5 places to visit in Stockholm, Sweden when traveling with kids

On my recent trip to Sweden with the kids, we spent a few days in Stockholm to catch up with family there. The kids had a lot of fun on this part of the trip, partly because they got to hang out with their 2-year old Swedish cousin, and also because there are some very fun things to do for kids in the Swedish capital.

The weather was great while we were there, so we ended up doing a lot of walking, which is a great way to see this city. Here are some of the places we walked to during our visit:

Strolling in Kungsträdgården.
1. Kungsträdgården
This spacious park in central Stockholm is a great place for a stroll, sitting down to enjoy an ice cream cone or a cup of coffee, or to allow your kids to run around a bit, maybe chasing the local pigeons (that's what my son enjoyed doing at least!). There are restaurants and cafés here, as well as some famous works of public art, like the statue of Charles XII, and Molin's fountain.

One of the lions outside the royal palace.
2. The Royal Palace
This is the official residence of Sweden's king and queen, and it's located smack dab in the middle of the city, right by Stockholm's famous Old Town. My daughter was initially disappointed with the castle ("That doesn't look like a castle!"), because it had now towers. However, once we got closer and she got to see the guards outside in their shiny helmets, and the cannons in the courtyard, she was appeased. Note: If the Swedish flag is flying from the castle, that means the king is at home!

Another highlight for the kids was the horse and carriage we saw just outside the castle. You can hop on for a guided tour of Stockholm!

The well at Stortorget.
3. Stortorget

Going for a walk in Stockholm's Old Town is a must for any visitor. There are narrow cobblestone streets, and even narrower alleys between the buildings (most of them many hundreds of years old), a multitude of shops from tacky to wonderful, and many, many cafés and restaurants. Stortorget is a great stop for some Swedish history, and some great photos. My kids especially liked climbing on the well, constructed in the 1700s, located in the center of the square.

Bloodthirsty note: If your kids are a little older than mine (teenagers, say), you might get them excited about the visit to Stortorget by telling them about the infamous Stockholm's blood-bath, which took place here in 1520. In three days, 90 people were beheaded here by the Danish/Swedish king Christian II. Take that, Game of Thrones!

On the cobblestones of Västerlånggatan.
4. Västerlånggatan
If you're walking around the Old Town, you will most likely end up on Västerlånggatan at one time or another. Along this street are what seems an endless parade of souvenir shops and places selling ice-cream, and in the summer it is packed with strolling tourists. So yes, it has the feel of a tourist trap, but it also retains some serious charm. The cobblestones, the old buildings, the occasional shop with real, honest-to-goodness handcrafted items... it's all here too.

We headed down the occasional narrow alley to get away from the hustle and bustle, and with my kids I tried to imagine what the city was like, hundreds of years ago. We stopped for very delicious pastries and excellent coffee at Café Gråmunken: highly recommended!

Crazy, under-aged drivers at Skansen.
5. Skansen
Skansen, a vast zoo and open-air museum, is another must-see for visitors to Stockholm, especially if you're traveling with children. Now, we didn't actually walk all the way here, but instead took the ferry across from downtown Stockholm to Djurgården, where Skansen is located. You can easily spend a day here with your kids, there are animals to see, all sorts of craftspeople to visit, and museum exhibits to explore. Pony rides, bumper cars, the Aquarium... the list goes on. Take a look at the map, and you'll see you can keep very busy here!

The highlights for my kids were:
  • riding the electric bumper cars on the grand wooden dance-floor at Bollnäs Place;
  • investigating the cannons outside Restaurant Solliden which is a great, kid-friendly place for an easy-going meal (this location also offers a fantastic panorama view of Stockholm, so bring your camera!)
  • riding the kid's train around the grounds: not a long ride (about 15 minutes), but just right for little ones (it departs from Bollnäs Place);
  • looking at the animals, especially the wolves, wolverines, and bears (who all were out and about and showing off).
Note: There is a new children's zoo at Skansen, with a lot of stuff made especially for kids, including a petting zoo. However, when we visited, this part of the grounds was extremely busy and crowded and the kids really didn't enjoy it as much as I thought they would. It might be a better bet in the off-season though.

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