Gamla Stan, or the Old Town section of Stockholm, Sweden is a sight to see. The narrow, cobblestone roads, the little shops, the museums and the architecture are all so beautiful. Located on the island of Stadsholmen and dating back to the 13th century, this city has a lot of history, and much of it can be found in the Old Town.
Walking around, turning onto new streets is a great way to get to know the Old Town of Stockholm. You may feel lost at first, but you will quickly learn your way and realize that the Old Town really isn’t that big. Inevitably, you will find yourself in the main square, Stortorget, over and over, helping you get your bearings.
Old Town Stockholm can get quite busy during the day, so getting out early will be a pleasant experience. In the evening it isn’t as busy, so that is also a nice time to wander around, although there are more people than early in the morning. By early, I mean before 9 AM. I was finally able to find this highly photographed very narrow alley in the morning, so was able to photograph it myself without people.
Join a Free Walking Tour
There are many walking tours of Stockholm, but I recommend one of the free ones. There are two companies, Free Walking Tour Stockholm and Free Tour Stockholm. When you look at their schedules, you will see which one offers what you are looking for. Joining a walking tour, you really gain a better appreciation of where you are, and learn a lot more than simply walking around without speaking with someone who knows the intimate details of your location. This is true in Stockholm, but also in many other European cities.
Changing of the Guards
Watching the Changing of the Guards is a bit of an event in Stockholm. Some places it’s fun to watch, but fairly simple. In Stockholm, they have a parade, instruments, and lots of people. If you are with others, be careful to keep an eye on each other as it can be easy to get swept up with the crowds and get separated.
Visit the Nobel Museum
Have you ever wondered about the people who have earned the Nobel Prize? In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, which seems to be the one we hear about the most in the United States, there are Nobel Prizes for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and economic sciences. The Nobel Museum helps you learn more about the prizes and the people who have earned them. They also have hands-on exhibits that will keep people of all ages occupied.
The Nobel Museum is currently located right in the Main Square, but is moving soon to the peninsula right next to Old Town, so it will still be a quick walk to visit.
Take a Boat Tour
Stockholm is a city made of 14 islands with 57 bridges connecting them, so taking a boat tour is a great way to see the city. There are several companies that offer a variety of boat tours through the water around Stockholm. I enjoyed a tour where I stayed on the for the entire ride, but they also offer hop on hop off tours if that is what you are looking for.
Stockholm is beautiful to walk around, but to see it from the water is not to be missed. You see it differently, and as those arriving by boat once did. You also get to see more of Stockholm and see that there are a lot of green spaces, and they even have a man made ski hill in the city! It’s hard to gain this perspective when you are walking or driving around.
You will have a bit of a walk from Old Town to visit the Nordic Museum, but it is well worth it. It takes about 30 minutes to walk from the Main Square in the Old Town, but you can walk mainly along the water, which is beautiful.
The museum is very large, so allow yourself plenty of time. The building itself is beautiful and worth taking some time to admire from the outside, as well as the inside. The man who built it was quite interesting and actually wanted it to be much larger than it is, but he ran out of money.
They have free tours that give you a good introduction to the museum and what it is all about, and they also have free headsets for you to borrow and listen to as you walk around, telling you what you are looking at. Of course, both these statements were true as of summer 2017, so double check their website for updates.
There is so much history of the Nordic culture, history, and traditions. If you want to see everything, allow plenty of time. I loved everything I saw. You see how they set up for different holidays, how they dressed through time, art over time, how homes were set up, and much, much more.
Like all nordic countries, Sweden can be expensive, with Stockholm being right up there. If you don’t mind walking, it is the easiest, often quickest, and cheapest option for getting around. As for lodging, I, of course, opt for hostels. I was even able to stay in the Old Town for a very reasonable price. This also allowed me to cook for myself some days, helping keep costs down.
Some of the museums offer free times to visit. They change too often for me to list here, so check their websites – there are a lot! My hostel actually had an updated list that I was able to use.
Unless you really want to eat in Old Town, go somewhere else to eat. This is the most expensive part of the city. Although, I really wanted a cup of coffee in the Old Town, mainly because I was staying there and didn’t want to walk very far, and I got regular coffee in the Main Square. I was shocked to see just how small my expensive coffee was – not much larger than a shot glass! But, I asked for a refill, and they gave it to me, without charging me. I actually got several refills, so my coffee wasn’t as expensive after all. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Have you been to Stockholm? What did you like there?