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Friday, February 11, 2011

10 fun things to do in Stockholm, Sweden when traveling with kids

I might be biased since I grew up in Sweden, but I think it can be a great place to visit when you're traveling with kids.

View of Stockholm on our last visit: a very rainy day.
Of course, it is not the cheapest place to go, but it does have other things going for it. English-speaking visitors will find that lots of people here speak and understand English. Sweden is also a kid-friendly country overall with lots of playgrounds, kids' menus at many restaurants, lots of attractions for children, and there are often change tables and other baby-friendly facilities in public bathrooms.

Stockholm is the place most foreign visitors to Sweden end up going to, and there are lots of things to do for kids as well as adults in this city. Just get yourself a good map and explore! Stockholm is small enough to easily get around on foot, by bus or subway, or by boat.

Here, listed in no particular order, are 10 great destinations in and around Stockholm when you're traveling with kids:

Gröna Lund.

1. Gröna Lund
This is a big fairground with tons of rides, games, and activities. Gröna Lund is located right on the waterfront on Djurgården island, and you can reach it easily by bus, tram or ferry. It is open for business May-September, and offers special deals on passes for smaller kids.

For a fairground treat, try one of the many varieties of Swedish ice cream, sockervadd (cotton candy), or varmkorv (hot dogs) either served on a bun or on a bed of mashed potatoes.

2. The Wasa Museum
This museum is the home of the royal ship Wasa, which sunk on its maiden voyage in 1628 and was raised from the water outside Stockholm in 1961. There are lots of kid-friendly interactive exhibits here, and lots of  things to look at including the bronze cannons the ship was equipped with.

The ship sank because the king of Sweden insisted on putting too many cannons on it, a fact that makes my Canadian husband laugh every time the Wasa ship is mentioned. Why all this national pride in an artifact that shows off flawed shipbuilding technique and royal idiocy? he wonders. Fair enough, but the ship itself is a pretty cool sight, preserved here in all its massive glory, if lacking the gold leaf and scarlet paint it was decorated with when it first set sail.

3. Skansen
Skansen is a must-see if you're traveling with kids to Stockholm. It has a small amusement park for kids, pony rides, a petting zoo, and a "big" zoo featuring wild animals, mainly those native to Sweden, and farm animals.

There is also a tropical exhibit, called Skansen Akvariet, with monkeys, lemurs, snakes, spiders, insects, fish, and lots of other creatures. (My children were fascinated by the rat exhibit last time we were there, maybe because they had just watched Pixar's Ratatouille.) The pygmy marmosets are way cuter though.

Skansen is also an "outdoor museum" with lots of traditional Swedish buildings where various traditional crafts are made and displayed, for example the glass work shop where you can see glassblowers at work. 

4. Naturhistoriska Museet/Museum of Natural History
This museum has Sweden's only IMAX theatre, called Cosmonova, and can definitely be a good place to go with kids if there's a rainy or snow day you want to spend inside. This is also the place to go with kids who love dinosaurs with lots of dino skeletons and replicas. Other exhibits focus on life in the Polar regions, the human body, and human evolution. 

5. Tekniska Museet
This is Stockholm's "Museum of Technology", and it is a great museum for kids because they are actually allowed and even encouraged to touch and interact with many of the exhibits. There's a 4D cinema, and in the Teknorama exhibit kids get to play and try out a large variety of scientific activities and experiments.

A much more relaxing place for parents than many other museums where you spend much of your visit reminding the kids not to talk too loud or touch anything.

6. Gamla Stan/Old Town
The Old Town is a must-see if you're in Stockholm.

This part of the city essentially looks exactly like it did in medieval times, with many of the same churches, buildings and narrow, winding cobble-stoned alleys. It's a good place for a walk, though somewhat bumpy for strollers, and there are lots of little shops to keep the whole family busy.

If your kids are not interested in the souvenir shops, or if you start feeling slightly queasy after over-dosing on all the trolls, knit sweaters, dalahästar, silver jewelry, Swedish flags, and cheesy viking knick-knacks, there are plenty of places to stop for ice cream, sandwiches, coffee and pastries, or a nice meal.

There are also many candy shops. Candy shops are very common in Sweden, including in Gamla Stan. In these shops you will find a never-ending supply of different kinds of candy ("godis" in Swedish), including Swedish specialties like salty licorice, polkagrisar (striped red and white pepper-mint candy), kokosbollar (similar to a big, creamy marshmallow dipped in chocolate and shredded coconut), and gigantic striped lollipops. 

7. Visit a park
I love parks, just can't help it. I find them really relaxing, especially when you're traveling with children. Any big city I visit, I will look for a good park to go for a walk with my kids. There are lots of parks around Stockholm, and they can be a great place for kids to just run around or fall asleep in the stroller while you're going for a walk or stopping for a snack or coffee. Kungsträdgården is located right in the middle of Stockholm, and there is also lots of park-land in the Djurgården area, close to Skansen and Gröna Lund.

Rainy Stockholm.
8. Take a boat trip
There is lots of water in Stockholm, and much of the city is built on 14 different islands, connected by bridges, the subway, and ferries. Taking the ferry to or from Djurgården is a nice trip with kids, and there are also lots of sightseeing trips you can do by boat around the city. I highly recommend these boat trips if you want to do a sightseeing tour: in my opinion it's more fun for kids and adults to see the city by boat than by bus.

Check current schedules and pricing with your hotel or the tourist information office. You can also take a ferry to explore the archipelago outside Stockholm, which is a beautiful trip to do, especially in summer. 

Pippi Longstocking -The TV Series9. Junibacken
Junibacken is sort of a Swedish, small-scale version of Disneyland. It's the place to go to meet the characters from the famous and extremely popular Swedish author Astrid Lindgren's books. Outside of Sweden, she's probably mostly known for Pippi Longstocking, but she wrote many, many wonderful books for children and here they're all put on display in real life. There's Storybook Square, where many of the characters from Lindgren's books live, there's a guided train tour, and you can visit Villa Villekulla, Pippi's house. 

10. Aquaria
This is one place I have not been to myself, so I'm not sure how good it is, but it looks rather impressive on the website (which is unfortunately all in Swedish...). It's located on Djurgården, right next to Gröna Lund where the ferry comes in from downtown Stockholm, so it's very easy to get to. Aquaria's website says that they have exhibits featuring the tropical rain forest, tropical ocean environments, and Nordic aquatic life.

I hope to check this place out in person with the kids on my next visit to Stockholm!


  1. Thanks for this post. I am travelling to Stockholm with my husband and 2 year old. I am slightly worried as it is her first trip aboard but it should be fine. We would usually stay at home but I do not really want to not see my husband for 8 months! We are lucky to be staying in a stockholm serviced apartment so hopefully it will feel just like home. But I just know I am going to get bored during the day! This list is a great collection of ideas - so thanks! :)

  2. I'm sure you'll have a great time! It's a very nice city! :)

  3. Thanks for a well put together guide. Currently in Stockholm for first time with my nephews and found this honest and very helpful!

    1. Thank you! Great to hear you found some useful tips here! It's a great city.

  4. Aquaria was fun, but disappointingly small. Also beware of the cockroaches, which are EVERYWHERE In there (probably due to their rainforest recreation), when we left with the kids I babysit for there were cockroaches hiding in their gloves and hoods in their jackets. BE CAREFUL not to take them home.

    1. Ooo, that sounds a little dicey! Not a fan of roaches for any reason, and would prefer to see them behind glass!

  5. I think that your list is spot on in terms of the "big" top ten. If anyone fancies something off the beaten track however I can heartily recommended Järvafältet nature reserve and its cafe and visiting farm in the northern suburbs of Stockholm. It's only 15 minutes by car on the E4 or 15 minutes on the commuter train out of Stockholm central. It's a little quieter compared to the big tourist attractions, but it's absolutely fantastic for kids and families, and they do the BEST prawn and eggs sandwich around in my opinion. Details here:

    1. Great tip! And yes, this is definitely the big ten. So many great off-the-beaten-track spots in Stockholm too!

  6. Hello, can anybody help me telling if there are any Summer English courses for a 8 years old child? I am not able to find many info online, thank you


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