By Evie Carrick
November 07, 2019
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With endless dining options and plenty of things to do, it can be easy to pass the entirety of your Stockholm vacation exploring the city, eating, and drinking. 

And while noshing your way across a foodie-friendly city may be all you’re looking for, you’d be bypassing a huge part of the Swedish culture if you skipped the opportunity to get out on the water. If the endless smoked salmon and boats cruising past Gamla Stan (the Old Town) didn’t already give it away, the city of Stockholm relies heavily on it’s watery surroundings. And a visit to the neighboring archipelago will take you to another world — one that feels nothing like the capital city. 

After you’ve explored Stockholm’s vibrant neighborhoods and had your fill of kardemummabullar (try these cardamom buns at Mr Cake or Ett Bageri), it may be time to get a feel for Swedish island life.

Luckily, visiting the archipelago — an estimated 30,000 islands and islets that buffer the city from the Baltic Sea — is as easy as hopping aboard a ferry or water taxi. During the summer and fall months, you can travel by ferry with Waxholmsbolaget or Stromma, and over the off-season, you can book your journey with a water taxi or guided tour.

Related: Sweden’s Floating Arctic Sauna Hotel Will Have Amazing Northern Lights Views — and It's Finally Taking Reservations

Fjäderholmarna

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There’s really no excuse not to visit Fjäderholmarna. This crazy-cute little island is a short 30-minute boat ride from the center of Stockholm. Once you’re on land, you can walk the perimeter of the island (it takes less than 30 minutes), settle in for a cozy meal overlooking the water, or grab picnic provisions and sit on the rocks overlooking the sea.

Svartsö

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A trip to this island will take you to the middle of Sweden’s impressive archipelago. While a trip can take between 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours, the otherworldly locale is well worth the trip. Often called the “greenest island,” it’s the perfect place to rent a bike and swing by an inner-island lake for a dip.

In the fall and winter months, enjoy a hot chocolate fueled stroll, or visit over the holidays to experience the island’s touted Christmas Table.

Gällnö

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If you're on a mission to see a real archipelago island without swarms of tourists, this is the island for you. On Gällnö, you won’t find any kitschy souvenir shops, and there are more cows than people.

More of a summer destination, the easiest way to access this island is by the 1 ½ hour ferry from Stockholm.

Related: The World’s Tiniest McDonald's Just Opened in Sweden — but It’s Only for Bees

Sandhamn

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A ferry to Sandhamn drops you right on the edge of the archipelago and the open Baltic Sea. In addition to buildings that date back to the 17th century, the island features stunning rocky shores and white sandy beaches. The island has several restaurants, bars, and shops that will keep you busy during your day (or overnight) trip — or, you can escape the buzz of everyday life and take one of the walking paths along the island’s beaches.

The year-round destination is best visited by ferry (with service April to November) or taxi boat, and the journey takes just over two hours.

Vaxholm

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This is one of the archipelago’s most visited islands, and that’s not just because it’s a short 50 minute ferry ride from Stockholm. The island of Vaxholm is rich in Swedish history and has long been a junction for archipelago traffic.

A visit to the island won’t be complete without a stop at the Citadel and the Vaxholm Fortress Museum — where you can learn about the island's history defending the archipelago. Before you leave, don’t forget to try the famous Vaxholm herring.

Grinda

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Some minor research will confirm that Grinda is easily one of the cutest islands in the archipelago. In the summer months, the water is the main attraction, with plenty of swimming spots and opportunities for boating and kayaking. The island sits east of Vaxholm towards the Baltic Sea and is just under a 1 ½ hour ferry ride from Stockholm.

Finnhamn

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This northern archipelago island is both accessible and beautiful. A ferry here takes over two hours, but once you arrive, you’ll find yourself in another world. In Finnhamn, there’s the usual archipelago pastimes — lying in the sun, swimming, and eating ice cream. For overnight guests, there’s a house from the early 20th century that’s been turned into an iconic youth hostel, and there's a village of quaint cottages from the 1950s.

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