Destination: Stockholm, Sweden
We all really enjoyed our time in Stockholm on our cruise – other than the transportation issues. I’ll tell you more about that under the “tips” section. Anyway, here’s how we spent our day as well as some other ideas about what you might see while you’re there.
What We Did
In Stockholm, we followed Rick Steves’ walking tour in his Scandinavia guidebook around Gamla Stan (Old Town). Then we popped into the Hard Rock Cafe (irritating location – we wasted a lot of time, but we really wanted to add to our collection) and finally managed to get ourselves to the Vasa.
Royal Palace. This is the royal family’s official residence and is right next door to the Parliament. The changing of the guard happens here: May-August – 12:15p Mon-Sat, 1:15 Sun & holidays; April, September, October – 12:15p Wed & Sat, 1:15p Sun; winter – Wed & Sat 12p, Sun 1p. We were there around 11a, and there were already a bunch of people lined up to watch so we didn’t stay.
Cathedral of Stockholm. “The Cathedral of Stockholm, called Storkyrkan, was consecrated in 1306. All the royal weddings and coronations take place here, and over 2,000 people are buried under the church. The 15th century statue of St. George and the Dragon is carved from oak and elk horn. Many Stockholm residents believe this statue symbolizes Sweden’s need to struggle against evil.” (About.com)
Nobel Museum. The museum provides information about the prize, the prize winners 1901 to present, and the life of Alfred Nobel. We didn’t actually go in – just admired the facade of the Stock Exchange Building that contains it.
Vasa Museum. This museum, which is on the island of Djurgården, displays the Vasa, the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that’s been salvaged. The ship sank on its maiden voyage in 162, found in 1958, and salvaged in 1961. The museum has done a good job sharing the history of the ship as well as letting visitors view it from many angles – and heights.
Other Stuff to Do
Skansen. Skansen is the first open air museum and zoo in Sweden. There’s a replica 19th century town with craftsmen demonstrating their skills. The zoo focuses on Scandinavian animals, such as bison and otters, as well as a few popular non-Scandinavian animals. It’s also on Djurgarden, so it would be a good place to visit in combination with the Vasa Museum.
Drottningholm Palace. Drottningholm is the private residence of the Swedish royal family, but visitors are welcome. This 16th century palace is the most well-preserved of its time in Sweden and an excellent example of the architecture of the period. Be warned – it’s in a suburb, so visiting here would likely take your whole day if you’re on a cruise ship as we were. I’d especially like to return to Stockholm to visit here.
City Hall. Not only is City Hall architecturally interesting, but it’s also important as the symbol of Stockholm and the place where the city’s civil servants have their offices. A guided tour takes visitors through the official areas, including the Blue Hall and the Golden Hall. I’d also really liked to have gone here – it was magnificent from what I saw from the bus.
Tivoli Grona Lund. Yep, Stockholm has a Tivoli too! This one began in the 1880s.
Stockholm Rooftop Tour. This is something we booked originally but canceled due to my job loss. I’d definitely recommend considering it – sounds like a cool way to see part of the city. If you need to book a whole group tour (they don’t necessarily sell individual spots on tours, especially when ships are in port) and aren’t traveling with a large enough group to fill up the group yourself, check your roll call on Cruise Critic to make it cheaper – and it’ll definitely be cheaper than booking through the ship.
Stockholm Card. This includes admission to a bunch of museums as well as travel by the metro (t-bana), trains, and buses in the area. 375 SEK per person. We didn’t quite get our money’s worth since we didn’t go inside as many places as I’d expected, but it can be and it’s certainly convenient.
Finding the bus stop by the cruise port. This is tricky, and the official/tourist helper people are not good at telling you where to go. They’ll tell you to follow the blue and yellow painted line. That’s not the whole story. Do start following the line, but watch for a chance to cross the major road to your left. You want to get up on that hill the arrow is pointing to in the picture below. Once you’re up there, you’ll need to loop back towards the ship to get to the bus stop.
Other transportation issues. If you’re getting yourself around the city and intend to rely on public transport, make sure you are prepared to take a mode of transportation other than your first choice. I’d planned to take the t-bana around since it was fairly convenient to the places we wanted to go, but there was a fire at the central station while we were there and the t-bana shut down just as we got onto a train. We had to figure out the bus routes then, which took a bit more effort. It also took a lot more time – in part because there was a huge traffic jam by the central station and also because everyone else who’d tried to take the t-bana ended up on the bus. Because of the time wasted, we ended up having to spend some extra money to take the boat back to Gamla Stan from Djurgarden. What a pain! This is absolutely not the norm – everything I’ve read says that public transport usually runs smoothly and on time in Stockholm. I’ve also read that when something goes awry there, it gets pretty messy.