Establishment neighborhood
Kajplats 19, Strandvagen, Östermalm
The Swedes are particularly skilled at giving just about everything, from their buildings to their food, a sustainability edge. GoBoat is the city's environmentally focused picnic boat company, developed to enable tourists and locals to take full advantage of the water that surrounds and divides Stockholm (really, fourteen separate islands connected by bridges). The family-sized navy motor boats themselves are made of recycled plastic, run on solar-powered batteries, and have sturdy wooden tables and benches built right in. Pack up a picnic (shop for the best sandwiches and fixings at Ostermalms Saluhall), choose your route, and enjoy lunch with a side of some of the best views this part of the world has to offer—the perfect activity whether you're traveling with the kiddos or not.
Moderna Museet
Exercisplan 4, Skeppsholmen
Sprawled out on tranquil Skeppsholmen Island, this lantern-lit gallery (and the scene of a major '90s art heist that saw the armed robbery of Rembrandt and Renoir masterpieces with the criminals escaping by boat), is Sweden’s preeminent modern art museum. The permanent collection houses notable works from Sweden’s own surrealist movement, alongside masterpieces by Dali, Matisse, and Picasso. The Rafael Moneo-designed building is flooded with natural light, and the museum's fourth-floor restaurant serves up a full Scandinavian lunch buffet (pickled fish, cured ham, and seasonal vegetables), with stellar views of the water. Pop into Restaurant Hjerta for a seafood lunch on the docks after a few hours spent exploring the museum. Note that the architecture museum lives within this museum.
The Royal Palace
Slottsbacken 1, Gamla Stan
While the Swedish royal family no longer reside in this six-hundred-room palace on the lake (they now live in Drottningholm Palace just outside the city), the Royal Palace still brings plenty of drama and splendor. It is the polar opposite of the typically restrained Scandinavian aesthetic; here, the architecture and lavishly decorated 18th-century reception rooms and banquet halls are Italian Baroque through and through, which means plenty of gold and ornate stucco details. Watch the changing of the guard in the morning and explore the palace’s five museums detailing all aspects of Swedish royal life—past and present—from costumes, armor, and coronation carriages to jewelry and antique thrones.
Sockenvägen 492, Enskededalen
A Unesco World Heritage site, this non-denominational cemetery, designed by Swedish architects Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz, is (irrespective of your beliefs) incredibly emotive. Spend an afternoon walking through the grounds and notice how the cemetery's architects have used the natural landscape to create different perspectival effects depending on what section you're in. Especially moving is The Children's Garden, surrounded by stunted trees intended to represent the young lives lost. Skogskyrkogården translates to The Woodland Cemetery, and aside from the few chapels and sculptures that dot the grounds, the landscape is dominated by huge towering pine trees (that weirdly seem to all be the same height). Photo credit to Susanne Hallmann.
Hantverkargatan 1, Kungsholmen
Stockholm's grand city hall is considered the Swedish capital's most iconic building. This sentiment is understandable given that eight million red bricks were used in its construction, which took a whopping twelve years (1911-1923). The tower feature is close to 350 feet high and offers incredible panoramic views of the city; for the vertigo-prone, the lower levels of the building, decorated with beautiful artworks by Swedish artists, do not disappoint. One of several ceremonial halls and political assembly rooms, The Golden Hall (also home of the annual Nobel Peace Prize banquet), is this building's most beautiful space, with walls covered in mosaic murals by artist Einar Forseth depicting the city's best-loved landmarks.
Stockholm Subway Art
Stockholm's subway system is home to sixty-eight miles of painted and embellished tunnels—essentially, it's the world's longest art exhibit. This project, which began in the '50s, is a true embodiment of the very Scandinavian belief that even the most mundane, functional activities (like commuting) can be made more enjoyable with beautiful design—living art that can be experienced by everyone in the city, every day. Many of the murals have social and political themes—some of the best stations to visit are Solna Centrum (the mural is dedicated to deforestation and rural depopulation) and Kungsträdgården (nicknamed The Christmas Station due to the festive red-and-green color scheme). Simply purchase a subway ticket and either map out a route or ride aimlessly through the tunnels to take it all in.
Vasa Museum
Galärvarvsvägen 14, Djurgården
The Vasa Museum is without exception the most unique in Stockholm, and maybe the world, making it the perfect cultural activity (kids love it too). The entire museum is dedicated to a warship that sank in the harbor on her maiden voyage in 1628. The wreck lay on the ocean floor for over three hundred years before an intrepid scientist—who had heard the tale of its sinking—finally located its position in 1961. Because the water is brackish, the boat was miraculously preserved, making it the only ship of its kind in the world today. The museum—which was constructed around the boat, which is 95% original—takes you through the entire narrative of the doomed vessel, from the initial design and construction to the sinking and subsequent excavation (make sure to catch the short and fascinating film).
Berns Hotel
Näckströmsgatan 8, Östermalm
In a city filled with achingly hip boutique hotels, Berns, in upscale Östermalm, is the alternatively kooky option. Favored by visiting bands, celebrities, and political figures, the hotel bar and restaurant are permanently packed with a fairly riotous crowd. The accommodations are small but unique, with large-scale, modern photographs decorating the walls, bright rugs, and cushions to add color; and many of the rooms have the added bonus of French balconies and window seats. The weekend brunch is the major draw even if you're not staying over: Sit in the wood-paneled, chandelier-lit dining room, take a break from Nordic cuisine, and tuck into a full Asian spread, from sushi to salads.
Hotel Skeppsholmen
Gröna gången 1, Skeppsholmen
Built in 1699 to house Sweden’s Royal Marines, and sitting right behind the stunning Moderna Museet, this eco-friendly, chic hotel is right on the waterfront, on one of the calmer islands in this busy city. The interior is clean, bright, and truly Scandinavian—think white painted wood ceilings, blond hardwood floors, and blue-and-yellow accents for a touch of color. Thoughtful design details include writing desks in each of the seventy-eight rooms, big windows (many of them overlooking the pretty harbor) and comfy bucket-style chairs.