We visited Stockholm this summer for TBEX, a travel bloggers conference, and were blown away by both the city’s picture-perfect setting and its family-friendly attitude. Sweden has long had a reputation for being a great place for kids to grow up but it was fascinating to see how much the country really does value their children. Government offices, for example, will regularly invite young Swedes to share their opinions and needs. This, in turn, has helped to shape decision-making processes and policies.
Across Sweden there are child-specific libraries, pram ramps are common and parks have dedicated sections for kids. Most shopping centres have nursing rooms and the majority restaurants have high chairs. It really does seem like Sweden is one of the most child-friendly countries in Europe!
Stockholm is a city built for kids. There are myriad sights and activities designed especially for children and others that run kid-friendly workshops and programmes. As we were visiting Stockholm without our children (young kids and TBEX are not a great mix), we couldn’t put this city to the ‘Kid Test’ as we usually do. However, we did spend a lot of time talking with Anna Holmberg, who works at the Stockholm Information Desk at the Nordic C Hotel, and she shared her local tips on the best things to do in Stockholm with kids. The following activities are what we plan to do with our children when we are next in Stockholm!
Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Stockholm
1) Get Lost in Fairy Tales at Junibacken
Junibacken is a museum and cultural centre that aims to inspire a love of reading in children. Located on the island of Djurgården, in the centre of Stockholm, this popular museum is devoted to Swedish children’s literature, in particular, the works of Astrid Lindgren. For those unfamiliar with Lindgren, she is the author of many books including the wonderful Pippi Longstocking tales. Literary-inspired activities prevail at Junibacken and include an enchanting Story Train ride through some of Lindgren’s most popular stories. This fun train journey ends at Villa Villekulla, home to Pippi Longstocking. There is also Storybook Square, where children can visit Pippi’s house and even ride her horse.
The on-site theatre puts on 1,500 shows annually – all family-friendly – and the restaurant is famous for serving 150,000 pancakes a year! The museum also houses a temporary exhibition space used to showcase a single author or character. The current exhibition delves into the colourful world of the Moomins and is in place until January 2017.
For more information, see the Junibacken Website
2) Become a Knight at The Royal Armoury
Established in 1628 by King Gustav II Adolph, the Royal Armoury (Livrustkammaren) is the oldest museum in Sweden. It was created initially to preserve the royal clothes used by the King on his campaign in Poland and is today an interactive lesson in Swedish History. More importantly, perhaps, it gives children the opportunity to dress up as knights!
Positioned in the dark cellar of the Royal Palace, the museum houses elaborate costumes, glittering carriages, and clothes and playthings once belonging to the royal children. Somewhat morbidly, the outfit worn by Gustav III to the masquerade ball in 1792 where he was assassinated is also on display.
A good way to explore the Royal Armoury is on the self-guided ‘Castle Mouse’ tour; the museum shop provides the tools you need to enjoy this family-friendly tour. Afterwards, kids can dress up as Kings and Queens in the Play & Learn room. Temporary exhibitions designed for children are also held regularly. This summer it was the ‘So do the Princesses and Princes’ display that celebrates a fearless princess as she prepares to battle a fearsome dragon in order to save the prince. The exhibition is based on books by Per Gustavsson and is aimed at children aged 3 – 6-years-old. It runs until January 2017.
For long-term visitors or residents, there is the Chivalry Club, a club open to children aged between four- and 12-years-old with regular monthly events.
For more information please see The Royal Armoury Website
3) Challenge your Brain at MegaMind
The National Museum of Science and Technology opened their latest offering, MegaMind, in early 2016 and it is fantastic. Designed to encourage and inspire children to experiment their way to new, smart ideas, it’s an original, fun and innovative museum for kids. The museum design alone is wonderful and is based on the human brain. Visitors enter the museum through a gigantic ear and onwards into a large room where the brain’s hemispheres are represented.
From here on, it’s all about creative thinking. There are some 50 interactive displays that challenge children to think differently and to challenge their perceptions. Children can see what the world looks like through a pair of cat’s eyes or learn about balance walking across the dizzy bridge. There’s the chance to paint with your eyes, make music with your entire body and drive a satellite. There is also a family room in MegaMind for changing babies’ diapers/nappies and for feeding – as well as giving everyone a rest!
For more information on visiting, please see the MegaMind Website
4) Discover the Incredible Story of The Vasa
In 1626 King Gustavus Adolphus ordered a ship to be built that would be grand enough to showcase Sweden’s military might. The Vasa took two years to build and when she was finished she was a beautiful ship; richly decorated and fitted with elaborate bronze cannons. Unfortunately, however, the Vasa was incredibly unstable. It’s not surprising then, that when the Vasa took her maiden voyage in August 1928, she sank. She had only made it 1,300 meters into her journey.
For 300 years, the Vasa lay at the bottom of Stockholm harbour until she was discovered in the 1950s. In April 1961, she was raised to the surface with her hull almost entirely intact. Today she sits in the Vasa Museum and is one of the city’s most popular attractions.
Numerous activities are offered specifically for children at the museum. One of the most popular is the showing of a film about a little piglet called Lindblom who heads out on an adventure aboard the Vasa. There is also a family trail to follow after you have seen the film that guides you through the museum, asking questions based on Lindblom’s adventures. The trail is in English and suitable for children 3 to 8 years.
A second family trail takes visitors through the Vasa´s history and is suitable for children from 6 years. The family trail is available in Swedish, English, German, Finnish and Russian. On the 6th floor are computers where you can try and sail the Vasa and you can also try the diving bell and imagine what it must have been like to dive under water in the past. The museum website has PDF print outs of the Vasa that children can colour in.
For more information on visiting the Vasa Museum please see their website The Vasa Museum
5) Be a Dancing Queen at the ABBA Museum
Even if your children have never heard of ABBA, you simply have to take them to this poptastic museum dedicated to Sweden’s most famous pop group. The museum celebrates everything there is to know about ABBA, from the moment that Björn and Benny first met to the day that the group sang their winning song, Waterloo, at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. There are costumes and gold records on display as well as other original items and memorabilia.
But there’s more to this museum than rooms full of ‘stuff’. The ABBA Museum is built on audience engagement and visitors are encouraged to get involved in almost every room; you can mix songs, audition to become the fifth member of ABBA and sit at the controls of the ‘Arrival Helicopter’ – made famous from the classic album cover. The highlight of the museum, however, is the stage where you can join the ABBA avatars and belt out Mama Mia as loud as you like. Definitely fun for all the family!
For more information, see the Abba Museum Website
6) Step Back in Time at Skansen
Located on the island of Djurgården (along with Junibacken, see above), Skansen is the world’s first open-air museum. Founded in 1891, it’s a place to experience living history; where you can wander around historic homes and see the staff dressed in period dress. There are 150 farms and houses to explore, each representing different periods in Sweden’s history. The houses were disassembled and transported here from across the country and a walk.
There is a zoo, home to wild Nordic animals including bears, wolves and lynx and a children’s zoo with domestic animals such as goats and chicks. National Holidays are celebrated great vigour at Skansen with fun events to celebrate Midsummer, Christmas and more.
For more information, see the Skansen Website
7) Get Creative at Artipelag
Artipelag is Stockholm’s newest art gallery. Set on Värmdö, in the Stockholm Archipelago, it’s just a 20-minute drive from the city centre or a 1.5-hour boat ride. If the sun is shining, we definitely recommend sailing your way there! Artipelag is a combination of the words ‘art’, ‘activities’ and ‘archipelago’ and sums up what this creative space hopes to offer. Exhibitions change regularly and in the past have featured artists such as Carouschka Streijffert and Andy Warhol.
Artipelag also has programmes for kids with dedicated activity spaces for children and organised workshops based on current exhibitions. This summer there was a ‘Make Your Own Poster’ workshop that tied in with the Andy Warhol display. Other activities include quizzes and making Easter eggs. A very good restaurant is on site and the island itself has boarded walkways for strolling. All in all, Artipelag is a very good day out.
For more information please see the Artipelag Website
8) Relax at Yasuragi Kids
Yasuragi, meaning ‘inner peace and harmony’ is a hotel and spa designed to provide a complete holistic experience. The spa is known primarily for its relaxing Japanese baths, that soothe the body and clear the mind. For 10 months of the year, Yasuragi is open to visitors aged 16 years and over. However, during the summer months, Yasuragi opens its doors to children of all ages. This period is known as Yasuragi Kids.
Yasuragi Kids was conceived to offer families the opportunity to spend quality time together in relaxing and peaceful environment. Yasuragi Kids is not a glorified kids’ club where you can leave your children while you enjoy a massage. Instead, Yasuragi Kids is a place to spend time simply being with your children; a place that aims to help children slow down and reconnect with themselves. There are no childcare facilities and parents are responsible for their children at all times. Parents and children are also expected to participate in activities together. These include sushi making, family yoga, and meditation classes. For more information on this truly innovative concept, take a look at our full review.
The Yasuragi Website is here.
9) Get Spooked on a Ghost Walk!
Suitable for older kids (the Ghost Walk recommends 7 years and up) who aren’t easily spooked is this ghoulish 90-minute walk through Gamla Stan, the Old Town. This is no fairground ride but rather a chance to delve into the gruesome history of Stockholm as you walk along dark alleyways, through forgotten courtyards, and across cobbled streets. Expect tales of murder and mayhem, death and disease, and executions and assassinations. Kids are more than welcome although parental discretion is advised. Tours are held in Swedish and English and are tailored to whether or not there are children in the group.
For more information see the website of the Stockholm Ghost Walk
10) The Swedish History Museum
The Swedish History Museum is one of the biggest museums in Sweden and is the place to come to learn about the Vikings. Legends paint the Vikings as brutal robbers who travelled the world plundering villages and frightening locals (or worse!). The reality is, however, that they were mostly peaceful traders, farmers, hunters and craftsmen. On display at the Swedish History Museum are literally million of objects covering every aspect of Viking life, including gold and silver treasures, medieval art and unique finds from the Battle of Gotland (1361) one of the most violent battles of Swedish history. Activities are held for children and families throughout the year and in the summer season they offer special hands-on activities such as craftsmanship and Viking games in the museum courtyard.
For more information see the Swedish History Museum Website
Where to Stay in Stockholm with Kids
We stayed at the Nordic C Hotel, which is brilliantly located near the Arlanda Express trains. Rooms are on the small side but prices are good for this part of town, and breakfast is excellent! We visited the Haymarket by Scandic, a very handsome hotel in a restored department store. The central location is great and it’s family-friendly. Other popular family hotels include the Radisson Blu Waterfront Hotel, beautiful Freys Hotel, the Nobis Hotel and Hotel Skeppsholmen. For more ideas on family friendly places to stay, take a look at these suggestions.
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More posts on travelling with kids in Europe can be found here.
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