We loved Stockholm; it’s the place to go with kids. Built across 14 islands, the smallest only big enough for a single building, even the transport is interesting. You can take a train, a tram, a bus or boat; often all on the same day!
We rented a small, Ikea-furnished apartment through Air BNB, about 5 minutes walk from Fruängen metro station, so every day started with a ride on the underground to Gamla Stan or T-Centralen . The metro is clean, efficient and easy to navigate and all the carriages seem to be named, but the Swedish don’t have the English reserve of standing, rather than squeezing into the only empty seat in the carriage that happens to be beside your kids. We got sat next to by some extremely colourful characters, but no one was rude or horrible.
We were in Stockholm for 4 nights, so spent 3 whole days looking around the city; mostly visiting museums. It wasn’t really enough and we could have easily have spent a whole week there, but we made the most of the time we had and visited some amazing places.
1/ Gamla Stan is the ‘Old Town’ and we spent a couple of hours wandering through its narrow, cobbled streets, looking at shops and restaurants and inspecting statues and fountains.
We also saw the Nobel museum and the Royal Palace. Around 11, a crowd started forming to wait for the Changing of the Guard, but the kids got impatient and hungry so we wandered down to the harbour instead.
2/ Our plan was to take a standard tourist boat tour around the harbour and get an overview of the city, but as we rounded the corner, this boat sailed into sight.
DH held out longer than I did, but eventually we both caved in to the children’s pleas for a trip on this vessel. And who can blame them? The busy season was winding down so we pretty much had the whole boat to ourselves. There was no commentary, which was a little disappointing, but the kids enjoyed waving at everyone on the shore and trying on viking helmets.
It rained while we were on the boat but we stayed dry and the horses for the Changing of the Guard that we had abandoned, went right past us as we prepared to set sail, so the Viking Ship seemed like a good choice all round.
3/ We then took a ferry across to Djurgården, a larger island in Stockholm that contains many museums, theatres, gardens, historic buildings, a funfair, a zoo and an aquarium. We spent at least part of each of our three days here and still didn’t see everything. Another day we took the No7 tram on the Djurgården line ; part of the fun of the visit is getting there!
4/We weren’t sure about taking the kids to the Abba Museum as we thought they’d be bored, but we were wrong!
The fun started with a squabble about who would be who in the ‘Your Face Here’ cutout outside the museum, and finished when we refused them to buy all the things in the gift shop, but in-between they sung and danced their little hearts out. DH and I may have joined in a little.
This is a really fun, interactive museum and everything is in English as well as Swedish. It makes you feel like you have fallen into the stage show Mamma Mia. If you only see one museum in Stockholm, it’s probably got to be this one!
5/ About 15 minutes walk from the ABBA museum is the Vasa Museum. This building houses a 95%-intact salvaged 17th century warship that spent almost 300 years under water in Stockholm’s harbour. The Vasa was fished out of the water in 1961 and is now housed in a specially built Museum that allows you to inspect her from different levels and angles.
She is an amazing sight and there are plenty of interesting displays, many of them interactive, scattered around the museum about the ship. the sinking, life in Sweden in the 1600s, items found on the ship and how they found and raised her out of the water. This is an amazing museum but it was the end of a long, hard day and I suspect the kids weren’t quite as interested as they could have been. There is plenty of room to run around here though and I suspect this would be a great place to visit on a rainy day.
6/ The next day we returned to the Northern side of the Royal Palace, on Gamla Stan, and went for a horse and carriage ride around the old town. These horses were obviously well loved and cared for, and curled up at the front of the carriage were two snoring dalmatians. No running behind for these dogs!
It was a pleasant tour. One lady drove and the other told us about the places we were passing and the islands we were on. Most of the history was completely new to me, but then, most European history is!. There were Swedish and French people on the tour with us and the commentator switched seamlessly between three languages. Amazing. It was a bit cold as we only had fleeces with us, but there were blankets tied to the roof of the carriage for people to untie and keep warm under.
Unfortunately these tours only run in the summer, during July and August, but if you are in Stockholm during these months at least swing by and say hello to the lovely horses.
7/ After our horse and carriage ride, we caught the tram to Djurgården to visit a children’s museum called Junibacken. It’s a kind of fantasy playground filled with characters and scenes from children’s books by Swedish authors. We knew of Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking of course, and the Moomin trolls, but probably 80% of the exhibitions were completely unknown to us.
It didn’t matter; the kids climbed, played and slid with everyone else until we discovered The Story Train. This is a kind of gentle ride with a commentary that takes you into the stories of various Swedish books, again we didn’t recognise any, but it was so well done that we all enjoyed it anyhow. Then we found ourselves in Pippi Longstocking’s house and DH and I had to sit for a bit while the kids explored, slid down the slide umpteen millionty times, played hopscotch and rode hobby horses.
This museum was probably a bit young for our eldest two but they are very used to ‘supervising’ their younger siblings and so joining in activities that way, so they had fun too. And there were several groups of adults with no children at all going through the door; I’m not sure what they would have made of it all!
8/ Our last full day in Stockholm was again spent on Djurgården, wandering around Skansen; a huge open air museum full of historical buildings from as far back as five centuries ago. There are also people in period dress doing various crafts and demonstrating different trades, as well as a farmyard, a zoo and a fairground. It’s an absorbing experience and we happily spent the whole day here.
Our favourite bits were the outdoor skittle alley, the farmyard ( we saw a sheep being shorn the old-fashioned way) and the zoo. We got see bears, lynxes and wolves at the ‘free’ zoo, then paid for the extra bit and got to walk among lemurs and monkeys and look at some very big snakes and colourful frogs.The museum is partly on top of a hill , so the views were pretty fantastic too. And they have red squirrels running wild in the trees, which were amazing to watch in the wild.
The only real disappointment was that the little funfair wasn’t open on the day we went ( last two weeks of August), so it would be worth checking opening days/ hours if this was important to you.
Skansen is mainly outside, so you really need decent weather or a good coat to visit, but it’s a great place and pretty much a must-see in our opinion.
I can’t rave enough about Stockhom and how child friendly and engaging it is. We’d like to go again sometime and perhaps stay closer to the centre of the city, maybe during winter? It’s not cheap, but if you are used to London prices you’ll probably not wince too much, and there are more discounts for children than you get in the UK.
If you are looking for somewhere enchanting to take your family, consider Stockholm. You won’t regret it!