The beautiful city of Stockholm is spread across 14 islands and is connected by 57 bridges. There’s water everywhere and that’s why Stockholm is also called ‘Venice of the North’. No matter where you find yourself in Stockholm there is always a body of water nearby, in fact, one-third of the city area consists of water!
In this Stockholm Island Guide, you’ll get all the ins and outs of the most popular islands around the city centre. Each island has its own unique vibe and its own things to see and do. This list is a big one, so feel free to scroll down to any island or area you want to know more about. Use this guide to plan your visit and make the most of your stay in Stockholm!
Gamla Stan is definitely a place you should not skip during your visit to Stockholm. Gamla Stan is Swedish for ‘Old Town’, this is where Stockholm was founded in 1252. In the Old Town you’ll find the old historic centre with cobbled streets and colourful buildings that date back to the 1700s and 1800s. This charming maze of old alleyways and beautiful squares is a great place to roam around. Gamla Stan actually consists of 3 islands: Stadsholmen, Helgeandsholmen and Riddarholmen.
Stadsholmen is the largest of the three islands that make up Gamla Stan. It is connected to the mainland via several bridges. This is where you’ll find the Kungliga Slottet (the Royal Palace). This palace is still in use, but parts of it are open to the public. In the courtyard of the palace you’ll be able to watch the changing of the guard.
Stortorget is the oldest square in Stockholm. This popular square is often photographed because of its iconic colourful buildings.
When exploring the rest of this picturesque little island you’ll find many cobblestoned alleys with a combination of tourist shops that sell souvenirs and cute little artisan shops that sell local products. You’ll also find the Nobel Prize Museum in this area. If you’re working up an appetite then you’ll find many restaurants and cafés where you can take a break and enjoy a bite to eat.
The tiny island Helgeandsholmen lies north of Stadsholmen. This is where you’ll find the Riksdagshuset (Parliament House). If you want to see the inside of this stunning building it is possible to join a guided tour.
On the east end of Helgeandsholmen you’ll find a small public park on the edge of the water, this is also where you’ll find the entrance to the Stockholm Medieval Museum. Entrance to this museum is free of charge. It is a small, but beautiful museum that tells the history of this city. It's the perfect place to visit if you've got a spare hour to spend.
Riddarholmen (the Knights island) is home to several private palaces that date back to the 17th century. This is also where you’ll find the Riddarholmskyrkan, this church is also the royal burial church. It was built as a Franciscan monastery in the thirteenth century.
On the west side of this island you’ll find the Evert Taubes Terrass, this is the perfect spot to enjoy a panoramic view of Riddarfjärden. You’ll be able to enjoy a gorgeous view of the city hall on the right and Södermalm on the left.
Södermalm is the largest island of Stockholm, you’ll find it south of the Old Town. If you want to get here on foot you have to walk to the most southern part of Gamla Stan, there you’ll be able to cross a bridge onto Södermalm. The various forms of public transport are another easy way to get to this island. This used to be a poorer area but is now an up and coming neighbourhood with many artsy shops, small boutiques, vintage stores, hipster restaurants and several museums. The hills on this island will give you some of the best panoramic views of Stockholm city centre and Gamla Stan.
One thing you don’t want to miss is the views from Monteliusvagen. Take a stroll along this scenic path that will take you up the cliff of Mariaberget. This is the spot where all those gorgeous Stockholm photos are taken! There are some benches where you can relax and take in the sights. Be careful if it’s been raining because the path can become a bit muddy. It was already dark when we walked there and we had to use our phone lights in areas because there are no lights around the entire path. It still felt safe because there were enough other people around that were enjoying the views. If you want to watch the sunset then this is also the place to be! Fjällgatan is another street that will give you panoramic views, but when we were there the view was obstructed by a massive construction site.
One very popular museum on this island is the Fotografiska. This photography museum exhibits the work of contemporary photographers. Their exhibitions change all the time so there’s always something new to see. We skipped this one but the reviews are great.
Strolling around the streets of Södermalm you’ll come across many different types of architecture. From cute wooden houses that look like they come from a fairy tale to modern buildings and impressive looking churches, there’s plenty to see and photograph along the way.
While exploring the island, we ended up at a hilly park called Vitabergsparken. At the top of the hill you’ll notice the beautiful Sofia kyrka (church). Behind this hill you’ll find a lush park that’s very popular with the locals for taking a stroll or having a picnic in the summer.
If you want to do some shopping or snacking then the SoFo area of Södermalm is where you want to be. SoFo stands for ‘south of Folkungagatan’. This trendy neighbourhood is bursting at the seams with hipster cafes that offer you all the instagrammable dishes you could ever want! A quick look at any list of recommended restaurants in Stockholm and you’ll find that many are in this area. One not to be missed is ‘Meatballs for the People’. Have you really been to Sweden if you haven’t had a meatball?
If shopping is what you’re after then this area will offer you everything from brand stores to vintage shops. This is where you’ll find many innovative and creative unique shops selling homemade designs. From pottery to jewellery and from clothing to houseware, there’s something for everyone.
We thought this island had a ‘hate it or love it’ kind of vibe. Södermalm is very popular these days but it’s still a bit more rough around the edges. This grungy alternative vibe is not to everyone’s taste. We loved having a stroll around the island, taking in the panoramic views from the hills and trying out some hipster restaurants. For us, half a day was enough to get a feel for the place and explore all there was to see. While we liked seeing it, we definitely preferred the classic elegant vibe that the other islands and areas of Stockholm offer, but we could totally see why this place is becoming more popular. We would, however, absolutely like to explore some more of the restaurants on this island! Give this area a visit and decide for yourself if you like the Södermalm vibe!
Skeppsholmen & Kastellholmen
The two small islands of Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen are connected to the Blasieholmen peninsula via the iconic bridge with the golden crown. They are perfect in size for a stroll around while taking in the sights. A leisurely stroll around both islands will take you about 1 hour.
According to the tourist information board you’ll notice upon entry, these islands were used for amusement and relaxation by royalty in the 16th century. Later on, the islands became a naval base. Now it is purely used for relaxation again. The islands are in the middle of Stockholm but have a very tranquil and calm vibe. It’s a great place if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
On the islands you’ll also find some museums, a hotel and historical landmarks. The landmarks and old military buildings are now labelled and you’ll find more information on boards and plaques near them. The most popular museums on these islands are the Moderna Museet, ArkDes and the Toy Museum.
The first island you’ll set foot on is Skeppsholmen, this is the bigger of the two. If you walk about halfway and reach the other end of this island you can cross a small bridge to the other tiny island of Kastellholmen. On the Northeast side of Skeppsholmen you’ll find a harbour area with many boats and a view of the island of Djurgården.
The second island is called Kastellholmen. Cross the small bridge and take a walk along the wooden pier. The southwest side gives you a great view of the hilly side of Södermalm. At the highest point of this island you’ll notice another historical landmark, a small castle. You can walk behind it and you’ll find a rocky viewpoint that gives you a great view of the surrounding area. From there you also have an amazing view of the theme park, Gröna Lund, on the other side of the water on the island of Djurgården.
Within walking distance of the bustling city centre you’ll find the lush green island called Djurgården. From the city centre walk eastwards towards Östermalm, walk along the water's edge on the street called Strandvägen and you’ll reach a bridge called Djurgårdsbron. This bridge will take you to the island where you’ll find some of the most popular museums and a green lush park where the locals come to relax.
Djurgården is quite a large island but it’s very easy to navigate. Most tourists only see the first part of the island, where most of the museums are situated, but there is a lot more to see! If you want to see everything you’re probably going to need more than one day. We walked around the entire island in one afternoon and came back another day to visit some of the museums.
Upon crossing the bridge to this island you’ll quickly notice a large blue gate with gold details on your left. This is the entrance to the Kungliga Djurgården (Royal garden). This National City Park is a lush green oasis where you can take a relaxing stroll between the trees or along the waterside. You’ll forget you’re right in the middle of a bustling city. In the warmer months, this is also the perfect place for a picnic!
This island is home to some very popular museums. Near the Djurgårdsbron bridge, where you set foot upon this island, you’ll find most of them.
The first building you’ll spot is the beautiful Nordiska Museet (The Nordic Museum). This is Sweden’s largest museum of cultural history. You’ll find exhibits that tell the story of Nordic lifestyle and traditions from the 16th century onwards. The magnificent building is a sight itself. We did not visit this place but given the size, you’d need at least half a day if you want to visit all this museum has to offer.
Another museum that you’ll notice right away is the Vasa Museum. You might have even noticed this eye-catching building all the way from one of the other islands. From the roof of this building, you’ll see the masts of a massive ship sticking out. Inside you’ll find the 17th-century warship Vasa. This ship capsized and sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. After 333 years on the seabed, this ship was salvaged and put on display. It’s the world’s best-preserved 17th-century ship. This breathtaking ship gives you all the pirates of the Caribbean vibes. The inside of the museum is basically one huge room with the massive ship in the middle, you can walk all around the ship and watch it from different levels. On each level you’ll also find extra information and items that were found inside the ship. You can easily spend a couple of hours here.
Skansen is the world’s oldest open-air museum. Here you’ll find many traditional houses, workshops and farmsteads from every part of the country. Most buildings are originals that were moved to Skansen from villages and farms all over Sweden. You’ll be immersed in the Sweden of days gone by. There is also a zoo and an aquarium. Skansen is also the location for many activities throughout the year. Skansen is definitely on our list for our next Stockholm visit!
Other popular museums in this area are the ABBA Museum, the Viking Museum, the Museum of Wrecks and the Museum of Spirits. Around halfway on the island you’ll find the Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, this art museum is located in a beautiful mansion and surrounded by a garden where you’ll also find several statues.
Near the ABBA Museum you’ll notice some roller coasters sticking out from behind a fence. Gröna Lund is Sweden’s oldest amusement park. This is also a popular location for concerts. The park has around 30 exciting rides and is open from late spring to September.
Main City Centre Area
The area that is considered the city centre is actually not on an island. Despite it not being on an island we had to include this area since it’s one of the most-visited parts of Stockholm by both tourists and locals.
The main city centre area can be divided into Norrmalm, Östermalm and the Blasieholmen peninsula.
Norrmalm is the area east of the main train station. This is the place to be when you want to go on a shopping spree. Stroll around the area and you’ll come across all the brand stores you know but you’ll also find Scandinavian brand stores and many smaller boutiques. In case this isn’t enough there are several malls and large department stores scattered around this area.
If you get tired of shopping then hop into one of the many restaurants, bars or cafes that you can find in this area. Don’t forget to take a leisurely break in the afternoon to have some coffee with a delicious Swedish cinnamon bun.
East of Norrmalm you’ll find Östermalm. This elegant and exclusive part of Stockholm is filled with high end and luxury brand stores, many restaurants and posh residential buildings. There are several parks and museums to complete your visit to this area.
You can also take a stroll along Strandvägen, this street takes you along the water's edge all the way to a bridge that will take you to the island of Djurgården.
The Blasieholmen peninsula is the place where you’ll find some of the beautiful high-end hotels. There is also a harbour area where you’ll see boats coming and going all day long. This is the place where you can hop on a boat and visit the archipelago area of Stockholm. On the east side, you get a view of Östermalm, on the west side you have a stunning view of Gamla Stan (the Old Town area) and the Royal Palace. This is also where you’ll find the exclusive 5 star Grand Hotel. At the end of the peninsula you’ll find a small park with the National Museum, this impressive building is one of the many stunning landmarks you’ll come across in Stockholm. The peninsula of Blasieholmen is connected to the small island of Skeppsholmen via the iconic Skeppsholmsbron bridge. This bridge from the 1800s features a gilded crown and views of Gamla Stan.
Have you been to Stockholm? What's your favourite island or area to visit in this gorgeous city?
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If you want more general tips on Stockholm to make your visit an absolute success then check out our Complete Stockholm Travel Guide!