Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is the first stop for anyone tracing the lives of their Swedish ancestors. Here are 6 things to do that you wouldn’t want to miss, even if you are squeezed for time or only passing through…
1. For access all areas, get your access card
The easiest way to get around is via Stockholm’s underground system, called tunnelbana! Single tickets are a bit complicated to get and quite expensive, so I got myself a no-worries all-in card – called access card – at the airport. For 72 hours this costs you 230 SEK (about 24 Euros) and will give you unlimited access to all public transport (tube, buses, ferry) in Stockholm. The method used is similar to that of the London underground. Whenever you put your card on the reader, it will magically open doors.
2. For a first overview, get a Stockholm Pass and hop on the Panorama tour
I’ve done the Panorama tour (included in the sightseeing savings card Stockholm Pass) several times and always found it incredibly informative. Unlike a hop-on, hop-off tour, you stay on the bus for about 90 minutes while hearing a lot of insightful facts about the history of Stockholm and Sweden in general.
It’s helpful because it’s usually less busy than the hop-on / hop-off bus (even in the popular summer months) and also gives you a good overview of the city, so you know where to go when you go by yourself with public transport.
3. Stay somewhere central
As the capital of Sweden, Stockholm is not the cheapest place for accommodation, but unless you know your way round because you have been to Stockholm several times before, it’s best to stay somewhere central. This way, you can easily walk everywhere and make optimum use of limited time.
Before coming here, I was a bit nervous whether I would find my way round. A different language, an unknown city… all that intimidated me. But to my surprise this was actually really easy as (just like in London) all street names are attached to buildings, so you always know where you are. If you still get lost, you can always ask a friendly local for directions. They all speak excellent English!
4. Explore the past in world-class museums
In the open-air heritage museum Skansen, by the way, the oldest open-air museum in the world, you can get a good idea of how your Swedish ancestors may have lived once upon a time in rural Sweden.
The museum is located on an island, but you can easily reach it by bus or ferry. During the high season (June to August), it’s 170 SEK (about 18 Euros) entry for adults, so quite pricy. But therefore you can spend the whole day here and basically have a zoo and museum in one as there are many Nordic animals to see as well. I really enjoyed going through all those old houses (most of them original) and the actors/guides that waited in every house to tell me something about its history. In excellent English, of course!
The Medeltidsmuseet (museum about the Middle Ages in Stockholm and Sweden) is another hot spot for history fans and time travel lovers! Here, you can walk through several reconstructed houses that bring history to life! To my surprise (and delight) this museum is free to enter every day it’s open (closed on Mondays). It also opens longer (until 8 pm) on Wednesdays.
5. Trace the footsteps of royalty
The wedding of Prince Carl Philip of Sweden to Sophia Hellqvist in 2015 made a certain royal balcony world-famous. Whenever there is not a royal wedding or other big event going on, you can wander this balcony freely and feel just like a princess (or prince) looking over the historic centre of Stockholm.
6. Get a taste of the real Sweden
Try a real Swedish cinnamon bun and a huge bread roll at a typical Swedish café, such as Nybergs Konditori (Norrtullsgatan 25, tunnelbana: Odenplan). They tasted heavenly and were reasonably priced!
Even though my hunt for a vegetarian option of the Swedish national dish meatballs was unsuccessful, I did find a really good veggie deli called SönderManna (Medborgarplatsen 3, get off the tunnelbana stop of the same name and find it inside the Söderhallarna food court).