Last Updated on December 6, 2023
3 days in Stockholm is just enough time to take a self-guided tour and get a taste of this wonderful city…
Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
By Jim Ferri
Visiting Stockholm in three days is a perfect amount of time for a taste of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. It has an ambiance and charm you’re hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
Stockholm, one of the top 10 places in Sweden, is a fantastic amalgam of modern and medieval. And it’s all built on 14 islands and connected by 57 bridges. You can see more of it in these photos of the city.
Better yet, the city is stunning, most people speak English and you can walk to many of its attractions.
Those not within walking range are linked by a modern transportation system that gets you there comfortably and quickly. Still, though, many Stockholmers ride their own bicycles.
While many people perceive visiting Stockholm as being more expensive than many other European cities, on some cost rankings, it doesn’t even rank in the top 10. And you can economize in Stockholm in many ways, especially on food and drink.
Economize on Your Visit to Stockholm
An excellent way to keep costs down is to purchase the Stockholm Pass.
The card initially appears expensive at SEK 989 (approximately $119 per adult for two days). But it provides free admission to more than 60 museums and attractions. And also free travel on a range of bus and boat tours. A two-day child pass – for 6-15-year-olds – is SEK 389 (approximately $47). (All rates are for 2021.)
All in all, it provides significant savings while visiting Stockholm. In fact, you can use the card to get to and into many of the attractions listed below.
The following list is highly curated, covering many of the top spots of interest to first-time visitors. I had no trouble seeing everything during my 3 days in Stockholm. You should be able to also.
Visit Gamla Stan, the Old City
Begin your 3 days visiting Stockholm in Gamla Stan, the Old City. It’s Ground Zero for tourists and one of the best-preserved medieval places in Europe. It’s a fantastic area, one of the great treasures of Sweden.
Among other notable places, it’s home to the 608-room Royal Palace, the largest in Europe. The Royal family, however, no longer lives here but in Drottningholm Palace, about seven miles outside of town.
Still, though, changing its guard continues to be one of Stockholm’s most popular attractions.
You could spend an entire day wandering the cobbled streets and alleyways here, browsing in boutiques and antique shops, lunching in a restaurant or café, or enjoying a fika, better known as a Swedish coffee break.
The Nobel Museum, City Hall and Drottningholm Palace
Also in Gamla Stan is the Nobel Prize Museum on Stortorget, the city’s picturesque old square.
Housed in the old Stockholm Stock Exchange, the museum is fascinating, and you could spend hours here.
It has displays about the recipients of the Nobel Prize over the years and several wide-ranging exhibits.
These include the five colors of peace and the origin of the peace symbol (actually, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament logo!).
After visiting Stockholm’s Nobel Museum, you could also walk over to the nearby City Hall. It’s a massive building on the harbor that took eight million red bricks to build, making it hard to miss. Moreover, it’s the Nobel Prize Award dinner venue every December 10.
Everyone visiting Stockholm should also take the fascinating 45-minute guided tour of City Hall. It’s that interesting. If you have 3 days in Stockholm, this is a don’t miss.
You’ll be impressed, especially in the Golden Hall, where the walls are covered with over 18 million pieces of gold and glass mosaics, ranking it high on the “wow!” factor. The famous scenes in the Byzantine-inspired mosaic depict events in Swedish history.
Near City Hall, there are old riverboats moored along the quay. Some of them will take you to Drottningholm Palace, home of the Royal Family. It’s a very comfortable 45-minute river cruise that’s well worth it.
Visit the Incredible Vasa Museum
Anyone visiting Stockholm, whether it be 1 day or 3 days, will find that their stay in the city is not complete without a visit to the Vasa Museum.
When built in 1628, the Vasa was a colossal warship, about 226 feet long, weighing more than 130 tons, and designed to carry 145 sailors and 300 soldiers. Unfortunately, after sailing barely ¾ mile on its maiden voyage, Vasa keeled over and sank to the bottom of Stockholm harbor.
It stayed there for more than 300 years before being salvaged in 1961. Restoration of the vessel was painstaking and took 17 years.
It is the only almost fully intact 17th-century ship ever salvaged. Today, Vasa is housed in its museum, the Vasa Museet, on the island of Djurgården.
There you’ll see the Vasa looking almost exactly as it did on its short-lived maiden voyage, sans its paint. There’s no other museum like this anywhere else in the entire world. And it’s particularly fascinating.
You’ll find it on the harbor shore, tucked away behind the Nordic Museum, and reached via tram #7. By all means, visit this museum, now the most-visited museum in Stockholm.
Spend Time in Skansen During Your 3 Days in the Stockholm
After leaving the Vasa, you can continue on the tram to Skansen. It’s not only Stockholm’s zoo but also a fascinating open-air museum, the world’s oldest. Until the opening of the Vasa Museum, Skansen was the most visited museum in the city.
Skansen contains 150 historic buildings brought there from all over Sweden. It’s a great place to view traditional Swedish life before the industrial age. During your 3 days visiting Stockholm, spend a couple of hours in the open-air museum. It’s fascinating.
You’ll be amazed at how meticulously everything is brought together here…the cobblestone streets, a wagon on the side filled with barrels and luggage, and little shops with people in costume so willing to talk with you.
I dropped into a small bakery and chatted with the rotund baker, who showed me what they’d been making.
Ten minutes later, I walked down a cobblestone lane, watching geese cross into a garden ahead. It’s a fascinating place that you should not overlook. You could fill a good half-day of wandering about there.
To make the best use of your time, take the #7 trams to the Vasa Museum when it opens at 10:00am. Spend some time there, then take the #7 tram to Skansen. Wander about the museum and have lunch there.
I Love Skeppsholmen
One of my favorite places while visiting Stockholm, is Skeppsholmen, a small-ish island between Djurgården and Gamla Stan. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, no tram runs through here.
You reach the island by walking across Skepps-holmsbron, a bridge adorned midway with a sizeable gilded crown that people rub for good luck.
The bridge is quite famous because it’s the link between the National Museum on the “downtown” side and the Moderna Museet, the Museum of Modern Art, on the island.
Moderna Museet is a beautiful place both inside and out. Even if you don’t visit the collections inside, walk around the exterior to view the colorful fountains and sculptures.
Then continue on along the shoreline to view the boats moored there. You’ll also have a superb view of Gamla Stan and the harbor, that’s especially good at sunset.
Wander About Östermalm on Your Stockholm Tour
After leaving Skansen or the Vasa Museum, take tram #7 back downtown. As the tram crosses the bridge and runs along the shoreline, you’ll travel on Strandvägen. It’s Stockholm’s answer to New York’s Fifth Avenue.
You’ll soon be entering the neighborhood of Östermalm, an area that’s a smorgasbord of upscale boutiques and outdoor cafés. It’s great for an afternoon of wandering on a self-guided city tour.
If you wander through Östermalm while visiting Stockholm, visit the Östermalm Food Hall. It’s a great Old World food hall in a beautiful medieval brick building. It’s also one of the five great food halls in Europe.
Inside you’ll find butchers, fishmongers, delis, and cafes, as well as several restaurants and plenty of purveyors of gourmet products. It’s a delicious, colorful place where you’ll also enjoy some good free samples.
While you’ll find some foodstuffs there from Italy, Spain, and Beirut, for the most part, it’s Swedish.
Have a Drink in the Ice Bar
One evening, bring your Stockholm visit to a close at the famous Ice Bar in Hotel C Stockholm.
The place is exactly what the name implies: a bar made of ice, except for the floor and ceiling. The temperature is kept at a constant -5˚C/23˚F. Even the glasses from which you drink are made of ice.
The cost of entry is SEK 199 per person (about $20 when booked online). That entitles you to one drink plus a parka and gloves (both are rentals and only for use in the bar).
It’s fun and famous and good fodder for cocktail-party chitchat back home.
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