Part of the mainland, this modern centre of Stockholm is home to the Centralstationen and likely to be your first stop. Its spine is Drottninggatan, a pedestrianised street lined with high street giants like Topshop, Zara and several branches of the ubiquitous Swedish chain H&M.
The main department stores include the Selfridges-esque NK and the more purse-friendly Åhléns. For a break from the spending, head to the ultra-modern Kulturhuset to browse the art and design, or Berzelii Park where on a sunny weekend you can join locals lazing by the water.
Refreshments: For novelty try the original Icebar, where a silver anorak and ski gloves are needed to comfortably drink vodka cocktails served in ice. For something warmer head to Berns – a restaurant (whose opulent chandeliers are tempered by modern art), bar and club rolled into one.
It might be diminutive in size, but this island is boundless in imagination, housing museums devoted to modern art, architecture and design. The Moderna Museet includes the likes of Picasso, Dali and Warhol; next door is the Arkitekturmuseet covering 1000 years of Swedish architecture, and nearby lies Svensk Form Design Centre devoted to local and international design. If you don’t fancy the museums, the island deserves a visit purely for the bridge crossing from Norrmalm.
Refreshments: The café upstairs at the Moderna Museet Art serves coffee and snacks with an accompanying slice of Stockholm, viewed over the water.
Meaning Old Town, this island was the original heart of Stockholm, from which the rest of the city grew. The medieval atmosphere has been lovingly preserved and though the main drag Västerlånggatan is packed with tourists and shops spilling viking-related souvenirs, you can easily escape into the narrow streets lined with ancient, dirty-pastel buildings. Drop by the Royal Palace, Kungliga Slottet, at midday to see the changing of the guard.
Refreshments: On Stortorget, the main square you’ll find the Nobelmuseet (dedicated to Nobel Prize winners over the years) and nearby, Kaffekoppen. Once your eyes grow accustomed to the candlelit shabby chic, order a generous slice of blueberry pie and huge bowl of coffee sprinkled with cinnamon (chatting over coffee and cake is so common a Stockholmer habit it’s got a name – ‘fika’).
Dubbed Sofo (south of Folkungagatan) this trendy neighbourhood of Stockholm more than lives up to its London and NYC equivalents. By day you can browse vintage boutiques, skater shops and quirky homeware stores, and by night drop in the bars for a laid-back drink or heady dose of live music. Climb the steep, cobbled streets towards the east of the island and you get great views of Gamla Stan.
Refreshments: It might be out on a limb, but Marie Laveau on Hornsgatan is a one-stop shop, with a relaxed bar upstairs and restaurant down below. For a snapshot of indie Stockholm try Mosebacke Etablissment where thrashing guitars are washed down with Falcon beer, and imaginative haircuts and thick-rimmed glasses almost seem requisite.
Once set aside for royal hunting expeditions, this island is now dominated by Skansen, an open-air history museum that manages to avoid being tacky, despite the old lady stitching by the fire historical re-enactment. Perhaps, like most of the city’s tourist attractions, this is because you’re left to your own devices – to wander past the farmsteads, manor houses and zoo animals as you please.
Continuing the historical vein of this island, is the Nordiska Museet (National Museum of Cultural History) and, nearby, the huge warehouse of the Vasamuseet. Ask anyone what to see in Stockholm and they’ll recommend this huge flagship, dredged from the harbour where it sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. While its short life is an example of Swedish design that went wrong, the Vasa’s present reincarnation is quite the opposite.
Refreshments: If your holiday budget’s flagging (Stockholm is expensive, but no more so than London) the picnic area of Skansen is a handy lunch option, with burgers (regular and veggie) and hotdogs.