7 Fun Adventures in Stockholm with Kids
Sweden, land of the Midnight Sun, home of the protagonist children’s character Pippi Longstocking, music sensationalists ABBA, and delicious Swedish meatballs. This intriguing country has always been on my bucket list and my family was fortunate to have a 2 1/2-day stopover in Stockholm as we started a six-week European vacation.
Stockholm is built on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges. The area is roughly taken up by one-third park, one-third water and the remaining part is city. It’s no surprise that 95% of the population lives less than 300 meters from green area.
The name of Stockholm literally means Log Island, log in Swedish is stock, and holm means island. Seventeenth century legend has it that when the old capital, Sigtuna, got into problems with bandit gangs attacking it, the leaders decided to find a new settlement. The choice of the new location was quite random: the leaders filled the inside of a log with all of the gold they had left and let it float in the water. Eventually the log hit land on the island of what is known today as Gamla Stan and named it Stockholm or Log Island. Today you can find a sculpture symbolizing the old log at Stadshuset which is the Stockholm City town hall.
Because our time was limited and there are so many fun things to do in Stockholm with kids, it seemed daunting to get the flavor of this city’s rich heritage in such a short time. In fact, there are over 100 museums in Stockholm that cover an eclectic mix of topics and attractions. Because the weather was gorgeous, we were able to spend most of our time walking to what we wanted to visit. Here is our list of the top things to do in Stockholm, Sweden with kids.
1. Gamla Stan
Gamla Stan is a must-see on anyone’s visit to Stockholm. It is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centers in Europe and dates back to the 13th century. The whole family will love to explore the medieval alleyways, cobbled streets and archaic architecture which has a strong North German influence.
There are plenty of souvenir shops peppered throughout as well as cafés and restaurants. In fact, make sure to stop by the restaurant Den Gyldene Freden which opened in 1722 and is a magnificent example of a typical Swedish 18th century tavern that has gone largely unchanged!
While you are wandering around make sure to visit Stortorget which is truly the heart of Gamla Stan. It is the scenic square located in the center of Gamla Stan where locals and tourists alike can gather, relax and socialize. It is surrounded by old merchants’ houses including the Stockholm Stock Exchange Building. As well as being home to the Stockholm Cathedral, the Nobel Museum, and the Riddarholm Churuch, Gamla Stan boasts Kungliga Slottet, Sweden’s baroque Royal Palace, built in the 18th century after the previous palace Tre Kronor burned down.
2. Skansen Open Air Museum
Skansen is a favorite among both the locals and visitors and it’s the perfect family outing. Founded in 1891 on the island of Djurgården, it is the oldest open-air museum in the world and home to the Stockholm zoo.
Visitors to Skansen will find a miniature historical Sweden reflected both in the buildings and their surroundings, from the Skåne farmstead in the south to the Sami camp in the north. The venues illustrate the different social conditions in which people lived in Sweden between the 16th century and the first half of the 20th century. The majority of houses and farmsteads are from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. We spent several hours wandering around forests, animal habitats and being entertained by fiddlers and traditional dancers.
Hours and prices vary throughout the year. Please make sure to visit the Skansen website to get the most current information.
3. The Vasa Museum
Also located on the island of Djurgården, is the must-see Vasa Museum. This houses Stockholm’s most prized heirloom, the 225-foot (69m), 380-year-old Vasa warship which sank only 20 minutes into her maiden voyage in 1628 and was painstakingly salvaged in 1961. Children and adults alike will be in awe of the magnificent detail that is preserved throughout this ship. It certainly is a jaw-dropping experience to view this largest and best-preserved ship of its kind in the world.
The Vasa had two gun decks and 64 cannons, making it the mightiest ship in the fleet. Unfortunately, the gun decks and heavy cannon made the ship top-heavy and it toppled with 150 people on board, of which at least 50 died.
As you head into the museum, you can watch a short film about the Vasa and her discovery. Our kids found the film fascinating and it elicited thought-provoking questions from them.
We toured the museum on our own, but there are also daily group tours in various languages offered. We wanted the ability to wander at our leisure. We began with walking around the exterior of ship and marveled at the ornate sculptures and stern. There are six different levels to view the upper deck and keel. Although no one is allowed on board, you can walk through a re-creation of one of the gun decks. In a fascinating, eerie exhibit down by the keel, the skeletons of ten people who died aboard the Vasa are on display, as are reconstructed models of how they would have looked alive.
To get to the Vasa Museum, take the ferry from Slussen or it is about a 30-minute walk from the Central Station and 10 minutes from the metro station Karlaplan. Children 18 and under are admitted free. Visiting hours vary throughout the year so please visit the Vasa Museum website for the most up-to-date information.
4. Gröna Lund
Who doesn’t like a visit to an amusement park? Our family certainly does! After our visit to Skansen, we excitedly ventured to Gröna Lund which is also located on Djurgården island. There are rides galore including seven heart-stopping roller coasters and numerous game booths and food vendors.
The park’s location is unique in that most of the buildings are old residential and commercial structures dating from the 19th century and the park is built around the buildings. All of the rides have minimum height requirements which are clearly marked but my thrill-seeking (small) 6-year-old wasn’t bored with the selections available to him.
This is a very family friendly amusement park and we closed the place down. Even better is that we never waited in a ride line for more than 15 minutes and many wait times were less than 5 minutes. That could have been an anomaly but we were there during the height of tourist season. There is a minimal admission fee for ages 7-64 and the rides also require you to either purchase a ride pass or ticket booklet. I would advise you to purchase the all-day ride pass, which ends up being the most economical and least stressful option.
Hours vary throughout the year and there are different ticket package options. Visit the Gröna Lund website for the most up-to-date information.
For families with young children, a visit to Junibacken will be very enjoyable. This delightful children’s museum can be found on Djurgården island next to the Vasa Museum and is devoted to Swedish children’s literature, but especially Astrid Lindgren (remember Pippi Longstocking?). We are all avid readers in our family and were thrilled to be in the largest children’s bookstore in Sweden.
Upon entering you will find lockers to store belongings so you don’t have to lug them around and bathrooms are equipped with everything necessary to take care of your little ones needs. The multi-level museum has many interactive attractions to keep the kids busy and entertained.
Storybook square, which is a mock public square where each house is devoted to a separate Swedish children’s author was a hit for our family. We spent a lot of time perusing each house, playing while also being educated at the same time.
There is also a mock railway station that visitors can take a themed train ride through the world of Astrid Lindgren’s books. The train ride ends at a half-side reconstruction of Villa Villekulla, home of Pippi Longstocking. The kids played there for quite some time before we headed to the restaurant where we were treated to (expensive) Swedish delectables.
Operating hours vary throughout the year, so please visit the Junibacken website for the most up-to-date information and admission prices.
6. Do You Fika?
After running from one attraction to another, it was necessary to slow down and fika like a Swede. Fika is an important social event where people gather and socialize and will probably be one of the first words you will learn in Sweden.
Although difficult to translate, it means having a break, most often a coffee break, and having accompanying sweets are crucial. It truly is a social phenomenon, a legitimate reason to set aside a moment for quality time. Cinnamon buns, cakes, cookies, and open-faced sandwiches pass as acceptable fika fare. Fortunately, there are no shortages of cafés in Stockholm where one can fika. Try the Flickorna Helin Voltaire at Rosendalsvägen 14 on Djurgården for a splendid place to have lunch or a coffee break between visits to Skansen, the Vasa Museum and other nearby attractions.
7. Take a Ferry Ride
We stayed at Hilton Stockholm Slussen, which is centrally located to everything we wanted to see and visit. A short walk from the hotel will take you to the ferry docks where you can take a 15-minute ferry to the island of Djurgården which has no shortage of attractions.
The Djurgården ferry provides traffic between Slussen, Djurgården and Skeppsholmen. The kids loved taking the ferry and it was a treat to see the sights from the water. There are sightseeing tours by boats as well, which seemed like a wonderful way to get another perspective of Stockholm. However, we simply didn’t have enough time and the ferry ride provided adequate entertainment for our family while safely delivering us to our next attraction.
The current timetables and prices can be found on the ferry’s official website.
All in all our family had a wonderful action-packed 2 1/2 days in Stockholm We covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. It left us wanting to return with more time to explore the other fun things to do in Stockholm.
You may also enjoy:
- Best Family Hotel in Stockholm – Hilton Stockholm Slussen
- Top 10 Things to do in Helsinki with Kids – A Comprehensive Guide
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