Stockholm has a reputation as a historic, elegant, world-class city, and it turns out it has a rather quirky side as well.
Beyond the winding cobblestone streets and statuesque brick buildings that make up the Old Town and medieval Gamla Stan, there are plenty of strangely wonderful attractions in the Swedish capital that will keep visitors occupied for days—which also make for some pretty awesome photo-ops.
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From sipping vodka in ice bars to sleeping in an airplane, here are some of the quirkiest, fun things to do in Stockholm, Sweden.
See a warship at the Vasa Museum
Welcoming 1.3 million guests per year, the Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet) is one of the top Stockholm attractions. The gargantuan facility was built around the massive 17th century warship which famously sunk in the harbour on its maiden voyage, due to an engineering fail of epic proportions.
Despite going down in the heart of the city the Vasa was not recovered for 300 years, but since it rested in clay for all that time it was nearly perfectly preserved when it was finally brought to the surface.
Today, the museum holds the actual ship, which is an incredible 69 metres long and 50 metres tall. There are also numerous exhibits detailing what life would have been like on board the vessel, a demonstration about how it was salvaged and a film about the doomed Vasa. Click here to book a private tour of the museum, which includes a Skip the Line ticket. Click to book
Sip a cocktail at the subzero ICEBAR
It wouldn’t be a visit to Scandinavia without some sort of winter activity—regardless of what season it is—which is why a visit to the ICEBAR is literally one of the cool things to do in Stockholm. Found in the hip Nordic C Hotel near the central train station, the icy lounge is open year-round and kept at -7 degrees celsius to preserve the intricately carved ice sculptures.
Visitors pay an entry fee that includes one cocktail, then slip into a warm coat and gloves before heading inside the ICEBAR. There, they’ll find a subzero lounge which includes bartenders serving up colourful concoctions (in glasses fashioned out of ice, natch), along with lighting installations that shine a spotlight on the arctic art.
Even those who don’t drink can get in on the fun, since the ICEBAR is family-friendly and serves up non-alcoholic bevys for little ones.
Ride the rails along an underground art gallery
You don’t have to head inside a museum to view incredible art installations in Stockholm—in fact, it’s as simple as buying a ticket and riding the metro. Nearly 100 of the city’s underground subway stations make up what some call the “world’s longest art gallery,” where artists have transformed otherwise drab, concrete terminals with vibrant sculptures, paintings and mosaics, each with a different theme.
The most photographed one is the Solna Centrum station along the city’s blue line, where a ferocious red installation along the platform looks reminiscent of the gates of hell. The Skarpnäck station is also worth visiting to see the granite benches which are a nod to Stonehenge, as is the futuristic looking Tekniska Högskolan station, which makes riding the rails a must do in Stockholm. Book a tour
Do a Gamla Stan walking tour
With its charming facades and narrow, winding alleyways, it’s easy to see why Gamla Stan is considered the city’s crown jewel and one of the most popular Stockholm tourist attractions. The Old Town has been the heart of the city since the 13th century, and is home to some of the most important buildings and monuments including the Nobel Museum and Stockholm Cathedral.
Today, the medieval district hosts boutiques, cafes and restaurants popular with the tourist crowd, who are easily won over by the quaint facades, overflowing flower boxes and impressive sculptures that decorate the laneways. Perhaps the most popular spot of all is Stortorget, a pretty plaza anchored by a grand, colourful row of buildings squeezed together like Lego blocks.
To escape the throngs of crowds, head to Kindstugatan which is a picture-perfect street near Stortorget that’s just as enchanting as it is tranquil, or narrow Mårten Trotzigs alley. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon wandering through the district, or book this award-winning Gamla Stan walking tour to learn more about the old town’s history. Click to book
Sleep in an airplane hotel
#Avgeeks rejoice! When it comes to quirky, fun activities in Stockholm, it’s hard to beat a night at Jumbo Stay which just might be one of the world’s most memorable hotels. Since 2009, guests have been able to book a room in an actual Boeing 747, which has been retrofitted into a hotel complete with 33 rooms including one in the cockpit.
The jumbo jet now permanently sits outside Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport, which makes plane spotting a breeze. Suites include TVs, Wi-Fi and a private bathroom, and stays start at just $50 per night for shared accommodation—a welcome budget option in the famously-expensive city. Click to book
The idea of eating one of Santa’s sleigh-drawing helpers can be tough to swallow, but reindeer is actually a very common dish in Sweden. It just so happens to taste pretty good too. Those who are game to try it (*groan*) can expect to shell out about $30+ for a plate which usually includes a reindeer steak paired with a side of potatoes and vegetables.
Top tip: Swedish meatballs are famous in their own right (we’ve all tried the ones from IKEA, right?), so if the idea of eating Rudolph is hard to swallow then be sure to order up a plate of the steaming, sauce-covered Swedish staple.
Tour some quirky museums
Those who complain that museums are boring clearly haven’t been to one in Stockholm. The city is home to dozens of quirky exhibitions, many of which are located on the so-called “green” island of Djurgården.
Perhaps the most famous is ABBA The Museum, which is dedicated to the famous Swedish pop group. Fans can check out their legendary stage costumes and gold records, and sing along beside avatars of the famous four. Admission also includes entry to the Swedish Music Hall of Fame and the History of Swedish Popular Music. Click to book
Those who enjoy a tipple or two should check out Spiritmuseum which chronicles the history of alcohol in Sweden, provides information about how spirits are produced and even hosts the annual Swedish drinking song championships. No visit would be complete without some sipping, which is why Spiritmuseum also offers wine tastings.
Experience thrills at Gröna Lund
Those looking for a change of pace from historical walking tours and relaxing boat rides will want to head to Gröna Lund, which is one of the best things to do in Stockholm with kids. Also found on Djurgården, this amusement park has more than 30 rides including roller coasters, bumper cars and a haunted house, and hosts concerts by world-class performers like Elton John.
Don’t skip Eclipse, a sky-high swingset that rewards visitors with incredible views of the surrounding archipelago.
Get a glimpse of the royals at Stockholm Palace
One of the best places to visit in Stockholm for those who consider themselves royal watchers is to make a trip to the grand Stockholm Palace. Situated in the Old Town overlooking the city, the baroque palace is the official residence of Sweden’s monarchy.
While the royal family doesn’t actually live on site these days, the 600-room palace is still used for official business such as meeting with visiting heads of state. Visitors are welcome to explore the interior, as part of the daily guided tours that are scheduled around official receptions.
Even if you don’t head inside there’s lots to explore around the expansive grounds, especially if you time your visit for the daily Changing of the Guard, or the ceremonial march through Stockholm which takes place during the summer months.
Glide through the city on a boat ride
Since Stockholm is situated on the shores of the Baltic Sea and built on 14 different islands, it’s no wonder the city is so proud of its maritime heritage. A great way to get a new vantage point is by enjoying a boat ride, where you’ll sail through the different districts which are linked by more than 50 bridges.
A popular option is to book a Hop-on Hop-off tour which has nearly two dozen stops, and private boat rentals are also available from spots like Strandvägen which is the picturesque waterfront esplanade. There are also kayaking tours around the archipelago, as well as in the city centre so you can enjoy a different perspective of the top things to see in Stockholm. Click to book
Where to stay in Stockholm
- Hotel Rival– This is Stockholm’s first ever boutique hostel, and it makes quite the impression with its warm, vibrantly decorated rooms. If there’s one thing hotels in Sweden do well, it’s their over-the-top complimentary breakfasts, and the spread Hotel Rival serves up is no exception. Click here to book
- Miss Clara by Nobice– Just a two minute walk from central Stockholm, this sleek hotel strives to offer a blissful stay with friendly staff and a delicious breakfast. In true Swedish fashion, this hotel offers a complimentary sauna, which is the perfect place to unwind after a day of sightseeing. Click here to book
- Motel L Hammarby Sjostad– It’s no secret the Stockholm is an expensive city, so if you’re looking for somewhere more budget friendly but still updated then this is a great option. This hotel is located just a 15 minute tram ride away from the city centre and is stylish, clean and quiet. Click here to book
This article was originally published in March 2017 and updated in April 2020
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You are absolutely right on spot! For meatballs you have to try restaurant Meatballs. My review here: https://www.thinkingoftravel.com/review-of-restaurant-meatballs-in-stockholm-sweden/
We absolutely cannot wait to travel to Sweden and have a good visit of Stockholm! We just went back from Finland and totally love it so quite sure we will like Sweden even more!
Awesome!! Yes I think you will like it a bit more, there’s a bit more to see in Stockholm versus Helsinki. Have a great time!
We’ve been to Sweden multiple times, but never to Stockholm. One of these days we’ll visit the capital city.
We’ve been to Ice Bar’s in other places. They’re really fun! Of course, the bars were inspired by the original Ice Hotel in Swedish Lapland, which we have stayed at.
That’s funny that you’ve been to Sweden but never Stockholm! I’d love to head back and explore spots outside the main city, I bet there are so many great spots.
A really helpful post as we are hoping to visit Sweden in the next few months. The plane hotel looks different and we fancy tasting a bit of Rudolph, with a red nose dressing.
Haha poor Rudolph 🙂
Sweden is one of my favourite destination. Till now I have not got any chance to visit the same but would like to visit it soon. Stockholm Palace is really awesome and must visit place
I love posts like this and exploring different facets of a city that make it stand apart, I would love to stay in that airplane hotel – very quirky indeed!
The perfect accommodation for travel nerds like you and I! 🙂
Stockholm sounds quite incredible – WOW to the Vasa being found intact and now preserved for all to see! And also WOW to the Jumbo Stay haha I’m not usually great at sleeping in planes, but I think with a lay down bed and a stationary jet I might be ok 😀
I just read a piece on the underground art in Stockholm’s subway actually, and it sounds quite amazing to tour … think I have to get to Stockholm!
Such a detailed guide. Loved the fact that Stockholm has so much to offer. Icebar and staying in a place sounds so exciting. Had heard of the sub-zero temperature bars but had not seen the pictures. And there is so much of history and architecture that Stockholm has. Hope to see it!
Just beautiful Tamara. I am looking at a possible side trip from London (upcoming trip) and the Scandy countries are in our frame at the moment. This has given me some great details for consideration. LOVE the jumbo hotel but not so sure about eating reindeer. It’s the thought of those cuties being cooked more than the eating it that makes me think twice.
Great suggestions! We loved visiting Stockholm and hope to return again soon! Some of our favorite sights were the Vasa Museum, taking a boat ride and the old town area. Would love to check out the Ice Bar on our next visit!
Great ideas. I loved the Vasa as well as the Abba museum…quirky is right! Stockholm is so full of awesome things to do. Loved it.
Vasa is amazing!
Awesome post about this great city. We made our first visit this summer and it lived up to our high expectations. The warship Vasa was one of our favorites too. Another thing we did that I can really recommend was a Vespa tour. We went with Vespa Stockholm that had super service where the vespa had a GPS installed so we could do the tours ourself and see the best spots feeling like a real Swede!
Hey Tamara, thank you for these great suggestions, I will save this article for my following visit to Stockholm 🙂
I have been to Stockholm last year with my friend for the first time and we’ve seen a lot more than we expected from Stockholm thanks to the local tours we booked with locals of Stockholm. I would recommend you to check out next time as if you like the idea of exploring a city with a local 🙂
Been to Sweden and it was definitly one of my favorite destinations.I was named after there because my dad loved it back in ’66
No way, that’s so awesome!
When you visit Gamla Stan and take a nice walk along the small cosy streets, don’t miss the shop of LenaM Sweden at Kindstugatan. Absolutely gorgeous things mostly made by LenaM herself. Very unique souvenirs and presents to bring home.