Fun in the sun – 5 outdoor activities in Stockholm

Summer in Stockholm is a pure delight – after the long, dark winter the city shines for its all too brief peak season. In fact we’d go as far as to say that the Swedish capital is the most beautiful in Europe when the sun is out. Being surrounded by clean, sparkling water just adds to the attraction…

Apparently you can just strip off and jump in the water right in the centre of town?

That’s basically true, although given the number of boats and people fishing you might want to stick to the more popular bathing areas (of which more below). We have covered some of Stockholm’s outdoor attractions before in the piece we wrote for another great website – 48 hours in Stockholm such as Gamla StanRosendals Trädgård and Hermans restaurant. Elsewhere on this site you can read about (or at least see photos of) many of the obvious places to go when the weather is good; take the kids to Gröna Lund, head out to the wonderful Skogskyrkogården or even go all romantic and add a padlock to the collection on Västerbron. Djurgården is not only home to many of the best museums (including the one devoted to the Vasa warship) and attractions in the city but will also make you forget you are in the capital at all with its acres of woodland, cycle paths and waterfront trails. We’re also assuming that a boat trip is on your itinerary – this is probably the best way to get an overview of the Swedish capital.

With all that out of the way, here’s five other ways to make the most of Stockholm when the weather is great…



Image obtained from under Creative Commons (c) Jess Pac

Nowadays it’s hard to believe that this idyllic part of Stockholm used to be a feared prison island. Alcatraz is the last thing that springs to mind when you unpack your picnic, lounge on the grass or take a dip in the clean waters. But evidence of Långholmen’s past is easy to find as the former prison building has been converted into an extremely cool hostel/hotel and also houses a museum.

The main attractions in the summer are the beaches, open-air performance venues, beautiful buildings and gardens on Långholmen. You will also find one of the Swedish capital’s oldest shipyards – Mälarvarvet here. There are a couple of cafes for resting up when the sunbathing starts to wear you out and bring your camera – the view from the eastern part of the island towards Gamla Stan and Riddarfjärden is well worth a few megabytes of your memory card.


Rooftop tours

Image (c) AB Visare Sweden

You may think this sounds unusual, and you’d be right. In actual fact this form of sightseeing is unique in Europe and definitely worth considering. After being handed out climbing gear (safety is taken very seriously) you emerge on a rooftop with a nice view of Gamla Stan and the adventure begins. Rather than clambering over rooftops wherever you fancy you follow what is essentially a 300 metre long catwalk around the old Parliament building, with a cable running through each participant’s harness. Sounds lame? It’s a narrow catwalk, and it’s high up. And it’s a steep roof…

Pausing regularly to be briefed by the guide on the history of the buildings and their inhabitants, you’ll learn lots of great trivia as well as how good you are with heights. As well as this aerial version the price of the tour includes a more standard ground-based walking tour which you can enjoy before or after the rooftop one. The company operating the tours can take a maximum of 10 participants at a time so it is definitely worth booking well in advance. Allow 2 hours if you are lucky enough to secure a place – note that the tours run all year round (only extreme weather will stop these guys) and your chances of taking part increase exponentially in the low season.

The archipelago

Image obtained from under Creative Commons (c) Susanne Davidson

The archipelago starts just a few miles east of Stockholm, measures around 140 kilometres (90 miles) from north to south and is made up of 30,000 islands, islets, and skerries. Some are isolated (only 150 of the islands are inhabited), while others have hotels and restaurants. The area is divided into the northern, central, and southern archipelagos and the landscape is tremendously varied, ranging from the thickly wooded inner archipelago to the bare, flat rocks of the central and outer islands. The easiest way to get out to the islands is by ferry and the best way to explore is by travelling from island to island. You can buy individual ferry tickets if you are only planning to make a few trips or opt for the island hopping pass which allows unlimited travel for 5 days. The company operating the ferries has an map with suggested itineraries and destination information.

If you want to stay out on one of the islands you have plenty of choice. You can camp, stay at a hostels, or check into a hotel, but advance reservations are essential. There is plenty to do in the archipelago – you can hike the marked trails, rent a kayak and go fishing, hire a bicycle, visit theatres, museums and film and TV series locations. Or just lie in the sun with a book and cool off in the water when the mood takes you. For day trips, Fjäderholmarna, Sandhamn and Vaxholm are the most convenient destinations and well set up for tourists with a number of dining and lodging options. For a little more peace and quiet try Svartsö, Nåttarö or Grinda where the crowds are thinner. The more adventurous head for Bullerö, Svartlöga and Huvudskär, but will need to pack a tent and take all the provisions they need – including drinking water in some cases. Take warm, wind-resistant clothes, mosquito repellent, tweezers for removing ticks and a mobile phone. Don’t forget to tell someone where you are headed too.


Saltsjöbadens Friluftsbad

Image (c)

This tip could be considered a step up from swimming from one of the multitude of city beaches. Saltsjöbadens Friluftsbad is a fabulous open-air bath and spa house located out in the water in the Stockholm suburb of Saltsjöbaden. The building – which looks like a wooden castle with its balustrades and columns – was designed by Torben Grut in the early 1900s and is open for business during the summer. There are two separate bathhouses at Saltsjöbadens Friluftsbad and both were recently refurbished and modernised – but still resemble their original appearance. In the eastern wing of the building is a splendid sauna with an ice pool for the brave and enormous windows opening onto the sea. The baths are found upstairs where you can also take advantage of a large sun deck when the weather is on your side. The lower level of the building houses a club room with conference facilities.  (website in Swedish only, but Google Translate can help a little)


Explore Stockholm using a city bike

Image (c) Andy Higgs, Grown-up Travel Guide

There is no better way to get around the city than on a bicycle, and the Swedish capital has one of the most efficient city bike rental schemes we’ve come across. The only snag is that you have to get your card in advance (in Berlin and London you can just pay as you go with a credit card, for example) but the good news is that you can recharge it next time you visit. You can buy a three-day or season pass at the Stockholm Tourist Centre and at many of the major hotels (you’ll need to produce ID) and then hire a bike from one of the 110 sites around the city from April to October. You can keep using the bike for 3 hours when it must be returned but if you wish to keep exploring all you need to do is hire another one. They even have an app with which you can see a live picture of where bikes or return slots are available. Make sure you bring your bike back by 1 a.m. or it will turn into a pumpkin. Just kidding, you’ll get in trouble if you don’t though – opening hours are 0600 – 0100. You’ll be amazed how much you can see on a bike in 3 hours (I managed to go all round Djurgården and the city centre for example) and the sense of freedom is unbeatable.


Have you tried any of these suggestions? Do you have other ideas for outdoor activities in Stockholm? Do let us know by adding a comment below and don’t forget to sign up for email updates so that you never miss an article on Grown-up Travel Guide!

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

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