Last month, Stockholm LGBT invited us to Stockholm, Sweden for the weekend to celebrate 75 years of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the Country. As it was also the build up to Christmas, we were also invited to visit the many Christmas markets that were set up around the City.
As mentioned in our first post; which details what we got up to on day one, as well as where we stayed, Stockholm has very quickly become one of the top destinations for the LGBT Community – often sitting in the Top 10 of most charts. During our visit, I felt the safest I’ve ever felt in a country – including the UK – despite it being incredibly busy. I had no qualms taking Sharon’s hand or giving her a kiss, and I didn’t feel the need to look at whether a shop or cafe has a rainbow sticker in the window.
Day one introduced us to the beautiful city and it’s rich history, thanks to our tour guide, however day two we were let loose and invited to visit a number of places around the city by ourselves – from an open air museum & zoo to (more) Christmas markets. Here’s what we got up to:
Waking up after a long day walking from the previous day meant that we were ready for breakfast the moment we woke, and just like the previous day, we took our time at breakfast and ate heartily (as well as packed a few cinnamon rolls in our pockets); making sure we were ready for another long day of exploring.
As our flight home was later on that evening, we also got ourselves packed up and checked out by breakfast, so that when we returned all we had to do was wait in the lobby for our taxi. Hotel Skeppsholmen kindly held onto our bags for the day whilst we were out exploring, although it was sad to leave our gorgeous room behind – I had become quite fond of those shutters!
Stockholm LGBT had kindly given us lots of ideas on what to do with our free day, so we made sure we followed their suggestions. Our first visit was to the ferry port where we took a ride to Djurgården. The fog from the previous day had cleared so this ferry trip was a lot clearer, meaning we were able to see a lot more of Old Town.
In comparison to the main city and the smaller part of town, Djurgården has a more rural feel to it. Although it is home to a number of museums and historic buildings, as well as shops and restaurants, because the island was once the King’s hunting grounds it still also houses a number of parks, meadows and forests.
As soon as we docked, passing the historic Gröna Lund (a large and impressive theme park!), we were presented with a variety of options. On our doorstep was the ABBA Museum, a few meters one way was Skansen, and the other; the Vasa Museum and the Nordic Museum. To make the most out of our visit, and to make sure T was thoroughly entertained, we decided to miss out on the ABBA Museum on this occasion as we had read that the others required some time to explore.
Opened in 1891, Skansen is Sweden’s first open air museum and zoo. It’s aim was to reserve a pocket of Swedish history at a time when industrialisation was taking over.
Now, the 75-acre site is home to not only a large 19th century working village, which is a full replica of an average Swedish town from that period, in which craftsmen such as shoemakers, silversmiths, bakers and glass-blowers demonstrate their skills in period surroundings and dress, but there is also a zoo, children’s farm, and a Baltic Sea Science Centre, featuring it’s own aquarium too.
In the Summer, there are displays of folk dancing and concerts, and at Christmas, some of the best – according to the locals – Christmas markets take over the village square selling everything from winter clothing, gifts and ornaments, to chocolate & sweets, decorations, and household items. There’s also lots of things for Children to take part in, such as games and tombolas.
Within the markets were also dozens of stalls selling delicious Swedish food and drink, which smelt absolutely divine walking around. During our tour I treated myself to some glögg and hot sugared almonds (much better than our roasted chesnuts!) whilst Sharon and T went with some thick hot chocolate!
Although we had all day to explore, we were very conscious of making the most out of our visit, so we didn’t get round to visiting all the exhibits (even though we were dying to take a look at the bakery and the tool maker). Skansen, is like nothing I have ever seen before. It’s ginormous and easily an all-day excursion by itself. With this, we prioritised the more important locations that T would enjoy the most.
Following the map, we visited the glass makers first as they had an impressive display of Christmas decorations for sale. T was also fascinated by how the glass was being made. We then made our way through the village; passing lots and lots of crafts being made, as well as the Christmas markets. Once we had explored the markets we then made our way to the Children’s Zoo.
Children’s zoo & nordic animals
One of the main attractions at Skansen that we were looking forward to before we even got there – apart from the markets – were the animals. Never before had we witnessed Nordic animals and creatures in the flesh so we were really excited to see them.
Starting at the Children’s Zoo, we were introduced to lots of local animals; from your typical farm animals to foxes, lizards and reptiles. There was even a room dedicated just to cats (who are open for adoption!). All this was located in an indoor area where the animal enclosures ran around the edge of the room and in the middle was a play area full of interactive pieces. When you were finished playing up top, there was an underwater walkway to explore which looks into a small pond that’s also in the room.
Outside the Children’s zoo are further farm animals, from a variety of Swedish goats & sheep, ponies and cattle, to Otters and Seals! Despite it’s size on the map, it was surprisingly big. We spent a long time watching the seals swim.
After our tour of the Children’s zoo, we then made our way to the Nordic Animals enclosures – which was going to be incredibly exciting as we were about to not only see Swedish Moose (which is their version of vermin!) but also wolves, wolverine, and Reindeer. There are also brown bears at Skansen, however when we visited they were in hibernation.
We could have spent double the amount of time that we did in the Nordic area alone. With the surrounding trees and views of the city it was idyllic. All the enclosures are spacious with ample room to sit and watch. In the summer, with more chance of the animals being more active, I imagine we could spend an age watching the wolf enclosure.
After spending some time watching all the animals, we realised it was sadly time to go if we still wanted to fit in two further excursions. This meant we had to forgo the Aquarium if we didn’t want to march T across tram tracks. I was sad, but it only gave me more ammunition to come back soon!
Thankfully, because the Nordic Animal enclosures were located at the furthest point of Skansen it meant we had a lovely walk back through the working museum looking at all the buildings we had yet to visit, as well as catching several people in costume, which fascinated T to no end. We also managed to find another play park!
Next on our tour was the Vasa Muesum, which is currently Scandinavia’s top attraction for the infamous story about a 17th century ship. We had absolutely no knowledge of the history of Vasa or what to expect, but we wanted to make sure we learnt as much as possible about Sweden’s history. Plus, our itinerary advised that our Key of Honour would allow us to bypass the queues!
The history of Vasa dates back to 1628, where the warship sank in Stockholm harbour. After 333 years on the seabed the ship was eventually salvaged by (carefully) dragging it up the shore where it was the treated and restored.
What you see today, apart from some minor restorations is what you would have seen centuries ago.
With absolutely no prior knowledge of the Vasa Museum before visiting I can genuinely say that this museum blew me out of the water. If it wasn’t the sheer size of the main feature that took my breath away, it was the space surrounding the warship that kept me wanting to learn more.
Within the museum are a variety of exhibitions, from learning about life on the Vasa to it’s eventual salvage. This is spread across several floors, accessed via the stairs or a lift. On each floor, especially as you get higher and higher, visitors are offered a different viewpoint of the warship, which appears to get bigger and bigger the higher you climb.
‘Grand’ is an understatement. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, with every corner of the museum offering something new to see or do. We sadly couldn’t stay here all day, therefore we took advantage of their ‘Vasa in an Hour’ tour which gave us just the right amount of information (and then some!).
Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum)
Quite literally a stone’s throw away from Vasa, Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum) is Sweden’s largest museum of cultural history, dating back to the 16th century and established by the same person who brought us Skansen. The “museum of memories” is home to over half a million exhibits and details Swedish life, from the every day objects to exclusive items and innovations.
On the outside, this grand building challenges the UK’s Natural History Museum, with gorgeous “cathedralesque” architecture. On the inside, the perfectly symmetrical building is dominated by the enormous main hall and echoes something that The Tate Modern would offer. It’s a wonderful combination.
As we entered the museum our attention was immediately drawn to the domed ceiling that sat above the main concourse. This ceiling had various moving projections being played; from polar bears swimming underwater to boats fishing to children playing in the snow. It was an incredible sight to see and was used as the perfect place for a timeout later on during our visit.
In addition, the hall was beautifully decorated with Christmas decorations – which includes a stunning tree – and tables around the hall had a variety of activities going on for Children to take part in.
Spread across several floors, the museum celebrates all things Sweden. On one floor you can learn about traditions and manners, and on another you can travel through Swedish fashion, homes and interiors. It’s both a celebration of Swedish history and a valuable time capsule.
In addition, there are regular guest exhibitions housed within the museum, and during our visit we were lucky enough to be invited to visit one of these exhibitions which usually come at an extra cost. The Arctic – While The Ice Is Melting was, therefore, our first port of call upon entering the museum.
This particular exhibit was an immersive experience, starting by walking through a giant iceberg – travelling through the rift – to enter the exhibit. As you journey through the exhibit you will learn about the past, present and potential future of the Arctic; including the people living there and how we are affecting the area with changes to the climate. This is an incredibly interactive exhibit that took T by storm. There’s something to see or touch in each area and visitors are even encouraged to make a ‘climate pledge’.
Once we had finished we then made our way around the rest of the museum, but not before taking a rest underneath the moving projections. As well as the cafe and activity tables, the museum offered a number of bean bags and wooden canvas beds to lay on whilst you watch – which couldn’t have been a better find, as by now we were a little tired.
It actually acted as the perfect timeout, as a few minutes later the children’s playhouse was opening. The playhouse, which opens at various times throughout the day, gives children the opportunity to “live” like someone from traditional Swedish times, from playing shopkeeper to milking cows to collecting eggs from the chickens to sell at the shop. Its a truly incredible place and I couldn’t quite understand why we don’t have something like this in all museums.
Despite having fun during our initial exhibit, this by far blew T away and it was hard to take him away when it was time to go.
As soon as our allotted time in the playhouse came to an end, it was time to leave the museum and head to dinner at a restaurant near by. It was so sad to leave as I could have spent several hours exploring the museum and what it has to offer. The atmosphere is so calming, and even at busier moments you don’t feel crowded by people or noise. It’s a wonderful environment.
That being said, if we had stayed it would have meant missing a picturesque walk through the city, and we didn’t want to do that – especially with all the Christmas lights that had taken over the city. Walking through the city, I was reminded several times how close everything is, making Djurgården a fantastic location to visit.
In no time we arrived at our restaurant; Taverna Brillo; a local Italian restaurant, and enjoyed a relaxing family meal before making our way back to our hotel to get ready for our journey home. We were even lucky enough to meet Christina from Stockholm LGBT!
Although I was still ready for more Swedish cuisine, it was a welcome change to try something different. Sharon enjoyed her first ever veal schnitzel and I went for a goats cheese and vegetable pizza! T explored the children’s menu and joined me by having pizza as well. I may have also had a cheeky pudding.
The food was absolutely delicious, staff were welcoming and friendly, and it was reassuring once again having options for T. This was our first meal out at a restaurant during our trip and it was an incredibly relaxing experience. I always think about what T is going to eat, but we need not worry here.
Once we were fed and well-rested, we slowly made our way through the city and back to our hotel, once again feeling incredibly safe as a family. We were able to take our time (and plenty of photos) – absorbing the last few minutes of the city – as well as let T enjoy a few last minute bursts of energy.
As we made our way back, we decided that Stockholm is definitely prettier at night.
In no time at all (you forget that the city isn’t that big) we were back at Hotel Skeppsholmen and waiting for our taxi to the airport. I managed to grab a last minute moment of Fika and Sharon grabbed our bags.
We were sad to leave so soon, we still had so much to explore. It’s like this city was made for us. We felt welcome and accepted as a family and I, personally, found Sweden both fascinating and one of the most forward thinking countries I’ve ever been to. I was definitely not ready to leave.
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[AD – Press Trip] As we come off our Swedish high and get to work on documenting everything we for up to this weekend over on the blog (I realised in our excitement that we didn’t post about day two 🤦♀️) I just wanted to give a few things, that are absolutely wonderful, but aren’t often detailed, a little shout out. . In no particular order, here goes: 10) Most (or certainly the ones we visited!) toilets are gender neutral, and any toilet doors that were still gendered had a baby change in the men’s toilets also. 9) Swedes are the most generous, with donations standing at more than 1% of the GDP (gross domestic period). 8) There are no LGBTQ ‘quarters’ because the LGBTQ community are simply welcome and accepted everywhere. 7) Homosexuality was still wrongly classified as an illness until 1979 (despite being legalised in 1944), so people called in sick, stating that they were “feeling gay”, as an act of protest. 6) You can’t buy cheap alcohol like in the UK (apparently Swedish had bit of a problem decades ago!). You have to visit one of the city’s Sytembolagets. It encourages safe and responsible drinking. 5) It’s incredibly clean. The water alone is so clean you can drink it, swim in it and fish in it! 4) Sweden recycles so much, that they import rubbish from Norway. 3) Saturday is sweet day and Fika is an obsession. 2) School doesn’t start until Children reach the age of 7, and BOTH parents are entitled to 16 months of paid (about 80% of their pay) paternity/maternity leave. 1) There is a “right to roam” on all public land and lakes (although making sure you don’t destroy along the way). . Us Brits could learn a thing or two from the Swedish! 🇸🇪 . . . @visitstockholm @stockholmlgbt @standouttravel #VisitStockholm #VisitSweden #LGBTSweden #LGBTStockholm #Sweden #Stockholm #FamilyTravel #LGBTTravel
Family Friendly Stockholm
It goes without saying that Stockholm is incredibly family friendly, with a bounty of things available to do as a family whilst in the city. Most attractions were the same, if not cheaper, than excursions in London or Brighton, and the food is also reasonably priced. I didn’t feel that we’d need to save for a lifetime to be able to afford Stockholm.
In regards to things to do for the Children, if it’s not the fact that most museums have areas dedicated for play, it’s the fact that restaurants and cafes have options for children and the staff are welcoming and friendly – often putting the child’s needs first! We had several interactions during our trip where locals would start conversations with T; wanting to ask about the things he liked, or letting him answer questions in relation to the food he’d like to order. It was such a warming experience.
Although the UK isn’t a terrible place for children and families, as always the UK could learn a thing or two from Sweden! I would highly recommend adding Sweden to your list of places to visit – especially at Christmas!
It’s probably clear that we had the most amazing time during our visit to Stockholm, Sweden. It certainly won’t be something we’ll forget any time soon. I already knew why I wanted to visit a Scandinavian country, but now I’ve come home with even more reasons to re-visit!
Once again, I’d like to thank Stockholm LGBT and their partners for the wonderful invitation and the most incredible time. We’ve had a blast!
If you’re thinking about visiting Stockholm in the future, please do check out Stockholm LGBT, Visit Stockholm and Standout Sweden for lots of information and advice on planning your trip.
We were given complimentary travel (excluding UK transfers and any extra expenditure), accommodation, and entry to the mentioned attractions in exchange for promotional content during our visit and a blog review upon our return, however all thoughts, opinions, and imagery remain our own.
We absolutely loved Stockholm when we visited this past fall. We felt so safe there walking and taking public transit all over. Skansen and the Vasa Museum were some of our favorite attractions. We can’t wait to go back after our little one arrives!