40 hours in Stockholm – Part 1

40 hours in Stockholm – Part 1

You’re probably wondering why 40 hours but not 48. Simply because i arrived on a Friday at 9.30pm and fly out on Sunday afternoon at 4.00pm.

Deducting time for transportation logistics (getting to/from airport, check-in, waiting & boarding) actually leaves us with 38 hours in Stockholm city. Now let me take out another 2 x 9 hours of lodging and sleep ??, we then have merely 20 hours to cover everything in the next 3 posts. As short as it may seem, i promise you will still have plenty of time to enjoy and leisurely take in most of the charms Stockholm has to offer. And if you return home as impressed as I am, you would want to come back one day to visit some of the best museums, art scenes, explore the best corners in each neighbourhood and actually step on one or two of those archipelago islands.

This post will guide you through the course of the first morning – places that I visited and/or would recommend

The next posts will give you a glance of the Vaxholm boat tour, the afternoon itinerary around Gamla Stan and Soldermalm, followed by day-2’s walk along the habour and Djurdgard island.

And being a foodie, I can’t help but having to dedicate a separate post to the Stockholm food scenes – my personal taste tests and places I’ve bookmarked for the next visit.

So what are we waiting for?  Pack your bag and go explore!

Spoiler alert!!

? In case you want to skip to the afternoon boat tour click here

? For day 1 – Afternoon and evening itinerary, click here

? For day 2 – Djurdgard island, click here

1. Where to stay for budget travellers

Hostels or smaller (often privately-run) guesthouses that tick the boxes on location, accessibility, check-in hours, facilities, general vibe, and of course our wallet.

Some places on my short-list are

Hostels or smaller (often privately-run) guesthouses that tick the boxes on location, accessibility, check-in hours, facilities, general vibe, and of course our wallet.

Some places on my short-list are:

Generator Hostel: located in Norrmalm, 7 min walk from Stockholm Central. Late check-in hours until 24.00. Most other hostels in city or old town area (Gamla Stan) close their reception by 9pm. Hip decor with in-house bar & cafè, meeting rooms for budget business travellers, linen included in price,rental towels & toiletries, common room but no common kitchen. Thus it seems popular among young crowds (but not teenager), though I did encounter a few mire seasoned travellers and Asian business groups.

City Backpacker Hostel: similar location to Generator but offering horter check-in window until 22.00 only. Somewhat cheaper in price but no linen nor ensuite dorms. It is fitted with a common kitchen so you can cook or reheat food there. Bar & cafeteria on premises. I wouldn’t mind trying next time if going solo

Castanea Old Town Hostel: a bit on a higher budget, located in the heart of the old town – Gamla Stan – 1.3km away from Central Station. It is accessible by Metro (Gamla Stan stn.) followed by 500m walk OR all the way on foot. I think it would be an ideal place for those with early check-in windows (before 9pm) and are ready to lose oneself in the archaic and noble beauty of Stockholm. The hostel is also equipped with common kitchen and is surrounded by lots of cafés and restaurants, especially right next to the famed Under Kastanjen.

Castle House Inn: also in the heart of Gamla Stan and less than 200m away from Castanea, towards the riverside. It offers mostly room options and one dorm with 12-bed. Linen and towels are included in the price but no kitchen and very pricey breakfast (EUR 22). From the look and reviews, this stands on my list as a back-up.

Now that we’ve checked in, dropped our luggage, and probably even had the first night sleep after a late flight, let’s head out.

2. Day 1 – AM – Bakery breakfast tour, Norrmalm walk and a sneak peek at Gamla Stan before Vaxholm boat tour

It’s Saturday, most people will be sleeping in longer, cafés and shops open later, streets and sights will stay quiet and deserted until mid-day. But as an early riser, I am already up by 6am while five other roommates are still deep in their sleep. This gives me the utter privilege to use the bathroom without a single minute of wait, as if in my own hotel room (of course noise-making and shuffling must be minimised!). Taking a shower and getting dressed, I headed down to the on-site café to make my hot water lemon and rehearsing my planning for the day. Generator has its café/restaurant next to reception desk and opens its door for breakfast and fika(*) as early as 7am. There are only a 1-2 guests at check-in and a small few at the dining area munching their sandwiches next to the first coffee fix of the day.


Since I’ve already mapped my itinerary for a breakfast “tour” to two of the most recommended bakeries in town which happen to locate 15-20mins walk away, I suck in the growling tummy, get myself a (free) hot water, squeeze in half of a lemon I brought with me and open Google map on my phone…


7.45am – 8.30am: Bakery breakfast tour

Head out of the hostel, I make my way up north of Norrmalm towards Bakery  & Spice where some of the city’s best organic sourdough bread , kademummabullar , kanelbullar,and other signature Swedish bakes are made.

Stockholm_Breakfast_Bakery _and_spice

As expected, I am the lucky first client who gets to pick the freshest batch out of the oven while waking up all of my senses inhaling the exclusive warm, rustic, nutty, and aromatic air inside the bakery. They don’t sell sandwiches, only bread and sweet bakes. Inga problem! One seeded rye petit pain and one cardamom bun for the road.

Despite no filling, the rye bread is right on point (8+) with light malty rye flavour, sturdy but not too dense with unnoticeable saltiness unlike regular rye loaves. This should keep you up and running til the next stop ;). As for the cardamom bun, it was my favourite (9) – just the right size for a coffee break, not too sweet and super cardamom-y (more in the next post on #foodscenes)

By 8.15am, I’ve reached Brunkebergs Bageri  to join the locals in the queue (already!) for my second breakfast fix. Here, they do sell sandwiches next to bread and pastries so I order a cheese ciabatta and a cappuccino to pair with the kardemummabullar from Bakery & Spice in my backpack. The sandwiches are nothing but ordinary, I guess their specialty lies in the variety of bread loaves that attract a usual queue of locals, despite the early hours and Swedish pastries. I manage to revisit this place the next day before heading to the airport to buy some cinnamon buns and cardamom buns as airplane snack and “souvenirs” for home. I can confidently give them an 8

Stockholm_Breakfast_Bakery _Bageri

8.30 – 9.30 – Walking through Norrmalm, shopping high streets and Kungstradgarden

Norrmalm is the downtown district of Stockholm with the southern part – Lower Norrmalm – towards Gamla Stan makes up the central part of the city with shopping high-streets, Central Station, modern establishments; while Upper Norrmalm towards Vasastan  is more residential. If you, like me, staying around central station and following the above breakfast bakery route, you’ll get a taste of the local life in the residential neighbourhood.


Drottninggatan is the major high street of Stockholm. And just like in any other city, over 1km of pedestrian walk is lined with fashion stores, cafe’s and restaurants geared towards the younger population and tourists. Unless you’re planning to spend your meagre time budget on shopping, I’d recommend talking through this area in early morning, before opening hours. You’ll be able to navigate around leisurely in tranquility and see the raw charm of this area before everything is propped up for the day-show.

If you have time, stop by Hötorgshallen on Sergelgatan – open daily except Sunday from 10am – for a gourmet tour. This is  the city’s hay market and multicutural food hall where you can find both local and world produces and delicacies. I was simply too early for that so would have to leave it to the next visit 😉

While making my way from Drottninggatan towards the Kungsträdgården, the spire of Klara Church tempts me to make a detour. The ground is scattered with graveyards  and the green surrounding is changing into its autumn outfit. Overall, it is well worth a short photo pit-stop.

Getting back to the main road, just on the right side of Sergelstorg, you’ll find the Kulturhuset and Stockholm Visitor Centre next to each other – a good starting point to find out what’s on in the city’s cultural and theatrical scenes and sightseeing options.  From here, Kungsträdgården – the city centre’s park is a mere 3 minute walk away. However, do not expect grass fields and trees like but instead strolling paths and sitting rings around a fountain for ice-cream, chit-chat, and people-watching. It is now the very first day of autumn in late September, when there is no special settings nor events, the park is bare in its minimal floral outfit.  However, if you come here in winter, be prepared for some action on the ice-skating ring in the middle of the park before sipping some warm drink at one of the cafe’s on site. In spring, Kunstradgarden will transform itself into a beautiful cherry-blossom garden while in the summer, a perfect spot for locals and visitors alike to enjoy the sun.



On the way out of the park towards the Strömbron (Stream bridge), it might be worth checking out Kunstradgarden metro station, which is known for its unique underground art and display of original relics of the city during redevelopment in 1950s and 1960s. You’d need to pass the ticket gate to go down 1 level to see these, which usually means using your public transport pass OR like me, just nicely asking the ticket official for a short photo visit. I’m sure he/she will be happy to let you in – the Swedes are so nice and friendly 😀

9.45-11.20 – Medieval old town Gamla Stan

Walking pass the iconic baroque Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet), one will be brought back to the medieval time of 13th century with warm tone Gothic buildings lining up narrow cobbled streets throughout the island, starting from Stockholm Cathedral – Storkyrkan, through the main square – Stortorget, to the very end tip connecting to Soldermalm and the islet of Riddarholmen

The Brick Gothic architecture is native to Northern Germany and widely adopted in a number of Eastern European countries, which explains why it reminds me fondly of the old towns in Warsaw,  Krakow, and Tallinn. The area is compact enough to cover on foot within 1.5-2 hours with a “fika” break in one of the many cozy restaurants and cafe’s (including the most-cited Under Kastanjen where Swedish home-baked pastries and gluten-free treats are often too quickly out of stock), peeking into pretty souvenir and craft shops, passing by the famous Nobel Museum, Stock Exchange building, and numerous art and antique shops.

11.30-12.00 – Boarding the Vaxholm boat excursion

Formed by fourteen islands and on the banks to the second-largest archipelago of the Baltic Sea, Stockholm is part of a skärgård consisting of more than 30,000 islands and islets, stretching from lake Mälaren to the Baltic Sea. The city is virtually “floated” on water, which makes a guided archipelago boat tour a must-do and the best way explore this unique geographical feature of Stockholm. And I’m happy that I did.


(to be continued)