Stockholm on foot or by bike: Gamla Stan, the center and north of the city

I lived in Stockholm for 18 months and loved it.

I suggest walking and cycling tours based on my favorites, with maps showing the routes to follow in the center and north of the city.

Discover Gamla Stan, central and northern Stockholm

I lived in Stockholm in 2012 and 2013 and have returned regularly ever since.

In the first article, “Stockholm: Discovering the city and the Swedes”, I tell you why I loved this city and its people, and why I invite you to visit . You’ll also find a section with some practical advice.

Stockholm is a city made for walking and cycling, but it can be a bit confusing to organize your visits, as the city stretches over no less than 14 islands.

That’s why I’ve put together a few of my favorite walks, which should give you a good idea of this magnificent city, both urban and natural.

In this article, I present three of them:

The first walk will take you to Gamla Stan, the historic heart of Stockholm, and Skeppsholmen, my favorite Stockholm island.

The second walk takes you through the lively city center.

These two walks are short, maximum of 5 to 6 km, to allow you to spend some time in the various tourist spots I’ve selected for you. They tend to be on foot.

The third tour takes you by bike to the north of the city to discover some less touristy spots.

I suggest other walks in the article: ” Stockholm on foot or by bike: Södermalm, Djurgården, and the surrounding area “.

These walks are here to inspire you. On-site, you’re free to improvise as you please! There’s nothing to stop you from making only part of them or combining them differently. It’s your choice as a traveler!

The article is illustrated with numerous photos taken at different times of the year and day, to give you a better idea of the importance of the seasons and light in Stockholm.

Stockholm location map

All coral-colored text indicates an internal or external link, which I invite you to click on.

Stroll around the islands of central Stockholm: where Lake Mälar meets the Baltic Sea

This first stroll will take you through the heart of Stockholm, which is a feast for the eyes.

The numbers on the map below will help you find your way as you read the text.

Map of the islands of central Stockholm

You can even plan to do it several times at different times of the day. because the play of light is particularly superb in the presence of water. Return also at night because you’ll discover a whole new atmosphere.

The tour begins at the Kungsträdgården metro station (1).

From here, we reach Nybroviken, from where the sightseeing boats depart for a tour of the town. A worthwhile excursion if you have difficulty walking. If not, I suggest you discover it on foot.

Strandvagen buildings

We then follow the waterfront along the Nybrokajen quay (2), with its many docked ferries, to the island of Skeppsholmen.

Skeppsholmen: my favourite island!

Skeppsholmen, and its little sister Kastellholmen, are two incredible little islands because you don’t feel like you’re in the city when you’re actually in the heart of Stockholm!

It’s one of my favorite places. The easiest way to get around is to take your time, stopping to watch the Stockholm skyline and the movement of the boats.

We start at the east quay, where we enjoy magnificent views of Gamla Stan and the boats moored there.

Galam Stan view

On this quay, admire the AF Chapman (3), a very elegant three-master built in 1888, which is now a youth hostel. The ship’s finest rooms are an excellent accommodation solution but are unfortunately rarely available.

AF Chapman

If you’re on a budget, I’d recommend staying at the Hotel Skeppsholmen (4). Although we’re in the heart of the city, we feel like we’re in the countryside, in perfectly renovated 17th-century buildings.

Hotel Skeppsholmen

From the top of the “Kastellhomen” islet (5) we enjoy a lovely view of Djugarden.

The Museums of Modern Art (6) and Architecture and Design in the same building are well worth a visit. They’ve been free since 2016!

For lunch, the Modern Art Museum’s restaurant has a lovely terrace overlooking the sea, and its menu is very reasonably priced.

On our way out, we walk along the “Östra Brobänken” quay (7) to admire the magnificent collection of old boats. I love walking around here!

Östra Brobänken quay
Östra Brobänken quay
We then continue to Galam Stan, Stockholm’s old town. To get there, simply walk along the Strömkajen quay. This is where most of the ferries to the archipelago depart from. A fantastic place, which I’ll tell you about in another article!

Don’t miss the Grand Hotel (8), an elegant palace. President Obama stayed there in 2013 just after the G20 summit in St Petersburg. The hotel was entirely booked for him! If you don’t want to sleep there, I suggest you go for tea or dinner at the Mathias Dalhgren Matbaren restaurant.

Grand hotel


Gamla Stan: Stockholm’s old town

We reach Gamla Stan via a bridge.

On your right we notice a rather austere, massive building: it’s the royal palace (9)! I don’t think it’s essential to visit it or attend the changing of the guard.

Next, we stroll along the west quay, Skeppsbrokajen (10), because from there we have splendid views of the island of Skeppsholmen, which we visited, and the numerous boats sailing on the Baltic.

At the end of the quay, we enter the interior of the island to lose ourselves in its various lanes and squares as our inspiration takes us (11).

During high season, the best time to visit is early in the morning or late at night, to avoid the crowds of tourists. I like the atmosphere of the night with its mysterious moods.

Gamla Stan by night
Gamla Stan by night

Paradoxically, it’s when the weather’s not so good that I appreciate Gamla Stan the most. The district empties and regains its charm in rain or snow, and becomes one of my favorite places in Stockholm.

Skeppsbrokajen in the snow
Gamla Stan in the snow
Gamla Stan in the snow
Gamla Stan in the snow

At one point or another, our footsteps take us to Stortorget, the central square surrounded by Renaissance-style buildings that give the impression of being in the Netherlands. Numerous cafés line the street. Time to relax and enjoy a drink on the terrace.


We also pass through Västerlånggatan, the shopping street that crosses Galam Stan from north to south. It has become very touristy, with many souvenir stores, but there are also a few second-hand dealers. If you want to bring home the perfect little Viking outfit for your nephew, this is the place to find it!

Store for tourists

Our first walk ends on the tiny island of Riddarholmen (12), with its magnificent views, especially at sunset, of Lake Mälar and the town hall.


Stroll through Norrmalm, Östermalm and Kungsholmen

Our second stroll will take us through the city center, where the commercial activity is greatest.

The numbers on the map below will help you find your way as you read the text.

We start at Centralen station (1). Chances are, this is where you got your first glimpse of Stockholm when you stepped off your train or shuttle bus from Arlanda airport to the city.

It’s also a major hub for metro lines.

Central station Stockholm


Norrmalm: the shopping district rescued from the urban planning mistakes of the 50s and 60s

As you leave the station, I can well imagine your disappointment, as the buildings surrounding the station are not exceptional.

We’re in Norrmalm. It’s a district that was totally transformed, with austere architecture and wide avenues, in the 50s and 70s, a period when Europe was trying to bring the car into city centers. The photo was taken by Eric Claesson in 1968 ( website).

Norrmalm 60s

Although it’s not the sexiest part of town, don’t let that be your first impression and follow me, because beyond appearances, it’s very much alive.

We start with the very “mineral” Sergels Torg square, which is quite spectacular with its glass obelisk.

The place of the car has been reduced in favor of the streetcar and pedestrians. Sergels Torg is where Stockholmers gather to demonstrate… in a way that a Parisian would find extremely discreet!

To the south of the square, take a look at the cultural center, “Kulturhuset” (2), which is a bit like Stockholm’s “Paris Beaubourg Center”. Go upstairs to enjoy the view and, if it’s time, to have lunch at the Kulturuset panorama café.

Around Sergels Torg

We retrace our steps to the very long Drottninggatan pedestrian street . At its corner is Ålhéns (3), Stockholm’s department store.

We then walk up Drottninggatan to an interesting outdoor and indoor market near Hötorget (4). On one side of the square is the Konserthuset with its bold statues. This is the home of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Konserthuset and surroundings


We then head for Stureplan along Kungsgatan, a long shopping boulevard with interesting architecture. Note that some streets cross it at a high level, as Stockholm is not a flat city due to its granite subsoil.



Östermalm: Stockholm’s chic district

Östermalm borders Norrmalm on its eastern flank. It’s a bit like Stockholm’s 16th arrondissement in Paris, with its embassies and chic boutiques.

We start at Stureplan, with its strange concrete mushroom cloud to shelter from the rain, which is where Stockholmers meet up to go to shows and restaurants in this nightlife district.

On the square is the Sturegallerian shopping arcade (5) with its luxury boutiques, which is not uninteresting.

You’ll find plenty of restaurants around Stureplan. I recommend Grodan, a Swedish adaptation of the Parisian brasserie!

On the way out of Sturegallerian, I’ll take you to the Östermalm Saluhall (6) covered market, housed in a magnificent hall built in 1888 and recently renovated. The restaurants and shop windows make your mouth water with excellent products, but unfortunately at very high-end prices!


It’s also where you’ll find Swedish design boutiques. Designtorget is a chain of stores that you’ll see all over Stockholm. You’ll find plenty of pretty things to pack in your suitcase.

I recommend a visit to Nordiska Galleriet 1912 on Nybrogatan. Here you’ll discover some very fine designer furniture and armchairs.

We explore the adjacent streets, which are home to numerous luxury and fashion boutiques.

We then move on to the public garden “Kungsträdgården” (7 ), which is very popular with Stockholmers, especially in Spring when the cherry trees are in blossom. In winter, a Christmas market and ice rink attract onlookers.


Kungsträdgården in winter

The Opera is located on the southwest corner of Kungsträdgården. If you have an event to celebrate, I can only recommend Operakällaren, a stylish Michelin-starred restaurant with old-fashioned service. This is where we took our mothers for their birthdays!

We then follow the water on a pleasant footpath. The current is tumultuous, as this is where Lake Mälar empties into the Baltic Sea. Note first the massive royal palace and, on a small island opposite us, the Swedish parliament (8).

Parliament and public ministries


Kungsholmen: the King’s Island, home to the prestigious Town Hall

After passing under a wide bridge over a freeway and railroad tracks, we arrive on the island of Kungsholmen.

I used to live in Kungsholmen and really enjoyed this residential area.

You’re sure to be impressed by the town hall, Stadhuset, located on the shores of Lake Mälar. It’s Stockholm’s iconic building. It is built entirely of brick and topped by a large square tower.

Stadhuset Stockholm

Exterior details Stadhuset

The Nobel Prize banquet is held in the huge Golden Hall, in the presence of the King and Queen, according to a well-defined protocol. The dinner is a very popular show and is broadcast on television, allowing every Swede to watch for the inevitable clumsiness of the new Nobelists!

Stadhuset interior

After visiting City Hall, I invite you to climb the 106 m high square tower to enjoy the view over central Stockholm.

If you still decide not to visit the town hall, you absolutely must enter its courtyard and garden, as the view of the lake is exceptional.

Our walk continues along the shores of Lake Mälar. Whatever the time of day, the light is often very beautiful. Let’s take our time, we’re in no hurry!

Lake Mälar in summer

Lake Mälar at sunset

In the area near the town hall, we discover a long quay, “Strandvägen”, lined with old boats, with explanations posted for each one.

Boats at dock Kungsholmen

We pass next to a good Italian Trattorian restaurant where you can come back for dinner.

Our walk ended at Mälarpaviljongen (11), a floating bar where gay and trendy Stockholmers gather. It was just 50 meters from my house, and I liked to go there for a drink in the late afternoon when the sun’s colors were at their most beautiful. The atmosphere is not at all haughty, as it would be in Paris in an equivalent venue, and remains good-natured, Swedish-style!


If you’re in Stockholm in winter, Mälarpaviljongen will be closed, but you may be lucky enough to see the frozen lake and be able to walk or skate on it! What I was able to do when I lived in Stockholm. It was fabulous!

Lake Mälar frozen in winter

Above all, Kungsholmen is a great place to live. You can even swim in the lake or walk around the island along the shore. If you’re looking for a jogging trail, this is a great spot!

For the evening, if you like meat, I recommend Restaurant AG, an excellent meat restaurant.

Stroll to the north of Stockholm

This 22 km bike ride will take you to places where few tourists go. You’ll get to see many of the city’s more natural aspects.

The numbers on the map below refer to comments in the text.

North Stockholm walking map

From Centralen station (1), we head for Sergels Torg, then turn north to the city library (2).

It’s magnificent, and showcases the books very well, giving the impression that they’re an integral part of the architecture.

Stockholm Library

Right next door, we make a point of taking a stroll in the park. The granite cliffs overlook the town and offer great views.

Library Park

We set off again on our bikes towards the north of Vasastan, which is above all a pleasant residential area. On the way, we pass through the Vanadislunden park, which also offers lovely views.

Then it’s on to the Hotel Stallmästaregården (3).The buildings are very old and charming. Taking a fika or lunch break is a great idea!

Lake Brunnsviken

We’ll then continue our walk along the shores of Lake Brunnsviken, which is surrounded by a pretty park: Hagaparken,

In summer, if the weather is hot, you can swim in Frescati (4 ), with or without a bathing suit.

We’re still in the city, but we feel lost in the countryside. That’s Stockholm’s charm.


Frescati Beach

Bergianska trädgården (5) is our next stop. This magnificent botanical garden is located on the shores of Lake Brunnsviken , north of Frescati. It extends both outdoors and in greenhouses.

Here you can see a “Titan Arum“, the world’s largest flower, which blooms every 15 years! But I hear it smells awful.

Bergianska trädgården

Bergianska trädgården


A little-known place to discover: Millesgarden!

To the northeast of Stockholm lies a little gem on the island of Lindigö that will come as a surprise.

From the Botanical Gardens, we head for Stockholm University, then through a very rural landscape to the Lindigö Bridge.

Just after the bridge, we turn under the expressway and finally arrive at Millesgarden (6 ) in Lindigö.

Millesgarden was the home of artists Carl and Olga Milles. It was built on the model of Italian villas, and I particularly enjoy visiting the sculpture park.

The gardens are terraced and the view out to the Baltic Sea is stunning.

Carl was inspired by Rodin and his work deserves to be better known.

Then we cycle back to Kungsträdgården (7), the end of our pleasant ride through the countryside.

If the journey seems too long, you can return directly from the university to the city center without going to Millesgarden.

In this case, you can take a half-hour bus ride from central Stockholm to Millesgarden.




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