Many Stockholm visitors spend much of their time viewing the “highlights”, like the beautiful palaces, old districts with historic architecture, crowded restaurants with nice views, churches, and the great museums this city has to offer. Nothing wrong with that of course, but you will spend much of your time queuing with fellow tourists.
Our team of Stockholm-loving locals is always on the lookout for great spots and quirky corners, from bars to street art highlights and more. Whether you are a visitor looking to experience a more authentic side of the city, or a fellow local looking for a new favorite hangout, read on. Here is a collection of some of the top hidden gems our locals have discovered in this beautiful city.
The museum of spirits
On the famous city island Djurgården, where you can find all kinds of cultural experiences, you will also find the Spiritmuseum. That is, a whole museum dedicated to the booze culture of Sweden!
It consists of two exhibition rooms and the permanent exhibition “Sweden: Spirits of a Nation”. Here visitors take part in the Swedes’ bittersweet relationship with alcohol while walking through the seasons of the year taking in scenery, scents, tastes, and music. You can also experience a simulation of drunkenness as well as a hangover, and even do a quiz.
A garden fit for a prince
Waldemarsudde was once the stately home of Prince Eugene, a royal who was expected to play the role assigned to him from birth, but proved instead that he had a talent and passion for painting. By the end of his life, his home and vast collection of art was donated to the State in order for it to be enjoyed by the public. There are several notable sculptures to admire, perhaps the most famous being August Rodin’s “the Thinker”.
While the art exhibitions inside are undoubtedly wonderful, the garden and park are equally important in making this an attractive destination. Overlooking the harbor inlet of the city, the main thoroughfare into Stockholm for centuries, the Prince certainly had a great panorama to enjoy.
The gallery street
On one of the liveliest main streets of Södermalm, Hornsagatan, you’ll find a section of street paved in cobblestones with a number of art galleries featuring paintings, sculptures, glass and fine Scandinavian art. One of our locals’ favorites on this street is Galleri Kontrast.
Galleri Kontrast is a photography gallery with a focus on documentary photography and photojournalism. It hosts the annual Årets Bild competition (The Swedish picture of the year), and also regularly helps young and talented photographers gain visibility by displaying their work. Part of the space is dedicated to exhibitions, while on another floor you’ll find pictures for sale: from David Bowie portraits to landscapes, street photography and more.
Romantic trail with a view
Also located on Södermalm is a trail with one of the most breathtaking views of the city. Monteliusvägen is a narrow pathway that runs along the heights of the northern part of the island and offers a magnificent view of the City Hall on the island of Kungsholmen, Riddarholmen, the old town and the bay Riddarfjärden.
If you are lucky enough to visit Stockholm at New Year’s Eve, this is a great spot to watch the fireworks from. Make sure to arrive early, as you will not be the only person with that idea…
Suburban cultural heritage
This will be an interesting spot for anyone curious about urban development and the historical evolution of the city. In Hagalund, located in the suburb of Solna, one finds a neighborhood that gives insight into the minds of Stockholm city planners of the 1960s.
At the turn of the 19th Century there was a severe housing shortage in Stockholm, and this small suburb sprang up as a result. It became a popular area among craftsmen to build their own houses, which made for a creative and colorful mix of buildings. By the end of the ’60s, it was decided that the houses would be torn down, and only a handful remain. The contrast between the few original buildings and the imposing new high-rises creates a curious and nostalgic effect.
Record shops for vinyl lovers
If you’re a music enthusiast, this is the area to be – made for music collectors and vinyl lovers. On the street St Eriksgatan alone there are about 5 shops where you can get your fix, not to mention other nearby streets like Odengatan that have even more gems.
For example, Nostalgipalatset (image above) should satisfy the cravings of rock and ’70s/’80s fans. Record Hunter, on the other hand, provides the Motown and Jazz focus. There are lots more great shops in the area, and you can check the article (linked above) for a few more suggestions. On the other hand, you can easily spend a whole day here doing some crate diggin’ and exploring the area for yourself. Happy hunting!
A mini tropical holiday
Full disclosure, this is not a spot for budget travelers. The prices are a bit above average for this part of the city, especially the drinks. But for people who are willing to spend a little extra for a special occasion or an exotic break, this should definitely be on the list.
The Thaiboat is exactly what it sounds like, and though it may not be floating on turquoise waters, you might be able to trick your mind into feeling the hot tropical sun on your face during your visit. When you finally stick your feet in the sand, and take the first sip of that tropical strawberry mojito – aah!
A wonderland for quirky shopping cravings
Walking into Vintagefabriken feels like entering a homey, heartwarming, frosted cupcake. This small boutique stocks hand-selected vintage clothes and items, original prints, posters and other assorted items that can only be classified as “thingamabobs”. Small teacups share a shelf with handmade animal paper ornaments, while on the other side hangs a rack of Audrey Hepburn-styled dresses in various colors. If you’re looking for cute gifts, either for yourself or a loved one, it’s a sure bet you’ll find something here.
If you’re staying in Stockholm for a longer time, Vintagefabriken also arranges courses in photography, origami, interior design and even how to create vintage hairstyles. With some many niche interests perfectly represented here, how can you afford to miss this spot?
Beautiful park with hidden relics
The impressive Castle of Karlberg was built in 1634 and is located in the current city center. It was originally a pleasure house for the royal family, and now houses a royal military academy and training facilities. Because of this, the building is not open to visitors – but the expansive park surrounding it is.
While the building itself is quite impressive, the park is the real draw to this spot. It is a popular location to take photographs, especially for wedding photo shoots. There are also a number of interesting, odd, and less-known relics scattered around this park, including a runestone from the Viking Ages, the Temple of Diana, as well as the grave of a king’s beloved dog, Pompe (buried here in 1699).
Ugglan Boule & Bar unites the best of gaming and drinks into one fun experience. At a bit of a dodgy entrance, you’ll find a basement which leads to an underground dungeon with sandy floors, lots of old-school games, pinball machines, boule lanes, shuffleboards, pool tables, ping pong and so on. Also, their bars (there are 3!) are pretty well equipped and the drinks certainly not over-priced.
It’s a great place to start the night, and then move further into Söder to go bar hopping or clubbing later!
Friday night soul
The “Soul Train“, hosted at Cafe Opera, is a funk & soul night that starts every Friday at 17:00 and has free entrance. The audience is slightly mixed and a little bit on the 40+ side, but overall the atmosphere is relaxed and inclusive for any age group. It’s great fun just looking at people and enjoying the vibe. The DJs mix lovely funky tracks from the 70s, 80s and 90s, both singalongs and dance floor killers.
A blind alley and a very old door
If only these old walls and doors could talk…
A walk down the blind alley Staffan Sasses gränd in the Old Town takes one back to medieval Stockholm. At the end of the alley, at number 8, one finds a wooden door, believed to be from the 1580’s and arguably the oldest door in town. It’s fascinating to imagine all the people who have passed through this door during its some 430-years of existence.
The door in this alley, “Rosenporten“, is said to have been involved with a juicy story involving romance, a royal scandal and murder. Our Spotter Joel does a great job recounting the tale, so you are encouraged to read it in his article (linked above).
Next time you wander around the streets of Stockholm, keep an eye out for the hidden passages and nondescript entryways. How many stories must have taken place behind these walls and been lost to the dusty archives of the past…