Our Scandinavian Adventure: Stockholm Day 1

We made some mistakes on our first day in Stockholm, but still managed to have a great time.

After picking up our Stockholm Passes and settling in to our Langholmen Hotel, we were ready to rest and plan our first full day in Stockholm. Despite sleeping in a former prison, we got a good night’s sleep (no ghosts, which I had been a little worried about). We filled up at the hotel’s bountiful breakfast and ventured out.

Our plan for the day:
Skyview Stockholm
Canal Tour
Gamla Stan

We discussed transportation options, looked at the map and added the Vasa Museum to our plan.

Figuring out the transportation was a little trickier in Stockholm than Copenhagen. This was mainly because we did not add the public transportation option  to our Stockholm Passes. We didn’t think we’d get our money’s worth since we had use of the hop on/hop off buses. In hindsight this was a mistake.  Our hotel was nowhere near the hop on/hop off, so we either needed to use public transportation to walk. We were at a loss for how much we could add to our card (it seemed we had to add in set increments) and whether or not my 8 year-old needed to pay (some said yes, others no, still others said it had recently changed). Even if we didn’t come out ahead, it would have been worth it to simply hop on to the transportation without worry.

Skyview Stockholm
Skyview was one of the things everyone agreed on. Since rides using the Stockholm Pass were only free between 10-12, we made it our first stop. We got to the ticket line at 10:15…and found out the next available ride was at 12. We asked what we could do in the meantime and they didn’t have much to advise. Then, the ticketing lady said we could make a reservation for 5 and as long as it was in the 10-12 window, we wouldn’t be charged extra. Awesome! We were excited about having to return to the somewhat out-of-the-way location, but glad we wouldn’t have to hang around for almost two hours.

Royal Canal Tour
From the Globus station, we went to the Gamla Stan train stop and wandered around this medieval part of the city. Then we found the canal tours included with the pass (after stopping to ask the wrong hop on/hop off company for a map) and at 11:15 secured tickets for the 11:30 tour. This boat was covered unlike the Copenhagen canal tour. The city doesn’t need to plan for the low bridges of Copenhagen. Instead of a guide giving a tour, ear buds were provided to listen in the language of your choice. We got a nice overview of the city. It was relaxing and just the right length. From the dock it was very easy to catch the hop on/hop off boat (these weren’t as confusing as the buses) to the Vasa Museum.

Vasa Museum
The Vasa was a ship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. It sat at the bottom of the Stockholm harbor until 1961 when it was slowly brought to the surface. The museum houses the restored ship (amazingly much of the ship is still original). It also gives a glimpse into Stockholm life at the time and lots of great information on how the ship was salvaged.

The museum boasts multi-level viewing areas of the ship. It makes it possible to see the exquisitely detailed woodwork throughout the boat. Other areas show what it might have felt like to be on the Vasa and the different types of people living in 17th century Stockholm. Bones of some of those drowned and their reconstructed faces make the tragedy more personal.

We arrived at the museum around 1 pm to reasonable crowd levels. We spent about an hour in the museum. It’s definitely possible to stay and learn more. In order to keep the girls interested, we bypassed the video and short guided tour. I think these were worthwhile if there’s no rush. Overall, this was a very unique and interesting experience.

From the Vasa Museum we walked to Skansen, an open-air museum. A friend giving advice about Stockholm attractions described it as “Sweden in a nutshell.” Since we weren’t leaving Stockholm, Skansen seemed like a good way to learn more about the country.

We entered through the side entrance and were encouraged to take the funicular railway for an added fee (entrance was included in the Stockholm Pass). This took us right into the hard of the museum. Many farmsteads and buildings were moved from different areas of Sweden onto the property. Signage helps to give descriptions and information of Sweden in different areas and at different times in history. Native animals are housed in the museum’s northern part.

We strolled through the museum with no real plan other than to take it in.  Our last stop was the glassblower. We were able to watch him in action and purchase some glass made that day! We also bought a few other glass items and spent a bit of money there. We saw a good 70% before heading out around 3:45 pm. We wanted to give ourselves enough time to make it back to Skyview.

We all liked Skansen and were glad we’d made the walk over. Learning about Sweden in this “living history” fashion was interactive and engaging.

Back to Skyview

We thought an hour would be enough time to make it across the city and back to Skyview. It wasn’t first we had trouble finding the hop on/hop off boat. Then we had to figure out which train would get us to the arena most quickly. We got lost and confused and I was getting more nervous as each minute passed. I was so upset to get to Skyview at 5:11, 11 minutes after our ride time. Taking time to make it back the next day was not something we wanted to do, but it was an attraction we didn’t want to miss.

Fortunately the Skyview customer service was excellent. They reissued us tickets for the next ride. The lines and wait times of the morning were gone. I think this may be solely due to the wording in the Stockholm Pass book about only riding between 10-12. Our gondola was only half full!

The ride slowly takes riders up the Ericsson Globe, apparently the world’s largest spherical building.  The glass gondolas allow for spectacular panoramic views. Small maps help riders to know what they are seeing. The weather was gorgeous and allowed for excellent visibility.

SO happy they were able to accommodate us several times over. Even though this attraction is a little out-of-the-way, it’s worth it.

We found a mall close to the Globe and had dinner. When we purchased train tickets for the ride back, we learned that we had 75 minutes to complete our trip, even at multiple stops. This would have been nice to know in the morning, as we purchased a second ticket to get us from the Globe to Gamla Stan. Ugh. We decided to make the best of our newfound knowledge to head back to Gamla Stan. My friend had told us about Cafe Sten Sture and we wanted to check it out.

Cafe Sten Sture

Cafe Sten Sture is housed in a 700 year-old former prison. I’m not sure how many locations in Sweden are renovated prisons, but it was a trend on our trip.  The cave-like nooks were outfitted with intimate tables. The food was good and the service was friendly. We liked it so much we returned two more times the next day.

We were able to catch the train within our 75 minute window and took a much-needed rest in our prison, er, hotel. Our day included some frustrating mistakes, but it all worked out. We accomplished at lot and had a good time doing it.

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