Stockholm stretches across 14 separate islands, which are separated by twisting canals and open waterways. No matter where you go in the city, it seems like you’re never too far from the shoreline.
Because so many locals commute from one island to another, ferries make up an important part of the public transport network.
There’s also a thriving boat tour industry, with dozens of colourful boats taking tourists out onto the water to get a different view of the city.
With Lake Mälaren to the west and a vast archipelago to the east, there are loads of different boat trips you can take from Stockholm.
Some take less than an hour and some are much longer, offering you the chance to enjoy a full day of sun, sea and sand. If you do decide to hop on a boat tour from Stockholm, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Choosing the right type of boat tour
There are so many different boat tours and cruises on offer that you might want to start narrowing down your options early on. The first step is to work out much time you have.
A brief tour of Stockholm’s inner waterways will take less than an hour, while a longer trip to the Stockholm Archipelago will take at least three hours, if not the whole day.
For more ideas on which islands to visit, see our guide to the best islands to visit in the Stockholm Archipelago.
Next, you should think about which direction you want to head in. Do you want to head west towards Lake Mälaren, go east beyond the city limits, or stay nice and central to get a feel for Stockholm’s different neighbourhoods from the water?
Another thing to bear in mind is the content of the tour. If you want to see Stockholm’s highlights from the water, there are dozens of tours that circle around Stockholm’s canals and introduce you to the city the way it was meant to be seen, from the deck of a boat.
On the other hand, if you fancy a day of wandering cute streets, chomping through yummy kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) and drinking in lovely panoramic views, you might want to head to one of the archipelago islands close by, such as Vaxholm or Fjäderholmarna.
Another option, if you’d prefer to delve into Swedish history, is to roam among Viking ruins and 17th-century palaces on a boat tour of Lake Mälaren.
Tips for taking a Stockholm boat tour
- Wear something warm and waterproof; it can get chilly, even during summer
- Pack sunscreen during the summer (the UV levels can still be high, even in Sweden)
- Consider taking a private tour: there are options for sailing and kayaking
- Bring cash and cards, just in case
- Don’t forget your phone! You’ll want to take a lot of photos.
Where do the boat tours depart from?
There are harbours all over the place in Stockholm, but if you’re joining a boat tour then the chances are that it will depart from one place in particular: Nybroviken in Norrmalm.
There are three neighbouring docks here: Nybroplan, Nybrokajen and Strandvägen. Different tours depart from different docks.
Strömkajen is another popular harbour in Norrmalm. It’s at Södra Blasieholmshamnen 11. Many tours that stay in the city limits, such as the Royal Canal Tour, depart from here.
Boats heading west to Lake Mälaren, Drottningholm Palace or Birka depart from Stockholm City Hall at Klara Mälarstrand 2.
Other ports of departure are Gustav Adolfs Torg (at the Opera House), the Royal Palace (Skeppsbron 2), and Nacka Strand.
The departure points are always subject to change, so be sure to check your ticket to see which one your trip is departing from.
Do Stockholm’s boat tours run all year?
Summer (roughly April–September) is high season for boat tours in Stockholm, thanks to the much warmer weather and the fact that the waterways are completely finally free from ice at this time.
However, some cruises and tours (like the Royal Canal Tour, for example) are available much longer, often until mid-December or whenever the water begins to freeze.
Likewise, tours may start earlier in the spring if the weather is nice and warm.
Tougher public boats run out to parts of the Stockholm Archipelago all year round (see this guide for more details on some of the islands you can visit with these boats).
And of course, there are atmospheric winter cruises that run through the year, provided there’s no ice.
What’s the best time of day to do a boat tour in Stockholm?
There are pros and cons of taking a boat tour at different times of the day. If you can face an early start, often the first tour of the day is the quietest, and the waterways may be less busy then too.
However, it also depends on the time of the year. Since boat trips are such a popular activity in Stockholm, the boats can be busy all day during the peak summer season.
So in summer taking an evening tour can be a good idea, when the waterways are quieter.
There are plenty of trips that take advantage of the long Swedish summer evenings, such as this atmospheric evening kayak tour with a barbecue included.
Autumn can be a beautiful time to take a boat trip, when the mist rises from the water and the trees are covered in golden, red and orange foliage.
Winter on the water can be very atmospheric too, with boats sailing past chunks of ice and the city’s rooftops and pavements covered with a dusting of snow.
Only a few tours like this one run in winter, but those that do provide blankets, warm drinks and reindeer skins to keep the cold at bay.
Where to buy tickets
It’s usually cheaper and less hassle to book the ticket yourself. You can buy tickets for all tours online up to one hour prior to departure time.
After that, you can either buy tickets at tourist information centres or Strömma’s ticket offices at Strömkajen, Gustaf Adolfs Torg, Stadshusbron and Nybroplan.
On some boats, such as the ferry to Vaxholm, you can even board without a ticket and buy one onboard.
The Stockholm Pass
If you’ve got a Stockholm Pass, a ‘hop-on, hop-off’ boat tour is included in the price of your pass in summer, as well as a selection of other boat tours and trips.
To find out whether the Stockholm Pass is right for you, and whether it will save you cash, check out this handy guide!
18 of the best boat tours and cruises in Stockholm
Under the bridges
Explore central Stockholm with this sightseeing cruise especially made for tourists. Passing beneath pretty bridges, the tour will take you to some of the city’s main landmarks, with a recorded commentary available in 10 languages.
The 2 hour, 15-minute cruise will take you from the Baltic Sea to Lake Mälaren, under bridges and to the main landmarks of the Old Town, Södermalm, Stora Essingen, Hammarby Sjöstad and forested Djurgården.
Royal Canal Tour
Have less than an hour to spare and just want a sneak peek of Stockholm from the water?
The Royal Canal Tour glides around the peaceful Djurgården canal and introduces you to this historic island’s landscapes with an audio guide in 11 languages. It’s one of the most popular boat tours going.
The ‘hop-on, hop-off’ boat tour
See Stockholm at your own pace with the unique hop-on hop-off boat tour.
Your boat ticket is valid for 24-hours so you can hop on and off wherever you like: popular stops include the Royal Palace, the Vasa Museum, Skansen and the Abba museum.
This is a quick way to see all the city’s major highlights, a boon if you’re pressed for time.
Explore the archipelago by kayak
This fun full-day kayak tour takes you out to the quieter parts of the archipelago by kayak. Glide along the coastline, admire Stockholm from the water and explore the smaller islands and waterways of the archipelago.
Dry suits, lunch, hot drinks and Swedish fika are included too, to keep your energy levels up as your paddle.
For more ideas for fun kayak trips from Stockholm, see our guide to kayaking and canoeing in Stockholm.
A visit to Vaxholm
Charming Vaxholm is one of the most popular islands in the archipelago, with a picturesque town, narrow alleys, shops, galleries, and the 16th-century Vaxholm citadel.
You can either get there by fast boat which takes about fifty minutes or opt for the atmospheric classic wooden boat, which takes about 90 minutes.
Either way, you can easily spend a whole day exploring Vaxholm town before heading back to Stockholm.
Stockholm dining cruises
If your goal is not to sightsee, but just to relax and enjoy a fine meal on Stockholm’s gorgeous waterways, go with a dining cruise.
There are brunch, lunch and dinner cruises, as well as a buffet dinner cruise with live music.
There’s even a special ‘shrimp boat’, a three-hour sunset tour of the archipelago with all-you-can-eat shrimp included.
Get a quick taste of island life in Fjäderholmarna
Head out to Fjäderholmarna, the archipelago islands that lie closest to Stockholm. Here you’ll encounter glassblowers, smiths, potters and shops selling all sorts of artisan handicrafts.
It’s just a 30-minute cruise to get there – spend a lazy afternoon and catch the boat home before it gets too dark (which is around 10pm in the summer!).
If you’ve got a Stockholm Pass, the boat trip to Fjäderholmarna is included.
Explore history at Birka
History aficionados will love Birka, a once-thriving Viking settlement dating back to the 750s. It’s Sweden’s first city and a fascinating Unesco World Heritage Site.
You can wander as much as your heart desires among the Viking ruins and the open-air museum, and then sample authentic Viking food made from locally sourced ingredients at the themed Särimner Restaurant (from May to October).
Visit Drottningholm Palace
Another popular destination for cruises to Lake Mälaren is Drottningholm Palace, residence of the Royal Family and a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Its beautiful parks, landscaped gardens, historic theatre and Chinese pavilion are well worth a look if you’ve made it as far as Stockholm.
You can buy a combination ticket that includes both the one-hour boat ride and entrance tickets to the palace grounds. Or you can just buy a return boat ticket, or travel one-way by boat and return by metro.
If you have a Stockholm Pass, the boat-trip to Drottningholm is included, so you’ll only need to buy your entrance ticket to the palace itself.
There’s more info on visiting Drottningholm in this guide.
Amphibious bus tour
Now, here’s a fun way to see the city by land and water. The amphibious bus tour known as the Ocean Bus starts with a drive through Stockholm’s historic centre before taking to the water and exploring this city’s sights from the sea.
Once in the water, the ten-tonne amphibious bus cruises past the Vasa Museum and the islands of Södermalm and Skeppsholmen, where you get great views of the Royal Palace.
See Lake Mälaren by kayak
This full-day guided kayak tour explores Lake Mälaren, paddling past the picturesque Steninge Palace and the royal Rosersberg Palace, as well as the iron-age settlement at Runsa.
After paddling around 12km, and stopping for a picnic lunch on a deserted island, you’ll visit the historic town of Sigtuna.
Stockholm winter cruise
Just because the weather is bad doesn’t mean you can’t take a boat trip. In fact, seeing Stockholm from the water, its buildings covered in snow with ice on the shores is even more atmospheric than seeing it in summer.
And you don’t need to worry about the cold – reindeer skins are provided to keep you cosy, and warming bowls of traditional Swedish pea soup and hot glögg (mulled wine) can be bought on board too.
Sail round the Stockholm Archipelago
Spend the day sailing round just a few of the Stockholm archipelago’s 24,000 islands.
An expert captain will take you round some of the uninhabited and lesser-visited islands – and you can even have a go at steering and crewing the yacht yourself.
A Swedish lunch and drinks on-board are included.
Take the ferry to Djurgården island
Not exactly a boat tour, but this guided tour of Stockholm’s main sights includes a ferry trip over to the island of Djurgården.
You’ll explore the old town and hear all about tis history before taking the boat over to Djurgården and visiting the impressive Vasa ships museum.
Take a RIB ride round the archipelago
This hour-long blast round the archipelago takes you as far out as the island of Fjäderholmarnas.
You’ll see the sights of Stockholm from the water before reaching speeds of up to 40 miles an hour as you whizz out to the farther islands in the Baltic Sea.
Go on an eco-boat tour with live music
This fun early-evening tour glides along the city’s canals and beneath its bridges on an environment-friendly electric boat.
There are live musicians on board, so you’ll be serenaded as you sail by the city’s sights and waterways. You can bring your own food and drink to add to the party atmosphere.
Explore the Bogesund Nature Reserve in a giant canoe
It sounds a little crazy but you can even explore the archipelago in a giant canoe that seats 15 people.
Great for large groups or solo travellers who want to have some some fun and meet new people, this trip sets off from the island of Vaxholm and takes you out into calm waters of a nature reserve.
Look out for seals, beavers and deer while you’re paddling.
Take a sunset barbecue tour by kayak
On this fun evening kayak tour, you’ll leave Stockholm’s Långholmen Island at 6pm and paddle around the city’s waterways for an hour before mooring up for a tasty meal.
You can have a dip while your guide fires up the barbecue, then watch the sunset as you gently paddle back.
Boat trips to Helsinki
For the ultimate boat trip from Stockholm, why not head to Helsinki on this three-day mini-cruise to Finland?
You’ll spend two nights on board the boat, with a buffet breakfast included and six hours on land exploring the fascinating Finnish capital Helsinki.
You get great views of both cities as you arrive and depart, and there are restaurants, karaoke and even a sauna on-board.
For all the low-down on taking this fun trip, see our guide to taking the ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki.
Private boat tours
And if you fancy splashing out on a really cool way of seeing the Stockholm Archipelago, why not charter your own private yacht for you and your friends or family?
This three-hour yacht charter for up to six people includes your own fully qualified captain plus lunch or dinner served on-board.
And because you’re in charge, you can choose where to go and which islands to visit.
For more on renting your own boat, see our guide to the best boat rentals and yacht charters in Stockholm.
What to pack for a boat tour
Of course, what you need to take depends very much on the time of year you’re going and the type of boat trip you’ve chosen. But here’s a general list of what you may need to take.
- Wear layers. The weather can be notoriously fickle, so even if it’s warm when you set out it can get very cold on the water. Conversely, if the sun comes out in summer, you’ll quickly be shedding jumpers.
- Sunscreen. The sun can be strong in the height of summer and is magnified by the water, so bring sunscreen even if it’s cloudy when you set out.
- Waterproofs. You probably won’t need these on a large boat, but if you’re kayaking or canoeing make sure you bring waterproof gear.
- Water and snacks. Again large boats often sell snacks and drinks, but if you’re on a budget or kayaking, you should bring your own.
- Camera/phone. Stockholm is unbelievably picturesque, and you really don’t want to miss out on all the photo ops!
- Money. Check whether any food and drink is included in your tour, and if not bring your credit card or phone with you (cash is not usually accepted). Some of the larger boats often have the option to buy food and drink on-board.