Some time ago I spent a week in Stockholm with my partner and our little girl, who was 4 years old at the time. It was an exciting, fun and instructive experience, and – most importantly of all – the girl had a great time. When I was planning our trip to Stockholm I tried to consult various websites to find out in advance where I could take her, but apart from some quick information, I didn’t find anything particularly comprehensive, so we had to “improvise”.
A family holiday in Stockholm
The experiment was definitely successful, so I thought I would make my short experience available to other parents travelling with their children. I will talk about the places where we have actually been and others that I know for sure are suitable for the little ones, although I will treat them less thoroughly.
To begin with, here are some practical tips:
If you decide to go to Stockholm with the children, I suggest you do as we did and follow a number of unwritten rules that have made our stay much easier.
Always carry a pram
Even for older children ALWAYS carry a pram: no matter how much energy the children initially insist on walking alone, there is inevitably the moment when the “pick me up, I’m tired” whine goes off. The best are the folding ultralights: you can also take them as hand luggage on the plane, leave them at the foot of the ladder and find them in the same position on arrival.
Water and snacks always at hand
When you venture around the city, get some water and a snack in advance. The fierce shout of family/silk can go off at any time and not everyone has the cold-bloodedness to walk into a supermarket full of unknown products with incomprehensible inscriptions and choose something that meets immediately the needs of children.
I have to say that the 7 Eleven (there’s one every 50 metres!) are ideal for a quick refill of water, fruit juices and snacks, even if I’m not very keen on feeding children with sweets or packaged stuff, but in case of emergency everything is fine…
money in pocket for toilettes
The toilets are all paid for, so stock up on 10 SEK coins and patience, because there are often queues. They are all very clean and cosy (as well as equipped with changing tables); I recommend those in department stores. In restaurants and museums of course you don’t have to pay, but it’s not like you can slip into a restaurant just to use the bathroom, and to enter the museum you still have to pay the ticket first.
Restaurants for children in Stockholm
In restaurants, both conventional and museum self-service, there is always a special menu for children, with a discreet choice. We are a case in point: my princess is on pizza with wurstel and fries for a week because she refused everything else.
I don’t know, it’s probably the way the dishes are cooked and presented, because I refuse to believe that Swedish chickens taste different from Italian chickens, but they do…
Some restaurants provide a nice kit for each child with labyrinth-like toys, memory with cards to be removed and coloured pencils with a small album. I find it very cute, also because the little ones are too busy for a few minutes to complain, clear the table and do the gymkhana between the tables. And you’re not the kind of parents who stick their smartphones in the hands of their little ones to keep them quiet, are you?
Children’s tickets in Stockholm
Children under 6 years of age pay practically nothing: just the plane and the food! Hotels, transport and museums are completely free for them! After these general considerations, which will avoid any inconvenience to those who read to me, let’s move on to our stay!
Stockholm in the open air
On the first day we walked around the whole historical centre, Gamla Stan, on foot: it is a maze of alleys, some of them really narrow, characterized by tall and narrow houses with ochre, brick, yellow-orange colours. Full of little shops, a bit too touristy to say the truth, which we have duly looted by buying “absolutely essential” things: a stuffed reindeer with a Swedish sweatshirt, a plastic helmet with Viking horns and many beautiful fridge magnets representing the Dala horse.
With immense foresight, then, we chose an Italian restaurant for lunch, also because, as I said, my daughter at the time disdained anything that did not fit into the typical Italian child’s meal, so we got away with it. It could have been worse.
The next day, following the faithful Lonely Planet, we went to Skansen, located in Kungliga Djurgården. It can be reached by underground (Tunnelbana) red line, direction Ropsten.
We got off at Karlaplan and then we took bus number 44, the stop is just outside the metro station.
Skansen was founded in 1891 by the ethnologist Artur Hazelius and is the first open-air museum in the world: it is a miniature reconstruction of the whole of Sweden, from the characteristic Lappish village (Samevistet) in the far north to the typical farm in the Skånegården region in the far south. The whole of Sweden is represented with over 160 houses and farms from all over the country and from different periods.
There is also a sort of zoo (which I approached with extreme mistrust, but I assure you it doesn’t look like one, there are no cages or bars, but wide open spaces although delimited) with Nordic animals such as moose, bears, lynxes, wolves and seals.
The zoo also includes a terrarium, a monkey house and a children’s zoo with pets that you can touch. On certain days of the week in particular areas of the park there are folk dancing performances and concerts. We have seen one in costume really suggestive.
We have also been able to admire many craftsmen at work in workshops, reconstructed to perfection, where it is also possible to buy quality products. But the thing that struck me the most are the costumed figures who “inhabit” the houses and explain (in Swedish and English, everyone there speaks very well) how life was going on in the period they represent. Beautiful and good!
It takes a long time to see the whole park, in my opinion it is worth spending a whole day there. There are also playgrounds and various refreshment points, and I must say that the whole thing was very much appreciated by the little girl, who had a face-to-face meeting with a squirrel for the first time.
And since the island of Djurgården had turned out to be so full of attractions, we returned several times, one of which was to go to Gröna Lund Tivoli.
. As a mother I was sure that I had tested my patience to the maximum possible extent. Wrong.
In this toy country it has been put to the test even further. Mind you: Tivoli, one of the oldest amusement parks in Europe (it was founded in 1883!) is a source of pure fun, thrill, surprise and wonder!
The Luna Park opens at 11 am and is always full every day.
There are attractions such as the “Fritt Fall”, an 80-metre freefall (which I personally wouldn’t even do under threat), which are hard to find elsewhere, plus you can enjoy a wonderful view of Stockholm.
There are hundreds of rides and games for the little ones, which don’t pay anything up to the age of 3, and from 3 to 6 only pay for the rides (of course many attractions require a minimum height to access them). The point is that the Luna Park, which opens at 11 am, is always packed on any day of the week: ergo for each attraction you need to queue for at least 40 minutes.
Assume that you are already tired (walking around Stockholm is wonderful but not restful), that you have found a sunny day in the sun, and that you are holding the hand of a little person who has absolutely no knowledge of the concepts of “patience” and “waiting”… Anyway, it is absolutely worth it.
It is possible to buy a card for all the attractions valid all day long, but it is personal and not transferable (it is a hermetically sealed bracelet) at 399 SEK, or a carnet with 20 coupons for 380 (which is convenient when both children and companions pay).
It is located at a bus stop before Skansen, so the route to get there is the same. Now, since the little ones can’t get on the more reckless attractions such as the “Fritt Fall”, you’ll have to ride in the Disneyland style cups and on the brucomela. Which, I guarantee you, goes really fast, so a few little thrills are guaranteed.
Near our hotel there was a big park, at the Museum of the Observatory (Observatorie-Museet), Rådmasgatan stop. Here, as in the whole city, there is also a beautiful free playroom for children. There are many games, solid and clean, and many kids of all ages and ethnicities. I was enchanted to see the ethnic-cultural mix of children, including my own, playing together regardless of language barriers!
Being in Stockholm with the little one, we opted for the shortest of the excursions, that of the historical canal, because for a 4 year old creature there is always the risk that the enthusiasm of taking a boat ride will be outclassed by the boredom of sitting still for 40 minutes.
It went well, as the “I want to get off!” started only shortly before the return. Not that you can see much of the historic Stockholm, but it’s still an interesting tour as it allows you to get to know the most recent history of the city, and the green areas are really very beautiful. There are many other possibilities, however, and the brochures of “Stockholm sightseeing” can be found in the lobby of all hotels. The area where we embarked is at Stadshusbron, the City Hall, but there are also other points; departures are every hour in high season. We paid 198 SEK each (the child of course free of charge). A guide entry in many languages, including Italian, provides interesting explanations.
Another excursion that I recommend, which we have not done, is to the small islands that can be reached by ferry. The closest one is Fjäderholmarna, 25 minutes by boat for 295 SEK. Departures are from Nybroplan (every half hour) or from Slussen (every hour) in high season. Craft shops and restaurants welcome tourists for a relaxing day.
Museums in Stockholm
There are about 70 museums in Stockholm; you will understand that if your stay is limited to one week the choice becomes very difficult! I selected 3 of them, thinking mainly about the little girl (I remember I was monstrously bored when my parents used to drag me to see paintings and statues that all looked the same to me), but I would have liked to see many more.
(Natural History Museum)
Tunnelbana T-Universitetet stop. Founded by none other than Linneo, it has recently been renovated and is… simply incredible! As soon as we entered the Naturhistoriska riksmuseet we were greeted by imposing dinosaur skeletons, including a T-Rex, followed by halls and rooms dedicated to flora and fauna divided by ecosystems.
But the most exciting thing, both for me who suffer from a fairly advanced form of Peter Pan syndrome, and for my daughter, are the interactive technologies that allow her to perform small, fun experiments in person.
For example, the room dedicated to the climate makes it possible to understand how turbulence is formed thanks to the steam moved by a special vacuum cleaner; but the highlight is the journey through the human body. Every apparatus of the body (circulatory, auditory, olfactory, digestive, etc.) is illustrated in a simple and intuitive way and is equipped with devices that allow the measurement of heartbeat, reflexes, sight and hearing and so on.
In every sector there are games that allow you to learn while having fun, like repositioning organs in a plastic dummy, experiencing the thrill of complete darkness, blowing, touching, jumping… Now even in Italy the interactive museum is taking hold, and this is great, since children have a very short attention curve, but if they can touch, experiment, just like mine did.
(Museum of Modern Art)
The Modern Museet is located in Skeppsholmen, and can be reached by bus number 65 from the Central Station. I didn’t know if the little one would like my idea, but it was a bit selfish: I absolutely wanted to see it! But I have to say that she had fun there too: unusual shapes, colours and combinations arouse everyone’s curiosity, let alone that of children. And for those a bit older, let’s say primary schools children, there are some fun games to play with: funny questions, “treasure hunt”, etc..
When I found myself in front of some Picasso, I took the heir in my arms and said to her “take a good look at these paintings, there are few in the world”. Personally I was really impressed by the many paintings by very famous artists; not only Picasso, but also Mirò, Munch, Kandinsky and many others: I certainly did not expect to find them in a museum that is so beautiful but certainly not one of the most famous in the world.
In addition, we visited photographic sections, watched video installations and watched with the head bent to the side some decidedly “absurd” works (of those that make you think: “anyone could do it!”). It’s just a shame that the idea came first to the artist who made us a mountain of money), including a bunch of ketchup bottles spilled on the floor…
The museum bookshop is fabulous. We also found some toys (although, of course, very special) and drawing albums with the masterpieces on display to colour, and a myriad of design objects that can also be fun, like a series of colourful fridge magnets (which have been added to the collection on the above mentioned appliance in my kitchen!).
Don’t do like us who were fooled by a map of the Touring indicating its old location. Instead, immediately follow the Lonely Planet guide, which places it correctly in Södermalm.
You can get there by bus no. 2 from the Slussen metro station in the lower part (near the Stadsmuseum). The bus left us right in front of the Leksaksmuseet.
Actually the toy museum is attached to the transport museum (Spårvägsmuseet), which I personally found more interesting. The Leksaksmuseet consists of only a couple of rooms with a few shop windows full of toys from the 60s and 70s, which of course you can’t touch.
In any case there are some play areas for children. The Transport Museum, on the other hand, consists of old buses and tram cars, many of which you can get on and pretend to drive. A nice little train (for a fee) takes visitors around the museum. Actually, you can do very well without visiting both, but as always the important thing is that the children have fun. A mistake to avoid (we made it): eating at the museum’s small self-service restaurant. Don’t do that, trust me.
Shopping in Stockholm
Well, you don’t just live off culture and fresh air! Every now and then, even the consumerist side that snoozes (so to speak) inside each of us must be satisfied… We don’t disdain shopping at all, and I must say that we were very impressed by the variety of Stockholm’s offer in this regard! I would like to point out some shops that will make children happy.
In the square of Sergels Torg there is a huge shopping centre, Åhléns City, which runs over several floors, both above and below ground. You’ll be spoilt for choice, but my little girl loved the toy megastore on the first floor, the Br-leksaker.
Just know that if you end up in there it will be very, very hard to get out… In almost every department store, however, there is a toy department. For example, at the NK, not far away, there is a large space with lots of small tables available to make Lego constructions, which we have made abundant use of.
Also Gamla Stan has some very original small shops. We found one of toys, on Lilla Nygatan, which is a real treat! It’s called Krabat & co There are lots of wooden toys, dollhouses, buildings, all kinds of puppets, educational toys. It is as expensive as fire, but it provides a good alternative to the usual plastic toys that play as soon as you look at them.
Of course Stockholm offers many other places to visit, but if you are in the company of one or more pre-school children, these are the most recommended.