september 29, 2019
Stockholm's inviting medieval center, leafy parks, top-notch sights, and exciting urban scene make the city a highlight of any Scandinavian vacation. But don't let Stockholm's charms blind you to the variety of fine day trips at the city's doorstep.
Within an hour or so of the Swedish capital, you can bask in the opulence of a royal palace, swing through the home and garden of Sweden's greatest sculptor, see ancient rune stones in the country's oldest town, hang with students in a stately university city, or island-hop through Stockholm's archipelago.
West of Stockholm, the 17th-century Drottningholm Palace was commissioned as a summer residence for Queen Hedvig Eleonora. Today, it's the current royal residence of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia.
I find the tour at Drottningholm Court Theater even better than the palace's. Built in the 1760s by a Swedish king to impress his Prussian wife (who considered Sweden dreadfully provincial), this theater has miraculously survived the ages.
Another fine destination is Millesgården, dramatically situated on a bluff overlooking Stockholm's harbor in the suburb of Lidingö. The 20th-century sculptor Carl Milles lived and worked in this villa, and lovingly designed the sculpture garden for the public.
Established in the 970s, it's the oldest town in Sweden – and the cutest. Visitors enjoy a lakeside setting and an open-air folk museum of a town, with ruined churches and a cobbled lane of 18th-century buildings.
Sigtuna is also dotted with a dozen rune stones. These memorial stones are carved with messages in an Iron Age language. Most have a cross, indicating that they are from the early Christian era (11th century).
– one of Scandinavia's largest and long the seat of the Church of Sweden – boasts a soaring Gothic nave, and an even taller space at its transept where centuries of Swedish monarchs were crowned. Side chapels hold treasures that include the relics of St. Erik and the tomb of King Gustav Vasa.
Nearby are the Linnaeus Garden and Museum, where the botanist studied 3,000 species of plants and developed a way to classify the plant kingdom.
Farther from the city – both geographically and in the pace of life – is the isle of Grinda, a car-free and largely forested nature preserve that's laced with walking paths, ringed by beaches, and dotted with granite slabs smoothed by glaciers.
There's no real town here, but the island does offer a few hotels, a café on the marina, and busy ice cream stand. Other fine archipelago stops include the remote isle of Svartsö (great for biking), and the sandy beaches of Sandhamn – the last stop before Finland.
Thank you for reading!