Stockholm is the heart of Scandinavia. It’s modern, while still holding onto its medieval and royal roots. Fish, meatballs, and potatoes are cuisine staples alongside a trendy food scene that rivals any European capital city. With world-renowned museums and cultural experiences, planning 3 days in Stockholm will give you a glimpse into this city’s history, culture, and vibe. And, no matter how many days in Stockholm you have, a seed will be planted in your heart with a wish to return again in the future.
3 Days in Stockholm Itinerary:
A Complete Day by Day Guide
The following Stockholm itinerary is broken up into individual days. Each day has must see and do activities and a mix of optional things to do in Stockholm depending on your interests.
The great thing is Stockholm is a really manageable city to get around with a ton of transportation choices like the subway, buses, boats, electric trams, and even pedestrian-only zones for easy walking. This means the itinerary suggestions below can easily be rearranged to suit your interests and time in Stockholm if your visit is part of a larger Scandinavia itinerary.
Day 1 in Stockholm – Gamla Stan & Stockholm City Hall
With three days in Stockholm, make today all about history and royalty! Gamla Stan, meaning Old Town in Swedish, makes a great starting point. It’s here in this area where Stockholm got its start in 1252. Gamla Stan’s well-preserved buildings, squares, and narrow streets make it one of the best medieval city centers in Europe.
The cobblestone lanes are lined with shops and cafes as they wind their way into open squares and courtyards. The most famous and oldest square of all being Stortorget with its orange, yellow, and red ornate buildings.
Arrive in Gamla Stan in the morning to make a full day of it and begin with the Royal Palace. It has over 600 rooms across 11 floors. Of course, not all of them are open to the public. But, arriving when the palace opens at 10 am will give you time to see places like the Royal Apartments, the Treasury with all the crown jewels, the Royal Armory, and the Royal Chapel.
Check the Royal Palace website for special exhibits like this one at the Royal Armory entitled “I Love You Madly” which is open now until January 6, 2019.
The exhibit reveals an impossible love relationship between Sweden’s Count Axel von Fersen and the French Queen, Marie Antionette. It was incredible to learn that Marie Antionette wore just a single piece of jewelry as she was beheaded, a ring from Axel von Fersen with a special inscription! I know I’m a total history nerd (and shh…a secret romantic!) but I couldn’t resist adding their book of love letters to my Kindle!
After spending a couple of hours exploring the Royal Palace, head outside for the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony led by the Swedish Military. Mondays-Saturdays the ceremony begins at 12:15 pm. On Sundays, it’s a 1:15 pm start.
While you’re in Gamla Stan, you’ll also want to wander the cobblestone streets to take photos and explore. Exploring independently means you could even stroll through Gamla Stan before the Royal Palace opens.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Gamla Stan, join a free walking tour or the walking tour included with your Stockholm Pass. Most tours in English begin between 1 pm -2 pm, leaving the morning open for the Royal Palace and the Changing of the Guard.
No matter which you choose, be sure to wander into Stortorget Square, as well as visit Storkrykan, the Stockholm Cathedral. The Cathedral dates back to the 1300s and has a fantastic St. George and the Dragon sculpture. The Cathedral also opens at 9 am, making it possible to see before the Royal Palace opens.
After spending the morning and early afternoon in Gamla Stan, you have a couple of hours left before most sights and museums close. Depending on your interests, here are a couple of options.
First, you can stay in Gamla Stan and visit the Nobel Museum, located right in Stortorget Square. The museum spotlights Alfred Nobel, the founder of the award, what the awards are about, and past Nobel winners.
Otherwise, walk toward Stockholm City Hall. It’s the venue for the Nobel Prize Dinner after the official ceremony and is a work of architectural art. Along the walk there, you may have time to stop at the Riddarholmen Church, which is the final resting place of several Swedish Kings. Just double check the time to make sure you won’t miss the last timed entry into City Hall.
Finish your day strolling along Drottninggatan, Stockholm’s pedestrian-only shopping street. There are also plenty of shops and cafes whether you want to shop, take a Fika break, or enjoy one of Stockholm’s restaurants!
Fika is both something you do and have while in Stockholm and Sweden, as well. Think of it as the art of taking a pause, a break. Sit, have a coffee or your hot beverage of choice, and a signature Swedish Cinnamon Roll to reflect on your first wonderful day in Stockholm. And, whether you’re trying to see Stockholm in a day or have a longer Sweden itinerary planned, be sure fika is part of your trip.
Day 2 in Stockholm – Vasa Museum, Skansen, & Waterways
Spend most of the day on Djurgården, Stockholm’s island of museums and green spaces.
Your first stop must be the Vasa Museum. In fact, even if you had just one day in Stockholm, the Vasa should be at the top of your list! It was even named a Top 10 Attraction in all the world by TripAdvisor in 2015. I’ve visited several times and I’m wowed by the ship and its story on each and every visit.
Now, if you’re wondering what the Vasa Museum is, it’s a museum built entirely to house the recovered Vasa warship from the 1620s! It sunk on its maiden voyage in 1628 less than 1 mile(!) from its dock and sat on the bottom of Stockholm’s harbor for 330 years before being brought up and preserved.
Over 90% of the original ship is on display, along with a treasure-trove of artifacts and some of the bones from those who died when Vasa sunk. The museum has done an outstanding job of telling the story of Vasa from all angles. Quite simply, it’s a can’t miss while in Stockholm.
The Vasa Museum can get especially crowded as the day goes on. So, it’s best to be among the first arrivals when the museum opens at 10 am.
After a couple of hours with Vasa, check out Skansen, the oldest open-air museum in the world and just a short walk from the Vasa Museum. Skansen is particularly good for travelers with kids and a Top 10 Attraction among Stockholm Pass holders.
Skansen shows what life was like in all parts of Sweden through its previous centuries. There are actual farmhouses and village buildings relocated and restored, as well as live native Swedish animals. Visitors can tour the “villages” throughout the museum and learn about Swedish life, customs, and crafts.
If you’re traveling with children, it’s easily possible to dedicate the better part of a day at Skansen. But, even with just an hour or two, it’s possible to see many of Skansen’s top highlights.
By now it’ll likely be early afternoon and you have a few choices depending on what else you’d like to see and do.
First, the island of Djurgården has several other attractions close to the Vasa and Skansen. The ABBA Museum is dedicated to the Swedish music legends with music, original costumes, and several interactive exhibits, including a chance to sing in a recording studio!
The Nordic Museum, in the impressive building just near the Vasa, details life in Sweden, both historically and in modern times. It’s also possible to learn more about the Sami, Sweden’s indigenous people who lived and still live in the northern reaches of the country.
Junibacken, another nearby museum, is inspired by the stories of Astrid Lindgren, the famed Swedish author who wrote Pippi Longstocking and many others. It’s a perfect spot for families with children.
If you visit Stockholm from late spring to September, Gröna Lund is an amusement park close to the ABBA Museum and easily spotted from Stockholm’s waterfront with exciting rides, restaurants, and concerts.
But, if you’ve had your museum fill and you’re looking for fresh air, my suggestion is to get out onto the water and see Stockholm from a different perspective. Stockholm sits on 14 different islands where Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea meet. The islands, water, and accompanying bridges are a lot of what makes Stockholm so beautiful.
Choose from a Royal Canal boat tour or head out into the archipelago for a glimpse of the natural beauty just minutes from Stockholm’s city center. Both water experiences are included in the Stockholm Pass.
As you can see, even with just 2 days in Stockholm, there’s a lot you could see and do!
Day 3 in Stockholm – Drottningholm, Food, & Art
Drottningholm Palace is UNESCO World Heritage Site and the home for Sweden’s present-day King and Queen. It’s a short trip outside of Stockholm whether you choose to get there by boat with your Stockholm Pass or use the easy subway and bus connections.
Plan to arrive when the palace opens so you can have the Palace rooms nearly to yourself. Then, stroll out into the perfectly planned Baroque gardens. Along the way, stop to see the exquisite Chinese Pavillion and the Drottningholm Court Theatre.
Keep in mind, if you’re visiting Stockholm in fall or winter, check the Palace hours as they’re more limited than during the warmer months.
After spending a couple of hours like Royals, return to Stockholm. Depending on your interests, spend the afternoon on a Söldermalm food tour or subway hop from station to station on your very own DIY Stockholm subway art tour.
Söldermalm is Stockholm’s trendy, foodie neighborhood with a fantastic variety of Swedish and ethnic food. You’ll make 7 stops along the food tour while the guide tells about the neighborhood and the cultures and foods that shape it. It was easily one of the best food tours I’ve ever done.
If you’d rather, go underground and explore Stockholm’s subway art. Dubbed the longest art gallery in the world because 90 of it’s 100 stations have public art displays. If you’ve traveled by subway at any point during your stay, you’ve likely seen the blue and white wall paintings at T-Centralen.
This DIY subway art tour could easily be broken up over your time in Stockholm or done in the evening after the rush of commuters has made their way home and the stations are easier to photograph. Either way, I wouldn’t miss exploring Stockholm’s subway art.
Finish this last day with a stop at the Fotografiska, Stockholm’s photography museum and restaurant. (Oftentimes, the food tour mentioned above finishes here.) The exhibitions change throughout the year, but no matter when you visit, you’re bound to see a poignant, well-crafted photography display.
Afterward touring the museum, plan to eat dinner at the Fotografiska restaurant. The food has a local focus with fresh produce, meats, fish, and cheeses and is designed with large windows overlooking Stockholm’s colorful waterfront.
How to Get from Arlanda Airport to Stockholm
Most Stockholm visitors will arrive at Arlanda airport, Stockholm and Sweden’s major international flight hub. The quickest, easiest, and greenest way to get into Stockholm is on the Arlanda Express, a high-speed train connection especially for getting to and from Arlanda Airport.
The train is nonstop and takes about 20 minutes. Tickets can be bought online, through their app, or at the electronic ticket machines in the airport. Elevators in the airport terminal carry you seamlessly down to the train’s platform.
Where to Stay in Stockholm
As with any major city with great public transportation, the biggest where to stay in Stockholm tip is to be near a subway, bus or tram stop. No matter which neighborhood you stay in, you’ll be able to get around easily if you follow this tip alone.
Norrmalm is the busy district where you’ll find the main train station, the pedestrian shopping zone of Drottninggatan, and restaurants for all tastes and budgets. It’s definitely more commercial than having that neighborhood charm, but you can’t beat how central it is.
In this neighborhood, I particularly like City Backpackers Hostel for large family groups. A family of 6 can stay in a private room with a private bathroom and each person gets their own bunk bed. It was the perfect solution while traveling with my niece and nephews without needing multiple hotel rooms.
Check Current Prices at City Backpackers & other Norrmalm Hotels |
Book City Backpackers
Staying in Gamla Stan comes with the historic charm of Stockholm’s old town. Keep in mind older buildings typically have smaller rooms and some buildings won’t have elevators. On the other hand, the location can’t be beaten! You’re just a few (cobblestone) steps away from the Royal Palace, Stockholm’s waterfront, shops, restaurants, and public transportation.
And because the Stockholm subway is so convenient, you can stay a bit further from the city center and save a little money, too. I’ve had great stays at the Park Inn Solna. The subway is just next door and the rate included a full breakfast.
Lastly, if you need a place to stay at Arlanda airport because of an early or late flight, I recommend the Radisson Blu Arlandia. It’s just a few minutes via the free shuttle to the airport terminals and less expensive than the Radisson Blu SkyCity located directly in the terminal.
Money-Saving Stockholm Travel Tips
Stockholm and Scandinavia overall have the reputation of being more expensive than other European destinations. There’s certainly some truth to this. But, no matter where you’re traveling, it’s always best to save money when you can.
The Stockholm Pass is a great way to bundle sightseeing costs. The pass includes 60+ attractions including top sights, museums, and tours like the Vasa, the Fotografiska Museum, Drottningholm Palace, the Royal Palace, Skansen, Waterway Cruises, and more.
You can purchase the Stockholm Pass for 1,2,3, and 5 days depending on what makes sense for you. Even when visiting just those top sights listed in the paragraph above you’d spend 1,145 SEK. A 3-day Stockholm Pass would save you at least 100 SEK. The savings goes up when you include more included attractions.
Finally, I’ve mentioned Stockholm’s fantastic public transportation system several times throughout this guide. Not only can is it convenient and a time-saver, it can also save you money! Taxis in Stockholm are expensive. However, you can purchase a 72-hour Travelcard and use it an unlimited number of times on the subway, buses, trams, and some ferries. It’s also possible to add a travelcard to your Stockholm Pass, as well. And, these public transportation travelcards work out to be cheaper (and easier!) than single journey tickets.
Stockholm is a gem of a European city that should be on every traveler’s must-visit list! With this Stockholm 3-day itinerary guide, you’re sure to have a fabulous trip!
So, what’s on your Stockholm itinerary?
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