If you’re heading off on a cruise that departs from Stockholm, it’s well worth spending a few days in the Swedish capital

Liz Jarvis
photos: Ulf Hinds/Henrik Trygg/Nicho Södling/Stockholm Visitors Board

There are some cities so beautiful they merit more of your time than a fleeting visit, and Stockholm, with its spirestudded skyline, is stunning.

Known as the ‘green and blue city’, because it’s made up of 14 different islands, it’s also easy to get around (take your pick from the ferry, metro, tram, bus or canal boat). A good place to start exploring is the medieval Gamla Stan (old town). All of Gamla Stan and the adjacent island of Riddarholmen are pedestrian-friendly, and the narrow winding cobblestone streets with their saffron, vanilla and russet coloured buildings look like something from a fairy tale.

There are several churches and museums in Gamla Stan, including Sweden’s national cathedral Stockholm Cathedral, City Hall and the Nobel Museum. Drottningholm Palace, the permanent residence of the Swedish royal family, is a UNESCO world-heritage site and a 50-minute boat ride from the city centre.

Cultural delights

For breathtaking views and an exhilarating experience, buckle up in your safety harness and take your first steps along the narrow rooftop of Riddarholmen during a guided walk.

If you like photography, Fotografiska is one of the world’s largest photography museums, located on Stadsgarden, where some cruise ships dock.

Fans of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy will enjoy the two hour walking tour based on the books, starting at Bellmansgatan 1 on Södermalm – the home of the main character, Mikael Blomqvist.

Families should head to the island of Djurgården. Highlights include Skansen open-air museum, where you can see wildlife including brown bears and wolves, and traditional Swedish architecture.

The Vasa Viking ship museum is a must-visit, and younger children will love Junibacken, a museum dedicated to the characters from Swedish novelist Astrid Lingren’s novels, including Pippi Longstocking. There’s also a traditional fairground. And in spring, a whole museum dedicated to Abba opens on the island.

Stylish shopping (and food)

Shopping in the capital is stylish and chic. Nordiska Kompaniet, known affectionately as NK, is a luxury department store, similar to Selfridges.

Well worth visiting also is Designtorget, which sells contemporary Swedish design, and Sturgallerian, an exclusive galleria in the middle of Stureplan square. Vibrant, cool Södermalm is where you’ll find lots of boutiques and vintage clothing stores.

Jamie Oliver is a big fan of Stockholm’s culinary scene (particularly the ‘mind-blowingly good’ Swedish bread) and the city boasts six Michelin-starred restaurants. A must-visit is the permanent indoor food market at Östermalms Saluhall. A popular Swedish tradition is lunch of the day – you can have a whole meal for less than 100SEK (about £9). Fresh fish, particularly salmon, cod, herring and seafood, features heavily on menus, as well as meatballs, creamy mashed potato, cured meat and cheese.

But one of the best things about Stockholm is its café culture, and a lovely tradition is to stop for ‘fika’ – coffee and a sweet cinnamon roll. In autumn at cafés around the city you’ll find pillows and blankets waiting to keep you warm.

When to visit

Stockholm is very much a year-round destination – spring and autumn are incredibly pretty, but in winter the city glitters under a blanket of snow, and there’s skating, skiing and traditional Christmas markets, while in summer there are festivals and fireworks to celebrate the midnight sun.

Where to stay

The Grand Hotel is a sumptuous five-star deluxe hotel located on the water’s edge. Hotel Rival is owned by Benny Andersson (of Abba fame) and boasts a great café, bistro and bakery. And for something a bit different, the hotel at Långholmen is a converted prison.

For more information, see visitstockholm.com