We arrived in Stockholm after a five-hour train trip from Oslo. The trip was uneventful, and as WIFI was provided, wasn’t too boring. The train had a café car, where you could buy food and drinks, so overall a pleasant journey that went surprisingly quickly.
On arrival at Stockholm Station, we caught a taxi to our hotel in Gamla Stan. This is the old part of town in Stockholm. We chose it as it has many attractions nearby, as well as the benefits of being in Gamla Stan itself, such as the atmosphere and restaurants.
Our accommodation was the First Hotel Reisen, on the waterfront. It is an older hotel, but the rooms were clean and warm and the location was excellent. By the time we had checked in it was gone five in the afternoon and dark outside. We ventured out for a walk, and went towards the city centre.
In Berzelii Park, we found some amazing Christmas decorations. There was a huge display of moose sculptures lit up for Christmas. Many of the other streets were also decorated for the festive season, making the whole atmosphere very enjoyable.
After walking around for a few hours and finding something to eat at the many restaurants available, we headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
Breakfast the next morning was served on the ground floor of the hotel. There was more than enough variety to satisfy us, and we all had a huge meal. Ready to take on the day, we rugged up in warm clothes and headed out.
Our first stop was the ABBA museum. There was an option to take public transport, but we decided that a walk would also give us the opportunity to see Stockholm’s streets and waterfront better. Tickets for the museum had been pre-booked in Australia before we left. This should have meant we just walked up to the check in machines and then started our tour. However, we had also pre-booked audio guides and had to go back to the counter to pick these up, so probably didn’t save any time. The museum is a cashless shop, so all purchases must be made with credit cards. We knew this so it wasn’t a problem, but we heard some other people complaining about it.
The tour is self-paced and takes you through the full history of ABBA the group as well as the individuals. If you are an ABBA fan, this is a must see when in Stockholm. As well as displays, there are interactive areas, where you can get up on stage and dance and sing with a holographic ABBA. All of this is recorded for you to take with you when you leave.
The gift shop is quite extensive, with anything ABBA for sale.
Not far from the ABBA Museum is the famous Vasa museum. Another must see attraction. The preserved ship is fully enclosed in its purpose-built building. It is not until you go inside that you realise just how big the ship is and how amazing its recovery and preservation is. As well as the ship itself, there is a full description of the recovery process as well as many artifacts from the wreck site. We could get quite close to the ship and take some good photos, but in peak season, I would imagine that it would be very crowded.
From Vasa, we walked to the Swedish History Museum. This contains one of the world’s largest collections of Viking artefacts and medieval art. Our first stop here was the café for lunch. There was quite a reasonable range of food, and all of us managed to find something we liked. After re-fuelling, we spent several hours walking around the fantastic displays. The Viking section was particularly impressive. If you are interested in the spread of Christianity in the early middle ages, there is a huge display of early Christian art, ranging from frescos to altars.
The gold room in the museum contains some of Sweden’s greatest treasures. There is display after display of Viking crafted gold jewelry and objects. It was simply magnificent.
After dropping souvenirs off at the hotel, we walked around Gamla Stan in the evening. There was a huge variety of places to eat and after a meal, we spent some time taking in the old narrow streets and buildings before returning to our hotel. As it was December, everything was very festive, with a Christmas market set up in one of the squares.
The next day, after another great breakfast at the First Hotel Reisen, we set off to explore Gamla Stan in the daylight. Only a few minutes from our accommodation, was the Royal Palace, but being a Monday was closed, so we only had a look around the outside, meaning to look inside on Tuesday. The next stop was Stockholm’s Cathedral. It is quite small by international standards, but is still very nice inside and worth the visit. Check out the statue of St George and the Dragon.
Behind the Cathedral, and opposite the palace is a small Finnish Church. Behind the church is Jarnpojken, a tiny but cute statue. People rub it for good luck and leave a small donation.
We spent most of the morning wandering around the old twisting streets and investigating the numerous shops there.
In the afternoon, we went on a site seeing cruise around Stockholm’s waterways. They start from the wharf in front of Berzelii Park. This would be a fantastic cruise in summer, but even in winter gave a great view of the city from a different perspective. The boat wasn’t very full, so there were plenty of spare seats and no one was crowded.
There is a coin museum in Gamla Stan. We noticed it as we looked for somewhere to have dinner. We were not expecting much, but were very surprised how interesting it was, tracing the history of Swedish currency through the ages.
For our final full day in Sweden, we had pre-booked a guided tour to Sigtuna and Uppsala. We could probably have done this ourselves, but were not confident driving on the right side of the road in icy conditions, so took the easy way out. It is possible to get public transport to Uppsala, but to see Sigtuna as well in the same day was not possible.
Sigtuna, founded in 980 is the oldest town in Sweden. It has a very picturesque main street, with traditional wooden buildings. We spent a while walking around the town and had a nice hot chocolate in one of the cafes. The original town hall is also there, as well as the ruins of St Olaf’s church. We visited because of its historical importance and to see the old main street and buildings.
Next stop was Gamla Uppsala, to see the Viking burial mounds. Probably not as interesting as we expected. Just several large mounds. If the museum had been open it might have been more interesting, but it was closed.
In Uppsala itself, we went to the Cathedral, the tallest in the Nordic countries. It is a very impressive building from the outside and stunning inside. The huge ceilings and the restored medieval frescoes are worth seeing.
On our return to Stockholm, we were just in time to enter the Royal Palace before it closed for the night. As you expect, the rooms are all magnificent and full of painting and ornate furniture. Make sure you go to the crown jewels on display. More stunning jewelry.
After dinner, we went to the Nobel museum. This was probably the most disappointing attraction we visited. We found it very uninspiring and didn’t spend much time there. If you are really into Nobel history and want to read through dry histories of the winners, you may find in interesting.
So what did we think of Stockholm? Loved the history, especially Gamla Stan and the museums. We would not go to Uppsala or Sigtuna again, given our short time frame and would have preferred more time in Stockholm.