Built on 14 major islands, Stockholm is an exceptionally attractive city at the juncture of Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea. The city’s Old Town is a maze of narrow medieval streets and baroque palaces, while elsewhere the architecture ranges from the 18th-century Royal Palace to the Rafael Moneo-designed Museum of Modern Art. Djurgården, the “Royal Game Park,” is a leafy oasis.
Stureplan and Kungsgatan are Stockholm’s main entertainment districts — home to many of its dozens of theaters and performance venues — and Södermalm, an island south of the city center, is a hotbed of fashion. Skeppsholmen island, home to Stockholm’s principal contemporary-art museum, is positioned at the city’s Baltic Sea entrance.
Despite being surrounded by the city and connected to its center by a bridge, it is a peaceful place with no major roads and few cars. Stockholm’s restaurants have been leaders in the global “fresh and local” food revolution.
Stockholm has one of Europe’s most unusual and impressive attractions, the Vasa (Galärvarvsvägen 14), a salvaged 17th-century warship that sank in the harbor on its maiden voyage. The vessel, in startlingly good condition, is covered with elaborate woodcarvings.
On the same island as the Vasa, the Rosendal Botanical Gardens spreads out beneath the pink Rosendal Palace. Fruit trees stand among tidy beds of organic vegetables and flowers, which eventually appear on the menu of the gardens’ casual café. Produce from the gardens also finds its way into the kitchens of top Stockholm restaurants such as Gastrologik.
It is worth adding a day to your itinerary to cruise through the Stockholm archipelago to Drottningholm Palace, Sweden’s Schönbrunn. The royal family still resides in this elegant 17th-century palace surrounded by formal gardens.
For panoramic views of the city, walk along the Monteliusvägen path on Södermalm, a short distance from the southern end of Gamla Stan. Nearby, the streets around Mariatorget are lined with independent boutiques and restaurants.