Stockholm is one of my favorite European cities.
The typical response when I tell people that they should check it out is "Stockholm. Really? Why?" Because it's easy, there are a lot of things to do, and it's a beautiful city.
Stockholm is the first European city I ever visited and I've had quite a few "firsts" in Sweden, for example; Skiing, Hot Air Ballooning, and navigating a subway, just to name a few.
So, if someone were to ask me what they should do while in Stockholm, without giving them an exhaustive list, I would give the following Top 5 recommendations.
1) Gamla Stan:
Stockholm's Old Town is a must. This is one of my favorite areas. Its cobblestone streets are lined with boutiques selling traditional Swedish clothing, candy and ice cream shops, cafes, souvenir stands, and even a 7-11. However, modernity does not take away from the feeling that you’ve immersed yourself in medieval history. Make sure to take the 36 steep steps down the narrowest alley way in Stockholm – Mårten Trotzigs Gränd. If you stretch out your arms you can touch the buildings on both sides.
2) Stockholm Walking Tour:
This is a great city to just get out and meander around. It is an active city, that's easy to navigate. Whether summer or winter you will find the locals out and about. Self-Guided walking tours can be broken down by district. I suggest the following districts;
Norrmalm: This is central Stockholm with its many shops, market squares, and the city's cultural hub where Modern Stockholm meets Old Stockholm.
Södermalm: If you're a fan of the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the Millennium Trilogy, then you definitely want to peruse around the neighborhood that Stieg Larsson brought to life. You could tie in a walking tour of Södermalm with a visit to Gamla Stan. The Stockholm City Museum conducts guided tours during the summer or you can purchase the map and do your own self-guided tour.
Djurgården: The home to several of the city's best museums, galleries, Gröna Lund (an amusement park), and Skansen (an open air museum). Like a calm oasis, this lush island is great for leisurely walks, and picnics.
3) Metro Art Tour:
They call it the "World's Longest Art Exhibition." And, they may be right. Art first starting appearing in the Metro (subway) stations in 1957, with the first station being T-Centralen. Today the metro features over 150 artists in more than 90 stations. The unknowing person may not even notice the art, but if you look, it's everywhere from the engraved cement slabs in T-Centralen to the "UN Declaration of Human Rights", tiled murals on the walls behind the tracks of Universitetet. A one hour tour is offered every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 3:00PM (in English) and it's free with a valid metro ticket.
4) Hot Air Balloon Ride:
If you really want to take in the beauty of this city, you got to take to the air. Simply put, this is an awesome experience. From the pre-flight preparations, to the celebratory champagne at the end of the ride, and the actually balloon ride in between; it's all good. This is a must do experience. I recommend Far & Flyg, Sweden’s oldest and most experienced ballooning company with thousands of ascents since opening in 1981. They even give you a cool diploma to commemorate the event at the end of the flight. :)
5) Ice Bar Stockholm:
The country that gives you the IceHotel, has to have an IceBar. IceBar Stockholm is the first permanent IceBar. 100% of the clear ice that makes up the interior is from the Torne River in Sweden's Lappland. Kept at -5°C (23?) everything that can be made from ice, is ice; from the walls to the seats, to the drinking glasses. The atmosphere is laid back, and the drinks are chilled (obviously) and oh so good.
Written and contributed by Black Chick On Tour