Sweden

The Ultimate Guide to 5 Days in Sweden: Stockholm & Gothenburg

From frozen lapland to dense forests to beautiful islands in the Stockholm archipelago, Sweden is a stunning country.

On a first visit, many people only visit Stockholm.

And, with good reason- Stockholm is the largest city in Scandinavia, it’s a gorgeous, lively place to explore.

Spread across countless islands, Stockholm is the capital of cool. It’s modern, a mix of cool, new architecture and cobblestoned old streets, where buildings date back to the 1700s.

But there’s so much more to Stockholm than Sweden, and even if you’re (relatively) short on time, you can still visit the west side of the country for a different look at Swedish life in Gothenburg.

5 Days in Sweden Itinerary

You could spend two weeks in Sweden and still leave with plenty to explore.

This itinerary isn’t meant to be a tour of everything, rather, to show the highlights of two different, yet wonderful, Swedish cities are possible in only a week, if that’s all the holiday time you can spare.

When I visited Sweden, I flew return from London, so it was a quick, easy flight. If you’re travelling greater distance, I’d recommend adding a day onto each end of the trip to allow for travel delays, and also a bit of time to rest.

Day 1: Explore Stockholm
Day 2: Explore Stockholm
Day 3: Morning train to Gothenburg
Day 4: Late afternoon train to Stockholm
Day 5: Explore Stockholm

Could you spend another day or two in Stockholm, or even Gothenburg?
Absolutely.

But, if you’ve only got a few days, you can still see and explore a lot.

How to Get Around Sweden

Arriving in Stockholm

Stockholm is serviced by two airports- Arlanda and Skavsta. Budget carriers, like Ryanair, fly into Skavsta. Whichever provider I flew, likely British Airways or SAS, went into Arlanda.

From Arlanda, you’ll have several options to get downtown. I took the train, the Arlanda Express, which is only 18 minutes from Stockholm C to the city. Saving time comes at a cost though- the train is about $32 each way. If you’ve got a group, it may be cheaper to take a taxi.

From Skavsta, the only public transit option is a bus, which takes about 90 minutes and is $28 each way.

Getting Around Stockholm

For all my city explorations, I walked. When distances were longer (over 30 minutes), I broke up the walk with a stop at a cafe, shop or restaurant. Walking is my favourite way to explore cities- you see so much more.

Once or twice, I took Stockholm’s metro, which you should definitely do, even if you don’t need it for transport (more on that below).

Travelling to Gothenburg

Train times vary, but often take between 3-4 hours, and tickets usually start at $20-40 each way.

When I took the train, I opted for an early morning one, which departed Stockholm at 7 am and put me in Gothenburg at 11 am. Departing Gothenburg the next day, I took a late afternoon train, which put me back in Stockholm just in time for a mid-evening dinner. Getting to/from the train station in Stockholm, I walked. And in Gothenburg, I took a tram.

Getting around Gothenburg

Gothenburg is a fairly small city, easily walkable. A few times, I hopped on the tram service, which runs throughout the city.

What to See & Do in Stockholm

Already obsessed with all things Scandi, I knew I’d love Stockholm before my plane even touched down in Sweden- and I was oh so right.

Stockholm is a beautiful capital city, built on the water, and known as one of Europe’s best preserved old towns. Sometimes called the Venice of the North, wherever you are in Stockholm, you’re likely just a short walk away from the nearest body of water.

THINGS TO DO

Wander Old Town

Getting lost in Stockholm’s old town, Gamla Stan, was the loveliest way to spend one of our afternoons. Stockholm’s foundation began in Gamla Stan in the 13th century.

While you’re in Gamla Stan, stop in a basement pub and relax over a drink if you need a break from your wandering. Some of the buildings in Stockholm are so old, the basements have existed since the 1300s. A couple of these basement pubs are not advertised because they’re a part of the restaurants- the only way to discover them is through exploring.

A few ‘must see’ spots in old town:

  • Stortorget: The insta famous red and yellow houses in the main square
  • Trångsund: Beautiful view of an old church, from the Stortorget square
  • Marten Trotzigs grand: The narrowest street in Stockholm
  • Storkyrkobrinken: Enter from the bottom of the hill and make your way to the old town for a beautiful view

Take a Free Walking Tour

Walking tours are one of my favourite ways to get perspective on a new city, fast. Stockholm Free Tours has several options, including an ‘introduction to the city’ tour, which is about 1.5-2 hours, and gives you a great overview of Stockholm’s history and culture.

Ride the Subway to See Art

I knew I’d love Stockholm’s Scandi design, but I hadn’t expected that enjoyment to extend to the city’s subway system.

Only the Swedes could make public transit so wonderful, Stockholm’s subway system has been designed to be the world’s longest art gallery. Travelers and commuters will find a variety of paintings, mosaics and sculptures across Stockholm’s metro- 150 artists were commissioned to bring art to 90 of the 100 stations.

The stations were enhanced back in the 1950s as part of a social debate to make art accessible to everyone. Back then, only the elite could afford admission to Stockholm’s art galleries and museums.

It’s art meets function, and something I consider to be a must-see when visiting Stockholm.

Stockholm’s metro is broken up into three lines (blue, red, green), all of which are easy to navigate- even if you aren’t used to taking public transit every day. All of the lines intersect at T-Centralen, making it easy to hop off one onto another.

We spent ~two hours one night riding the metro, checking out different stations. A single ticket costs about ~$4-4:50 USD and is valid for 75 minutes of travel.

With only a few hours, these are the stations I visited:

  • Blue Line: Kungsträdgården, T-centralen, Rådhuset
  • Red Line: Stadion, Morby Centrum
  • Stations I didn’t make it to, but would visit on my next trip: Tensta, Stadshagen, Solna Centrum

Check Out the Museums

I love museums, but am pretty particular about visiting them if I’m short on time in a new place- they’ve gotta be worth it. When we visited Stockholm in April, it was pretty cold and even snowed one day. Luckily, there are a few really great museums to visit in Stockholm, ones I’d recommend even if you have beautiful weather.

  • Fotografiska: The ultimate place for photography inspiration
  • Moderna Museet: Modern art heaven
  • Vasa Museum: Albeit the most touristy on the list, you’ll find the world’s only preserved 17th century ship here

Take an Archipelago Tour

Stockholm’s archipelago is formed of nearly 30,000 islands. If you’ve only got one free afternoon, head to Djurgården.

Djurgården is easy to reach by bus, tram or water taxi. In the warmer months, there are beautiful gardens and parks to explore, plus a waterfront path.

Go Scandi Shopping

If you’re into all things Scandi like me, hitting up a few of Stockholm’s best design shops needs to be on your list.

  • Home decor: Granit, DesignTorget, Gingko (cacti babies!), Brandstationen (killer antique shop)
  • Scandi fashion: BikBok, Grandpa
  • Cosmetics: Byredo is a darling perfume and lotion shop

On My Next Trip

To say I loved Stockholm would be an understatement. I definitely want to visit Stockholm again in summer, when the weather is warm and the sun shines all day, but this trip was a great first introduction to another slice of Scandinavia.

On my next visit to Stockholm-

  • Wandering Södermalm (SoFo) more, a hipster playground packed with cafes, museums and cool shops
  • Having dinner at Rosendals Tradgard, a gorgeous greenhouse
  • Going on a canal cruise to explore more of Stockholm’s archipelago
  • Spending more time wandering the waterfront
  • Visiting Drottingham Palace, I’ve heard it’s quite lovely

PLACES TO EAT

Always on the lookout for awesome eats when I travel, I was surprised by how many great places there were in Stockholm.

  • Meatballs for the People: Known for their Swedish meatballs, I tried the vegetarian ones in a carrot, fennel, saffron soup. The flavors were so good, come early if you don’t have a reservation
  • Urban Deli: Trendy market. Come for a beer or meal, either way you won’t be disappointed
  • Vina: Cozy wine bar with a great cheese plate
  • The Hairy Pig: Small, but lovely ambiance with candles burning. Food is so good, but it’s also a good place to end your night with a glass of wine
  • Ostermalms Saluhall: Awesome food hall in Stockholm with something for everyone
  • Babette: On Good Friday, we had a tough time finding somewhere to have dinner, and were just about ready to give up when we found this place. An Italian restaurant and wine bar serving up tasty pizzas and hearty dishes
  • Greasy Spoon: Really nice brunch spot with Aussie and American vibes. We ordered grilled halloumi, tri-color fruit salad, strawberry & lemon ricotta hot cakes, and horchata oatmeal- nothing disappointed
  • Barbro: Super good Taiwanese. Before coming here, I’d never had vegetarian bao buns I truly liked. Whether you’re veggie or not, try the sunchoke and salted broccoli ones for sure
  • Svartengrens: Food here is supposed to be very good, but we came in search of a nightcap after dinner at Babette. Loved their cocktail menu- named after foods/flavors
  • Akkurrat: One of the best beer bars I’ve ever visited- a huge range from breweries all over the world, and an ace selection of whiskies
  • Omnipollos Hatt: The spot for woodfire pizzas and craft beer
  • Americain: Good cocktails in the basement of Haymarket. We came here two nights, not just because it was convenient, but also because the drinks were good enough to warrant it. Plus the ambiance was lovely- lights turned down low, Sinatra crooning, plush velour cushions, a lovely list of sours, and candles burning- Haymarket evenings are pretty special

BEST SPOTS FOR FIKA

What’s Fika, you ask? The act of drinking coffee is so important to Swedes, they’ve turned it into an art form. Fika is a huge part of Swedish culture, which essentially means having coffee and a treat over conversation with someone.

There were so many beautiful coffee shops in Stockholm, but my favourites from our trip were:

  • Fabrique: Number one on my list. They don’t just sell delicious coffee, but are also home to incredible Swedish cinnamon and cardamom buns. The best part? There are multiple locations throughout the city
  • Snickerbacken: If I could only choose one place to have fika in Stockholm, this would be it. Part cafe, part concept shop, part gallery, housed in a gothic church style building. The lighting is dim and there are candlesticks on every table, so intimate and cozy
  • Drop Coffee: Lovely drip coffee, lots of seating
  • Kaffeverket: Cute coffee shop, pretty large too- a good place to snuggle up for a bit to take fika
  • Mellqvist Kaffebar: In the warmer months, there’s plenty of outdoor seating, making this the perfect spot to grab breakfast or take fika in the afternoon
  • Cafe String: Coffee here feels like stepping back in time- mismatched wooden tables are accompanied by assorted chairs, and a big, comfy couch looms in one corner. A great spot for coffee and cake

ACCOMMODATION RECOMMENDATION 

When looking for somewhere to stay, we found a great deal on Haymarket Scandic (upside to off-season travel), and decided to splurge a bit.

From the moment we walked in, I knew we’d made the right decision staying there- Haymarket Scandic is gorgeous.

Located on Hötorget, an active market square in the centre of the city, Haymarket is a short walk from the central train station if you come into Stockholm via the airport express train from Arlanda.

The hotel occupies the former PUB department store. The Roaring Twenties mixed with the department store’s original art deco details are the inspiration for the hotel’s design.

Every element of Haymarket was perfectly curated. It’s evident a lot of thought went into the design of the hotel

We didn’t eat at Paul’s, the American inspired brasserie. But, we did grab a snack (oysters and champagne) at beautiful Gretas, an all-day cafe, and treated ourselves to a few cocktails at Americanin, the hotel’s cocktail bar.

Although I’m not normally one for hotel breakfasts- I like to get out, start exploring and eat at local favorites, the included breakfast buffet was pretty good- lots of fresh fruit and veggies, plus juices and hot foods.

What to See & Do in Gothenburg

Why visit Gothenburg?

It’s a city of delicious food, old-Swedish architecture, eclectic coffee culture and microbreweries.

Gothenburg is calm in comparison to Stockholm, but no less beautiful. Whether you’re there for one day or several days, you’ll find plenty of things to do in this Swedish seaside town.

I only had one day in Gothenburg, but left feeling grateful to have experienced another part of Sweden.

Our train to Gothenburg from Stockholm left at 7:15 am and was a four hour trip. We’d picked up extra cardamom and cinnamon buns from Fabrique the day before, but were pleased to find breakfast, as well as tea and coffee was served in our ‘first class’ cabin. We’d only booked first class because it was the same price as other tickets, and we wanted to be in the quiet car- score!

Once we arrived in Gothenburg, we picked up 1-day tram tickets from Pressbyran for ~$8. We ended up walking everywhere, but used the trams to get to/from our Airbnb in Old Town since we had luggage.

The tram system reminded me of Amsterdam’s transportation and was incredibly easy to use. Pressbyran’s (small convenience stores) sell 1 and 3 day tourism options if you want the option of using the tram (or buses) while in Gothenburg.

THINGS TO DO

Wander around Old Town for a while, taking in the historic Swedish architecture and popping in shops.

My favorite stores around old town: Market 29 for Swedish soap and homewares, Bebop Antik also for homewares, Rum for Inspiration for knick-knacks, Sjutton kvadratmeter Lakrits for a beautiful licorice selection, and Santa Domingo/Dirty Records for Dominican quality coffee and sweet treats.

Walk alongside the main canal, stopping at Feskekorka, the fish market on your way downtown.

The fish market is housed in a church-esque building that dates back to 1873 when the fishing industry was Gothenburg’s biggest industry. The market is filled with seafood vendors and a few restaurant stalls.

Walk downtown until you reached the intersection of Magasinsgatan and Sodra Larmgatan. A few streets over, on Vallgatan, you’ll find more mainstream shops (and more visitors).

Stroll down Magasinsgatan, popping into The Kitchen and Artilleriet, both gorgeous, well-curated home stores. A side door in Artilleriet leads into a courtyard, which is when we realized all of the shops on the block are connected by the shared space.

Other shops in the courtyard I loved: Floramor & Krukatos, a mother and daughter flower shop with homemade pottery and Grandpa, a hip boutique which I’d also checked out in Stockholm.

Keep wandering down Vallgatan, and stop in Vallgatan 12, a cafe/store hybrid with cool accessories and clothes.

Before leaving the area, be sure to stop in Granit, one of my favorite Scandi stores, and a darling flower shop meets cute stationary store, Rum for Paper.

While you’re in the area, stop in Gothenburg’s food hall, Saluhallen. When we visited, we perused the stalls, but weren’t quite ready to eat after the huge cinnamon roll we’d had earlier, but- there are a bunch of stalls selling fresh seafood, meats, and olives, as well as a few veggie friendly shops- one near the back had awesome looking smoothies and juices.

The morning we left Gothenburg, we wandered the old town a bit more, then dropped our luggage off at the train station (£6 for four hour storage), and then wandered the nearby park, Tradgardsforeningen before popping in Nordstan, the town mall, for something to eat.

On My Next Trip

  • Gothenburg City Museum: Tells the story of the city from the Viking era to modern day
  • Island-hop the Gothenburg Archipelago, easily accessed by local ferry
  • Gothenburg Botanical Garden: I’ve heard great things about the garden during the warmer months
  • Palmhuset (the Palmhouse): Not only does this greenhouse house a variation of tropical plants, but there’s also a restaurant here, which sounds like the perfect place to have a late lunch
  • Olstugan: This pub has a few locations around the city, and is known to have an impressive selection of Swedish beer

PLACES TO EAT

  • Cafe Husaren for cinnamon rolls as big as your head
  • Forssen & Odberg, next to Hoga Nord Cafe, is an oyster and champagne bar. We ordered a dozen oysters, a few kinds of cheese, olives and had a couple glasses of champagne, enjoying the late Saturday afternoon
  • For dinner, we visited Barabicu, an American-esque restaurant we’d passed earlier in the day that looked interesting. Pretty much had the perfect meal here- a warm winter greens salad (think roasted kale/Brussels sprouts/carrots with greens, lentils and feta) & a couple glasses of Malbec
  • On our way back to old town, we stopped in Jerntorgets Brygghus to try some of Gothenberg’s micro-brews

BEST SPOTS FOR FIKA

Much like Stockholm, there are plenty of cozy cafes in Gothenburg for fika breaks. da Matteo is an adorable coffee shop with several tables and chairs in the courtyard.

We’d wanted to visit Kale’i ,  but unfortunately, it was closed for the holiday (Holy Saturday before Easter). Luckily, we spotted a cute outdoor cafe/garden next door and headed into Hoga Nord Cafe to check it out. So glad we did, because it was the perfect spot to cozy up against big, cushiony pillows and have an afternoon pick-me-up.

ACCOMMODATION RECOMMENDATION 

We stayed in an Airbnb in old town, which I’d recommend, because it really is classic, historic Sweden.

We particularly loved waking up early for morning walks before anyone else was in the area, and likewise at night, wandering the quiet, calm cobbled streets.

Extra Sweden Travel Tips

Visa: Check visa requirements before booking your trip. As part of the EU, entry requirements are similar to other countries in Europe for US travellers. 

Language: English is widely spoken, especially in areas many tourists visit (Sweden, Gothenburg). As anywhere though, it always helps if you know a few words in Swedish- hello, goodbye, do you speak English?, and so on. 

Currency: Swedish Krona. Most things in Sweden (and much of Scandinavia) is contactless. Card is preferred over cash, as it helps save printing paper (environmental impact). Here, having a digital bank, like Revoult, that offers good exchange rates is super helpful

Budget: All of Scandinavia is expensive, by comparison to other parts of Europe. However, I found Sweden more affordable, relatively speaking, than Norway, and about on par to prices I’ve encountered in Finland and Iceland. 

Getting There (flying): Stockholm’s airport is international, but depending on where you’re coming from, you may layover in another one of Europe’s hubs- like Amsterdam, Paris or London.

Alternatively, if you’re coming from another Nordic or Baltic country, you may be able to cruise to Stockholm. 

When to Visit: Summer is hailed as the best time to visit, with warmer temps and more sunshine. I visited in early April, and although it was chilly and even snowed a bit one day, I didn’t mind. The snow actually made for dreamy fika break conditions – nothing like curling up with a hot coffee, savouring a cinnamon bun, and relaxing in a cozy room lit with a bunch of candles while watching the snow fall. That said, I’d love to return in summer to take full advantage of island hopping around Stockholm’s archipelago.

Tipping: Often, gratuity is included. When it’s not, 5-10% is recommended. Best to not overdo it, and just round up when in doubt. 

WiFi Access: Things may have changed since my visit, but I recall there being wifi at most upmarket cafes. I was on an EU SIM when I visited, so I didn’t have any issues with service traveling throughout Sweden.

SIM Card Options: As anywhere, SIMs will be available at the airport upon arrival. When I visited, I had an EU sim card, and thus didn’t need to worry about extra coverage.

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2 comments

  1. I’ve only been to Stockholm in Sweden, although I only had a few hours in town as part of a Scandinavian cruise that I took eight years ago. Definitely wasn’t enough time to see everything, but I did see the colorful Gamla Stan and visited the interior of the Stockholm City Hall, where it hosts the Nobel Prize banquet. I’ve heard good things about Gothenburg, and I’d love to return to Sweden to see it, as well as other cities in the country!

    1. Gamla Stan was one of my favorite parts of Stockholm, so happy to hear you’ve made it there. And yes, I’d love to return to Sweden (and most places in Scandinavia) to get outside of hte cities, and spend time in the gorgeous forests & mountains more off the grid.

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