Orientation in Stockholm
Almost all trips to Stockholm begin in Norrmalm, the busiest and most commercial part of the city centre. This is where you’ll find Stockholm’s main train terminal (Centralstationen) and the main bus station (City Terminalen). Norrmalm is also home to T-Centralen – the only station on Stockholm’s subway network that connects all three lines.
You will almost certainly end up visiting Norrmalm, but whether you decide to stick around is another matter. There are a couple of interesting museums here and this is undoubtedly one of the best areas for a bit of retail therapy, with the shop-lined street called Drottninggatan bisecting the entire district. However, there’s not a great deal of atmosphere to this area and the buildings are mostly ugly modern blocks.
Adjoining Norrmalm to the east is the ultra-wealthy district of Östermalm, which has some of the highest house prices in the city – and therefore all of Sweden. This part of town has very little in the way of good-value accommodation, but is worth a visit if only to ogle at the ludicrously expensive shops and cafés.
A more central place to base yourself is Gamla Stan – the medieval heart of Stockholm. It’s extremely touristy in parts (especially along Stora Nygatan) but has some of the city’s most impressive landmarks, linked together by narrow cobbled lanes that are lined with bars, souvenir shops and restaurants.
Riddarholmen, the little lump of land on Gamla Stan’s western edge, has a full-time population of exactly zero – unless you count the former Swedish monarchs buried at the island’s fantastical church.
Just south of Gamla Stan, Södermalm is by far the coolest part of modern Stockholm. Although prices have risen dramatically in recent years, it’s still a popular hangout for students, musicians and artists, who sip craft beers at its quirky bars and plunder its second-hand shops for clothes that make a statement.
If culture is your thing, get straight along to Djurgården. This big, green island has some of the city’s best museums and galleries, including the spectacular Vasa Museum – the city’s most visited paid-for attraction. Ferries run from here to Skeppsholmen, yet another island, where you can explore Stockholm’s answer to the Tate Modern – Moderna Museet.
Less visited than other parts of downtown Stockholm, Kungsholmen, which stretches west from the centre, has a couple of great architectural sights, including the imposing Rådhus (court house) and Stadshuset (the city hall), where the Nobel Prize dinner takes place every year.