Friday, August 19, 2011

11 museums to visit in Stockholm, Sweden when traveling with kids

In my experience, visiting museums with kids can be a hit and miss affair. Whether your children will like a certain museum or not obviously depends on their ages and personalities, and on the museum itself. My kids, 4 and 8 years old, still favor museums where they can interact with at least some of the exhibits (as in grab, touch, bang on, and try to break them...).

I've written about Stockholm on this blog before. It's a beautiful city with lots to do for families with kids of all ages. There's the Old Town, several castles, a big amusement park, lots of pretty little islands in the archipelago, many parks... and many interesting museums. Here are 11 museums in Sweden's capital, many with interactive exhibits and other kid-friendly features.

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1. Skansen
Skansen is an outdoor museum, zoo, petting zoo, and playground all rolled into one. You can learn about Swedish history, watch glassblowers or other crafts people, enjoy the special holiday events, or just walk around the grounds and watch the animals and historic buildings.

It's a great place to spend a day if the weather's good. And it's great for kids because of the variety of things to do, and because they get the chance to play outside. There are also several places for food and snacks throughout the grounds.

2. Junibacken
Junibacken is part museum and part amusement park, and is dedicated to Swedish author Astrid Lindgren and her storybook characters, including Pippi Longstocking. There are also exhibits about other authors famous for their children's books. There's a storybook train, activities and exhibitions, storybook characters, a children's restaurant and a bookstore.

3. Vasamuseet/The Vasa Museum
The Vasa Museum houses the remains of the royal ship Vasa. The ship was a royal mega-project that went horribly wrong when it sank in 1628, on its maiden voyage (it barely made it out of the harbor!). It was salvaged in 1961. It is an amazing sight and a must-see on most tourist itineraries in Stockholm.

There are some interactive exhibits geared for kids, and you can learn a lot about the history of the ship and the time in which it was built, but the main attraction is definitely the gigantic wreck itself.

4. National Museum of Science and Technology/Tekniska Museet
Tekniska museet is a  great place to visit with kids: there are lots of interactive exhibits and activities for kids. For example, there's a section called Teknorama where kids can try out various scientific experiments. There's also a "4D" movie theatre, a gift shop and a restaurant. Well worth a visit, even if your kids are too rambunctious for a "be quiet and don't touch anything!" museum.

5. Stockholm Slott/Stockholm Royal Palace
This massive building is located in the Old Town. You can tour some of the apartments and rooms, but the real fun, in my opinion, is to visit the Treasury, where the royal regalia is kept, and the Royal Armoury, both located in the vaults below the Palace

The exhibits and collections here are not very touchy-feely, but they are definitely royally impressive. It also makes a good stop if you're wandering around the Old Town, which you should do if you are visiting Stockholm!

6. Swedish Museum of Natural History/Naturhistoriska Museet
Naturhistoriska Museet is the place to go if you have dinosaur-crazy children. There are dino skeletons on display, and the museum also houses a wide range of other exhibitions, including ones about the geology, the human body, and the polar regions.

7. Aquaria Water Museum
Aquaria features exhibits about three water regions: the Amazon rain forest, tropical oceans, and Nordic waters. (The museum's own website is, unfortunately, all in Swedish.) There are lots of different kinds of fish and other ocean-dwelling creatures to see and learn about. Aquaria is marketed as a kid-friendly, educational experience, and also does tours for schools and preschools.

8. Medeltidsmuseum/Museum of Medieval Stockholm
Medeltidsmuseet is located in the Old Town. It features archaeological finds from Stockholm, and exhibits about Stockholm's history in the Middle Ages. It's a fascinating place, but might not be a hit with younger kids. I'd say tweens and teens might get a kick out of it though. Just like the Royal Palace, it makes for a nice "cultural" stop if you're wandering the Old Town.

My favorite thing: looking at the maps and models of Stockholm's Old Town in medieval times, and realizing how similar the place looks today. Many of the alleys and buildings are exactly the same as they were back then!

9. Museum of National Antiquities/Historiska Museet
This museum houses exhibits about Swedish history from the stone age and forward. If you and your kids are at all interested in the Viking age, then this is the place to go. Other exhibitions focus on the use of gold through history, the medieval church, and the lives of people in prehistoric Sweden.

Like many of the other museums, there are regular tours hosted by a museum guide, as well as portable audio guides that you can borrow to help you navigate the exhibits.

10. The Nobel Museum
The Nobel Museum houses exhibits that present and explain the findings and research of various Nobel Prize winners. I have not visited this museum myself, but it does sound interesting. For kids and families, there's the The Bubble Chamber, which is specifically geared towards kids 3-11 years old, featuring interactive exhibits, games and other activities.

This museum is located at Stortorget, in the Old Town: I will have to check it out on my next visit to Stockholm!

11. Kulturhuset/House of Culture
Kulturhuset is located in the very heart of Stockholm, next to the square Sergels torg, and is easily accessible by taking the subway to the stop T-Centralen. There's a restaurant, a library, and Serieteket, a special library dedicated to comic books and graphic novels. In the KidZone, kids can do crafts, read, listen to stories, play or just hang out. Older kids might enjoy hanging out at Lava.

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