Stockholm is a juxtaposition of modern and medieval, where boutique hotels and avant-garde restaurants share the cityscape with cobblestoned alleys and church spires.

By Ingrid K. Williams
April 15, 2014
Lydmar Hotel in Stockholm
Credit: Courtesy of Lydmar Hotel

Lay of the Land

Gamla Stan: Eye-catching storefronts and authentic restaurants are set alongside 1500’s architecture on this medieval harbor island.

Norrmalm: Here you’ll find a concrete grid of 19th-century buildings occupied by creative offices and the central train station.

Östermalm: This part of the city center is full of luxury boutiques, of-the-moment bars, and venerable food halls.

Södermalm: A formerly working-class neighborhood, Södermalm is now gentrified but still replete with old-school cafés and shawarma stands.

Djurgården/Skeppsholmen: These verdant islands are home to acres of woods and gardens, in addition to a few lovely museums.

Getting Around

Taxi Stockholm and Taxi 020 are the most reliable cabs to hail. A Stockholm Card includes unlimited rides on buses and subways.


Our picks of Stockholm’s top hotels, from the classic to the cutting-edge.

Ett Hem: In the leafy Larkstaden district of Östermalm, this Ilse Crawford–​designed 12-room mansion is full of Midcentury Scandinavian furniture (Georg Jensen candlesticks; Gotland sheepskins), with art from the owner’s personal collection. Don’t miss breakfast in the living room, where blazing fires in kakelugn (traditional Swedish stoves) keep guests toasty. $$$

Grand Hôtel: Spread across three patrician buildings facing the Royal Palace, the Grand Hôtel has kept up with the times thanks to a killer bar scene and a world-class spa complete with saunas and plunge pools. In the renovated rooms, Neoclassical flourishes and vermilion sofas combined with Tiffany-blue walls toe the traditional line. $$$$

Lydmar Hotel: When local style-setter Pelle Lydmar’s hotel moved from a 1960’s building in Sturegatan to a 19th-century harborside edifice, it lost none of its cool. Each of the 46 rooms has complimentary films and impressive fine-art photography, while the haute-flea-market décor works even better against herringbone floors and soaring ceilings. On Saturdays, the restaurant is ground zero for Stockholm’s beau monde; book ahead. $$$$

Nobis Hotel: The interiors of two Industrial Revolution–​era buildings on Norrmalmstorg square have been restored by renowned design firm Claesson Koivissto Rune. The buff, gray, and white palette pairs well with the stripped-down but still elegant interiors (original windows and ironwork; veined-marble baths). Touches we love: the Orla Kiely toiletries and breathtaking domed atrium lounge. $$$$

Hotel Skeppsholmen: A pair of 17th-century buildings on the island of Skeppsholmen have been transformed into an eco-retreat with blond-wood floors and bathrooms featuring Boffi basins. On Sundays, the restaurant terrace serves a standout brunch with freshly baked bullar (sweet cinnamon-and-cardamom buns) and tranquil sea views. $$

Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000


The best Swedish housewares, accessories, and more.

Svenskt Tenn offers a beautifully curated, multilevel selection of delicate brass- and glassware, lighting, porcelain, furniture, and Josef Frank botanical prints. Sweden’s foremost purveyor of antique and Midcentury Scandinavian design, Modernity, carries ceramics by Danish designer Axel Salto and rare pieces by Poul Kjærholm. Fans of contemporary Nordic housewares will want to make a beeline for Nordiska Galleriet, an industrial-​style space filled with portable goods, from candlesticks to alpaca throws. The punchy, unstructured women’s pieces by Carin Rodebjer have earned her a cult following for over a decade. At Mood Stockholm, you’ll find cafés and stores including local indie brands Bönor & Blad and Supertrash. Two key addresses in Södermalm: Lisa Larsson Second Hand, for vintage dresses from the 1940’s to the 70’s, and Nitty Gritty Store, which stocks niche accessory labels such as Roman jewelers Iosselliani.

See + Do

Five cultural spots not to miss.

Artipelag: BabyBjörn founder Björn Jakobson built this soaring contemporary cultural venue amid grassy meadows on Värmdö island. The space has hosted performances by Sweden’s Royal Opera and rotating art exhibitions, among them a Candida Höfer retrospective.

Fotografiska: In a former customs house in Södermalm, this multipurpose photography museum debuted to instant acclaim: the opening show by Annie Liebovitz was followed by the likes of David LaChapelle and Roger Ballen. Find works of both emerging and established talents for sale in the small gallery and an impressive selection of monographs in the shop.

Moderna Museet: On Skeppsholmen Island, the Moderna Museet is a Rafael Moneo–designed art museum that has a permanent collection with blue-chip works by Francis Bacon, Matisse, and more, as well as many of their Swedish contemporaries.

Hagaparken: A 288-acre nature playground in Solna, Hagaparken has long housed Swedish royals, who have a residence here. On sunny Saturdays, locals come to run, row on the lake, or sunbathe on the great lawns.

Rosendals Trädgård: Originally created in 1817 as an English-style park, Rosendals, in Djurgården, is now a public experiment in organic food- and flora-growing (some of the city’s top chefs buy their produce here). It’s also a nice place to spend an afternoon—the rose garden holds nearly a hundred varieties, while the boutique sells artisanal jams.


Where to dine in Stockholm now.

Flying Elk: Björn Frantzén—already a culinary hero for his Michelin-two-starred Frantzén—has opened Stockholm’s first gastropub, whose offerings are not for the faint of heart: the wine bar’s “umami” sandwich (chicken confit with salted butter, chicken jus and soy sauce, fried oyster mushrooms, truffle, and Parmesan) is just one highlight. $$$$

Gastrologik: Two young chefs, Jacob Holmström and Anton Bjuhr, are the brains behind this New Nordic gem, where minimalist décor—Danish oak floors; copper pendant lamps—sets the stage for specialties such as foraged lichen and pine-scented sorbet. $$$$

Matbaren: This food bar at the Grand Hôtel packs all the gastronomic bells and whistles of Matsalen (its formal sibling next door) but with a more relaxed à la carte menu. The changing selections may include smoked-pork buns with spicy apple and pickled cucumber and seared king crab. On warm days, sit on the terrace overlooking the harbor. $$$$

Nytorget Urban Deli: On Södermalm’s prettiest square, this all-day restaurant and market is the favored hangout of the area’s chic bohemians. We love the pea-​soup-​and-pancake special, as well as the seafood platter, with smoked shrimp, cooked crab, oysters, lobster, and Kalix bleak roe. $$$

Oaxen Krog & Slip: For 17 years, chef Magnus Ek and Agneta Green ran one of Sweden’s finest restaurants, on the island of Oaxen. Last May, the pair relocated to Djurgården, where they opened Oaxen Krog, their high-end dining room, and Slip, a neighboring bistro. Dishes spotlight local ingredients (reindeer tartare with char roe). $$$$ (Krog); $$$ (Slip)

Operabaren: With its carved-wood ceiling and classic Swedish dishes (meatballs with potato purée and lingonberries), the 109-year-old Operabaren attracts politicos and stage luminaries. A covetable location behind the Royal Opera House completes the picture. $$$$

Taverna Brillo: The team from perennially hip Sturehof—the Odeon of Stockholm—recently debuted this casual Italian hot spot in Östermalm. Pizzas are crisp and laden with top-quality buffalo mozzarella (our pick: the fig-​porcini-prosciutto one); the spaghetti with Sardinian pork and chili is a revelation $$$

Volt: Radiohead on the stereo and modern furnishings add to the allure, but it’s the adventurous plates that make Volt one of Stockholm’s best restaurants. The understated menu includes dishes such as a delicate fillet of skrei (cod), served atop an emulsion of salsify alongside “burnt” bread. $$$$

Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150

Local Take

Three insiders share their go-to places in the city.

Ben Gorham

Founder, Byredo Parfums

A.W. Bauer & Co. is the only true bespoke tailor left in Scandinavia. It takes eight weeks to get a suit, but the shop also sells shirts, ties, and socks made in Scotland. At Artek, you’ll find timeless vintage furniture by Finnish master Alvar Aalto. Sneakersnstuff is a mecca for anyone who loves athletic shoes. Ingelsta Kalkon ($$) is great for lunch. It’s all turkey on the menu—get the grilled version with coleslaw.”

Ingmarie Halling

Curator, ABBA the Museum

“I love Restaurant J ($$$), in Nacka Strand, for its traditional kitchen and unique location along the harbor—it feels a bit like New Hampshire. Order the seafood platter with fresh lobster, shrimp, and oysters. In the summer, Djurgården is the place to hang out on weekends; locals go horseback riding and canoeing and for leisurely strolls along the water. ABBA fans won’t want to miss Ulla Winbladh ($$), an old tavern with a sunny terrace that the group often visited during their heyday.”

Mathias Dahlgren

Chef at the Michelin-starred Matsalen

“Because I work in fine dining, I look for something deliciously simple and quick when I eat out. At Ramen Ki-mama ($$$), near my home in Birkastan, I can order a bowl of ramen noodles in broth and be out in 30 minutes. I often stop by Amida Kolgrill ($$), in Södermalm, for its excellent shish kebab. Not far away is the boutique Cajsa Warg. Warg was like a mother of Swedish household cooking in the 18th century. This store sells beautiful artisanal foods and cookware.”

Worth a Detour

Sandhamm: Fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will recognize this seaside hamlet, a two-hour ferry ride from central Stockholm, as the favored retreat of protagonist Mikael Blomkvist. Summer weekenders gravitate to the islet’s gravel lanes and unspoiled beaches.

Drottningholm: Sweden’s stately 17th-century royal residence, on the shore of Lake Mälaren a few miles west of the city, is surrounded by acres of parks and has gilded halls and Baroque gardens inspired by Versailles.

Uppsala: An hour north of the capital, this university town charms day-trippers with its hilltop castle, soaring red-brick cathedral, riverside cafés, and botanical gardens with 1,300 species cultivated by botanist Carl Linnaeus.