When you think of Stockholm, some of the first things to come to mind are tall, well-dressed Swedes and impeccable design from Ikea to Scandi style. While this does ring true in the storied streets of the Swedish capital, there’s still so much more to Stockholm than its charisma.
The laid-back locals stroll with a casual-cool, and the enchanting architecture is a mixture of experimental and genuine heritage. The hotel industry in Stockholm is a hidden pocket of chic hangouts, the city’s restaurants are pushing more Nordic boundaries, and the cultural scene has never burned brighter with a young crop of creatives.
…And to think, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the non-touristy side of Stockholm to explore. If you’re also interested in the top attractions and sightseeing, definitely check out our 4-Day in Stockholm itinerary for all of those hotspots. As for this list, you’ll uncover the more unexpected, non-touristy things to do in Stockholm - as told by someone who spent his early twenties living in the Swedish capital.
1. Explore the open-underground art gallery of Stockholm’s metro
Nowhere else in the world treats their underground metro with a mantra that it shouldn’t just be a system that takes you from point A to point B but also a place that is a visual feast for the eyes. Welcome to the open art world of Stockholm’s metro, where stations are crafted into extraordinary worlds. Here are some of my personal favourites:
- T-Centralen station: the main central station is a blossoming blue cave.
- Kungsträdgården station: It’ll look like you’re in an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole, with green cavernous arches and checkered ceilings.
- Solna Centrum station: looks like you’ve stepped into the Upside down in Stranger Things.
- Hötorget station: Look up! Neon lights electrify the station’s ceiling while the escalator at the end of the tunnel is lit in a chromatic rainbow for every step.
- Mörby Centrum station: The bedrock of light pink resembles a cotton candy cloud pouring down rainbows.
- Citybanan - Odenplan station: over 400 metres of LED lighting that resembles a heartbeat line running above the ceiling.
- Stadion station: While this area is the main starting point for the Stockholm Pride festival, Pride is all year-round at the station with the big burst of rainbow painted over the station’s grotto-like ceiling.
2. Have a Stockholm beach day and go swimming
When I first moved to Stockholm right after graduating from university, I was just starting my career… aka I was living on an entry-level salary. So what’s one to do in such an expensive country? My friends who were Stockholmers themselves, took me to various swimming spots around the city as a free way to enjoy the local life and hang out.
There are even sandy beaches around the city that Stockholmers adore to sunbathe and picnic at. Here are some of my favourite spots:
- Ekhagens strandbad: Locals refer to this as “Lappis beach”, it’s popular amongst university students and a primal spot for sun on its sandy shores. There were many evenings where my friends and I had bonfires here, as well as enjoying BBQs after a swim.
- Farsta Strandbad: this is a popular spot with families. The lake you can swim in is called Megalungen lake, where the waters are calm.
- Ågesta nude beach: One for skinny dipping or just working on getting a full-body au-natural tan? There’s an official beach for it!
- Fredhällsbadet: the cliffs here make for a wonderful place to throw down your towel and dive into the Baltic Sea.
- Mälarhöjdsbadet: a Stockholm beach where you can swim in the fresh waters of Lake Mälaren.
3. Eat Swedish food and Nordic cuisine
Alright, I know you’ve heard of and probably had Swedish meatballs already - but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Swedish cuisine. When you’re in Stockholm, definitely do not miss out on these awesome restaurants for a bite into Swedish and nordic food:
- Herman: An all-you-can-eat vegan buffet - say whaaaat? Yep, even though Sweden is known for its gamey meats, this waterfront restaurant is treasured amongst Stockholmers as the go-to place for lunch. Even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian - trust me, the homecooked style and flavours are riveting. Also for an all-you-can-eat restaurant, the dishes are creatively made with high-quality ingredients, all locally sourced. Unlimited coffee and water are included!
- Tennstopet: An old-world restaurant with wood panelling, ornate chandeliers, and an exquisite ambience that will take you back to the early days when Stockholm’s cultural elite frequented here. Go for dinner and try traditional dishes like the Swedish wallenbergare (a giant patty made out of ground veal and eggs, coated in breadcrumbs), herring, and toast Skagen.
- Meatballs for the People: Back to Sweden 101 in gastronomy is the classic Swedish meatballs. But at this restaurant, you can have a selection of Swedish meatballs made out of various game from deer meatballs, bear meatballs, reindeer, moose, to wild boar meatballs! During my time living in Stockholm, I eventually got to try them all and each type of meat has its own distinctive flavours - served alongside the traditional mashed potatoes, pickles and lingonberries. So get adventurous! But for those who want to go old-school, of course, there’s your pork, veal, beef, lamb and chicken meatballs. And if you’re vegetarian - there are “meatballs” for that too!
- Tradition: the name speaks for itself, this restaurant specializes in traditional Swedish and Nordic pantry. There are two locations in the city, but I prefer the Gamla Stan spot for its old-town vibes over Vasastan. Known for the chef's take on home-cooking Swedish meals, the dishes are like an elevated comfort.
Where to stay in Stockholm:
Comfort Hotel Xpress Stockholm Central
Location, location, location... This hotel has the best location for walking distance to everything you would want to explore in Stockholm!
Hotel with Urban Deli
This hotel is right below the famous Urban Deli, a marketplace in central Stockholm. The rooms are beyond stylish while stocked with everything you'd need.
Motel L Hammarby Sjöstad
This stay is the right amount of budget-friendly and awesome location, right in the hip neighbourhood of Södermalm.
4. Spot a moose on a wildlife safari in Stockholm
Nature and Stockholm are intertwined. It’s one of the best cities - in the world, there I said it - to have urban escapades and retreat into the heart of the outdoors. One of the activities you can do while exploring this part of Scandinavia is going on a wildlife safari in Stockholm. Yep, it’s possible to see the big animals like moose, deers, boars, and even smaller woodland creatures like foxes, hares and badgers just right outside of central Stockholm.
On this wildlife safari, there’s even a guide who will teach you tips and tricks for finding these animals, like by reading their footprints. While being in the city surrounded by sleek Scandinavian design and buildings, going on a wildlife safari makes you realize just how much there is to a city like Stockholm that is still left to the outdoors. Click here to learn more about a wildlife safari in Stockholm.
5. Discover the best Stockholm city views
Since Stockholm is a rugged city built on nature, depending on where you are, you’ll have a completely different vantage point from one part of the skyline to the other. It’s a city that truly glimmers - its architecture striking, and how the Nordic light hits on the buildings make it that much more special. These are the local’s favourite spots for the best Stockholm views:
- Skinnarviksberget: the natural highest point in Stockholm, it’s a rocky hill that overlooks the city’s harbour. Across the water is Stockholm City Hall and the futuristic silver ripples of the Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre.
- Mosebacke Torg: around the corner from this cultural square is a huge terrace that overlooks Lake Mälaren along with Gröna Lund, another side of Södermalm and Gamla Stan (the old town). In the summer this terrace becomes a beer garden as well!
- Mariaberget: this viewing platform in Södermalm is one of the best observation points in Stockholm. Here, you’ll have a panoramic view of boats as well as the finest historical buildings. Come for sunset and you’ll be in for a treat!
- Katarinahissen: an iconic lift right in the centre of the city - it’ll be hard to miss this one as you can walk out onto the platform and see the old town up close.
6. Thrift and vintage shopping in SoFo
SoFo, which stands for south of Folkungagatan, are a few blocks in Södermalm - the most creative centre of everything alternative in Stockholm. Go where the too-cool-for-school kids shop and you’ll be styled in the effortless-looking Scandinavian chic. Here is a list of awesome boutiques for second-hand goods in SoFo for the most genuine, storied finds:
- POP Stockholm: whether you’re into the 1950s look or pieces from the 80s, this store has every decade covered.
- Modern Retro: the funkiest shoes, the most standout glasses - this time capsule store is also in a way timeless.
- Ritz Vintage: there are a lot of awesome graphic tees here that give off the garage band vibes.
- Wahrling's secondhand & vintage: the staff here are so friendly, and they’ll help you find just the right piece for your outfit.
- Lisa Larsson Second Hand: wonderfully curated and carefully selected vintages for an independently-owned boutique.
7. Sail around the Stockholm archipelago
The Swedish capital is built on 14 islands, and those islands are in a cluster of over 30,000 islands in the Stockholm archipelago! With the deep waters of the Baltic Sea running like a vein through such wild nature, the best way to explore it is like how a lot of Swedish people take to the water - sailing!
Sailing around the Stockholm archipelago is an adventure-filled experience, where you can hop off onto different remote islands. You can also go fishing from your sailboat and then cook it over an open fire when you dock on an island. From unspoiled nature in some parts to little quaint red cottage communities in others, it’s truly another side of Stockholm that will get you away from the touristy sites. Click here to learn more about sailing around the Stockholm archipelago.
8. Duke it out… at a Japanese video game arcade
Hey STHLM is an expansive bar that is loved by locals since you can drink IPA on tap and play games at the same time. There are your must-haves like pinball and pool tables, but then in the back of the bar, there’s a whole Japanese video game arcade.
From Street Fighter games to Mario Kart, the machines are imported straight from Japan. The neon glow adds to the hide-away feeling of the arcade, especially since the joint is behind an alleyway smack in the middle of Odenplan. Come here for a date, with friends, the family or just a solo city break - and it’s easy for time to just slip away.
9. Mushroom picking
Another unique activity that you can do in Stockholm and its beautiful nature, is mushroom picking! One of my favourite things to do for several reasons: 1) It’s completely free. Yep, you can just go out into a forest and pick a basketful of chanterelles until your heart’s content. 2) It’s edible and healthy! I mean, some of these restaurants I’ve been to charge over 20 euros for a plate of just pure chanterelles sautéed with butter. Living in Stockholm, I can do that… all for free!!
Mushroom season in Stockholm runs from mid-summer to early autumn, and picking them is a fun-past time for Swedes. Foraging has long been part of Swede’s national identity as well as Nordic cuisine, yet whether you’re a local or not, anyone can forage chanterelles in Stockholm.
10. Hit the trails, go hiking in nature
Being able to disconnect from the constant bustle of the city is important to local Stockholmers. Luckily for the Swedish capital, there are deep forests that surround the city with Nordic flora and fauna, eclipsing grasslands, and wildlife to see. Going on a hike, or taking a hiking trip into the Swedish wilderness is the best way to unwind, decompress and reconnect with oneself as well as Scandinavia’s outdoor beauty.
There are plenty of trails that you can do, and with Scandinavia’s friendly camping laws, you can pitch a tent and sleep anywhere! Click here to learn more about hiking in the Swedish wilderness.
11. Have a tradtional fika
During your time in Sweden, you’ll hear the word ‘fika’ a lot. People will say “lets go for a fika” or “lets have a fika”. Simply put, it’s a long-time Swedish tradition where people come together for a moment of pause - to enjoy a pastry and coffee while catching up with each other or with themselves.
When I was working in Stockholm, my office had fika every day in the afternoon around 3:00pm. Some days we got out of the office, and enjoyed an hour at a nearby cafe, other days we took turns bringing in Swedish cardamon buns and drinks. But fika also takes place outside of the workplace - the weekends, amongst friends, or just with yourself whenever you want to wind down or need a pick-me-up. Whatever the occasion, having a fika is having a casual moment to reinvigorate.
Where to stay in Stockholm:
Thon Partner Hotel Kungsbron
This hotel is right beside Stockholm's central station - which makes it a prime location for day trips or using the metro to get around the city.
Experience a Nordic design hotel where impeccable eye for details meet Scandinavian style.
Looking for an accommodation that won't break your bank? We gotchu.
12. Hop on board Bokbåten, the floating book boat
The Swedish Public Library is an architectural jewel made for bibliophiles but, since I already covered that favourite spot amongst locals in the 4 Day Stockholm itinerary, there’s another unique book haven you have to experience. The Bokbåten is a book boat that sails around Stockholm’s archipelago, visiting some of the more remotely inhabited islands. The boat docks around the archipelago, where the residents can then board the ship to browse a collection of over 3000 books to borrow.
13. Kayak into the sunset
The waterways of Stockholm are made for fun activities, whether you’re swimming or sailing, there’s also the laid-back way of exploring it by kayak.
Certain neighbourhoods of Stockholm can get crowded with tourists in the summer (as much as we all love Gamla Stan, those cobblestone streets are packed!), and the water is always just so calm and spacious. Grab a kayak and paddle around the archipelago. You can pit stop at different islands around Stockholm, pull your kayak up to a beach for a drink, or just gently float along the magnificent Nordic sunset.
Whether you go for a whole day kayaking around the Stockholm archipelago or just set out for a sunset kayaking cruise, you can never go wrong exploring the Swedish capital from the water.
14. Underground clubbing where all the Swedes go
While Berlin has Berghain and New York had Studio 54, Stockholm’s answer to underground clubbing to completely lose yourself in another world is Trädgarden. Trädgarden is legendary amongst Stockholmers, it’s a place where to some is a coming-of-age passage, and for others, another casual Tuesday night out.
Hidden under an overpass, Trädgarden is a pumping, multi-floor club, with different rooms that you weave yourself in and out of through various DJ sets and ambient lights. Outside there’s a large terrace that also has live performances on certain evenings.
Many nights start and end at Trädgarden - so if you plan to go, definitely go early since the line to get in tends to wind down the block.
15. Catch a movie at a nostalgic 1970s theatre… and have breakfast at the same time
The Bio Rio theatre located in the Hornstull area of Södermalm is an art-house cinema, purely showcasing indie and world films. You’ll spot this theatre down the block from its preserved 1940s lit-neon signage and entryway, characteristic of all glorious bygone-era movie theatres.
Of course, you can go for a casual movie, but you can also pair it with a breakfast screening here - yep, traditional Swedish breakfast like muesli with a movie! Occasionally there are also sing-a-long flicks and live operas hosted at the Bio Rio.
16. Bike Stockholm by a self-guided bike tour
A splendid way to explore Stockholm is by bicycle. The city is practically made for two wheels, as the walking-friendly streets also have enough space for cyclists. You can rent a bike with a GPS and from there hit up all the spots you want to go to, or just take it leisurely and cruise around!
Biking at your own pace around Stockholm gives you a freedom that public transit doesn’t - since you can just stop and go at whichever point you’d like. There are routes provided with your bikes too, as well as different models that you can choose from. Click here to learn more about a self-guided bike tour in Stockholm.
17. Stroll around the city
Seriously, Stockholm is made for walking. It’s the best way to catch the Nordic light and the fresh Scandinavian air. From the promenade outside City Hall, you have a beautiful stretch of the water as well as a postcard view of Södermalm, the southern island across the harbour.
Then there’s Gamla Stan, where if you take an early morning stroll or a late evening walk, it’ll feel like you have the whole old town to yourself. It’s incredible how during off-peak hours the old town feels like an abandoned Middle Ages labyrinthine - ever more fun to get lost in.
Where to stay in Stockholm:
STF Långholmen Hostel Beds
If you want an easy way to meet new people and make new friends, this social hostel with a great bar will be the perfect place!
Boo Boo Living
Stay on the regal island of Stockholm where awesome museums like Skansen and ABBA museum are nearby.
For those who are looking for a more quiet escape, while still having Stockholm close by and accessible.
18. Go shopping for home-grown Swedish brands
Stockholm is no stranger to fashion, with Vogue Scandinavia’s headquarters located in the Swedish capital, as well as being the flagship city for various Swedish brands. From Acne Studios, Stutterheim, Our Legacy, to cult-loved Fjällräven, Cheap Monday, Nudie Jeans and Sandqvist - the Swedes not only have an eye for style but a talent for craftsmanship and designing too.
Here in Stockholm, whether you’re shopping in hip Södermlam or in the affluent Östermalm (and luxurious department stores like NK and Åhléns City) - there’s a wide selection of internationally famous Swedish brands, as well as local artisans and boutique designers.
19. Have a speedboat adventure in the Stockholm archipelago
Since the Stockholm archipelago spans over 30,000 islands which could be incredibly overwhelming - why not just dive right in and explore a bunch of them on a fast-paced speedboat adventure? Not only will you feel the fresh Baltic Sea splash alongside your boat, but you’ll also be jetting off between different islands.
A speedboat is the best way to get a need-for-speed taste of the diverse lifestyles out in the Stockholm archipelago. From cute little red cottages where Stockholmers have their summer homes to completely deserted islands - this is one way to experience everything in bitesize time. Click here to learn more about a speedboat adventure through the Stockholm archipelago.
20. Streetfood stalls on the waterfront
In Södermalm on the weekend, along Hornstulls Strand is the Hornstulls Marknad. This is a small flea market where the locals come on the weekend to sit out in the sun and enjoy street food. Aside from the beautifully handcrafted pieces of jewellery and little knick-knacks, there are plenty of food trucks lined up.
If you’re feeling peckish, and just want to try different flavours - this is the place to be. The food trucks serve up delicious bites from halloumi burgers, Vietnamese banh mi, to Korean food, Indian bites, crepes, and fish and chips.
21. Uncover the whimsical park of Hagaparken
Hagaparken is a huge park in Stockholm that’s known for its whimsicality and vastness, having been found by the Swedish king back in the 1780s. Today it’s still a favourite amongst Swedish royalty, where you can walk up to kitschy pavilions and grand palaces like the Haga Palace which was built in an Italian villa style.
No matter which season, Hagaparken in Stockholm makes for a lovely city break. In the winter, families take their kids here for sledding and making snowmen. In the summer, many people lounge right by the water as the park sits on the lake. My favourite season? Autumn, since that’s when you’ll get the burst of red, orange and gold foliage everywhere in the tall woods.
22. Learn how to survive in the Swedish wilderness
Swedes really take pride in their outdoor survival skills. My Swedish roommate at the time, Klas, told me about how every school has a mandatory orienteering course. Basically, he and his classmates were dropped off in the middle of a forest with nothing but a compass and a map, and given the task of finding their way home.
In a way, that’s still relevant to this day and age, especially since more than 70% of Sweden’s landscape is covered by forest. So what’s cooler than taking a survival course in the Swedish wilderness? You’ll learn about how to build shelter, what’s edible and healing, starting a fire, as well as setting a trap - and then have cosy nights cooking food over a wooden fire. Click here to learn more about the survival course in the Swedish wilderness.