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 3 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 my Stockholm 3 days itinerary.
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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 a 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.
Getting around during your 3 days in Stockholm
How to get from the airport
We landed at Skavsta Airport (this is where Ryanair and Wizzair land) and took the Flygbussarna bus to town, for which we paid 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.
Of course, you can always choose to rent a car in Stockholm which will have you covered for the whole trip or to book a private transfer for when you don’t want to waste time or get concerned about getting to town.
Getting around town
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.
Also, because of Stockholm being quite a pricy destination (maybe not as compared to Norway or Hong Kong, but pretty much anywhere else), the card helps you save while you visit.
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.
However, since we stayed really close to the city center, and we also went on different tours, we did see most everything on foot. For us, taking tours or a hop on hop off bus was more useful for our 3 days in Stockholm itinerary.
Best time to visit Stockholm
With very long days during summer and very few light hours during winter, this is one of the main things to take into account whenever planning your 3 days Stockholm itinerary.
Also, you can imagine that during winter temperatures are very low, thus walking around could get not very comfortable.
We visited Stockholm in early May and I think that’s the best time to visit Stockholm. Temperatures were just right, days are still long (it gets dark at around 11 and at 4 AM you will have light), and cherry trees are in bloom.
If you choose to visit during Summer, take into account the fact that that’s the time when most tourists flock to the Scandinavian countries, thus streets and museums will be crowded, while hotel prices are higher.
My Stockholm 3 days itinerary
I will include here the places we have visited each day and our 3 days Stockholm itinerary, and afterward, I’ll add as well the places we haven’t seen but you should if you have 4 days in Stockholm.
Day 1 of our 3 days in Stockholm
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, since you’re there why not see the change of guard which lasts around 40 minutes and starts at 12:15 pm in the palace outer courtyard on weekdays, and at 1:15 pm on Sundays.
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 best time to visit Stockholm 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).
A great way to see Gamla Stan and learn about the city is by taking a walking tour. I love doing that wherever I go, and I think it’s great to meet locals and learn about the way of living directly from the source.
Here are a few great options for tours in Stockholm:
- Old Town Guided Walk
- During summer, take a 3-hour small-group bike tour
- If you’re into taking pictures for the Gram, they’ve even designed an Instgram tour!
Riksdagshuset – The Parliament house – is open to anyone wishing to attend a debate, public hearing or a study visit. Surprisingly cool, right?
And why not make the best out of this and if you are visiting Stockholm between September and June, stop at the Parliament for a guided tour?
Tours are free of charge but need to be booked in advance here.
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 there 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.
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 a verb and a noun.
Little did I know that only months later I was going to become very familiar with fika, having it every Friday in the office.
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.
Day 2 of our 3 days in Stockholm
Stockholm City Hall
One of the most famous tourist attractions in Stockholm, and maybe one of the most beautiful buildings in the old Sweeden’s capital, the City Hall is a must stop.
We took the boat towards Drottningholm Palace early in the morning from in front of the City Hall and admired it from the distance.
Once we came back, we decided to step inside and admire more of the beautiful architecture. Needless to say, it was packed with tourists and not only, since some weddings were taking place.
Plan your trip to the Stockholm City Hall and get all your information from here.
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.
However, it’s worth to know the tour is included with the Stockholm Pass. Buy your pass online here and forget about looking for it when you visit.
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. This place is by far one of the best things to see in Sweden.
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.
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.
One of Scandinavia’s most visited museum, Vasa Museum is a must-stop during your 3 days in Stockholm.
The most important attraction in the museum is the well-preserved warship Vasa from 1628 embellished with hundreds of wooden sculptures. The ship was found after 333 years at the bottom of Stockholm bay and has become a popular attraction ever since.
You can buy tickets online and plan for a 2-hour guided tour where you will learn all about the famous ship, thus you can plan well ahead of time.
Djurgården – the Museum Island of Stockholm
Right in the heart of the city, and where Vasa Museum is. Since you’ll make it there for the museum, you’ll want to visit some of the other popular museums around (Gröna Lund, or the Abba museum).
Day 3 of our 3 days in Stockholm
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.
You can always book one of the most popular tours in Stockholm: the Grand Tour by bus and boat, and get to see all Stockholm has to offer.
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.
Metro stations not to miss:
- Stadio – on the Redline, the rainbow station
- T-Centralen – on the Blueline, the white and blue station
- Solna Centrum – on the Blueline, the red almost lava-like station
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, the 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.
What else to see when you have more time in Stockholm
Stockholm is an amazing town which deserves to be visited and when you have more time, I suggest you should allocate more time to seeing it all.
When you have more time in Stockholm, or even more but choose to spend it at a slower pace, make sure not to miss the below attractions.
- The Natural History Museum
- Modern Art Museum
- Djurgården – the island on which Vasa Museum is found
- Go for cocktails in Vasastan
- Stockholms Medeltidsmuseum – the Medieval Museum
- Nobel Museum
- House of Nobility
Day trips from Stockholm
No matter if you have 3 days in Stockholm or more time, you must take into consideration spending more time in nature or exploring castles.
One thing is sure when it comes to the Scandinavian countries, they are a true nature lover’s heaven. Also, if you’ve liked Drottningholm Palace, or want to see something else, there are options for that.
Here are some other day trips you might want to look into for your Stockholm itinerary:
- 1-day Royal Palace and Castle Tour from Stockholm
- Half-Day Viking Culture Tour
- Nature Reserve Eco-Friendly Hiking Tour
- Wildlife Safari with Campfire Dinner
- Archipelago Lunch Cruise to Vaxholm
Other useful tips for your trip
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.