The Swedish capital is built on 14 islands, and one of the coolest cities to begin or end your Baltic cruise

Aerial panorama of Stockholm, Sweden
Aerial panorama of Stockholm, Sweden

Take a walk

A stroll around the narrow lanes of the Gamla Stan (old town) is essential, not least because it’s here that you’ll find traditional Swedish shops selling the painted wooden Dala horses and egg-white soaps that are practically synonymous with the country.

Fans of the Swedish author Stieg Larsson, creator of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, can stretch their legs on The Millennium Tour on Södermalm – the southern island. This affords great views of the city, takes you to where Larsson’s characters live and provides a brilliant political context to Stockholm. However, at over an hour and a half in length, only diehard fans may want to join this tour (themillenniumtour.com).

Eat like a local  

Prinsen is an iconic Stockholm restaurant boasting rustic, romantic charm with red banquettes and wood-panelled walls. Food here is traditional Swedish fare, from herring to minced veal. Popular with locals, it’s hard to get into so book ahead (restaurangprinsen.eu).

Definitely take time out for a traditional fika (coffee and pastry break); and at the Saluhall food market pick up a delicious shrimp wrap and watch the world go by (ostermalmshallen.se).

Getting around 

The best way to see Stockholm is by ferry: island hopping takes about five minutes. Trams and metros are also frequent and reliable. Buy a Stockholm Card (£46*) for free transport use and entry to over 80 museums.

Shopping

From designer glamour to vintage bargains, Stockholm has all the ingredients for a shopping spree on any budget.

Nordiska Kompaniet (nk.se) is a splendid art nouveau department store that sells designer handbags and luxury toiletries. You’ll also find lots of chic boutiques, particularly on Södermalm, offering offbeat fashion and homewares.

Where to stay 

With its views of the Palace and parliament buildings, the Grand Hôtel (grandhotel.se) on Östermalm has been offering guests (including Frank Sinatra and Princess Grace of Monaco) total luxury since 1874. Bedrooms are opulent and the breakfast is a feast: pastries, pancakes, smoked fish, rye breads and delicious coffee served in the waterfront restaurant. The basement pool is a grotto of serenity and the sauna is a must.

Doubles from £299 per night (B&B).

Museums and galleries

A must-see is the open-air museum Skansen on Djurgården, the island that was once the royal hunting ground. From traditional buildings to native bears and elks, you’ll step back in time and be immersed in Swedish culture.

Skansen is a great place to taste some typically Swedish food, too. Enjoy apple cake in a quaint wooden cafe with flock floral wallpaper and a 19th-century cash register (skansen.se).

The Moderna Museet (modernamuseet.se) on Skeppsholmen boasts a brilliant permanent collection with works by Matisse and Dalí, while the Vasa Museum (vasamuseet.se)
is built around an enormous 17th-century galleon, salvaged after 333 years under the sea. The city’s newest addition is Abba: The Museum (abbathemuseum.com), a tribute to Sweden’s most popular musical export.