See the Instant Itinerary in this post! See the Stockholm Day 1 Longform article for details and impressions.
My One and Only and I walked Stockholm for four days, and we loved every clean, beautiful, ordered thing about it. Here is our Day 1 itinerary.
Arrival: We took the Arlanda Express train into Stockholm and checked into our sleek, Swedish hotel, the Nobis in Normalm. It was 7 AM. The breakfast buffet was stocked with the Euro-usual: fruit, muesli, yogurt, bread, ham, salami, cheese, and oh . . . . smoked reindeer, and some lingonberry jam.
Site 1: Gamla Stan. 2 hours. We strode the 15 minutes over a canal to Gamla Stan, the old city. It houses the current royal palace, Kungliga Slottet, and museums, churches, squares, shops, restaurants, bars, and schools. We saw the changing of the Royal Guard,
Kungliga Slottet is the type of opulent palace seen all over Europe. It even had its own Hall of Mirrors and the collection of precious stone medals was impressive.
Gamla Stan’s mustard, russet, and pine colored buildings and the cobblestones make it fun to walk around. The restaurants are overtly touristy, and there are many nordic curio shops.
Break: Espresso House. While traveling, we all need a second place to rest, get coffee and snacks, use free wifi, study maps, and pore over the travel books we didn’t read before the trip. The Espresso House is the second place in Stockholm. There are everywhere, they have free wifi, and the coffee is superior. And Espresso House serves warm, crunchy-gooey paninis; there are plenty of chocolate opportunities as well.
Tour 1: 2.5 hours The best way to see the big scale of Stockholm and the full panorama of its Baltic setting is to see it by boat. I had bought our tickets for the Stockholm Bridges and Canals tour online from viator.com, a tour-clearing house site. But there was no need to do so. Several boat tour ticket booths lined the two main tourist harbors.
The tour pulled us out of the main harbor and took us around a loop toward Lake Mälaren, adjacent to the harbor. We went under several old city canal bridges and then went through a canal lock near trendy Sodermalm that evened up the waterway for the boat to enter Lake Malaren. We saw parts of Stockholm we could have never seen if we had stayed on foot.
Cocktail Hour. Grand Hotel Stockholm. We beat jetlag! How divine that glass of rosé was at the outdoor bar next to the old hotel.
Dinner: Sushi at MBK Restaurant. Walking distance through the outdoor mall in Normalm.
DAY 2: VASA MUSEUM, SODERMALM, FANCY DINNER
“So the Vasa ship isn’t a Viking ship!” I said too loudly at breakfast. Nobody looked at me; they don’t do that in Sweden. You just get ignored, which is better anyway.
The Vasa warship was a war vessel commissioned in 1628 by King Gustavus Adolfus to strike fear into the Polish navy stationed across the Baltic. Too bad it sank almost immediately after its premature launch in Swedish Baltic waters.
Walk 1: After loading up on breakfast and pots of coffee, we walked a couple of miles along the Strandvagen boulevard next to the bay to Djurgården island which houses the Vasa Museum. Bike lanes, pedestrian lanes, and car lanes lined up in parallel on Strandvagen with sturdy, identical lines of poplar trees dating from the late 1700’s. Not a car or a person out of place, Swedish style.
Site 1: Vasa Museum. The museum shrouds the Vasa ship like a grand wedding-tent, soaring five stories with masts like a spider web of wood. No machines, industrial factories, or robots were used on the Vasa. Just droves of shipbuilders in an outdoor foundry and lumber yard on Djurgården island.
The Best Part: We then strolled to the anthropology displays. Swedish forensic anthropologists have taken the bones and teeth of the drowning victims, and they have re-constructed detailed personal histories and even human-sized models of them. Ship workers and servants sustained injuries like broken bones and missing fingers and toes during their hard, short lives. Their brittle, often missing teeth revealed diets poor in nutrients. The anthropologists listed their illnesses and injuries, and they gave them authentic names like Lars, Gunnar, and Greet.
Lunch: Guess where we went to lunch? You’re right: Espresso House! After leaving the Vasa museum we walked down the Strandvagen along the bay toward the hotel. As usual, the tomato and mozzarella panini and cappuccino hit the spot.