Stockholm's Old Town reflected in the water

Three days in Stockholm: an itinerary for first-time visitors

Planning a trip to Stockholm? Here are our top picks...

Stay: Victory Hotel

Walking tour: Old Town and Vasa Museum

Boat tour: Open electric boat ride

Food tour: Nordic Food Walk

Day trip: Kayak Stockholm Archipelago

The largest city in Sweden and one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Stockholm is Sweden’s captivating capital city. Enclosed by 14 islands, an emblematic old town is zigzagged with cobblestoned streets among ochre-coloured houses and vibrant squares.

Stockholm has a relaxing atmosphere while at the same time, you find everything you look for in a city. Cosy coffee shops and restaurants with healthy and plant-based alternatives and vibrant nightlife dominate the city.

Put up against other European capitals, it is a safe travel destination, and there is an intriguing history and cultural scene to be discovered. It is the home city of the legendary writer Astrid Lindgren, the mother of some of Scandinavia’s most influential children’s characters like Pippi Longstocking, Ronia the robber’s daughter, and Emil.

There is so much to this bewitching city that you may just want to stay forever.

An aerial view of Stockholm

How long should I spend in Stockholm?

Stockholm is a wonderful city to spend some time in. While you can see a lot in a couple of days, this beguiling city will capture your heart from the moment you set foot in it.

To really take in the magic of Stockholm and have a “fika” in as many coffee shops as possible - I cannot recommend the Swedish Kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) enough! - you should at least spend 3-4 days (or more) in the city.

With three full days in Stockholm, however, you will fit in some of the best things to do, including palaces, gardens, and museums, as well as simply taking in the lovely atmosphere of the city. It is not often you hear about people visiting Stockholm and not returning to the enchanting Swedish capital city.

Colourful buildings in Stortorget Square in Stockholm's old town

Day 1: Gamla Stan (Stockholm Old Town)

Start your Stockholm trip by exploring one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval old towns, Gamla Stan. Quaint, cobbled streets and pastel-coloured houses lead past cute shops and cafés.

Stortorget is the main square and the oldest in the city and is lined with iconic houses in different colours. This is a lovely place to have breakfast or lunch later in the day - or a “fika” just because.

On Stortorget you can also visit the Nobel Prize Museum, where you can see an exhibition of the Nobel Prize winners and their work. You will also learn more about the Nobel Prize history and its founder, Alfred Nobel.

The exterior of the Swedish Royal Palace in Stockholm

Next, stop by Stockholm Cathedral, where you will be mesmerized by the majestic Gothic interior with sturdy columns holding up the arches leading the way to the altarpiece. Statues and golden details cover the church, and it is well worth taking some time inside to see it all.

Finally, you must visit the Royal Palace. Being one of the largest royal palaces in Europe with its 11 stories, this is a residence (not the permanent) of the Swedish Royal family.

It is popular to see the changing of the guards on the outside, but you should also take a tour of the inside of the lavish palace. Several opulent rooms are open to the public, and you can learn more about the medieval history of the Royal Palace in the Tre Kronor Museum inside.

Stay in Gamla Stan for dinner and uncover Stockholm’s animated bar scene and nightclubs if you want to take it further.

Museum Island from the water

Day 2: The Canals and Museum Island (Djurgården)

Start the day with a boat tour of the canals of Stockholm or take it at the end of the day if you can time it with the sunset. Seeing Stockholm from the water is a wonderful way to get some diversity while learning about the city’s history. Not only will you see the city from a different perspective, but you will sail through lovely green areas.

Spend the rest of the day exploring many of Stockholm’s best museums at the city’s Museum Island, also known as Djurgården. One of the best museums for children is Junibacken, but that said, it is also a fantastic place to re-live your childhood if you grew up with Astrid Lindgren’s legendary books. The museum also contains Sweden’s largest bookshop.

Street lined with with historic timber houses at Skansen open-air museum in Stockholm,

Next, make it to the Vasa Museum, an incredible maritime museum where you can see the restored Vasa Ship that sunk in 1628 on its first journey and was not pulled up and restored before the 1960s. If you are interested in Viking history, you should not miss out on the Viking Museum, which will give you an in-depth experience of the Viking’s history.

Music lovers will find the ABBA Museum a total blast. Follow the Swedish pop group’s success, sing karaoke to their top hits, and dance in a music video. 

Finally, Skansen Museum is a must-see while in Djurgården. It is the oldest open-air museum in Europe, dating back to 1891. The museum is made up of 150 traditional Swedish houses whereof most of them have been transported from around the country so that you get an authentic experience. This is a unique way to learn about Swedish history, culture, and wildlife as you can literally walk back in time through the houses there.

There are a handful of restaurants on Museum Island, so you can easily spend the day there and have lunch without crossing the canal.

An aerial view of Stockholm's archipelago

Day 3: Stockholm Archipelago

Stockholm Archipelago is made up of thousands of islands of different sizes, and it is one of the most idyllic places in Sweden, especially in summer when nights are long. It is easy to visit the different islands by ferry from Strömkajen, although you will not be able to visit them all in a day. Here are a few of the must-visit islands - choose if you visit one or more islands, depending on how long you want to spend on each. If you have more time in Stockholm, you can take your time and see a few.


This is a small group of islands within the archipelago that are only a 30-minute boat ride from the city centre, making them the closest to visit. There are small shops where you can find local handicrafts, restaurants, and bars, and even a hotel if you have extra time in Stockholm.

The nature scene is also fantastic, and you can go for a walk along the seaside or in the little forest. In the summer it is also lovely to go for a swim.


The busiest island of the archipelago, as it is connected to the city by a bridge. There is no shortage of restaurants, bars, and shops on the island, but the main attraction is the Vaxholm Fortress.

The fortress was built in 1544 to protect Stockholm from Russian invitations and is worth a visit. The ferry ride takes about an hour from Stockholm.

The island of Svartsö from the water


One of the larger, yet lesser-visited islands in the archipelago. There is a small settlement of all-year inhabitants on the island, so you find shops and restaurants there. Yet, it is a wonderful island to take in the tranquillity of nature, dip your toes in the water, swim in the lakes, or relax on the beach.

As the island is more remote, the ferry to Svartsö takes 4 hours and 25 minutes. However, it is a nice last stop on a multi-island day trip.


This is the most popular island for swimming and sunbathing on the green grass or along the rocky shore in the summer months. To reach the part of the island with the most restaurants and shops, get off at the first stop on the southern part of the island.

The ferry takes about two and a half hours one way, but it is a lovely and scenic ferry ride and an attraction in itself, especially on a warm, sunny day.

The opulent Golden Room in Stockholm City Hall

If you have more time in Stockholm

Here are some more ideas of what to do if you have more time in Sweden's beautiful capital city.

Stockholm City Hall

One of the most spectacular buildings in Stockholm is the City Hall. It is possible to take a guided tour of the different rooms where you will learn about Stockholm’s political history.

The highlight of the tour is the Golden Hall whose walls are covered in over 18 million gold tiles! The tour takes 45 minutes and is available in English all year round (and other languages are usually available in the summer months.)

Fotografiska Museum

Photography lovers will love this museum only dedicated to photography as an art form. There are incredible artistic photography exhibitions from the peculiar to the extreme. If this is down your alley, there is no reason to put off a visit to Fotografiska.

Drottningholm Palace

The Drottningholm Palace is the permanent royal residence and one of the most impressive and best-preserved royal palaces from the 17th century. Unsurprisingly, the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The palace is situated outside the centre and makes for a wonderful day trip or half-day trip to take in the opulent gardens and tour the majestic palace.

Planning a trip to Stockholm? Read our neighbourhood guide.

Share this article

Linn Haglund

Author - Linn Haglund

Originally from Norway, Linn is an avid traveller and freelance travel writer that has a passion for the outdoors, wildlife, and responsible travel. She is currently living the van life in southern Europe with her fiancé and their dog.

Having travelled in 50+ countries and lived in five countries, she has developed a fervour for helping people to travel more responsibly and leave a positive impact on their destinations through her blog, Brainy Backpackers.

Last Updated 10 January 2024

An aerial view of lake in Sweden in summer


Sparsely populated Sweden is known for its natural wonders. Cities tend cling to the coast and rivers, while inland you'll find towns, the occasional house, and a huge amount of forest interspersed with moors and lakes.