A visit to Stockholm need not mean that you have to stay in the city – the water and the parks notwithstanding, it might feel nice to get out into the Swedish countryside where lots of interesting things are waiting for you.
The visitor to Stockholm has easy access to Sweden’s most famous archipelago, where thousands of islands large and small dot the seas. The larger ones have villages and even towns, and many others have at least a few farms or summer houses, which means there are regular boat services from Strömkajen just opposite the Grand Hotel. The inner archipelago was a favored place for the romantic summerhouses of the rich in the 19th century, and as the boat passes you will see any number of wooden palaces where the carpenters of the day have let go of all inhibitions. The central place to visit is Vaxholm, linked with a bridge to the mainland, but with a distionctive “island feeling” and with an impressive defensive fort on a small islet. Tale a walk along the charming old alleys amidst the wooden villas and the humbler small townhouses for the fishermen, visit the museum in the fort or just walk along the water’s edge soaking up the atmosphere – you’ll be enchanted!
Of course you can go on to more barren islands in the outer reaches of the archipelago, just check that there is a hostel or private rooms for rent so you don’t end up sitting on the quay waiting for the next boat to come! The main attraction is the landscape and the wide horizons, but yes, you can go swimming from cliffs and the occasional small beach. But beware, the water is usually icy cold!
If you rather would like to travel on land, you might take the train to Upplands Väsby, right in between Uppsala and Stockholm.
This is a thriving town of about 30 000 inhabitants, so you get an instant impression of the life of commuters already on the local train: many of those who live here work in Stockholm, Uppsala and Arlanda airport. The main attraction is however the nearby stone ship burial at Runsa from about 400-500 AD, one of the largest (30 meters) and best known in Sweden. It lies at the foot of a hill fort where the local chieftain had a strategic view across lake Mälaren, an important Iron age traffic route. Today you can look out to get a view of to Sigtuna town on the other side of the lake.
Sigtuna itself is a must as excursions go. Sigtuna was founded just over 1000 years ago and was a royal and commercial centre for some 250 years, one of the most important cities of Sweden. The old 13th -century church built by the Dominican order at their monastery still remains. Many other church and monastery ruins can be visited, and the old city structure has not been remodeled, so the feeling of walking through a medieval town is unimpaired. Here you have the first pedestrian street in Sweden – carts and carriages where not allowed from the year 970 onwards when the town was founded, and cars are just as forbidden today. And don’t miss the museum that gives you an update of Swedish history and recent archaeological discoveries in the area, or Tant Brun’s coffeehouse (“Madame Brown” is a much loved story book personage in a children’s book by Swedish author Elsa Beskow) where you can get lovely waffles with cream or delicious cinnamon buns in a very traditional environment.
If you have children, then Södertälje with the “Tom Tits Experiment” is a given. Tom Tits is a giant workshop with all kinds of exciting things to try out. Here, the entire family can take part in over 600 experiments in the natural sciences. So, take a bike ride on a wall or let yourself be tossed about by the largest robot in the world – you will most likely spend the day here and stumble back to your train exhausted. If you decide to stay another day there is also a large outdoor museum, showing life in times past. You’ll find entire town blocks and farm environments with artisans showing traditional crafts, farm animals of races now seldom seen and interesting gardens. From Södertälje there are also boat tours to the Viking town of Birka – but you might feel that a walk along the town’s canal is about what your energy level can cope with after the museum experiences.
Still some time left for excursions out of town? And perhaps no presents bought for friends and family? Then go to the satellite town of Huddinge south of Stockholm to round of your Sweden holiday! In the shopping area “Kungens kurva” with the world’s largest IKEA and a lot of other large malls you’ll find yourself in the shopper’s paradise with everything from electronic gadgets to food, home decoration and clothes. This place will empty your wallet quickly and efficiently, so plan ahead – you might want a coffee at the airport before you board your flight home!