- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Stockholm Guide (PDF)
Expats moving to Stockholm will discover that they have a veritable smorgasbord of options when it comes to entertainment and shopping in the sensational Swedish capital. From museums and restaurants to entertainment for the kids, there is something to pique the interest of everyone regardless of age. Weekends in Stockholm will have nary a dull moment.
Shopping in Stockholm
Stockholm has great shopping, but it doesn’t come cheap. The classic Swedish items that expats usually ship out with them when they eventually leave Sweden are glass products, blonde-wood furniture and ceramics. A favourite shopping area in Stockholm is Gamla Stan. Västerlånggatan is the street to visit and expats will see many beautiful antique shops here, some of them eye-wateringly expensive.
Kungsgatan is also a major shopping district in Stockholm. Here, expats can find the Drottninggatan pedestrian mall. The mall is home to popular high-street stores as well as smaller speciality stores.
Fashion-conscious expats should visit Bibliotekstan near Östermalm to discover what Swedish designers have to offer. Here one will find brands of unique Swedish companies. Birger Jarlsgatan in Östermalm is where expats can get their luxury fix, with most high-end designers having stores here.
The most eclectic of all the city’s shopping areas, the famous SoFo district is in Södermalm. SoFo stands for South of Folkungagatan and this area is full of quirky, trendy and creative boutiques.
Nightlife in Stockholm
Expats in search of exciting nightlife in Stockholm will not be disappointed. There is a bouquet of bars and clubs in the city and many stay open until late, but expats should expect high prices for entry and drinks.
The areas known for having the best nightlife in Stockholm include Stureplan, Södermalm and Djurgården. Expats should not miss the Ice Bar, a permanent feature near Central Station, with an interior that is made completely of ice from a river in northern Sweden. Thankfully, guests are able to borrow a warm hat and gloves.
Stockholm also boasts theatre and jazz scenes for expats with more sophisticated tastes, while adventurous expats might want to explore the country’s famous heavy metal scene.
From classic gourmet cuisine to experimental modern cooking and relaxed dining, there is also enough of a variety of restaurants in Stockholm to entice the most discerning of palates.
Sports and outdoor activities in Stockholm
The city’s famous green spaces and waterways mean that there is no shortage of outdoor activities in Stockholm to enjoy. Expats will get to take part in a wide range of activities, from hot-air ballooning and golf to fishing and hiking the nature trails on its outskirts.
The easiest way of getting around Stockholm is on two wheels, but the city’s many cycle paths and bike lanes also make it a good way to take in the city’s sights. Expats can easily rent a bicycle and explore areas such as Djurgården, which is home to a variety of attractions as well as breathtaking natural splendour.
Those fresh off the plane looking for a novel way of exploring their new home can also hire a kayak or canoe and paddle between the city’s many islands. Expats could also hire a boat and propel past some of the city’s most recognisable sights, enjoy the majesty of Lake Mälaren and settle down for a bite to eat at the end of their adventure.
See and do in Stockholm
A city surrounded by water, blessed with spectacular scenery and loads of green spaces, and coloured by a storied history, expats will have plenty to see, do and learn in Stockholm. Whether they are interested in the city’s ancient origins or exploring the tranquil waterways of the Stockholm archipelago, the city has something for a variety of tastes and preferences.
The island of Djurgården is in the heart of Stockholm and it is the location of many museums, restaurants and parks. Expats can purchase souvenirs at the Handarbetets Vänner or visit Gröna Lund, Sweden’s oldest amusement park. On the other hand, children can enjoy Nordic wildlife at the zoo and explore the Junibacken fairytale fun centre. The best part of this attraction is that it is only a 10-minute walk from the city centre.
Royal Palace and Gamla Stan
No visit to Stockholm would be complete without seeing the Royal Palace and spending some time in Gamla Stan. Expats can visit some of the palace’s 608 staterooms, the Hall of State, the Royal Treasury and can witness the changing of the guards. The streets of Gamla Stan are lined with restaurants and boutiques. Expats should also not miss the Storkyrkan Cathedral, which dates back to the 13th century.
Stockholm City Hall
A major landmark in Stockholm, the City Hall is located on Kungsholmen. Expats who are interested in architecture will appreciate this building’s practical red-brick exterior, the three golden crowns on top of its tower, and its Art Nouveau interior with its vaulted ceiling. Expats looking for a spectacular view of Stockholm will find it at the top of City Hall’s tower.
Sporting enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to this massive arena which holds the title of the world’s largest spherical building. Restaurants, bars and shops are available for those who are not as fascinated by sports trivia. Expats can also experience SkyView, a glass elevator that carries visitors up the outside of the building to the top.
Annual events in Stockholm
Whether during the seemingly endless daylight of summer or winter’s biting cold, expats will always be able to choose from a variety of events in Stockholm.
Stockholm Marathon (May/June)
Keen runners have been taking part in the Stockholm Marathon since 1979. The course loops around the city twice and finishes in the iconic 1912 Olympic Stadium. Every year more than 20,000 runners take to the course and are cheered on by thousands of spectators. Participants get to enjoy some of the city’s most famous attractions, while spectators can take in the lively atmosphere and cheer on the athletes.
Stockholm Pride (July/August)
Held between the end of July and the beginning of August every year since its inception in 1998, Stockholm Pride consists of a week worth of celebrations, cultural performances and educational events. The highlight of the festival is the Pride Parade, the biggest in Scandinavia, which attracts as many as 60,000 participants and 600,000 spectators every year.
Stockholm Jazz Festival (October)
Having first taken place in 1980, the Stockholm Jazz Festival is one of the oldest festivals in Sweden. Originally an outdoor summer festival, it now takes place indoors in autumn at a variety of the city’s premier jazz venues over the course of the week. The one thing that has stayed constant is that the festival continues to attract jazz superstars from all over the world and is a must-see, whether an expat is a jazz aficionado or uninitiated novice.
Nyårsafton New Year Celebrations (December)
Held every year at Skansen, Stockholm's open-air museum, the city’s residents brave the cold to enjoy the lively celebrations, illuminated by spectacular fireworks displays. At midnight, the Skansen bells chime and the New Year is ushered in by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s famous poem, ‘Ring Out, Wild Bells’. Many city residents simply enjoy the celebrations from the comfort of their homes, or at other sites such as the Västerbron bridge, which provides breathtaking views of its own. Wherever they are in the city, expats should be sure not to miss the revelry.
Where to meet people and make friends in Stockholm
Finding new friends can be one of the most intimidating aspects of moving to a new city. One of the best ways to start meeting likeminded people is to join a local club or meet-up group. Here are a few suggestions.
This Facebook group has close to 30,000 members, making it the perfect place to meet expats from all walks of life. Here, expats can join or arrange events to get to know fellow group members.
ESCC is a club primarily made up of English-speaking expats from the US and the British Commonwealth, but English-speaking expats from other countries are also welcome. From picnics and brunches to "armchair philosophy" sessions, members can enjoy a variety of regular events.
Take advantage of Stockholm's beautiful natural surrounds by joining the Stockholm Mountain Club. The club has weekly hikes year round, and in summer undertakes longer overnight expeditions.