Sweden’s capital, Stockholm is made up of 14 islands which are connected by more than 50 bridges across the Baltic Sea. The Old Town, Gamla Stan is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centres in Europe and dates back to 1252, when Stockholm was founded. We visited Stockholm in winter (January) and while the weather was crisp, we were blessed with blue skies which made sightseeing around this stunning city in winter much easier! Stockholm in winter is beautiful, the streets are empty and are decorated for the festive season and it feels like you have the place almost completely to yourself. We loved exploring the narrow, winding cobblestoned streets, admiring the ochre-coloured buildings and Royal Palace, experiencing fika and dining on Swedish meatballs for the first time. Wandering around Gamla Stan feels like you’ve stepped into the books of a fairytale…
We travelled by train from Copenhagen to Stockholm which took around five hours and cost $50 (AUD) each. We booked our tickets through GoEuro and I believe the further you book in advance the cheaper the fare! I find train travel to be one of the most relaxing ways to travel as you can sit back in comfort and watch the world pass by.
The train was clean, comfortable, warm and there was plenty of room to store our suitcases as well as backpacks and coats. We purchased food from the train station before we boarded the train and I’m glad we did as the food looked fairly average, although the hot chocolate was good and reasonably priced. In addition, the train had free Wi-Fi which worked perfectly the whole journey! We would definitely recommend travelling on the train system in Scandinavia.
Our train arrived at 6pm and it was less than a ten minute walk from the train station to Lady Hamilton Hotel, our hotel for the evening! We wanted a hotel that was located within Gamla Stan and for $230 (AUD) including breakfast, the hotel ticked all our boxes. It was a charming boutique hotel full of antiques from all around the world and centrally located to explore the main tourist areas of Stockholm.
One of the other reasons why we’d booked Lady Hamilton Hotel was because of its sauna and plunge pool (which was actually a 16th century well)! We’ll be sharing more about our stay at the hotel shortly, so stay posted!
We dropped our bags off and headed straight out to dinner. We’d researched restaurants to try the best Swedish meatballs in the city and had our heart set on Gästabud but it was unfortunately closed for the holidays. We wandered a few blocks before stumbling across Restaurant Kaffegillet which had the warm, cosy feel we were looking for and a menu that contained the all important, meatballs.
We both ordered meatballs, along with some garlic bread to share, a beer for Dan and mulled wine for me. The service was fairly average but that was okay because the meatballs were AMAZING! I’d always heard about Swedish meatballs, and had never even tried the IKEA ones but I can happily say they are as delicious as we’d hoped they would be.
The meatballs were served with pickled cucumber, mash, gravy and lingonberries (which are sweet, delicate and delicious berries)! Stockholm is fairly expensive and our meal came to $90 (AUD). We would recommend Restaurant Kaffegillet, but if we were to return we’d hope to try Gästabud next time as they have rave reviews online!
The next morning after breakfast we set off explore! We strolled across the bridge to Riddarholmen (the adjacent island to Gamla Stan) and past Riddarholmen Church. The church is a royal burial church and was built as a Franciscan monastery in the thirteenth century!
We walked around the edges of Gamla Stan, admiring all the surrounding islands, waterways and the stunning views! The weather was crisp but sunny, so quite lovely for walking about and exploring the city.
We took the time to admire Gamla Stan and the Kungliga Slottet Royal Palace from across the water.
We loved that even the bridges in Stockholm are beautiful!
It was then time for a break to warm up and experience fika. Many Swedes consider that it is almost essential to make time for fika every day and it’s a must do for visitors, especially when visiting Stockholm in winter. Fika means making time for your friends, family or colleagues and sharing a cup of coffee and something sweet to eat! Coffee and hot chocolate were on the menu, along with freshly baked cinnamon buns (or kanelbulle). These spiced buns are found in every single cafe, restaurant, 7/11 and grocery store around the country and are so good that you’ll struggle to stop at one!
Read more about essential foods to try in Stockholm on our guest post: Five must-try foods in Stockholm!
Caffeinated and with a sugar rush from the cinnamon buns, we headed back into Gamla Stan to explore the stunning ochre (and other warm) coloured buildings.
We explored the Kungliga Slottet Royal Palace which is one of the largest palaces in the world with over 600 rooms! It was spectacular, just like all of Stockholm’s architecture.
We strolled through to Stortorget, the main square in the old town. Stortorget has stunning colourful houses which are some of the most photographed buildings in Stockholm, which unfortunately were under construction during our visit. The main square is also home to a beautiful historical fountain and the Nobel Peace Museum.
We wandered further into the charming streets of Gamla Stan. I can only imagine how beautiful these streets, alleyways and buildings would be in Spring and Summer covered in flowers and new growth. However I also knew how lucky we were to have these beautiful streets to ourselves, minus the peak season crowds and it was lovely seeing the streets lit up and decorated for Christmas.
We had time for one last (pricey) drink ($30 AUD for a round) while we waited for our airport transfer. It was lovely to enjoy another drink in Stockholm and soak up the winter rays!
Our next destination was Riga in Latvia, another new country for both of us. The train from central Stockholm to the airport was really expensive so we booked our airport transfers through hoppa again. Our transfer picked us up from the hotel and dropped us at the airport. We love using hoppa because it’s such a stress free way to get to the airport when travelling and takes the hassle out of travel!
Stockholm is beautiful, and while our visit was brief, we had a wonderful time exploring Gamla Stan, the Royal Palace and tucking into Swedish cuisine. As expected, Stockholm was expensive! However, it was probably the warmest of the the Scandinavian and Baltic countries we visited on this trip and we loved exploring Stockholm in winter.