A Weekend Guide to Stockholm and Uppsala

When you think of Sweden, what springs to mind? Beautiful Nordic blondes? Stupidly expensive beer? Arctic conditions? ABBA? All of these are correct assumptions, but this beautiful city and fascinating country have so much more to offer than sculpted cheekbones, high prices, snow and cheesy 80s pop music. Here is a quick guide on when to go and what to do in Stockholm, the perfect place for a weekend getaway at any time of year!

When to Visit

Stockholm can be visited and enjoyed throughout the year. In summer, relatively high temperatures (around the low to mid 20s) and beautiful sunshine (if you’re lucky) are a great contrast to the cold of winter, which the Swedes take full advantage of, with abundant swimming and boating opportunities around Stockholm which is surrounded by water, and a little way east, you can find thousands of mini islands to explore that make up the stunning Stockholm archipelago. Autumn sees Sweden turn into an oasis of golden hues and falling leaves whilst spring sees the city flowering and blossoming as the temperatures get warmer. Winter, though it can be harsh, doesn’t hit Stockholm as badly as much of the north of Sweden and can be a beautiful time to experience the city; the short, cold days combined with cosy lights and Christmas markets make you feel like you’re in a Christmas wonderland, and provides the perfect opportunity to wrap up warm and enjoy ‘fika’ (coffee and cake) in one of Gamla Stan’s many adorable cafes. Whichever time of year you decide they’ll be so much to do and each season will give you a unique perspective on different aspects of Swedish life.

Flights from Bristol start at £60 return with Easyjet but you can also go from Heathrow and Gatwick. Try to fly into Stockholm Arlanda as this is the closest to the city, but you may get a better deal going to one of the slightly further out airports – just remember to look at the cost of a transfer to the city!

What to Do

Stockholm is made up of loads of different islands, each with their own unique feel. Gamla Stan is the medieval old town; this is where you’ll find the palace, parliament and the cathedral, as well as beautiful cobbled streets and squares full of cute little shops, cafés and bars. This is also the most touristy area so can get busy and expensive, but you can enjoy an afternoon just getting lost in the little side streets and instagramming the beautifully coloured buildings! North of Gamla Stan is Norrmalm where you’ll find plenty of high street shopping, restaurants, pubs and museums, and this is also where the station is located, and to the east, Östermalm is home to the most upmarket shops, nightclubs and bars. Djurgården is a green oasis filled with beautiful walking and cycling paths, which can be reached by boat from Gamla Stan or foot via Östermalm. Here, you will find many of Stockholm’s top attractions including the Vasa Museum (home to a fully preserved 17th century warship, £11), Skansen (an open-air museum showcasing traditional Swedish buildings, farms and culture, £16), the Grona Lund theme park and the infamous ABBA museum which showcases the band’s rise to fame and includes karaoke!! (£25) Finally, south of Gamla Stan is Södermalm, the ‘hipster’ area of Stockholm which has some of the best places to eat, drink and dance in the city, and can sometimes be a bit cheaper than the other islands! It also has the renowned and highly recommended photography museum and some fantastic views of the north of the city either along the road towards the ferry port, or you can head to the hill near ‘Zinkensamm’ metro station for some amazing views over the west of the city, which is absolutely beautiful in the sunshine!

Eat/Drink

Yes, Sweden is expensive. Yes, Stockholm is a capital city just like London or Paris. But this doesn’t mean that eating out must break the bank. Most touristy restaurants in Gamla Stan will do lunchtime deals or you can head to Sodermalm, the ‘hipster’ district, to find every type of cuisine. Restaurants such as ‘Chutney’ offer a choice of four vegetarian meals with unlimited salad, tea, coffee and bread for only 100kr (approximately £9.50) at lunchtime. Bars are also expensive and you’re looking at £8 for a pint or glass of wine, but around the station there are some cheaper spots (apparently ‘Lion Bar’ does pints for £3!).

Uppsala

If you are staying in Stockholm longer than the weekend, a trip to Uppsala, the beautiful university city located only 40 minutes outside of Stockholm, would make a perfect day trip. Simply hop on the SJ train to Uppsala (running every twenty minutes, taking approximately 35 minutes – the SL commuter train takes longer and is slightly more expensive) for approximately £18 return. If the timings work out, there is also ‘Flixbus’ that travels between the two and also stops at Arlanda airport costing £2.90 each way but the timings can be awkward and infrequent. When you arrive at Central Station, head straight down to the river, cross over and head up castle hill. See the historic 16th century pink castle and marvel at the views from the top that give you unrivalled views of Uppsala and the surrounding countryside (look out for IKEA!). From the castle, head down through the Botanical Gardens and then make your way to the stunning Cathedral, the oldest and most important in Sweden through Carolinaparken – in the autumn the floor is blanketed in leaves and this park provides a thoroughfare for the city’s students and academics. Go via the front of Carolina Redviva library and see the view down through the city. The Cathedral is free to enter and is an incredible and fascinating symbol of Uppsala and Sweden’s history and Lutheran faith. Uppsala has a wealth of museums which reflect its academic heritage, such as Uplands museum, which gives a history of the area, of the Gustavian museum which houses exhibitions on mummies, Vikings and has an old operating theatre at the top; alternatively, meander around the shops and cosy up in an adorable café such as Storken or Linné and enjoy coffee and a traditional Swedish kladkakka (mud cake), chocolate ball or kanelbullar (cinnamon bun!) if you’re there in the summer, sit outside on the pavement or go to Café Arummet which has seats across the road by the river!

Whatever you decide to do, Stockholm and Sweden offer so much food, beauty and culture so wrap up warm and come and explore the ‘goodest’ nation on Earth!