Best areas to stay in Stockholm
Locally-nicknamed “beauty on water” and one of the very few cities in the world deserving the moniker “Venice of the North”, effortlessly stylish Stockholm is spread across 16 islands, separated by canals and other waterways. Lapped at by the Baltic Sea, it’s also flanked by an archipelago of hundreds of forested, rocky islets that provide a welcome summer escape for Stockholmers.
Some of Stockholm’s best hotels – ranging from grand 5-star icons to historic buildings and even ships given a new lease on life and turned into contemporary boutique boltholes – are located in central Gamla Stan, with more attractive options to suit all budgets in Södermalm and Östermalm, and mostly mid-range hotels and guesthouses in Kungsholmen and Vasastan. Djurgården has just one hotel, while in the Stockholm Archipelago there are numerous guesthouses that make for a tranquil overnighter. Norrmalm is particularly convenient for public transportation, and its accommodations mostly consist of midrange business hotels. Stockholm is a large, spread-out city, but its individual neighborhoods are very walkable and linked by an efficient network of metro lines, city buses and even commuter boats.
Due to its excellent bus and train connections to Stockholm’s international airport, you’re likely to find yourself in Norrmalm to start with. Norrmalm is Stockholm’s thoroughly modern commercial center, complete with shopping malls, numerous places to eat to suit all budgets, and the city’s busiest metro/train hub.
West of Norrmalm is the most residential Kungsholmen, with plenty of green spaces, some striking 20th century architecture and converted 19th-century factories – testimony to Stockholm’s industrial past.
Just south of Norrmalm and connected to it via a pedestrian bridge, is Gamla Stan – the city’s oldest district that sits on its own compact island. The most popular and culturally rich part of Stockholm, Gamla Stan is all narrow, cobbled lanes lined with beautiful gabled buildings, many housing cafes and restaurant. The Royal Palace – one of the city’s biggest sights – is located here.
South of Gamla Stan is formerly working-class Södermalm, now home to some of the city’s coolest up-and-coming neighborhoods. Besides an excellent nightlife scene, there’s a cutting-edge photography gallery, numerous smaller art galleries and a plethora of vintage stores, independent designer boutiques and cafes.
Southeast of Norrmalm and also reachable via a pedestrian bridge is the large, forested island of Djurgården, where you’ll find many of Stockholm’s big-hitter museums, covering everything from Sweden’s most famous sunken ship to ABBA memorabilia, plus kid-friendly attractions. Neighboring Djurgården is the compact island of Skeppsholmen, not to miss if contemporary art is your passion.
Head east from Norrmalm to glitzy Östermalm to shop at luxe fashion boutiques and to discover Stockholm’s celebrity hangouts. East of Östermalm is Ladugårdsgärdet (‘field of barns’), home to some of the city’s largest green spaces, with a sculpture garden and more excellent museums.
North of Norrmalm, Vasastan is another well-heeled residential neighborhood, with attractive late 19th-century architecture and a good dining scene.
Reachable by frequent Stromma boats departing from several points in Norrmalm, particularly during July and August, the larger islands that make up the Stockholm Archipelago are great daytrip destinations – some with swimming and picnicking spots, and hiking trails; others – with art galleries and restaurants.
The Best Places To Stay in Stockholm
Best Luxury Hotels in Stockholm
Hôtel Reisen (https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/sweden/hotel-reisen/arnub) • Ett Hem (https://www.etthem.se) • Grand Hôtel (https://www.grandhotel.se/en) • Nobis Hotel (https://nobishotel.se/en/)
Best Boutique Hotels in Stockholm
Bank Hotel (https://bankhotel.se/) • Story Hotel Riddargatan (https://storyhotels.com/riddargatan/) • Hobo (https://hobo.se/) • Yasuragi (https://www.yasuragi.se/en/)
Best Cheap Hotels in Stockholm
Scandic No. 53 (https://www.scandichotels.com/hotels/sweden/stockholm/scandic-no-53) • Sandhamn Seglarhotell (https://sandhamn.com/) • Haymarket by Scandic (https://www.scandichotels.com/hotels/sweden/stockholm/haymarket-by-scandic)
Best Neighborhood in Stockholm for Sightseeing: Gamla Stan, Djurgården & Skeppsholmen, Östermalm
If you’re into sightseeing, some of Stockholm’s biggest attractions include the Kungliga Slottet (Royal Palace) in Gamla Stan (allow at least half a day and don’t miss the on-site Museum Tre Kronor in the basement, plus the Royal Treasure, King Gustav III’s Antikmuseum, and the impressive Changing of the Guard at noon, complete with marching band). Gamla Stan’s other big draw, apart from wandering its cobbled lanes, is the Nobelmuseet, dedicated to the Nobel Prize and its winners. Djurgården is home to a handful of Stockholm’s best museums, as well as a couple of big kid-friendly attractions (see below). Highlights include the Vasa Museum – Sweden’s most famous shipwreck brought to life; Viking Museum, the high-tech ABBA The Museum (for fans of Swedish pop royalty), Skansen (an open-air, condensed version of traditional Sweden), and the engaging Spiritmuseum (dedicated to the history of alcohol). Due to the popularity of ABBA The Museum and Vasamuseet, it’s worth buying tickets in advance online. Cross over to Skeppsholmen to visit the Moderna Museet – Stockholm’s best contemporary art museum. In Östermalm, there are three excellent museums: Historiska Museet (a wander through Swedish history), Etnografiska Museet (devoted to world cultures) and Armémuseet (a thoughtful look at the impact of war). Sightseeing is not limited to these neighborhoods: catch the best of Sweden’s photography at Fotagrafiska in Södermalm; take in some of the city’s most striking architecture in Norrmalm, Kungsholmen and Vasastan, or venture out to Ladugårdsgärdet to check out the works of one of Sweden most famous sculptors at the Millesgården sculpture garden.
Best Neighborhood in Stockholm for Nightlife: Södermalm, Östermalm, Norrmalm
Söder has a particularly high concentration of microbreweries and bars. Start your night out at the bustling Medborgarplatset square and its appealing terrace bars, then head out to check out more bars along nearby Nytotorget and leafy Mariatorget. Street food kiosks and food trucks provide late night snacks for revelers coming back from a night out. In Östermalm, night owls meet up at Svampen – the mushroom-like 1980s rain shelter on the main square – before hitting the terrace bars and nightclubs along the streets branching off from Östermalmstorg. The rooftop bars around Norrmalm’s Brunkebergstorget is where Stockholmers hang out after work, and there are decent views of Gamla Stan from some of them.
Best Neighborhood in Stockholm for Food and Restaurants: Södermalm, Östermalm, Vasastan, Norrmalm, Gamla Stan
There is no shortage of excellent restaurants in Stockholm, serving everything from old-school Swedish classics such as meatballs with lingonberry sauce to Michelin-starred tasting menus (for popular restaurants, make reservations well ahead). Most global cuisines are also well-represented in Stockholm, from Ethiopian and Italian to Thai and French, and four neighborhoods in particular stand out for their edible offerings. Head to SoFo in Södermalm for its espresso bars, organic delis, hip cafes and restaurants specializing in global cuisines (as well as Modern Swedish restaurants), many of them dotting the streets around Nytorget Square. In Östermalm, besides the varied food stalls and cafes at the Saluhall food market, numerous restaurants and award-winning brasseries that dot the surrounding streets range from classic Swedish and Italian to South American and Thai. Norrmalm features several of Stockholm’s Michelin-starred restaurants, as well as wide range of ethnic cuisines, while Vasastan is particularly good for international flavors, such as Iranian, Indian and Japanese. Gamla Stan’s restaurants are aimed primarily at tourists (you won’t find many Stockholmers here), but there are some excellent options, from high-end Scandinavian (Aifur) to wallet-friendly burgers (Barrels).
Best Neighbourhood in Stockholm for Families: Kungsholmen, Djurgården, Gamla Stan
If you’re looking for a quiet neighborhood to stay with your family while still being within easy reach of Stockholm’s attractions, Kungsholmen fits the bill: it’s right near Norrmalm and its excellent public transportation connections, it’s quiet and largely residential, with a handful of family-friendly hotels, and there are plenty of parks and playgrounds for younger kids. Gamla Stan is a good choice if you want to be centrally-located in a scenic neighborhood that’s pretty quiet at night, and if you don’t want to walk far to reach the Royal Palace (the Changing of the Guard is particularly fun for kids, along with the Armoury with its swords and suits of armor). Kid-friendly sights are concentrated in Djurgården, where you’ll find the Gröna Lund amusement park, Junibacken (children’s museum), the Aquarium, plus the Vasa Museum and Viking Museum, both of which are great for older kids. While Östermalm is not ideal for family-friendly accommodations, it’s worth a visit during the day for the kid-friendly Tekniska Museet (Techology Museum) and the Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet (Natural History Museum) – for learning made fun.
Best Neighborhood in Stockholm to Stay for First Timer: Norrmalm, Gamla Stan If it’s your first time in Stockholm, and especially if your vacation time is limited, it’s hard to go wrong with either of these neighborhoods. It depends on what’s a deal breaker for you: Norrmalm is as central as can be, with excellent public transportation connections to all of the city’s neighborhoods, and you can walk to the museum-heavy Djurgården from there (there is only one hotel in Djurgården, so it’s not a very convenient base). Gamla Stan is also walkable from Norrmalm, but it’s well worth staying overnight, both for the atmosphere and proximity to the Royal Palace.
Most Romantic Neighbourhood in Stockholm: Gamla Stan, Stockholm Archipelago No contest: Stockholm’s most romantic place to stay is Gamla Stan. Its centuries-old, narrow, cobbled lanes are particularly atmospheric first thing in the morning, before the crowds arrive, or around dusk. If you’re here around Christmas, look out for live music performances and check out the Christmas market in Stortorget. Otherwise, take your loved one for cocktails at Le Rouge before treating them to a traditional Swedish spread at Den Gyldene Freden. Alternatively, head out into the Stockholm Archipelago for an overnight stay on a tranquil, forested island in a traditional cottage or guesthouse, fund secluded spots to sunbathe on rocks or maybe even go skinny-dipping in the Baltic Sea!
Best Neighborhood in Stockholm for a Local Vibe: Kungsholmen, Södermalm, Vasastan, Kungsholmen
These neighborhoods each have a distinct character. Kungsholmen is particularly interesting if you want to delve deeper into Stockholm’s history and industrial heritage and see how a former working-class slum with smoke-belching factories has been transformed into an appealing place to live, with plenty of green spaces and the factories creatively converted into bars and restaurants. Södermalm is Stockholm’s most creative neighborhood, with a high concentration of independent and vintage clothing stores, vinyl shops, tiny art galleries and on-trend bars and restaurants – particularly in the SoFo (‘South of Folkungagatan’) district. And if you want to see how middle-class locals live, there’s no better place than Vasastan (a.k.a. “Stone City”), with its wide streets and boulevards lined with handsome Neo-Renaissance architecture (so that they resemble a German city), and its clutch of cafes and restaurants.
Best Neighborhood in Stockholm for Walking: Gamla Stan, Kungsholmen, Djurgården, Ladugårdsgärdet
Much of Stockholm is walkable, with the city made up of well-designed neighborhoods that are easy to explore on foot. It’s hard to beat Gamla Stan for the atmospheric cobbled streets and waterside views from Skeppsbrokajen street. Kungsholmen has a wealth of green spaces, including one particularly long park along the south side of the island, ideal for long strolls by the water. Much of Djurgården is one massive, wooded park – the remains of a royal hunting ground – and it’s a pleasure to take the footpaths between its many museums. Ladugårdsgärdet is home to Stockholm’s largest park, and you can combine stretching your legs with visiting Stockholm’s botanic garden, as well as the Millesgården sculpture garden.
Safest Areas of Stockholm
Stockholm is a very safe city, and apart from some opportunistic pickpocketing in touristy places, like the busy streets of Gamla Stan and around the main train and bus stations in Norrmalm, there are few safety concerns. All neighborhoods frequented by visitors are safe to walk around at most times of day, with Kungsholmen and Vasastan being the quietest. Alcohol-fueled revelry in the city’s nightspots, such as Södermalm and Östermalm, very occasionally result in fights breaking out.
Unsafe Areas of Stockholm
Stockholm’s neighborhoods with higher crime rates are mostly residential, on the outskirts of the city, and not places where visitors are likely to find themselves. These include Jarva in southern Stockholm, and Huddinge and Tensta suburbs in the north of the city.
The Best Neighbourhoods in Stockholm for Tourists
Stockholm’s commercial hub, where you’ll find the city’s main train and bus stations, Norrmalm is a bustling grid of streets lined with major department stores, retail chains, business hotels, and countless cafes and restaurants. The neighborhood got a facelift in the 1960s, when many of its buildings were bulldozed, and today it features some of Stockholm’s most controversial architecture, such as the five-tower domino spread of Hötorget. Norrmalm is a large neighborhood, and there are three main reasons to stay here: it’s as central as Stockholm gets, the dining scene is excellent, and there are two cultural sights not to miss: Operan and the Nationalmuseum.
Best Hotels: Grand Hôtel, Lidmar Hotel, Bank Hotel, Nobis Hotel
Best Midrange Hotels: Haymarket by Scandic, Hobo, Scandic No. 53
West across the bridge from T-Centralen, Norrmalm’s main train station, Kungsholmen is mainly residential, having long shaken off its 19th century nickname, ‘Starvation Island’, earned when it was a poverty-stricken neighborhood filled with grotty factories during the Industrial Revolution. Today it’s the Brooklyn to Norrmalm’s Manhattan: a laidback place with kid-friendly green spaces, such as Râlambshovsparken, great places to eat, red-brick apartment blocks and former factories reincarnated as buzzy bars. There’s ample scope for tree-lined waterfront strolling, cycling or running just south of Norr Mälarstrand, and it’s home to one of Stockholm’s architectural must-sees: Stadshuset (City Hall), located on the island’s easternmost tip.
• Best Hotels: Courtyard by Marriott Stockholm, Clarion Hotel Amaranten
Just south of Norrmalm and connected to it via three bridges, compact Gamla Stan is Stockholm’s historic and geographical heart, overlooked by the vast Kungliga Slott (Royal Palace). Its centuries-old, razor-narrow, cobbled streets have born witness to royal processions on horseback, mass beheadings and Nobel Prize winners; today they are well-trodden by thousands of visitors, since this is the most popular part of the city. Its busiest streets – Västerlånggatan and Stora Nygatan – are not short of eateries, souvenir shops and galleries, but as you explore the quieter side streets, you’ll come across appealing little squares, engaging museums and even more striking architecture. There are two tiny islets accessible from Gamla Stan: Riddarholmen, where the royal necropolis sits beneath the Riddarholmskyrken church; and Helgeandsholme, home of the Riksdagshuset (Swedish Parliament).
• Best Hotels: Hôtel Reisen, Victory Hotel, Collector’s Lady Hamilton Hotel
Best Midrange Hotel: Scandic Gamla Stan
Bisected by bustling Götgatan, Stockholm’s large southern island is linked to Normalm by the Centralbron highway/bridge and to Gamla Stan by the Slussbron bridge. Known to locals as Söder, Södermalm used to be a working-class stronghold, but is now home to some of Stockholm’s most creative pockets, full of vintage stores, art galleries, music venues, bars, espresso labs and hip eateries. Bars and restaurants are particularly concentrated along Hornsgatan, a main street running east to west, along the north-south Götgatan, and in the tight grid of streets that make up SOFO, between Folkungagatan and Skånegatan. There are great views of Gamla Stan from its northern shores, its Fotografiska photography gallery is not to be missed and from its west end you can cross the footbridge to the small wooded island of Långholmen where Stockholmers come to hang out in summer.
Best Hotels: NoFo Hotel, Hotel Rival, Hotel Frantz
Djurgården & Skeppsholmen
Cross the footbridge south from Östrmalm and you find yourself in Djurgården, a former royal hunting ground, half of which is still taken up by green spaces and woodlands, criss-crossed by cycling and walking paths. There’s little in the way of accommodation but instead you’ll find two amusement parks, and a clutch of Stockholm’s best museums, devoted to everything from contemporary art and ABBA music to historic shipwrecks. A short ferry hop east of Djurgården and also reachable via footbridge from Norrmalm, compact Skeppsholmen used to be a naval base, but many of its buildings have been converted into museums over the last half-century, the best of which is Moderna Museet – a must for anyone interested in contemporary art.
• Best Hotels: Hotel Skeppsholmen, Hotel Hasselbacken
Best Midrange Hotel: Pop House Hotel
Best Midrange Hotel: Hilton Stockholm Slussen
Östermalm & Ladugårdsgärdet
Flanking Norrmalm to the east, and centred on the bustling Stureplan plaza with its eyecatching Svampen rain shelter, Östermalm is Stockholm’s glitziest neighborhood, lined with handsome, late-19th century buildings. The plaza is surrounded by long-standing celebrity haunts; nearby the is Östermalms Saluhall – a gourmet food hall in a gorgeous historic building, while Östermalm’s main thoroughfare, Birger Jarlsgatan, is lined with luxe fashion boutiques. Besides numerous excellent places to eat, drink and party – particularly along Nybrogagatan, Linnegatan and Humlegårdsgatan, Östermalm is also home to a couple of excellent history museums and Dramaten – the ornate Royal Dramatic Theater. Directly east of Östermalm, Ladugårdsgärdet (‘field of barns’) is where you’ll find one of Stockholm’s biggest green spaces, home to a trio of excellent museums. Just north of Ladugårdsgärdet, Norra Djurgården is where Stockholm University sits alongside the city’s botanical garden, while just east of Ladugårdsgärdet, the island of Lindgö is worth seeking out for the Millesgården sculpture garden.
Best Hotels: Elite Eden Park Hotel, Villa Dagmar, Hotel Diplomat
Best Midrange Hotels: Story Hotel Riddargatan, Clarion Collection Hotel Wellington
To the north of Norrmalm, Vasastan is a well-to-do, largely residential neighborhood that’s densely populated but simultaneously laidback and appealing, with some excellent cafes and restaurants, as well as a clutch of art galleries and fine examples of modern Scandinavian architecture: Stadsbiblioteket stands out. North beyond Vasastan lies Hagaparken – a vast, well-preserved historical park that’s home of one of the royals. Across the E4 motorway from Hagaparken, the Norra Begravningsplatsen cementery is the final resting place of Alfred Nobel, the creater of the Nobel Prize.
• Best Hotels: Ett Hem, Blique by Nobis, Hotel Birger Jarl
Best Midrange Hotel: ibis Styles Stockholm Odenplan
Some are dotted with red wooden cottages, while others are uninhabited rocky islets covered in dense spruce forest; either way, the islands that make up the Stockholm Archipelago are an unmissable summer destination. Of the 24,000 or islands, some are reachable by regular ferry; others – by boat day tour with lunch, run by Strömma Kanalbolaget. It’s well worth staying the night on the some of the islands to experience the tranquility after the day trippers have gone back to the city; accommodations tend to be open from July 1 till the end of August, with the exception of Vaxholm island that’s reachable year-round. If you are day tripping, sunbathing on the rocks, berrying in the woods and picnicking aside, Artipelag makes a fantastic art destination, reachable by buses 474 and 468 across several bridges. It consists of a contemporary sculpture trail through the forest, as well as striking building, designed by Johan Nyrén, that looks like the bad guys’ lair in a Bond movie.
• Best Hotels: Yasugari, Waxholms Hotell, Smådalarö Gård
Best Midrange Hotel: Sandhamn Seglarhotell