Review: Exploring Gamla stan, the Royal Palace and the ABBA museum in Stockholm

Teneriffa nov 2007

Teneriffa nov 2007 - Credit: Archant

Whenever I visit a city I always like to take to the water, writes Andrea Powell.

andrea powell

andrea powell - Credit: Archant

Somehow it seems to provide a different perspective. Our trip to Stockholm was no exception.

There is much to see and do in this Scandinavian capital.

We decided upon a joint bus and boat 3 Day Hop On Hop Off tour. That would just about cover out trip and provided maximum flexibility.

But then there was the usual debate. Did the 3 days cover the time you start or the day? It was midday by the time we had bought the ticket on Day 1 – which by my reckoning gave us a couple of hours on ‘Day 4’as well. To add to the confusion, the office where we purchased the ticket did not have a time stamp. He told us our timed receipt would be sufficient.

Teneriffa nov 2007

Teneriffa nov 2007 - Credit: Archant

And so off we went.

The great thing about having three days was that we could take a complete tour around first and then decide where we wanted to stop on one of the other days.

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The Royal Palace and of course Gamla stan, one of Europe’s largest medieval Old Towns and certainly one of the best.

Hopping off the bus, we whiled away a lovely early evening walking along the cobbled streets, admiring the delightfully preserved old buildings before nipping into one for our evening meal.

andrea powell

andrea powell - Credit: Archant

Then there was the Vasa Museum. A fantastic spectacle of a ship, it is not hard to see why it lasted barely 1300 metres before sinking. Intricate carvings and heavy cannon above water were always going to be too much for a tiny underwater hull and insufficient ballast. However, for the museum visitor today, a chance to view the only preserved 17th century ship in the world.

One not on the route, but never to be missed on any trip of mine to Stockholm, was the ABBA museum. Definitely one where you will walk in but dance out! A must for all in my view – irrespective of whether you are a fan or not.

And so to our final morning of our ticket. We had decided to take one last complete circuit of the city on the water. It was a beautiful morning, the sun high in the clear blue sky. A perfect setting for one last glimpse of Stockholm from the water.

Getting onto the first boat, it was already quite busy, being such a beautiful morning. We still managed to get a seat together, though only just! Passing the Old Town once more, it looked truly spectacular, basking in the early morning sunshine. As we drew to pick up other passengers, I thought nothing of the conductor who had also boarded.

Teneriffa nov 2007

Teneriffa nov 2007 - Credit: Archant

As he moved up the boat, Hubby got our tickets out. Up until this point I had thought nothing of the ‘When does the Three Days Begin’ debate. And anyway, we had checked it all out with the person who had sold us the ticket. And if all else failed, we always had our timed receipt. Nothing to worry about then..?

As the conductor came forward, Hubby handed him the ticket.

“You have not paid,” he insisted, “your ticket is not valid today.” Despite having quite good English *(well far superior to our Swedish anyway), the look of thunder and unpleasant voice told us we could be in a bit of trouble here.

Undeterred – why we had our receipt of course! – Hubby began to explain that the person in the booth where we had purchased the ticket advised us that our three days finished at the time it began. As he searched in his wallet for the receipt, the conductor was having none of it, instead holding out his hand for our money.

Rifling through the wallet all of a sudden Hubby looked despondent. “I emptied my wallet of all the rubbish last night,” he whispered out of the corner of his mouth. Oh. How useful. With no proof of our date of purchase we were moving into waters similar to the Vasa – rocky.

I decided to front it out.

“We have our ticket and we have been advised that it still valid this morning and what’s more, I’m going to report you for being so rude!” This despite the fact that it was probably me who was being a bit over-zealous.

“You have no ticket madam, this is a criminal offence.”

He was quite insistent.

But still going for it, “We purchased this ticket in all good faith at one of your booths and were advised that we could still use it this morning,” I retorted. As my voice rose, Hubby was shrinking into his seat, leaving this one to the expert. We did genuinely ask and were told the ticket was valid and I did feel somewhat miffed that we were now being treated as a non-paying crook.

But he was having none of it, believing that was exactly what we were.

Fortunately at this point, the boat was nearing its next mooring and the conductor had to move back to the entrance point of the boat to check the tickets of passengers boarding.

Taking our chances we decided we were close enough to our hotel to jump out and walk back.

So, checking the conductor was otherwise engaged for a second, we leapt out of our seats and sped off down the streets.

I have yet to return to Stockholm, even though I found it a totally charming city.

I suppose I am still dreading that poster as I approach Passport Control at the airport: WANTED! Have you seen these people? They have an outstanding boat trip to pay for!

Want more:

Christmas markets

For those seasoned Market-Goers who have already ‘done’ Gothenburg and maybe looking for somewhere a little different, why not try Stockholm?

The picturesque Old Town, already looking picture perfect with a dusting of snow, plays host to the craft and seasonal stalls. With glogg (mulled wine) and pepparkakor (ginger biscuits) wandering through, this Christmas-card scene is certainly worth wrapping up for!

The season runs from 23 November until Christmas Eve and is open daily between 11am and 6pm.

If not a city break

Rivera Travel do a Copenhagen and Stockholm combined escorted tour. This six day/five night tour costs from £909 for September departures, with 2016 dates also being available.

Saga does a Grand capitals of the Baltic escorted tour which starts in Stockholm for a couple of nights before going on to Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn and Helsinki.

Prices start from £1,249 for departure next May.

Baltic cruises quite often take in the Swedish Capital.

Silverseas, Regent Severn Seas, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, Oceania, Crystal, Azamara, Holland America and many more will all dock in either Stockholm itself or the nearby port of Nynshamn.

Cruise & Maritime even depart from nearby Harwich on their Baltic Cities cruise.

With prices for an inside starting at £799 per person on their September sailing and Buy One Get One Free offers, reduced single supplements and extra discounts for group bookings on their 2016 departures, Scandinavia may just be closer than you think!

When to go

The best time to visit Stockholm is in the summer although this is of course also the most expensive time. The temperature invariably reaches a balmy 71 degrees and there is up to 24 hours of daylight. Autumn and spring are still pleasant – you just need layers – and it is likely to be less crowded. Winters tend to be extremely cold but are ideal for that picturesque Christmas market.

How to get there

Stockholm’s main airport is Arlanda and has direct flights from London Gatwick with Norwegian or from London Heathrow with British Airways and SAS. Travelling into the city takes about 20 minutes

Ryanair also flies from Stansted into Skavsta airport. This then takes about 90 minutes to get into the city by bus.

Where to stay

For those on a budget

Comfort Hotel Stockholm - Centrally located, this hotel is just a stone’s throw from the central station for further access to the metro, buses and mainline trains and within walking distance of all main shopping and dining areas as well as the theatres and casino. Prices for four nights in mid-May next year start at £235 per person including breakfast (excluding flights).


Malardrottningen Yacht - still on a budget but fancy staying on a luxury super yacht?

Located in the heart of Stockholm on the waters of Lake Malaren with excellent transport links, this hotel is moored on the banks of the old town, just a two minute walk from Gamla stan station and close to all the restaurants and bars of the old town. Prices to stay in a two-berth cabin (in bunk beds) in mid-May next year start at £246 per person (excluding flights)


Esplanade - This art noveau hotel is situated on a fashionable street, within a comfortable walking distance from cultural attractions, shopping, first-class restaurants, the archipelago, and round-trip boats. All 34 rooms are spacious, with high ceilings and have a unique and stylish decor. In the large lounge upstairs, overlooking Nybroviken, you can while away an hour or so sipping a glass of wine admiring the views. Prices for four nights in mid-May next year start at £346 per person including breakfast (excluding flights).

As a special treat

Berns – One of Stockholm’s most famous boutique hotels set in a majestic building dating back to 1863 right by Berzelii Park. Also a restaurant and entertainment venue it is in one of the most beautiful settings with historic decor throughout the public areas. Many concerts are held here and several lunch/dining options are offered with excellent cuisine. For guests staying Friday or Saturday nights, a personal wristband ensures priority and free entrance to the top nightclubs in central Stockholm including Spy Bar, White Room and of course Berns own Gallery 2.35:1. Prices for four nights in mid-May next year start at £736 per person including breakfast (excluding flights).

See more holiday reviews here

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