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Discover Stockholm: What to Do and Where to Stay (PHOTOS)

Posted: 08/23/2012 7:00 am

Being one of the northernmost capitals in Europe gets you a reputation as a cold place, but that doesn't mean Stockholm doesn't offer myriad outdoor activities and attractions during the warm summer months.

From intriguing medieval neighborhoods with narrow cobblestone streets to world-class museums and gorgeous parks, the Swedish capital is a fascinating destination, rain or shine. Pack your bags and hop on the first plane to Stockholm: We've got some amazing stuff to see.

-- Carolina Pirola,

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  • Do: Rent a bike and explore the Djurgarden

    The Djurgarden is an island in central Stockholm home to museums, historic buildings, forests, and tranquil canals. It's been royal land since the 15th century, but it's open to the public and easily accessible via ferry or tram. The park has dozens of trails, and is the perfect spot for a relaxed picnic on a warm day. The best way to explore all the Djurgarden has to offer is by renting a bike and following the paths from attraction to attraction.

  • Stay: Hotel Rival

    Owned by former ABBA-member Benny Andersson, the boutique <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Hotel Rival</a></strong> is located in a residential neighborhood, overlooking a small park. Though popular sites and museums are a 15-minute ride away, the hotel is a destination unto itself, with a large auditorium theater and a popular restaurant and cafe frequented by locals as well as guests. The funky, modern design of the upscale rooms only adds to the hip vibe.

  • Do: Explore the old city

    Gamla Stan is the old town of Stockholm, dating back to the 13th century. It consists primarily of the island Stadsholmen, which is located across the newer downtown area, and easily accessible via ferry and public transportation. Its quaint cobblestone streets and gorgeous old-style architecture make it one of the most visited areas in Stockholm. Stortoget is the main square here, and one of the must-sees in Gam Stan. It's steeped in history -- it was the site of the Swedish Bloodbath in 1520 -- and home to a handful of iconic buildings, such as the Stockholm Exchange Building.

  • Stay: Grand Hotel Stockholm

    The historic <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Grand Hotel</a></strong> is one of Stockholm's grand dames, complete with gilded accents and a high-profile clientele. Built in 1874, the hotel boasts spectacular harbor views, and a great location near multiple museums and tourist attractions, and is just a short bus or ferry ride from the Gamla Stan. Stately rooms have flat-screen TVs with premium channels, and some come with extras like separate deep soaking tubs and balconies.

  • Do: Tour the Royal Dramatic Theater

    The Royal Dramatic Theatre is Sweden's national theatre, and a striking example of Art Nouveau architecture. It is located at iconic Nybroplan, which boasts gorgeous views of the bay and of the historic buildings lining it. The one-hour guided tours allow visitors to see the wig studio, the costume department, the dressing rooms and the main stage. Tickets can be bought online or at the booth on-site.

  • Stay: Berns Hotel

    This 65-room contemporary boutique is part of the historic Berns Salonger complex, which includes a bistro, a top-notch Asian restaurant, a ballroom, and a nightclub. The club makes for some loud nights over the weekends, but it often hosts well-known performers, and the hotel's location is superb -- right on a park, just blocks from great shopping and many tourist attractions. Stylish rooms have hardwood floors and bold, quirky wall art. The <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Berns Hotel</a></strong> is located, naturally, across the beautiful square from the Royal Dramatic Theatre.

  • Do: Check out the museums

    There are a ton of interesting museums in Stockholm, but if your time in the city is limited, there are two you can't miss: the Vasamuseet and the Museum of Medieval Stockholm. The Vasamuseet is housed in a carefully restored 17th-century royal warship, which is thought to be the world's oldest complete and identified ship. On display are thousands of items of archaeological interest. The Museum of Medieval Stockholm explores the history of Medieval Stockholm, with a fascinating permanent exhibition and varied temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

  • Stay: Lydmar Hotel

    The 50-room <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Lydmar Hotel</a></strong> is a hip, design-centric choice located in central Stockholm. Paintings and photographs line the hallways, each floor has its own living room area, and the two-floor lobby boasts a popular restaurant and beautiful views of the harbor. The sleek, earth-toned rooms are among Stockholm's best, with individual designs (no two rooms are the same), and thoughtful attention to detail -- big windows, unique light fixtures, cool wall art, and free Wi-Fi.

  • Do: Go sailing

    Stockholm is known as "the Venice of the North", and for good reason: it's an archipelago comprised of dozens of islands and intricate waterways. And, so, the best way to get a taste of the city's vibe is to jump on a boat and sail the canals. There are ferries, water taxis and rental boats available, and it's a fun way to discover all the Swedish capital has to offer. Add a touch of romance to the day and get a boat at dusk and watch the city turn into myriad twinkling lights.

  • Stay: Hotel J

    The nautical-themed, boutique <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Hotel J</a></strong> has a secluded, out-in-the-country feel, although it's only a 10-minute drive from central Stockholm. Though the suburban area of Nacka, one of the city's business hubs, can be relatively quiet at night, the hotel has an excellent waterfront restaurant and beautiful, lush grounds. Rooms have tiny tube TVs, but include perks like balconies, free Wi-Fi, and an excellent free breakfast.

  • Do: Ride the rides at Grona Lund

    Grona Lund is a relatively small amusement park with only about 30 rides, but kids (and kids-at-heart) love it, and it's just a short ferry or tram ride from the city center. The park is known for its pop and rock concerts in the summer (Bob Marley performed here three times between 1977 and 1980), and its beautiful historic buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Don't miss the 50-foot wooden rollercoaster, added in 2011.

  • Stay: Radisson Blu Strand Hotel

    The <strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Radisson Blu Strand</a></strong> feels like a typical business hotel, but its location is the real draw, right on the water and just blocks from shopping and tourist attractions. Splurging for a room with a harbor view is well worth it.


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