Compact, kid-friendly and bursting with inventive days out. Is Stockholm the perfect short break family destination?
Originally used as a Royal game park, Djurgården is now the best place in the city for families to have fun. Indeed, there's so much going on here you could open your entire stay on the island.
Where to start? There's Skansen, the world's oldest open air museum, with historic buildings from all over Sweden, Scandinavian animals and a legendary Christmas market during the festive season. Junibacken, a museum dedicated to all things Pippi Longstocking, including a story train that takes you on a journey through the stories from Astrid Lindgrens' book. The Vasa Museum, home to the 64-gun warship, Vasa, the only (almost) fully-intact 17th-century ship that has ever been salvaged. Or Gröna Lund, Sweden's oldest amusement park, with a carousel that swings out over the water. And that's just scratching the surface.
Oh, and don't forget the ABBA Museum. It's probably of more interest to mums and dads, but the kids will enjoy the more interactive parts like recording your own ABBA hit in a fully equipped studio or performing live on stage with a hologram version of the band.
Getting to Djurgården is fun too, either by ferry from Slussen near Gamla Stan or the No.7 tram.
Gamla Stan in winter (Shutterstock)
Gamla Stan means Old Town, and wandering the narrow cobbled streets here is like stepping back in time. This is where Stockholm was founded in 1252 and it is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city in Europe.
It can get a little crowded with tourists in summer. And you may begin to wonder if there really is a need for so many handicraft and trinket shops. But there are plenty of hidden corners for you and the kids to get lost in and pretend it's the 13th century all over again.
There are lots of funky little cafes too, where you can sample the local Princess Cake, munch on a wholesome lunch or enjoy a particularly strong coffee. If hot chocolate is more your thing, check out the Kaffekoppen, just off Stortorget Square
Gamla Stan is also home to the Royal Palace and the Royal Amory. The palace is watched over by uniformed guards in guard boxes. Like their British counterparts, they stand stock still. Unless you go somewhere you shouldn't and they let out a blood curdling "Halt!"
Named after an imaginary figure who carried out a range of scientific experiments in the French magazine l'Illustration, Tom Tits Experiment is a huge building filled with experiments for young and old to try together. The experiments cover science, technology, physics, maths, geography, biology and illusions, and are designed to stimulate – and blow – fragile little minds.
Situated about 30 minutes from the city centre, it can be reached by train. Occasionally charter buses run from Gamla Stan too. Check at the tourist office. Just allow more time than you think – time is an elastic concept at this amazing attraction.
Part of the fun in Stockholm is deciding on a cool place to stay. There's the Jumbo Hostel at Arlanda Airport, an old 747 that has been converted into a hotel. Or the Långholmen Hotel and Hostel, housed in the old, renovated Prison on the island of Långholmen.
Another favourite is the af Chapman, a fully-rigged steel ship moored on the western shore of the islet Skeppsholmen, that now serves as a youth hostel. It's in a lovely location, overlooking Gamla Stan and the Royal Palace, and with a building that looks like something straight out of Minecraft just up the road.
Kayaking in Stockholm (Shutterstock)
Stockholm is built on 15 islands and locals will tell you that it is best appreciated from the water. Catching the ferry to Djurgården is one way of seeing the city from the sea, but why not give the kids a real treat and hire some kayaks.
The question is, what kind of kayaking do you ant to do? Stockholm divides a lake and an ocean, with the old city the border. Everything to the east is the Baltic Sea, everything to the west is to the west is Lake Mälare.
If you want to paddle in the lake, try Kafé Kajak, located in Rålambshovs Park on the island of Kungsholmen. If you want to paddle in the Baltic Sea area, try Djurgårdens Sjöcafé located near the bridge leading from Östermalm over to the island of Djurgården. Just remember to stay close to shore otherwise you'll end up into the shipping lanes!