An aerial view of Stockholm's archipelago

Exploring Stockholm's Archipelago

Want to visit the Stockholm Archipelago? Book a kayaking day trip

Surrounding Sweden's largest city, the Stockholm archipelago is made up of more than 24,000 islands dotting the glittering Baltic Sea. If you have the time, adding a visit to an island to your Stockholm itinerary is a must.

Some are lush and green without any human interference, while others are vibrant destinations for any summer vacation full of restaurants, bars, and great beaches.

You can find islands which are wonderful for hiking, and a few can only reached by kayak, where you can pull up in secluded hidden coves and creeks.

There is so much to the Stockholm archipelago that it is hard to know where to start and the truth is, with so many islands, there is no way you will cover them all during a lifetime, even less so during your vacation.

Luckily, several islands are relatively easy to visit, with regular ferry connections from Stockholm.

The main town on Vaxholm, an island near Stockholm

1. Vaxholm

Renowned as the gateway to the Stockholm archipelago, Vaxholm is one of the most popular of the islands as it is so easy to reach. On most ferry routes it is the first stop, but it is also connected to Stockholm by a bridge and can easily be reached by bus and car. 

Vaxholm is a charming island with narrow streets weaving their way through colourful houses, cute shops, restaurants, and cafés. However, the main attraction is the Vaxholms Fästning where you can step back in time. The fortress was built in the 16th century to defend Stockholm from sea attacks that could come from this direction.

How to get there: Take the ferry from Strömkajen in central Stockholm (60-90 minutes), in the summer months, you can also take the boat from Strandvägen which takes around 50 minutes.

If you prefer to travel by land, take bus no. 670 from Tekniska Högskolan or drive. However, there is limited parking and it is not free, so in the high season, you are better off leaving your car behind.

Where to stay: Vaxholm Seaside Cottage

People enjoying the water on Grinda, an island near Stockholm

2. Grinda

Grinda is one of the most popular islands to go bathing in the crystal clear water off the beaches and the picturesque rocky sections. Aside from a small community with shops and restaurants, and a hotel on the south side of the islands, the island is a nature paradise.

The lush forest covering Grinda houses deer and bats among other wildlife, and makes it a unique place to go hiking and walking in nature. In summer and autumn, it is the perfect time to go berry picking too, which is a popular activity in Sweden.

There are also numerous stunning coves around the island making it a popular place for kayaking - and you can rent gear on the island.

How to get there: Take the ferry from Strömkajen in central Stockholm (30 minutes) or from Strandvägen (80 minutes) to Södra Grinda.

Where to stay: Grinda Wärdshus

A beach on the island of Sandon on a sunny day

3. Sandön

Sandön is a popular island for those sailing around the Stockholm archipelago which makes the waters around the island’s main town, Sandhamn, particularly picturesque in summer as it normally is dotted with sailboats and yachts.

As a result, Sandhamn has become a posh little getaway with a number of fancy boutique shops. There are also a handful of hotels on the island to stay the night.

Among the most popular activities on Sandön are exploring the walking paths, going shopping, sunbathing on the golden beaches, and renting a kayak to explore the more quiet areas around the island.

But do not miss out on just walking around the streets of Sandhamn to take in the cute log houses in bright red, yellow, and white with colorful gardens with buzzing bees skipping from flower to flower.

How to get there: Take the ferry from Strandvägen, the trip takes 2 hours and 15 minutes and must be pre-booked.

Where to stay: Sandhamn Seglarhotell

The Swedish island of Svartsö from the water

4. Svartsö

Svartsö is one of the largest islands of the Stockholm archipelago, yet it is a peaceful island with only a few inhabitants, one restaurant, and one hotel. The island is recognized as the greenest island in the Stockholm archipelago, so you can only imagine its beauty.

The best way to explore Svartsö is to rent a bike, but if you stay a few days, you can spend your time hiking too. The paths take you through open pasture areas where livestock is grazing freely making it a truly idyllic scenery.

Beyond, you will see mountains, hills and lush forests zig-zagged with trails to explore. There is no doubt, Svartsö is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise island in the archipelago.

You can stay in some of the most unique accommodations on the island: glamping tents and houseboats.

How to get there: Take the ferry from Strömkajen in central Stockholm (1.5 hours) or from Strandvägen (2.5 hours) to Alsviks Brygga in Svartsö.

Where to stay: STF Svartsö Skärgårdshotell

The habour at Fjaderholmarna island near Stockholm

5. Fjäderholmarna

This small group of islands is situated very close to the centre of Stockholm, which makes them easy to reach.

The main island, Stora Fjäderholmen, is lovely to walk around, browse art galleries, or look for unique handicrafts like ceramics and glassware. The island is easy to walk around on a loop road and if you want to take a hike in the forest, it offers beautiful nature in the middle.

Continue to the small museum, the Allmogebåtar boat museum, which is dedicated to old fishing boats and traditions. They also restore old Swedish fishing boats which are interesting as they only use traditional tools.

There are lovely cafés and restaurants on the seafront where you can enjoy a coffee and fika or have a nice lunch tasting traditional Swedish food.

The other islands in the Fjäderholmene archipelago are Ängsholmen, Libertas, and Rövarns holme, but they are not as popular as most ferries will leave you at Stora Fjäderholmen.

How to get there: Take the ferry from Strömkajen in less than 30 minutes.

Boats and boathouses at the island of Möja in Sweden

6. Möja

Möja is a lovely traditional island boasting old fishing villages with a few inhabitants and charming red wooden houses. The island has been inhabited since the Viking era.

There is a year-round vibrant yet laid-back atmosphere on the island, mostly due to the lack of larger tourist crowds that you can notice on other of Stockholm’s islands. You find shops, cafés, and restaurants as well as a couple of hotels. 

The best way to explore Möya is by foot or by renting a bike to cover the gravel roads. There are hardly any cars on the island, so it is really peaceful to cycle around.

Most of the islands east of Möya are nature reserves which makes it a mecca for kayaking around the area both for seeing wildlife and untouched nature.

How to get there: Take the ferry from Strandvägen (2.5-3 hours) or from Strömkajen (3-4 hours). It is recommended to book in advance to assure a spot on the ferry.

Where to stay: STF Möja Vandrarhem or this cute villa

Red houses on an island in the Stockholm Archipelago
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Practical information

How do I get around the Stockholm Archipelago?

Some of the most popular islands are connected to the mainland by bridges or tunnels and can therefore be reached by bus and car. Others can only be reached by passenger-only ferry from Stockholm as the islands are completely car-free. 

You can also reach some of the islands by kayaking which you can rent in Stockholm or some of the islands. There are also one-day and multi-day organized kayaking tours you can take from Stockholm to get closer to nature.

The main ferry docks in Stockholm that offer trips to the archipelago are Strömkajen in central Stockholm, where you can catch the Vaxholmsbolaget ferries and Strandvägen where the Cinderella ferry company docks. The latter usually take longer and are more expensive than Vaxholmsbolaget.

Once on the islands, the best way to get around is by foot or by renting a bike as most of them are car-free.

When's the best time to visit?

The best time to visit the Stockholm archipelago is the summer months between June and September when the weather is at its best. In July and August, the islands are at their busiest and the prices rise considerably. For this reason, it can be a good idea to time your visit for June or September. 

You can also look for hotels months in advance which might save you some cash. On the other hand, this is also the period where you are most likely to find a truly vibrant atmosphere with live music and fun activities.

However, if you want to escape the crowds and chase the lowest prices, the off-season is the best time to travel. In winter, you can try ice bathing or cross-country skiing through the white-capped forests, and in the biggest islands, you can go shopping at the Christmas Markets. 

Autumn leaves you in awe with a warm colourful blanket of red, orange, and yellow, while spring is when the snow melts and wildflowers start rising from the moist soil. As you can tell, all seasons have their charm, you just have to figure out what you are looking for.

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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

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