – train ride taking around 20 min at a price of 28 EUR one way and 53 EUR return.
- Shops and supermarkets – unlike what I was expecting, I was surprised to see that shops are open also on Sundays (with a shorter schedule most opening at around 11 AM and closing at around 4-5 PM) and supermarkets are open from 7 AM to 11 PM. Used to the schedules in Germany and Italy, I was expecting something similar but was really happy to see that I did not have to rush and plan my day depending on supermarkets.
- Stockholm Pass – go or no go? I would say that if you plan to visit many museums (the card offers free entrance to over 60 of Stockholm’s most popular attractions, including all the ones recommended by me in this article) and take a boat tour/hop on hop off bus, it is definitely worth it since you will be saving quite a lot. If you choose to add also the Travelcard, it will be even easier for you to explore the city and also at a smaller price than the usual. So I would buy the card for 3 days in Stockholm.
- Prices for public transportation are different depending on where and when you buy the ticket. These can be bought at ticket machines at Metro and train stations, ticket agents, ticket offices or online at the webshop on the Swedish section of sl.se. The one thing you must pay attention to is to buy your ticket before boarding a bus or light rail lines.
- Read more about all the options you have when it comes to transportation in Stockholm, and not only