Duck into narrow, medieval alleys and find yourself happily lost in Sweden’s most famous urban district.
The Gamla stan (Old Town) of Stockholm is always busy and never boring. The island district is the first port of call for every first-time visitor to Stockholm and chances are that you’ll fall in love with it and will keep coming back.
Pedestrian-friendly Gamla stan is like one big open-air museum. Depending on the weather, the streets can look mystical, medieval and moody, or colorful, charming and cheerful. Visit Gamla stan after snowfall when it’s at its most romantic. The sounds of the bustling streets are softened and the shops and cafés ooze light and warmth.
It’s logical to start your tour of Gamla stan at the Royal Palace, the star attraction of the neighborhood. The palace is hard to miss, because there are over 600 rooms in this impressive building. Witness the changing of the guard ceremony, take a guided tour and visit the Royal Armory.
While here, also admire the medieval Storkyrkan (Stockholm Cathedral), the country’s national cathedral. It’s home to a St. George-and-the-Dragon sculpture from 1489.
Follow either the streets of Västerlånggatan (west) or Österlånggatan (east) down to browse the many gift shops and galleries for typical Swedish souvenirs, which include little trolls from the Norse mythology and brightly painted wooden reindeers.
You can cross over between these two main streets as often as you like by ducking into the little alleys in between. One in particular, the Mårten Trotzigs gränd (alley), is so narrow that some may have to squeeze their shoulders together to get through.
Sample typical Swedish treats everywhere you go. If sweet chocolate coconut balls are not your thing, then perhaps hearty meatballs with sweet-and-sour lingenberry sauce are. Buy ice creams for dessert or sit down for a proper meal in Stortorget, Stockholm’s oldest city square. After visiting the square’s Nobel Museum, walk down Köpmangatan, the oldest street in the capital.
Once you’re done, cross over to the island of Riddarholmen to the west to admire the 13th-century Riddarholmen Church, the burial place for Swedish royals. Before you leave, take one more look back at Gamla stan from across the water while the setting sun adds even more color to an already vibrant picture.