Cruise from Stockholm – the essential guide

“Stockholm was an unexpected high point of our entire cruising vacation. It’s a gorgeous, elegant city of 14 islands all linked by bridges. We spent 3 days exploring before our cruise from Stockholm, but would have loved to have stayed longer.”

Enjoy Scandinavia at it’s best by starting your cruise from Stockholm – the city on the Baltic characterized by its 14 islands connected by over 50 bridges.  A cruise from Stockholm is the perfect way for you to see the very best of Northern Europe. Starting with a few days in the clean, beautiful and friendly capital city of Sweden. 

We have a detailed 3 day guide to make your visit the best possible. Explore this sparkling city before your start your cruise from Stockholm. Choose to focus your time on the city itself or venture further afield by water, all the time taking in Stockholms beautiful archipelago – known as the Venice of the North. Make sure that this is not just a port stop, but a Swedish adventure worth remembering.

Stockholm – the sophisticated capital of Sweden

Stockholm offers a rich history, nordic culture, extensive parks, lakes and water sports and an international cuisine. Most locals speak fluent English and getting around is easy both on foot and by using public transport. It is one of the most friendly and international cities in the world, whilst remaining proud of it’s rich Swedish heritage, history and traditions. 

Swedes like to work hard, and play hard. 5 weeks vacation per year is standard with July being the most popular month to make the most of the long, light summer days and nights. It may have a reputation of being expensive, but not more so than other major cities such as London or New York.

In this article we take a look at how to explore the city before starting your cruise from Stockholm with a 3-day guide including travel info, tips and itineraries. Immerse yourself in Swedish culture as you discover the Vasa Museum, Skansen open-air museum, the Royal Palace and Alfred Nobel’s legacy. 

Visiting Stockholm you will discover an exciting mix of old and new. Starting in the old city (Gamla Stan), it is easy to find your way around (pick up a street map from your hotel concierge). Don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore by local ferry so you can enjoy the archipelago and life on the surrounding islands before you cruise from Stockholm’s port.

Transport options from Stockholm Arlanda Airport to the city center

Here are the transport options you have to get from Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN) to your city center hotel, about 40km from the airport.

Bus 

Airport coaches leave every 10-15 minutes and take you to Stockholms central station (City Terminal). These airport coaches are called Flygbussarna. A one way ticket costs about 120 sek per person and the journey time is around 45 minutes.

Airport Express Train

The Arlanda express train is located underneath the terminal and is very convenient. The journey time is only 18 minutes. You can get to the train from all terminals.

Follow the yellow “Arlanda Express” signs at the airport. These are posted both on the walls and on the floors. You can purchase tickets at the yellow ticket machines with a credit card.

There is also one of their counters in the baggage hall at terminal 5, and in addition you can ask for help at the Swedavia Arlanda Visitors Center.

The cost of a one way adult fare is 299 sek per person. 

Taxi

Taxi stands are outside of all terminals. Check the price with your driver before you depart. A one way journey from the airport to the center of Stockholm will be roughly 400 sek.

Always get a receipt at the end of the journey. On the receipt you will have the taxi company name and taxi number, so if you forget something in the taxi you can call them.

If you are more than 4 passengers sharing then speak to the taxi rank officer who can help you get a larger vehicle.

Where to stay in Stockholm

There are many really great hotels in Stockholm for all different budgets and types of traveller. For cruise travellers we have chosen our favorites. These include popular hotels we have previously booked for cruise customers and personal favorites we use when in the city.

Our recommendation is that you stay in a hotel that is at least 4-star standard. This way you will get a good standard of room, convenient amenities and good service such as helping with booking of taxis and a concierge that can advise on local transport and provide city maps etc. Here are our choices:

Clarion Hotel Amaranten

You will love this hotel and its location in Kungsholmen. Kungsholmen is its own island, a green neighborhood with parks, fantastic residences and waterside promenades.

You are walking distance to almost everything in the city. It’s about a 10 minute walk to City Hall and the Central Station. The old town (Gamla Stan) is a 20 minute walk.

There are rooms suitable for families travelling with kids or teenagers with a good amount of space. Rooms are typical of Scandinavian style – hardwood floors, neutral colors and modern bathrooms. It’s a great choice and good value for money.

Breakfast is outstanding. Everything you would want from a Scandinavian breakfast buffet including plenty of healthy options and those with food allergies. You may want to allow a bit of extra time in the morning to really enjoy it!

You can check-in from 3pm. The hotel can store your luggage for you if you cannot get access to your room immediately upon early arrival. Wifi is free in all parts of the hotel and you may want to note that this hotel is completely cash free, so credit cards are a must. This applies to many hotels, all over Sweden.

First Hotel Kungsbron

This super convenient hotel is located very close to Stockholms Central Station. 

First Hotels is a brand unique to Scandinavia. The group has 33 hotels throughout Sweden, Denmark and Norway. This particular First hotel in Kungsbron, Stockholm, is one of 6 in Sweden.

Clear, bright and modern, this hotel is typically Scandinavian with a great breakfast buffet and comfy beds. 

To get there is an easy walk from Stockholms central station, ideal when arriving by the airport’s direct train, the Arlanda Express.

We recommend that you join their membership program before booking. By joining their First Member Loyalty Program, which is free of charge, you will qualify for discounts immediately when making your booking with the hotel.

Grand Hôtel Stockholm

For a first-class stay at a prestigious hotel with an award-winning restaurant, look no further than the Grand Hôtel Stockholm.

If your budget allows and you are looking to start your cruising vacation in extra style with a fantastic living experience, book The Flag Suite. You will be at the very top of the hotel. There is a glass tower lookout and a private terrace. You are overlooking the water and have a view of the Royal Palace. It’s a magical view in the evenings.

As I said, this is first-class accommodation in a classic style by a Swedish interior designer. You will not find a better hotel in Stockholm.

If you do not want to pay the price-tag which inevitably goes with this type of accommodation, try instead one of the hotel’s restaurants or bars during your stay. They are iconic in Stockholm.

Or if it’s just coffee and a sandwich you want, you can enjoy that at the hotels Grand Café on the quayside, right in front of the hotel. Take a walk through the lobby whilst visiting, and you’ll enjoy Scandinavian design inspired by a by-gone era.

Best Western Signature Collection

This Best Western hotel is located in the heart of Stockholms old medival town, Gamla Stan

This quaint, historic and utterly fantastic district is home to Swedish Royalty and the Swedish Parliament, quirky shopping and cosy inns and restaurants.

Many streets are cobblestones, so wear good walking shoes! The Best Western Signature Collection offers value for money family accommodation in a top-notch location and most often breakfast is also included in the price.

Scandic Gamla Stan

What we love about the Scandic hotel is their roof-top terrace with fantastic views over the city. The Royal Palace is just a 5-minute walk away. With views all around it’s the perfect place for a sunset drink. 

Expect all the modern Scandinavian facilities you want from a 4-star hotel. Scandic is the largest hotel operator in the Nordic region. Breakfast is excellent, and always includes vegan alternatives and allergy-friendly dishes.

3 days in city before you cruise from Stockholm

If I were your guide here is how we would spend 3 days in this stunning city.

Day 1: City Hall and Gamla Stan, the heart of Stockholm 

City Hall is a great place to start your first day in Stockholm. Especially if you have chosen to stay on Kungsholmen as City Hall is located here. 

City Hall is easily identified buy the 3 golden crowns adorning the roof. Famous worldwide for hosting the Nobel Prize Banquet, there are 2 main ceremonial halls to see. 

Step first into the Blue Hall where the Nobel Banquet takes place, then into the stunning Golden Hall. 

We highly recommend you join a short guided tour. The guides are excellent and can explain the meaning of the Queen of Lake Mälaren image on the wall and the interesting history surrounding it.

From City Hall, walk across the bridge, Stadshusbron, into Gamla Stan, the Old Town.

Gamla Stan – The Old Town

This magical, compact part of Stockholm is home to buildings from the 17th and 18th century. Cosy cobbled streets meander into bustling squares full of coffee houses and unique and quirky boutiques. 

You’ll find everything from stylish bistros to small pubs and trendy cocktail bars.

Head over to the Royal Palace first of all, if you are lucky you may see the regimental ceremony of the Changing of the Guard. Inside the Baroque-style Palace you can join a tour of some of the 600 rooms that are open to the public. Check the opening hours on their website.

A short walk from the palace and you are at Storkyrkan, where you can see the famous carved medieval statue of St George and the Dragon, dating from 1489. And right next door you are in Stortorget, the largest square in Gamla Stan. 

Stop for a coffee break here. The Swedes take their “Fika” quite seriously – the art of drinking coffee and eating a sweet bake or open sandwich mid-morning. It’s a charming tradition, a chance to sit and chat with friends, or take some time to yourself mid-morning.

In Stortorget you will be spoilt for choice with the surrounding cosy coffee houses. We like Kaffekoppen. Try their traditional cinnamon buns!

The stunning, columned pale pink building in Stortorget is home to the Nobel Prize Museum. If you are visiting the city for only a few days then this is one of two must-do museums.

Learn all about the fairytale Nobel Gala, the history of Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prize recipients. There is even an excellent activity for kids called “Bubble Chamber” which they’ll love.

For a good lunch, head across Strömbron towards Kungsträdgården (The King’s Garden). This is a great place to relax or grab a lunch at one of the many nearby eateries.

Gamla Stan’s most popular shopping streets are Västerlånggatan and Österlånggatan, where you can easily spend the afternoon exploring. Discover even Prästgatan-  a more charming medieval street is hard to find.

Stay on Prästgatan for dinner. Try the restaurant Kryp In. Or if you’re feeling Italian opt for Portofino restaurant on Stora Nygatan instead.

Day 2: Djurgården and Stockholm Harbour

By your second day you may have already discovered the hop on, hop off buses that get you around most sights and parts of Stockholm. If you have bought a ticket then using this bus is a great way to get to Djurgården. 

Otherwise from Gamla Stan it’s just a 9 minute ferry ride on the Djurgården ferry. And it really is worth taking the boat. You will get your first glimpse of what must be one of the most beautiful archipelagos in the world.

The green island of Djurgården, just to the southeast of Gamla Stan, is a great day out for the whole family. 

Just over Djurgårds Bridge there is a visitors office where you can pick up a map of the island. And right next door is Sjöcafeet, a small eatery and where you can also rent bicycles if you want to explore the whole island. 

But just a 5 minute walk from the entrance is your first stop. Famous for what is possibly one of the best museums in Sweden, you will love The Vasa Museum. And this is your second ,ust-do museum.

Vasa, Sweden’s greatest historical warship

The Vasa warship, which sank in Stockholms harbour in 1628, was triumphantly raised from the harbour bed in 1961 and has been carefully preserved. It’s an amazing example of a warship, and simply a must-see whilst you are in Stockholm. The story of the ship, its extraordinary relics, and the history of the people is expertly told and depicted in the surrounding displays.

For the ABBA fans

If you love ABBA music and Mamma Mia, then a visit to the ABBA Museum is for you, just a further 10 minute walk away.

Packed full of original costumes, instruments, the museum tells the story of the rise to fame of ABBA and the resulting musical Mamma Mia. 

Swedish History coming to life

If you are visiting with children, they will love the open air museum Skansen. History comes to life as you visit the 150 historical buildings of houses, stores and shops.

All the staff are dressed in historical costumes and you can see handicrafts being made as well as visit animals that are unique to the Swedish landscape.

At the end of the afternoon, leave Djurgården and make your way to Östermalms Saluhall. This outstanding food court, located in a beautiful historical building from 1888, has won countless accolades and is well worth a visit, most of all for the fantastic seafood.

Remember to check opening times, they vary depending on the day of the week you visit.

On your way back to your hotel, stroll through the leafy promenade of Strandvägen where you’ll find luxury villas and apartments in perfectly preserved historical buildings.

Day 3: Drottningholms Slott (Drottningholms Palace)

Visit Stockholm in the summer and you will experience perfect summer days and long, light evenings. You may be surprised to know that Stockholm can be very hot in high season, and crowded with long queues.

If you do visit in high season we strongly advise starting early in the morning to beat the heat and crowds, but also consider travelling as much as  possible by ferry. 

The Drottningholm Palace, Drottningholms Slott,  is the main residence of the Swedish Royal Family. Built in the 1600s and on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, it is located on the island of Lovön, west of the city.

The best way to visit this fabulous castle is by ferry. That way you can cruise through Lake Mälaren and see Stockholm from the water. The journey is about 1 hour. 

There is no guarantee that you will get a seat on the ferry if you just turn up at the departure pier, so we recommend you book tickets in advance. Viator offers good prices.

Alternatively, regular boat services during the summer depart from Stadshuskajen (the City Hall Quay) and are offered by Strömma Kanalbolaget.

Once at the castle, don’t forget to explore the castle grounds, the gardens and the Chinese Pavilion.

How to get to Stockholm Port for your Cruise from Stockholm

The most common passenger cruise ship terminal used by the major cruise lines in Stockholm is Stockholm Freehamnen Cruise Terminal located about 6km north-east of the city center. 

Check your cruise ticket for the exact location of your cruise line’s port as there are several different ones in use.

To reach your cruise terminal from your central hotel you have the following options:

  • Taxi: The average cost of a taxi is about 200sek. The journey takes about 30 minutes depending upon traffic and roadworks. Your hotel can help you book a taxi to take you to the port. Book this in advance when you first check in. Show your driver the number of the port terminal you need to reach (this information is on your cruise ticket). And the name of your cruise line so they get you as close as possible to your cruise departure point.
  • Private Transfer: If you are 4 people or more, you may choose to pre-book a private transfer before you leave home. You can share the cost as this is the most expensive way to get from Stockholm city center to the port. Inform your driver which port terminal your ship leaves from (this information is on your cruise ticket). And give them the name of your cruise line so they get you as close as possible to your cruise departure point.
  • Bus: There are buses that go from the center of Stockholm to the port. The journey time is about 40 minutes.This is our least favored option as the buses can get crowded and stop very frequently along the way. Plus you have your cruise luggage to handle too.

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Meet the author: With more than 20 years experience from the travel industry, Mattias offers tips, expert advice and a unique perspective anchored in having worked with market leading cruise lines, tour operators, consolidators, airlines and hospitality suppliers. Read more..