Stockholm, Sweden, is a dynamic city that deserves more than a 24-hour visit. But when time is short — as it was for us — the compact downtown is easy to navigate and packed with kid-friendly attractions. The city is situated on an archipelago comprised of 14 islands, with well-connected transportation options that range from medieval bridges to modern ferries. As Sweden’s capital, Stockholm celebrates more than 750 years of history, on full display in the architecture and museums spread out around the city.
The expansion of Norwegian Air into North American markets has opened the door to more nonstop and reasonably priced flights to Stockholm from destinations across the U.S. If a stop in Stockholm is an option for your flight itinerary, it’s worth building in a 24-hour layover to soak up the city’s maritime history and seaside ambiance.
Top Things to Do in Stockholm with Kids
Royal Canal Tour
The 50-minute Royal Canal Tour is a great introduction to the history of Stockholm and the layout of the city. Audioguides and a map keep jet-lagged kids entertained as the scenery alternates between city scenes and parks, aided by interesting historical commentary. During summer, there are many more options for cruises around the archipelago, while wintertime sees more limited schedules and tours.
Wander Around Gamla Stan
The old town of Stockholm, Gamla Stan, is a maze of narrow, cobblestoned medieval streets connected by bridges to other islands. It’s a fun place to wander, as there’s always something interesting down the alleyways, and it’s home to the Royal Palace and a variety of museums.
If local cuisine is a priority, Trotzig serves authentic Swedish meatballs made with reindeer meat and other traditional dishes. That, along with adult beverages like lingonberry mojitos and good service, puts Trotzig a step above similarly priced Gamla Stan restaurants — though it’s important to note that dining out in Stockholm is expensive regardless of the venue.
The Vasa was a fearsome warship when she left on her maiden voyage in 1628. After sailing less than a mile, the ship heeled over and sank in Stockholm’s harbor. After 333 years on the sea floor, she was raised to the surface and now sits in the Vasa Museum undergoing restoration.
It’s not possible to board the ship, but the museum has interactive displays and reconstructed areas that show what life was like on board. The museum is designed for inquisitive young minds and would work well on a jet-lag day as well. Lighting is subdued and no flash photography is allowed. The Vasa Museum is located near the popular Skansen open-air museum (more interesting in summer than winter), on Djurgarden Island. It’s accessible by a 30-minute walk from Gamla Stan, or by ferry, bus or tram.
The Treasury at the Royal Palace
After a large fire in 1697, the Royal Palace was rebuilt, and the current palace opened in 1754. The palace continues to be used for state functions and some government offices, but the royal family doesn’t reside here. Situated in the heart of Stockholm, the palace is easy to access but it’s challenging to wait in the security line with kids. After moving only a few feet in 30 minutes in cold winter weather, and with limited time, we decided to visit the Treasury instead.
Located in the basement of the Royal Palace, the Treasury houses the royal regalia and pageantry, including carriages, crowns, ballgowns and suits of armor. Meandering through the thick-stone-walled corridors brings a sense of history, and the discovery of a room filled with interactive exhibits for kids was unexpected and a real find. While I missed seeing the magnificence of the Royal Palace, this is an excellent choice with kids for an hourlong visit.
Tips for a Short Stay in Stockholm with Kids
• With only 24 hours, convenience and time take priority for sightseeing and transportation. The perfect solution to get from the airport to downtown is the Arlanda Express high-speed train. The ride only takes 20 minutes, and kids up to 17 years old travel free with adults. It’s more reasonable than taxis, which are not regulated in Stockholm and can vary greatly in price, and convenient with luggage and kids.
• Find a hotel with a location close to the central train station and Gamla Stan. I chose the Sheraton Stockholm, which is a 10-minute walk from those areas, fits four people in a room and offers rates that include breakfast. For a longer stay, or if you’re willing to use taxis, the Grand Hotel Stockholm in the CB! Hotel Portfolio has a gorgeous location across the canal from the Royal Palace. Just know that it’s a little too far to walk from the train station.
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Editor’s Note: Photos by Kristi Marcelle.