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11 Best Things to Do in Gamla Stan (Stockholm’s Old Town)

Winding cobblestone streets, ancient churches, medieval squares – even a royal palace.

It’s all here in Gamla Stan (Stockholm Old Town).

Dating back to 1252, Gamla Stan is one of the biggest and best preserved medieval centers in Europe.

Needless to say, there are many interesting things to do in Gamla Stan.

The best way to take in these delightful Gamla Stan attractions is to walk this historic area in central Stockholm.

Things to Do in Gamla Stan
What to see in Stockholm? Gamla Stan Old Town, of course!

Best things to do in Gamla Stan, Stockholm

We’d flown into Stockholm for a Baltic cruise a few days earlier so we could enjoy some “pre-cruise” time exploring the city.

We’d read that walking around Gamla Stan is a must-do in Stockholm. So off we went!

We tried to follow Rick Steves’ Stockholm walking tour of Gamla Stan. We got lost anyway – just as we have in other higgledy-piggledy medieval towns like tiny Trogir and the 1,700-year-old palace city of Split (both in Croatia).

But, for us, getting lost is part of the fun of exploring these old European towns.

(If you don’t want to get lost, you can take a guided walking tour. Scroll down #7 on guided walking tours for details.)

In the end, it didn’t matter.

Gamla Stan is sufficiently compact – and visually rich – that it didn’t bother us if we had to retrace our footsteps a few times.

Here, then, are 11 fun things to do in Gamla Stan (and sights to see):

1) People-watch in Stortorget

One of the best things to do in Gamla Stan is simple - sit in Stortorget Square and enjoy the people-watching.
One of the best things to do in Gamla Stan is simple – sit in Stortorget Square and enjoy the people-watching

Stortorget (or “the Big Square”) is the main square (and oldest square) in Stockholm.

It’s lined by beautiful buildings and houses dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, once owned by wealthy merchants.

The cafés around this Gamla Stan square make good people watching spots. As do the many benches which invite you to plop yourself down and soak up the atmosphere…

2) Squeeze through the Alley of Marten Trotzig

How skinny can a street be? Pretty skinny!

Alley of Marten Trotzig, Gamla Stan
Yes, this is one skinny alley!

The “Alley of Marten Trotzig” (Marten Trotzigs grand) is the narrowest street in Stockholm – a mere 35 inches wide.

It consists of 36 steps, which get narrower and narrower as they lead to the top of the alley.

The alley is named after Marten Trotzig (1559 to 1617), who became one of Stockholm’s richest merchants. (Unfortunately, being rich was not enough to protect him from being beaten to death.)

The alley is definitely one of the coolest things to see in Gamla Stan!

3) Tour Stockholm’s Royal Palace

Built in Baroque style, the 18th century Swedish Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet) is the official residence of the Swedish monarchy.

Reigning over the north end of Gamla Stan, it’s one of Europe’s largest palaces.

Stockholm Royal Palace
The impressive Royal Palace in Gamla Stan is one of Europe’s biggest palaces

The Queen and King of Sweden carry out ceremonial and official duties here. But many rooms are open to the public, including several museums.

When wondering what to do in Gamla Stan, it’s worth building in some time to see some of these museums.

The Royal Armory (or Museum of Swedish Royal History), for example, contains more than 30,000 artifacts. Royal costumes, parade armor, ceremonial coaches and the like in this collection have been on public display for visitors since the 17th century.

The splendid interiors of the Royal Apartments and reception rooms are worth a look too. In the Hall of State, don’t miss the precious silver throne created for Queen Christina’s coronation in 1650.

You’ll also want to catch the daily changing of the guard outside. It’s quite a show-stopper.

4) Admire the Storkyrkan (Stockholm Cathedral)

Storkyrkan
This church has several names: Storkyrkan, Stockholm Cathedral and the Church of St. Nicholas

Near the Royal Palace, Storkyrkan (literally “the Great Church”) has been around for as long as Stockholm – making it the oldest church in the capital city.

Built in 1279, Stockholm’s medieval cathedral is home to fascinating artifacts like the wooden sculpture of St. George and the Dragon.

On top is the clock tower, built in 1743 – at 216 feet tall, it’s hard to miss! If you need to orient yourself in Gamla Stan, just look up for the Storkyrkan clock tower

5) Visit Sweden’s Parliament House

Stockholm's Parliament building is a massive structure, built by the water
Stockholm’s Parliament House is a massive structure, built by the water

Another one of the top places to visit in Gamla Stan is the majestic Swedish Parliament building (Riksdag).

Built in neoclassical style between 1897 and 1905, the waterfront building blends history with regal architecture.

The Parliament is open to anyone who wants to catch a debate or public hearing – and glimpse democracy in action!

6) See the Nobel Prize Museum

Housed in the former Stock Exchange Building, the Nobel Prize Museum (or Nobel Museum) opened in 2001 for the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize.

Entrance to the Nobel Prize Museum, Stockholm
The Nobel Prize Museum is inspiring, to say the least!

See a handwritten manuscript by Albert Einstein. Watch short documentaries on some of the Nobel Laureates. And learn about the life of Alfred Nobel and the history of the Nobel prizes.

Some of the interesting facts you’ll learn in this small museum?

Recent prizes have been worth more than $1 million in today’s money.

The gold medals themselves are sometimes worth far more. The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize gold medal to Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, for example, was auctioned for $103.5 million (with the money going to UNICEF).

7) Take a guided walking tour of Gamla Stan

One of the best ways to acquaint yourself with Gamla Stan is to go on a guided walking tour.

Free walking tour of Gamla Stan

Several tour companies offer free Gamla Stan walking tours.

The idea is that hopefully you’ll pay the guide what you think the tour is worth at the end.

Everywhere you look in Gamla Stan, there's something interesting to see.
Everywhere you look in Gamla Stan, there’s something interesting to see

The tours range from 90 minutes to 2 hours, and they’re given in English. You need to reserve your guided Stockholm Old Town walk in advance.

See these companies for a free guided tour:

Old Town Stockholm
The Old Town is full or color and charm

Paid guided walking tours in Gamla Stan

If you’d prefer go on a fixed-cost tour of the must-visit places in Stockholm in Gamla Stan (so you know what to pay), there are some great options.

  • Inexpensive group tour: This 5-star-rated walking tour is ideal for introducing you to Swedish culture and history if you’re visiting Stockholm for the first time. The 2½ hour tour is inexpensive, though top-notch. (It’s offered by Rainbow Tours, mentioned above.)
  • Small-group tour: To go in a small group (limited to 10 participants), see this historical walking tour.
  • Private tour: If you’re travelling with family or friends, here’s an excellent private walking tour of the historic Old Town. (You can choose a guide who speaks German, Spanish, French, Italian or English.)

Walking food tours

Maybe you’d like to combine an Old Town walking tour with a food tasting tour?

  • Nordic food walk: Sample Swedish meatballs and polkagris (traditional Swedish candies), and also explore Stockholm’s oldest food hall, on this top-notch guided 4-hour Nordic food walk. The group size is capped at 12 people.
  • Stockholm culinary walking tour: Pop into 7 local restaurants on this 4-hour Stockholm culinary tour, and learn about Swedish cuisine and culture along the way.

8) Browse for moose memorabilia

Apparently there are more moose per square mile in Sweden than in any other country.

That probably accounts for why moose memorabilia are popular as souvenirs – like this blanket decorated with moose pictures.

Red blanket decorated with moose
Who wants a moose-decorated blanket?

If you’re moose-mad, you’ll have fun doing a little Gamla Stan shopping, checking out all the moose-themed souvenirs.

9) Gawk at all the bicycles

Bicycling in Stockholm
With over 470 miles of bicyle paths, Stockholm is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities!

Gamla Stan itself is more geared to walking, but the Swedish capital in general is quite bicycle-friendly.

It’s fun to see all the bicycles people wheel around.

10) Stop for fika

Another one of the best things to do in Old Town Stockholm is to indulge in the Swedish custom of fika.

Cinnamon rolls for Swedish fika
Warm fresh-baked cinnamon rolls at a Gamla Stan cafe

Fika (pronounced “fee-ka”) is Swedish for taking a break for coffee and a pastry, perhaps a cinnamon roll or vanilla bun. Swedes typically enjoy this ritual coffee break twice a day – once mid-morning and again in the afternoon about 3:00 pm.

Of course, we indulged in the Swedish custom too and stopped for fika while walking Gamla Stan.

Fika in Sweden
Taking a break for Swedish fika

11) Eat at one of the great restaurants in Gamla Stan

Speaking of eating and drinking, there are plenty of eateries in the Old Town if you want more than just fika.

A restaurant in Gamla Stan down a cobblestoned side-street
A restaurant in Gamla Stan down a cobblestoned side-street

Try these tempting Gamla Stan restaurants:

  • Skeppsbron 10: A great place for fine dining in Old Town Stockholm
  • Barrels Burgers and Beers: A popular spot for juicy burgers and, you guessed it, a great choice of beers!
  • Tradition: A quaint little gem serving traditional Swedish classics (meatballs or toast Skagen, anyone?)

Other fun things to do in Stockholm

Sweden's capital city is made up of 14 islands, and there are lots of beautiful places to visit in Stockholm!
Sweden’s capital city is made up of 14 islands, and there are lots of beautiful places to visit in Stockholm!

Stockholm Go City Pass

You might want to buy a Stockholm Go City Pass.

This is a sightseeing city card that gives you free entry to over 45 Stockholm attractions, museums and tours. It’s good value if you plan on doing a fair bit of sightseeing in Stockholm.

We used the card to visit:

The 17th century Vasa warship in the Vasa Museum
The 17th century Vasa warship in the Vasa Museum (it’s the actual ship, not a replica)

Some other popular tours and places to visit in Stockholm where you can use the card for free admission include:

  • The Viking Museum
  • Hop-on/Hop-off bus tour
  • Royal Canal tour
  • Storkyrkan Cathedral (#4 above in Gamla Stan)

Stockholm attractions and tours (no Stockholm Pass)

If you prefer not to get the Stockholm Pass, here are more suggestions for what to do in Stockholm after visiting Gamla Stan and Drottningholm Palace:

Where to stay in Stockholm

Overlooking one of Stockholm’s harbors, our base was the Hotel Diplomat Stockholm, originally built in 1911 as an Art Nouveau palace – lovely!

See our review of the Hotel Diplomat.

Stockholm travel tips

Best time to visit Stockholm?

We were fortunate we were visiting in September, at the end of Stockholm’s tourist season.

We didn’t encounter the crowds we understand can gather in the summer months. Can’t blame them though… With its lakes and fingers of waterways, Stockholm is crazily beautiful.

It’s no wonder people want to visit!

Bottom line?

If you can, don’t visit in July or August. While the weather is dry and warm in high summer, prices are the highest and it’s very busy too.

To avoid hordes of tourists, the best time to go to Stockholm is June and September.

Stockholm
Stockholm is a fabulous European city, but it’s busy in summer!

Stockholm airport transfers

Private car transfers

We pre-booked a chauffeur-driven car with Blacklane to take us from the airport to our hotel. Blacklane is a professional driver service that contracts with a network of licensed drivers in over 50 countries.

Surprisingly, the rate was only slightly more than what a taxi would have cost, but we had the added comfort of being met at the airport in a strange city.

Airport train transfer

A very convenient way to get from the Stockholm Arlanda Airport to the city center is by train on the non-stop Arlanda Express. The train ride is just under 20 minutes.

You can get your train transfers here.

Stockholm visitor information

For more on what to do in Stockholm, see Visit Stockholm, the official tourist information website.

That wraps up our guide on what to do in Old Town Stockholm!

So there you have it – our whirlwind tour of Gamla Stan, where every twist and turn through the narrow cobblestone streets unveils a new surprise.

From its colorful buildings to whispers of the Middle Ages lingering in the air, this charming district is a must-see in Stockholm.

We couldn’t get enough of it. We’re sure you’ll love your visit to Gamla Stan too!

Experience more of Europe!

Bonn (Germany): From visiting Beethoven’s house to ogling the pretty Poppelsdorf Palace, you’ll love these delightful things to do in Bonn.

Dubrovnik (Croatia): Get high and walk the Dubrovnik city walls!

Porto (Portugal): Is Porto worth visiting? Absolutely! (Especially if you read our tips on how to avoid the crowds)

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

Pssst! If you make a booking or purchase through our site, we may earn a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks!


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Best things to do in Gamla Stan

Photo credits: 3, 5 to 7, 9, 12, 14 to 18 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase


About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Denise Brownell

Thursday 27th of July 2017

I will book mark this article for my upcoming trip. We are also departing from Stockholm for a Baltic Cruise. Gamla Stan sounds like a perfect day 1 after overnight flight...........and Fika will help!

Janice and George

Friday 28th of July 2017

The "fika" will definitely help after flying overnight to get to Stockholm! Have a fabulous Baltic cruise!

Anda

Sunday 6th of November 2016

I liked Stockholm way more than I expected, Gamla Stan in particular. We were very lucky with the weather too. It was just perfect. The little cafés around Stortorget were my favorite place for ice cream and people watching. So much to see and photograph all around the Old Town and the port area.

Janice and George

Sunday 6th of November 2016

The weather can make a big difference to one's perception of a place - glad you had good weather too :-). And, yes, Stockholm is very photogenic...

Alison Abbott

Saturday 5th of November 2016

My husband has been to Stockholm often and I was always so disappointed I couldn't make a trip with him. Now I know first hand what a beautiful city I missed. Next time I will have to make sure my calendar is clear!

Janice and George

Saturday 5th of November 2016

Yes, make every effort to go with him next time he visits! You won't regret it :-).

Jessica

Friday 4th of November 2016

Looks lovely, love the tall colorful old houses! I have never been to Stockholm but this looks like a great area to begin exploring!

Janice and George

Friday 4th of November 2016

You have to get lost in Gamla Stan if you visit Stockholm. Once that's out of your system, you can venture elsewhere :-).

Janice and George

Thursday 3rd of November 2016

We tend to go to more warm weather places too - especially as we live in Canada (so we need some of that sunshine in winter). But we were really impressed by northern Europe - Bergen, Stockholm, Tallinn, etc. - which was all new for us. It probably helped that we lucked out with beautifully warm and sunny weather :-). Anyway, we think you'd enjoy Stockholm!