Why did no one tell me about Stockholm sooner? I’m a little bit jaded toward all of my travel friends for failing to inform me just how amazing Sweden is. Especially for kids. Our family recently took a little weekend trip up north, and we give Stockholm 5 great big, gold stars for family friendliness. What an unexpected delight. We spent 2 days here but I wish we could have spent 2 weeks. Kids of all ages will find loads of fun activities in Stockholm, Sweden.
Gamla Stan: This is Stockholm’s old town. The architecture and the little streets are packed with old world charm. This is a really fun place to explore. There are lots quaint shops and cafes and places to see. Not to mention that it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Some of the buildings in this area date back to the 1300s. The streets are made of cobblestone, so we would recommend going without a stroller if you can; try to opt for a child carrier instead (see our review of child carrier backpacks here). If you really need the stroller try to take one with nice big wheels because it will make a difference.
Here are a few things not to miss in your wanderings around Gamla Stan:
- Royal Castle – This is the actual residence of the Swedish Royal Family, and it is packed with things to do and see. You could spend a whole day here if you had the time. Some of the highlights for kids might include a tour of the Royal Stables (Saturday’s at 1:00pm), the changing of the guard (Daily at noon*), the Royal Armory, and a brand new exhibition of Princess Lilian’s dresses that little girls are sure to love.
- Polkagris Kokeri Candy Shop – We happened upon the cutest old fashion candy shop. It’s in the southwest quadrant of Gamla Stan. If you are in the area make sure to wander in for a demonstration and a free sample of peppermint candy. Both the Swedes and the Finns lay claim to the invention of salted licorice candy, but regardless of where it actually originated you can try a taste of it here. Even if you miss the demonstration, you can ask for a sample of almost anything in the little store and they will likely indulge you.
- Great Views – Our kids also loved just standing on the edge of the water and watching the big cruise ships come in and out of port. There is a great birds eye view of the city from an outlook deck called the Skyview. It’s free with the Stockholm card or 130 SEK for an adult ticket. To get there, you take the T-bana (metro) to the “Globen” stop and then walk southeast for about 250 meters.
- Yummy Food – If you’re looking for restaurant suggestions, check out this link for places to eat with kids in Gamla Stan.
*note that the changing of the guard is a very busy time at the Palace. So, if you want to see anything, you’ll want to get there early.
Djurgårdsbron Bridge – It’s about a half and hour walk or a twenty minute tram ride (tram 76) to get from Östermalm (the main island) to Djurgården (the eastern island). If the weather is good, we suggest the walk. You’ll cross the bridge and see some amazing views, with the harbor on one side and some stunning architecture on the other. Keep your eyes open for the statues of the 4 Old Norse Gods (Heimdall, Gjallarhorn, Frigg, and Thor) that line the walkway.
Djurgården: This is the big island that is just to the East of Gamla Stan. It’s more open with some great parks and things to do outside. There are are also some fantastic kid friendly museums. Keep in mind that the prices for a hotel stay are much cheaper over here than down town, so you may want to consider booking your hotel in this part of the city. We stayed in a family style room at the Scandic Hasselbacken and would highly recommend it. Here are the must see ticket items in Djurgården:
- The Vasa Museum: This is our #1 pick in Stockholm — for adults and kids alike. The Vasa is a Swedish War ship that was built in about 1628. She sank on her Maiden Voyage, less than a nautical mile from port. Yet, because of this tragedy, the Vasa is one of the most well preserved shipwrecks in history. It’s honestly amazing. If you only had 2 hours in Stockholm, this is what I would tell you to see. Actually, if you only had 2 hours in Scandinavia, this is still probably what I would tell you to see.
- Skansen – The best open air museum/zoo we’ve ever seen. Everything, and I mean everything, is taylor made for children. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun on an outing with my kids. I feel like the people that designed Skansen thought to themselves, “how could I best explore this place if I were 5-years-old?” I wish we could go here every day. If you have little kids, do not miss it! I would say that the target age is 2-12 but there is plenty to entertain older kids as well. There are lots of little shops and cultural experiences, as well as a fantastic zoo. Plan to spend at least a half a day here.At the entrance, I would recommend paying the extra fee to take the tram up to the top, because the walk up is very steep and will be difficult for kids. You can also ask for a map and a timetable of events: there are demonstrations and feeding times that will help you make the most of your time. You can also download a free app that will help you navigate this amazing childhood treasure.
- Gröna Lund – An awesome little amusement park. It’s right on the water and has a whole bunch of great looking rides and roller coasters. There are attractions for both smaller and bigger kids, making it a great place for the whole family. Note that Gröna Lund is closed during the winter and usually opens again around early April. Check the website for official opening dates.
Museums – There are several museums that we didn’t have time to visit, including: The Nordic Museum (pictured), The Junibacken (children’s museum), and The Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology. You might also want to pop by The ABBA Museum. It’s right around the corner from Gröna Lund. Go ahead and get your Dancing Queen on — we won’t judge. If you make it to these places before we do, be sure to let us know how you liked them.
Drottningholm: If you are looking for a good day trip, Drottingholm is about a 45 minute train ride from downtown. It’s probably only worth going on the weekend as Drottningholm Palace is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 3:30pm. Other things to see in Drottningholm include: The Drottingholm Palace Theater (also a UNESCO World Heritage site), The Lovön Church, and the Chinese Pavilion.
Getting Around: As far as getting to the city center is concerned, it’s pretty straight forward from the airport. You can take a train from the airport terminal to the central train station. The train is called the Arlandae Express. The trip takes about 20 min. There is a kid’s car in the center of the train, and children up to age 17 ride for free! If you come by boat or by train, you should be dropped off right in the city center. Once you are there, Stockholm is completely walkable. Public transportation is also very well laid out, and Taxis are plentiful. You won’t have any problem finding your way.
We love our family travel adventures and we have good things to say about almost everywhere we have been, but from a family travel standpoint Stockholm tops the list! I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a more kid friendly city. We loved our short trip to Sweden so much that we are already planning the next time we can go back.