No trip to Stockholm is complete with a visit to the archipelago. Let me guide you to some of my favourite spots…
“Stockholm i mitt hjärta, Stockholm in my heart — a city of islands, that is you.” Those are the words by Lasse Berghagen that fill the air every Tuesday summer night as thousands of people, gathered at open air museum Skansenfor the popular singalong TV show Allsång på Skansen, take tune. As their words travel across the bay below, the cameras pan over the stunning water landscape and one wonders if the melody manages to reach all of the 14 islands that make up the capital of Scandinavia — or indeed the patchwork of 30,000 islands that spread out beyond that.
Stockholm is beautiful any time of the year, but the magical, seemingly endless, summer light sees the capital come to life more than ever — and at this time of the year there is only one place to be. Outside.
Whether it’s a walk through the national park and museum island of Royal Djurgården or a stroll along the picturesque Söder Mälarstrand, a run along Årstaviken or a panoramic tour of Fjällgatan, the inner city waterfront views are breathtaking. However, a summer trip to Stockholm is not complete without a trip to skärgården, the archipelago.
To explore the 30,000 islands that make up the Stockholm archipelago (all accessible thanks to the Swedish Right To Roam), simply hop on a traditional white, wooden boat from Waxholmsbolaget or a speedier Cinderella ferry from Strömma. Once on board, the archipelago world is your oyster.
Where to go? Here are a few suggestions.
Fjäderholmarna is a good start. Located 30 minutes from Stockholm’s Nybrokajen, this cluster of islands is the closest archipelago destination and it offers both beautiful countryside and bustling town life. Here you can explore traditional handicraft, sample beer at the local brewery, try handmade sweets at the chocolate factory and indulge in delicious ice cream from Systrana Degens Glassstuga. Once you’ve tasted what the town has to offer, why not stroll along the beaches, take a dip in the sea and spend the evening unwinding with a glass of wine and fresh seafood at one of the many restaurants? Life could be worse.
Waxholm is without a doubt the capital of the archipelago. Complete with its own castle, built in 1549 to defend King Gustaf Vasa, this historic old town comes with pastel-coloured houses, art, shopping and good food. It’s a great option if you want to mix nature with culture and it is also accessible via car or bus, should you prefer getting around on land.
Grinda sits at the heart of the archipelago and is an island that, located about an hour from Stockholm, just epitomises serene Swedish countryside. Step back in time as you step off the boat and find yourself in a nature reserve decorated with idyllic, old-school red and yellow houses, wild nature and beautiful beaches. The art nouvaeu style Grinda Wärdshus restaurant is open weekends and holidays and you will not struggle to find a blissful place to picnic on the rest of Grinda. Just lush.
Möja is the spot for the active traveller. Ideal if you want to do more than just chill by the beach, this large island is well suited for bike trips and day hikes — and do make sure you climb to the top of Vårdkaseberget and enjoy a stunning view of the surrounding scenery. Beaches are less accessible here, so it’s not necessarily one for swimming, but you can eat freshly caught seafood at Wikströms Fisk, a tavern run by the archipelago’s only professional fisherman.
Sandhamn is a well-known, idyllic harbour and popular destination for big yachts and their owners. Located about an hour from Stockholm city, Sandhamn offers sandy beaches (as indicated by the name — it literally means Sand Harbour), bike trails, kayaking and spa, not to mention plenty of restaurants and bars; this is without a doubt the party central of the archipelago.
Finnhamn is your destination if you want to see more of the archipelago as part of your trip. Getting here takes about 2.5 hours by boat so you want to set off in time — but what a journey it is. Expect plenty of photo opportunities on board, and do try to get a good seat outside if the weather is nice; there are few things as peaceful as tanning on a boat gliding through skärgården. (Though it can get windy so do pack a jumper in case.) Bring a picnic blanket, snacks and bikini for a day of ultimate relaxation — once on the island you will find perfect trekking conditions and many a private bay to picnic, tan and swim. Just don’t miss the last boat back, though if you do you can always stay overnight at the local hostel.
Utö, meaning Outer Island, sits farthest out in the Southern part of the archipelago and so offers a very wild, natural experience. A visit here is all about enjoying the elements. Renowned for the many hours of sunshine that it gets, the island serves up white sand beaches, cliffs and various sporting opportunities including canoeing, biking, tennis, beach volleyball and boules. Hike around the island and get the best view from the 18th Century windmill.
As you can tell there is plenty of option in the Stockholm archipelago, but regardless of your choice, you will find yourself unwinding with every breath of fresh sea air — and returning back home you may just find yourself singing about your love for Stockholm…
For more information about Stockholm archipelago, or Stockholm in general, see visitstockholm.com. #SwedenYoureWelcome