Stockholm Archipelago: five of the best islands to visit

Even if you’re just in Stockholm for a few days, taking a day trip into the amazing archipelago that stretches east from the city can be one of the most rewarding parts of your visit.

The Stockholm Archipelago is made up of tens of thousands of idyllic islands. They are definitely worth exploring if you have the time, especially during the warmer months, when there’s endless potential for barbecuing, swimming and overnight stays.

Every summer, it seems like half of Stockholm’s population disappears into the archipelago to escape from the bustle of city life. There are more than 24,000 islands to choose from, some with lively communities and others with nothing but serene rocky landscapes and stunning views of the Baltic Sea.

Some of the islands can be difficult to reach without your own boat, so in this guide we’ve put together a list of five islands that can be visited easily using public ferries, and without shelling out a bunch of cash for a guided tour. There are commuter cruise lines that connect many of the best locations to Stockholm proper, which makes planning an island day trip a total breeze.

The Stockholm Archipelago – which islands should you visit?

Pic: Belola80 (CC)

Boats to the archipelago

The best and most affordable ferry company serving the Stockholm Archipelago is called Waxholmsbolaget; their English-language website is the best place to check for times, prices and other journey information, or just as easily use the Google Maps app on your phone to route the trip (it’s usually quite accurate). This is the ferry company that locals and islanders tend to use.

The Waxholmsbolaget ferry terminal is at Strömkajen, just a few minutes’ walk from Kungsträdgården in the centre of the city. Look for the geometric brass building by the water and you’ll see the boats docking right there. There’s no need to book tickets in advance; you can buy onboard quickly and easily.

Another transportation option is the Cinderella and Strömma Kanalbolaget boats from the pier at Strandvägen – these sometimes have faster connections, but are also pricier and need to be booked in advance. All of the islands we’ve recommended are served by both ferry companies – for some of the year, at least.

Five islands that are easy to visit from Stockholm

1. Fjäderholmarna

Which is the best island to visit from Stockholm?

Pic: Eimi Tagore-Erwin

Honestly, the little group of islands known as Fjäderholmarna is so close to the city centre that the only acceptable excuse for missing it is bad weather.

Fjäderholmarna is super easy to reach from Strömkajen (just 20 minutes by ferry), and is perfect if you want to make a quick half-day trip into the archipelago without spending much cash or traveling too far away from the city center.

The one-way trip costs around 63 SEK on the Waxholmsbolaget ferry (Cinderella ferries also cover this route, but they are slower and more expensive).

Be aware that you may not get to see a specific sign or hear an announcement when you arrive because Fjäderholmarna is so close – if you get confused, just ask the captain to make sure you get to the right place.

Once you get to Stora Fjäderholmen, the main island, you can take a stroll along the seafront, go on a short hike into the forest trails that run through the middle of the island, or play a few fun rounds of boule at Röda Villan, a popular restaurant set in a red wooden house that’s surrounded by mature trees.

Fjäderholmarna is a bit of a hotspot for artist studios, so there are lots of places to browse and buy handcrafted goods, from jewellery and ceramics to glassware. A quiet road loops around the whole island, making it nice and easy to find the dock when you’re ready to head back to the city.

2. Vaxholm

Vaxholm is the closest island to Stockholm

Pic: Bengt Nyman (CC)

Vaxholm is known as the gateway to Stockholm’s archipelago – it’s relatively close to the city center and is connected to the mainland by a bridge, but it’s also the first stop for most ferries heading further out into the archipelago.

To get there from Strömkajen in central Stockholm, take a Waxholmsbolaget ferry. A one-way journey costs 79 SEK and takes between 50 and 80 minutes, depending on what time of day you leave. During summer, Cinderella boats also make the journey from Strandvägen in around 50 minutes, but you can expect to pay around 115 SEK for a one-way trip.

Vaxholm is a cute little hub that is a lot more developed than other islands in the archipelago. Just be aware that, thanks to its proximity to the city, it can get very busy – especially during July and August, when coaches empty hoards of tourists onto the streets. The boats to the island can also be busy. On the upside, Vaxholm is easy to get to, and there’s usually something going on, even outside of the main tourist season.

On arrival, you’ll probably want to explore the old town, where twisting alleyways are lined with picturesque houses, then peek into some of the island’s many souvenir shops and cafés.

If you’re a bit of a history buff you’ll want to visit Vaxholms Fästning, the huge fortress that was built to protect the capital from Russian invasion in 1544. During summer, (rather expensive) water taxis make the trip between Vaxholm and the fort every 15 minutes. If you’re taking a Waxholmsbolaget ferry to Vaxholm, it may also make a stop at the fortress – ask the captain.

There are two good B&Bs on Vaxholm – try Vaxholms Bed and Breakfast (around 700m from the centre) or Kastellet Bed and Breakfast, at the fortress.

3. Grinda

Grinda is an easy island to visit from Stockholm

Pic: Eimi Tagore-Erwin

Grinda is often talked about as the bathing paradise of Stockholm – people from all over the city head there during the weekends to get their share of sun, swim and relaxation during the summer.

The Waxholmsbolaget ferry to Grinda costs around 95 SEK and takes about two hours (compared to around 80 minutes on the more expensive Cinderella boat from Strandvägen). It makes sense to get off at Södra (south) Grinda since it takes another half an hour to reach Norra bryggan (the northern boat dock).

Grinda is almost completely owned by Skärgårdsstiftelsen (the Archipelago Foundation), which helps to preserve the island’s natural beauty. This makes Grinda particularly lush and clean, with totally free access to explore the forest or swim to your heart’s content.

You can find the majority of the island’s shops and cafes at Södra Grinda, including a traditional Swedish värdshus (inn). If you’re feeling peckish, we’d recommend trying the traditional ‘Grinda loaf,’ the island’s famous baked bread.

4. Svartsö

Svartsö is a good island to visit near Stockholm

Pic: debjam (CC)

Svartsö is also reachable using the Waxholmsbolaget ferries from Strömkajen – it’s about half an hour past Grinda. A one-way trip costs around 116 SEK.

While Svartsö is actually one of the larger islands in the archipelago, with its own little community, the population is seriously small – less than 100 people live here all year round. This makes this remote, lesser-known island an amazing spot to go out and enjoy some peaceful time with nature.

It’s probably best to dock at Ahlsvik, since there’s a small beach there perfect for sunbathing. It’s also close to the island’s only restaurant, Svartsö Krog – a famously good (but super pricey) place to eat if you didn’t pack a lunch. Renting a bike is highly recommended on Svartsö; it’s a great way to check out the island’s surprisingly varied scenery – expect freshwater lakes, forests, open farmland, and views of the Baltic Sea.

If you fall in love with the island’s laid-back vibe, why not overnight at STF Svartsö Skärgårdshotell & Vandrarhem? This bright, modern and affordable hostel is the island’s only place to stay (unless you want to try camping) and it offers the perfect environment to rest and recharge.

5. Sandön

Sandhamn is one of the best islands to visit in the Stockholm Archipelago

Pic: Eimi Tagore-Erwin

Sandön is the furthest destination from Stockholm on this list, and you’ll need to take the Cinderella cruise line from the docks at Strandvägen to get there. The trip will take just over 2 hours, and needs to be booked in advance on their website. A round-trip ticket costs around 320 SEK.

Sandön is a beautiful destination that’s well worth the time and cost of the trip. Sometimes people get confused about the name of this island – to be clear, Sandhamn is the name of the pretty harbour village you’ll arrive at, while the island itself is called Sandön.

Sandhamn is a hub for Swedes sailing around the archipelago, and you’ll see tons of sailboats and yachts lining the piers all summer. The town of Sandhamn is much posher than settlements on other islands near Stockholm, with many boutiques and retail shops in addition to the usual cafés and souvenir shops.

If you’re trying to avoid crowds, opt to rent a couple of kayaks and paddle around the island – there are some beautifully tranquil hideaways along the coastline. There are also some really nice sandy beaches for sunbathing and going for a dip, as well many gorgeous spots to unpack a picnic lunch to complete your trip out into the archipelago.

Want to stay the night? There’s a comfy bed and breakfast just up from the beach on the island’s north coast (book ahead!).

Tips for visiting the Stockholm Archipelago:

  • Plan your trip ahead of time: take careful note of the ferry schedules because it’s no fun to wait at the dock for the next trip (it can be hours between departures).
  • Leave early, just in case: it’s better to be early than late when limited to the ferry schedule! This is especially important if you’re going to use the Cinderella boats and have booked your tickets in advance.
  • If you’re on a tight budget, pack a lunch and bring it with you: prices on the islands tend to get expensive as they are small communities catered towards summer tourists.
  • Do you want to stay overnight? Plan ahead to avoid full bookings, or pack some camping equipment for the ultimate archipelago experience; this option is highly recommended for Grinda.
  • Definitely bring your swimming gear: even if you don’t plan for it, spending a day out on these dazzling ocean waters can make a swim become too tempting to resist!
  • Bring cash. Most of Sweden is totally cashless, but you can never be too safe, especially out in the islands!

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