Girls Weekend (Plus Baby) in Stockholm, Sweden
When the right ticket price came up on Norwegian for a weekend visit to Stockholm, my friend and I jumped at the chance for a girls getaway to the north. It is a quick 2-hour flight from Amsterdam! In order to accommodate the kids’ schedules (and our husbands) we took a late night flight on Thursday and came back Sunday afternoon. Stockholm becomes very quiet on Saturday evenings, so if you visit for just the weekend you need to plan carefully. (I’ve outlined below what we did on Saturday and what we should have done!)
I arranged for a car to pick us up at the airport since our flight arrived just before midnight. Cabs in Stockholm are not regulated and therefore you need to negotiate beforehand. We were also traveling without a car seat and Sweden is very strict on car seat laws. Uber is an option, but I had major trouble with the app and got nervous about being stranded in the middle of the night.
Instead I booked through Door to Gate, run by Flybussarna. (They operate the bus service from the airport.) The service was excellent. When we landed they sent me a text message to get on the wifi at the airport and walked me through getting my car and checking in online. They actually sent a map that showed where our car was so we did not have to wait outside. The car arrived and was incredibly clean and had a rear facing car seat installed for our little guy. (It was a Britax!) Perfect. We opted for a shared car service, but due to the late hour we were the only customers. We were driven right to the door of our hotel. You pay for the service upfront so the driver helps you into the hotel and you’re done! Perfect!
We stayed at the Kung Carl Hotel, which was like a dream. I had phoned to let them know we were coming in late. They had our keys and everything ready to go when we arrived. They have family rooms, but we were in a standard double. I let them know ahead of time I was bringing my own cot for the baby, but they left an extra set of linens in the rom for his bed. The room was beautiful and full of lots of little touches. The three stuffed dogs on the bed are just to keep you company during your stay, but you can purchase them at the front desk and proceeds go to charity.
My only complaint was that I did not know they were a Best Western property until I saw a small sign in the elevator! We are Best Western Gold members and I wanted to add my number to the reservation. I also had a gift card to use. The front desk staff was all sorts of confused by this request. I think eventually the number got added, but I wasn’t able to use my gift certificate because of the confusion.
The hotel breakfast, included in our rate, was one of the best I’ve seen. It was a buffet in the hotel restaurant. There were so many options. The avocado toast station (featured above) was one of my favorite things. The crackers were spread with cottage cheese and avocado and then topped with fresh cut sprouts. Yummy!
The smoothie shots were the perfect way to start off breakfast. We ended our breakfast each morning with yogurt topped with a blueberry sauce. Yum.
We had the 48-hour Stockholm Pass and made great use of it. This pass includes so much in the city! Despite the ample sunshine, our visit fell during winter when many of the tours are not offered. If you’re visiting in the summer you will be able to take advantage of so many amazing tours with this pass. We certainly racked up the value though on the first day alone.
We had a bit of a late start due to our late arrival and the ample breakfast at the hotel. We walked 10-min to the Stockholm Palace. With the Stockholm Pass we did not have to wait in line to get tickets. Instead we walked right to the entrance. We started with a tour of the apartments. We were amazed by how clean and spacious this palace felt in comparison to some of the other European palaces we had been to.
The highlight, however was the throne room. In addition to this silver throne, which is somehow both gaudy and beautiful, there was an entire exhibit on wedding dresses.
The dress exhibit featured the wedding dresses of the Queen and four Princesses. It took us a while to figure out who everyone was. (There is an audio tour available but we bypassed it.) The King and Queen have two daughters and a son, who are all married. The fourth wedding dress is from the Uncle of the King’s wedding. His bride wore this lovely ice blue number.
Each dress was featured with its accessories, bridesmaid dresses and children’s outfits. A reproduction of their bouquets was also on display. It was all quite stunning.
Just behind the palace is Stockholm’s Cathedral. You make a donation at the door to pop in and see the church that has hosted Sweden’s Coronations and Royal Weddings.
It’s worth a pop-in to check out the magnificent organ and black altar.
We continued to explore Old Town, walking the narrow streets and peering into shop windows. There is plenty to explore in Old Town.
We turned a corner and found ourselves on Stockholm’s main square. Colorful buildings surround a large open square with an offset fountain. We popped into lunch at Grillska Huset, a little cafe set on the square. There are plenty of hot options as well as a variety of bakery treats. Every meal comes with coffee or tea as well as a selection of breads and pickled items (something we found to be customary). The cafe is full of large tables, all quite full, so we found two nice ladies who let us sit with them while we enjoyed our meal. The food was excellent and the coffee was good. Plus there is tap water out on every table, something we’ve been missing in the Netherlands.
Refreshed, we headed across the square to the Nobel Museum. The Nobel Museum is included in the Stockholm Pass, so once again we were able to walk right in, bypassing the ticket line. You could spend several hours here reading and watching everything about the Nobel Prize winners. We stood for a while watching the flags move around the ceiling, each with the name of a prize winner and a short description of why they won. If you’re traveling with kids, there is a children’s room that looked like my kids would have loved it. There are also plenty of interesting objects from past winners to keep children entertained. We just got a flavor for it and then decided to move on to pack more into our day.
Next we caught the Winter Boat Tour. In the summer there are lots of options to see Stockholm by boat, many of which are covered by the Stockholm Pass. However, in the winter this is your only option. The boat heads out to Stockholm’s archipelago and into the quays. It is a wonderful way to see parts of the city you otherwise won’t see. It was a good place to rest our legs. The tour is slow and quiet, so factor that into when you take it. There is a cafe onboard that serves some Swedish favorites like pea soup. We sat inside, but those seated outside were given blankets and could hear the narration quite well.
Refreshed, we were ready to set out walking and exploring the city by foot. We peered into the Grand Hotel Stockholm, which plays host to all Nobel Prize winners and visiting dignitaries. They have a gorgeous glass cafe that looks over the water.
Then we walked up Burger Jarlsgaten, which unbeknownst to us, was also the street our hotel was located on! ha! Anyway, this street is lined with shops. Many are those you see in any big European city (Parada, Channel, Gucchi) but there are some really lovely local finds too. This shoe store, Kavat, was one of our favorites. Every shoe was absolutely beautiful.
We also popped into the Ostermalm Food Hall, to check out the market. There was everything you could imagine. We watched an old lady buy her fish for the day and admired the sleek architecture. There are many restaurants as well, but we were on our way to tea.
I booked a tea reservation at Svenskt Tenn. This interior design store has a small tea room on the top floor that is just perfect for a spot of tea. You’ll need to make a reservation though as it is nearly always full. (Reservations can be made online.) We booked the high tea.
We were treated to the traditional shrimp open faced sandwich, which honestly looks terrible but tasted amazing. Then two types of scones and jam. The jam was so good I wanted to just lick the container. Finally, we had three chocolates. Of course there was also tea. We mistakenly thought just one pot was coming to the table, but each person gets their own pot. So we could have tried two different types!
Don’t forget to take some time to look around Svenskt Tenn. It’s a classic Swedish interior design company and this is its flagship store. I of course liked looking at all the fabrics. Svenskt is known for their bold patterns. It was all so lovely and fun.
Next door is Malmsten, another famous Swedish design store. I instantly loved everything in this store. It feels like an upscale Ikea. ha!
The sun had started to set but our day was not over. The Modern Art Museum was open late (until 8pm) so we walked over the bridge to check it out. Nothing in Stockholm is very far, so it was an easy, well lit, safe walk.
The museum exceeded our expectations. My girlfriend is an artist and was amazed to find so many pieces that she studied in school. The permanent collection here is free and honestly we should have paid for tickets to the temporary exhibits as they looked amazing. We even took a turn at the rice table, counting rice with noise canceling headphones on as a form of meditation. Before we knew it though the museum was closing. We walked home exhausted (but relaxed).
I’d love to tell you that our night was over but once the little little was asleep my friend popped out and picked up some burritos for us at Taco Bar. They were delicious and we were able to get them to go!
While Friday was perfectly executed, Saturday turned out to be a bit of a disaster. We had no idea that stores and museums were going to close around 3pm. I never even checked because things are typically open later on Saturdays in most European towns. Big Mistake!
We used the Stockholm Pass to board the Hop-on Hop-Off bus. This was our first mistake. The sun was so hot we were dying on the top of the bus. We tried to move seats and the sun just kept chasing us. The audio guide was fine but not nearly as informative as we wished. The tour took much longer than expected and then the driver, who seemed to be having a bad day, didn’t let us off the bus. (He stopped very briefly as we ran down the stairs and then quickly took off again before we could get off.)
We should have done the 10:15 Panorama Bus Tour which gets excellent reviews, doesn’t stop and is also included with the Stockholm Card.
We finally managed to get off the bus and then had to backtrack, walking to Fotografiska, the photography museum. Fotografiska is covered by the Stockholm Pass, but you do need to wait in line for tickets. They have a lovely cafe on the top floor, which we popped into for coffee and cake. (We had decided to embrace the Swedish Fika, where you eat cake and enjoy coffee with friends, all day!) The museum has a lovely permanent collection and really interesting visiting exhibits.
We should have saved the museum for the afternoon, since it is open on Saturdays until 1am! It would have been better to do this once the stores had closed, enjoyed dinner in the cafe and then seen the photographs. Plus we would have been treated to a stunning view of the city.
We hopped the subway (we purchased a 24-hour transportation pass) to the shopping district. (Alternatively you can add transportation to your Stockholm Card. We just needed 24 hours to see us through the end of our trip so that worked out perfectly.)
We made it in to a few of them also poking into anything that tickled our fancy. My Little Little had a total blow out, so we found a Joe & The Juice to change him in and enjoyed a smoothie. We headed back to the stores and soon found ourselves alone, then we were told it was 3pm and all the stores were closing! What?!?
We consoled ourselves at Fabrique, by trying a variety of Swedish pastries on a bench among the now closed stores. We found a few places that were open until 4pm, but then the street went quiet.
We headed to Brunkeberg Tunnel. This 231 meter passageway allows pedestrians to pass under instead of over a hilly part of town.
The tunnel is yellow and silver and worth checking out in person. When we visited there was an art installation that allowed the tunnel to sing back to you. It was quirky and fun.
We also popped into the Adolf Fredriks Church. They were preparing and practicing for Sunday service. It has this cool old trunk in the foyer and a huge painted dome capping the church.
This is the moment we made the largest error of the day. We blindly headed out to the Sky View. I presumed a tourist attraction would be open long after the shops had closed on a Saturday. I was wrong. We arrived to find other bewildered tourists waiting at the closed doors. (The Sky View is also covered by the Stockholm Pass.) The mall located at the Sky View was open till 5pm. So we spent 30 min shopping at more reasonably priced stores. We each found a cute outfit for our kids on sale and boarded the metro happy people.
We should have done a tour of the subway art and explored other parts of the city. Instead we then got stuck on a stalled subway. We threw in the towel and decided to go out for a nice dinner at a restaurant we had walked past earlier, Miss Clara. We had a delicious dinner and were seated by the window. We even enjoyed a pricey beer. We relaxed a bit and the waiter informed us that not only does the city shut down early on Saturdays but that it was the Swedish finale of the European Song Competition. Everyone would be home watching that. So, we threw in the towel and headed home to watch ourselves.
We had an early afternoon flight that didn’t leave much time for exploring on Sunday morning. I knew I wanted to see the art in the subway stations though. Ninety out of the 100 Stockholm stations are decorated, but all the stations we had been in were part of that 10 not decorated. Using the Guardian’s picture guide I was able to find a few we could easily reach in the morning. Lonely Planet also has a nice guide. (In the summer there are tours of the subway art given in English.)
Sunday morning the stations were completely empty, our 24-hour pass still worked and we were free to explore on our own.
These rainbow stairs were found at a number of the stations. The longest ones though are found at the Stadion station on the orange line.
This rainbow, representing the colors of the Olympic rings is also at the Stadion station on the orange line.
This dodecahedron suspended from the ceiling is part of a larger theme focusing on the elements, space and technology by Lennart Mork. These are found at the Tekniska hogskolan station on the orange line.
Siri Derkert’s art at the Ostermalmstorg station on the orange line was some of our favorite. The charcoal drawings are on the themes of women’s rights, peace and the environment, all of which she was an advocate for.
One of the most iconic is found at T-centralen on the blue line. It is also the metro station that leads you to central station.
Inside central station we found this lovely piece. I love the use of the space between the escalators and I’m basically obsessed with lit features.
We honestly missed some of the most exciting subway art, and if we go back it will be one of the things I revisit. My kids would have loved it as well.
Once at Central Station we headed toward Platforms 1 & 2 where you will find an enclosed waiting area and ticket booth for the Arlanda Express. You can purchase your tickets at a kiosk or with a person and check in for your flight at a kiosk here.
The train is the quickest way to get to the airport. It is a quick 20 min ride. There are two stops (Terminal 2,3 & 4 and Terminal 5) so know where you are going. You can walk between the two should you get off at the wrong stop.
The Stockholm Arlanda airport is quite nice. There is a security checkpoint just for families between gates F26-F69 in Terminal 5. Just follow the large “kids track” signs hanging from the ceiling. This was so nice because not only did we speed through security but we never felt rushed getting everything back together as there was no one behind us in line.
The Stockholm airport also has a play area between gates 1-10 in Terminal 5. We did not check it out as we were traveling with just the little one who slept through our time at the airport. There are baby changing areas throughout the airport in both men’s and women’s bathrooms.
I would go back to Stockholm in a heartbeat. I’m currently trying to convince my husband we need to go back with kids. The Stockholm Card covers a variety of museums that my kids would love. The open air museum, the museum of science and technology, the butterfly house, the police museum, the postal museum, the transport museum, junibacken and the tom tits experiment. Plus all the boat tours if you can hit the summer season.
I highly recommend a visit to Stockholm as it exceeded my expectations all around. (Even with our less than perfect day.)
Oh! I was having such a great time telling you about my trip I almost forgot to mention this great book I found about Swedish Traditions. This is a great find for the family. You can also find it on on Amazon.
Visit Stockholm provided us with Stockholm Passes in return for a review of the city. As always, all opinions are our own. Additionally, this post contains some affiliate links. When you purchase from one of those links we receive a small payment.
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