1 Gamla Stan
This is usually the top of everyone’s list. Gamla Stan (literally Old Town) is a small picturesque island in Stockholm’s city center that oozes medieval European charm. Plan to spend a few hours here wandering around through winding streets filled with cafes, galleries and shops. It’s right next to the Royal Palace which you almost must see. Get there by taking the subway if possible - there’s hardly any parking!
2 Vasa Museum
Scandinavia’s number one tourist destination! In 1628 this 64-gun warship sunk on it’s maiden voyage. The story goes that the engineers knew it would sink but no one wanted to risk their lives by telling the King, a classic shoot-the-messenger situation. Buried in mud for centuries numerous treasure hunters tried to locate it for hundreds of years, even employing the most primitive of diving equipment: a huge cast iron bell that someone was lowered down in the water in and year later one of the first versions of a scuba diving suit in copper. Those attempts are documented in the beginning of the museum. The ship is resplendent it its restoration, and the rear shows the restoration down to the finest details including the vibrant paints and guilded gold trim as in the original. Allow at least 2 hours and then make sure to visit the lovely cafe and gift shop where they sell reproductions from original items found on the wreck such as glasses.
Opened in 1891 this charming open-air museum with historical buildings from around Sweden and moved them there. Similar to America’s Williamsburg that captures history in a living museum. Just like in Williamsburg you’ll find actors recreating the roles of glassmaker, fishing net maker, bread baker, etc. It’s a charming place, ideally visited in summer when the weather is warm and the animals are out and about. In addition there’s a tropical building which is home to several monkeys, snakes, and other tropical creatures. Many concerts are also held here and there is a nice large restaurant. Plan to spend an entire day!
4 Abba Museum
Mamma Mia you have to check it out! It’s quite small so you don’t need more than an hour and a half or so. It’s located underneath a hotel and cafe and restaurant owned by Abba’s Benny. You’ll see pretty much exactly what you’d expect: their many gold records, their infamous concert outfits, memorabilia from their rags to riches start. It’s a quirky, fun and manageable visit. It is located across from Skansen and also Gröna Lund, the amusement park.
The residence of the King and Queen is an absolutely magnificent day trip from Stockholm easily reached by ferry from Stadshuset near Stockholm’s Central Station. The ferry ride is half the fun as the boat that brings you there is an old steamer that has been running since.
Not actually technically a museum but more of a gallery this is a stunning place to visit if you’re interested in photography. Check out what is being exhibited before you go. Plan your trip around visting the award-winning restaurant on the top floor which has one of the most incredible views of Stockholm that you can find! It’s quite known for its brunch and After Work happy hour.
7 National Museet
Recently reopened after an exhaustive 5 year renovation, this museum is a must see. Here’s the secret to beating the line - (it doesn’t work to just show up early because everyone else has thought of that too) - book tickets online to the special exhibition - whatever it is when you’re there. It will cost you about $10 but it’s worth it because you will go to a special line with guards and they will sweep you right in. After checking out the collections (don’t miss admiring the majestic Carl Larsson murals in the grand staircase) make sure to pop in to the well-stocked gift shop that I've always found to have the perfect gifts. There are also two new eateries: one more casual cafe, the other a sit-down restaurant. It’s located next to the Grand Hotel where you have to pop into the Cadierbaren afterwards and have Afternoon Tea overlooking the water (book well in advance) or grab a glass of champagne in the elegant oak-filled bar room.
8 Svensk Tenn
If you want to impress a Swede, hand them a gift wrapped in paper from this iconic store. Nothing screams ultimate Scandinavian style more than this enclave of design located in fashionable Östermalm. Prints from Josef Frank, one of Sweden’s most beloved artists, can be bought in every form imaginable: from by the meter in Swedish made textiles, to entire sofas covered in the print, to handbags and even match boxes. There’s something really exceptional about Josef Frank prints - they’re timeless in a quirky way and even though they are relatively “busy” somehow the magic is that your eye never tires. Swedes have been admiring his prints since the 1950s and furniture with this store’s name can sell half a century later for eye-popping sums. Founded in 1924 and with a Royal Warrent. Pricey but uniquely worth it.
Sweden’s answer to Harrod’s and Galleries Lafayette. Founded in 1902 - they receive 12 million visitors per year. The atrium in the center entrance hallway is breathtaking. NK is filled with high end boutique in boutique shops, several restaurants and a gourmet food hall in the basement.
Built in 1888 Östermalms Saluhall is a luxury food hall filled with delicacies from Sweden and abroad. Keep in mind that it is only open in the day so plan a visit around lunch and dine in one of the uber popular seafood restaurants.
11 Extra bonus! Stockholm's Archipelago
An honorable mention goes to a quick visit to Stockholm’s archipelago or Skärgården as it is known in Swedish. The easiest point to reach is Fjäderholmarna which will give you a little taste of the islands. If you have more time you can venture out to Sandhamn, the ultimate destination in the archipelago (think a mini-Nantucket). Ferries go from X right near Svensk Tenn.