Hats, gloves and scarves at the ready, our Head of Reservations Kate explores the ‘Venice of the North’ with the kids in tow
“Stockholm in February?” our friends asked in confusion. “Won’t it be cold?” Well yes, freezing in fact, but that’s half the attraction. As a family we usually head for the sun, so choosing to explore a shivery Scandinavian city in the depths of winter was something just a little bit different.
The key to all family travel, at least to my mind, is preparation. We researched the city, making lists of where to go, what to see and what attractions the kids would enjoy the most. It may be cliched, but happy kids really do make happy parents – especially in winter.
Granted, some of Stockholm’s big attractions were still closed for winter, but just walking around the city in the snow and ice was pretty exciting and different. And isn’t that what adventure is all about? Just make sure you bring hats, gloves, good snow boots and decent coats.
Where to stay
Scandi cities are very family orientated and Stockholm is no exception. Yes, it’s one of the more expensive Nordic cities, but if you head to London as a family for the weekend you would be looking at similar prices. We booked inter-connecting rooms at the Hotel Rival in the heart of Stockholm’s trendy Södermalm district. It’s a stylish hotel with comfortable designer rooms and surprisingly decent prices.
Children will love Rival’s bold design. A teddy bear greets all guests in-room on arrival, and a CD of ABBA’s greatest hits (courtesy of the owner Benny Andersson!) is supplied in each room. We especially loved the Rival’s vast breakfast buffet, which kept all of us fuelled up.
With the Rival being centrally located, it’s just a short walk to the nearest metro station – the quickest and best way to explore the city. Buy a 2-day or 3-day travel card (valid on both trains and trams) which are great value if you’re moving around a lot. Remember, kids under 12 travel free at weekends with any ticket-buying adult, and most metro stations have a lift if you are travelling with a buggy.
What to see
Stockholmhas some incredible attractions for kids and adults. We loved exploring the city on foot and seeking out some of the best museums we have ever visited. Junibacken Story museum has a play space with a ‘Story Train’ ride swooping in and out of fairy tale classics: a must for anyone with young children. There’s also a theatre, a café serving pancakes and meatballs by the bucket load, and lots of locker space to hang up coats and boots. Our kids would have happily gone there every day, and there was plenty to keep them busy for most of the day.
The Vasa maritime museum is also incredible – named after the Swedish ship that sank in 1628 and was salvaged after 333 years to be preserved for visitors. It’s a multi-tiered museum which offers tours in most European languages and houses lots of interactive zones for kids and adults. Again, it has a café that you would actually want to eat in, with fantastic views across the waters.
Skansen was possibly my favourite attraction – the world’s oldest open-air museum. It’s a collection of historic farm buildings, houses and churches from across Sweden (and Europe) painstakingly rebuilt on an island near downtown Stockholm, with rides, cafes, an open-air zoo (otters, bears, bison, wolves) and a children’s zoo, plus a brilliant aquarium. My kids are still raving about how they touched a boa constrictor and saw a real live moose! It’s open almost every day of the year and has plenty to keep everyone interested, from history shows to traditional Swedish crafts. We only wish we’d had more time.
Where to eat
Easy wins with the kids were a cheeky fast food lunch at Max’s – an excellent Swedish version of Maccy D’s, only tastier and far healthier. Eating out doesn’t have to be expensive, and in several parts of the city you can find excellent food halls that provide an array of dining options including sushi, falafel, Thai, salad bars, and of course traditional Swedish fika (coffee and cake) – tired grumpy children will quickly perk up with a cinnamon bun! We also enjoyed cheap healthy meals at both Teatern and Soderhallarna in Södermalm.
Now that we have seen Stockholm in the snow and ice, we are hoping to return during the summer months, when the city is transformed. In fact, we’ve already made a to-do list that includes riding the rollercoasters at Grona Lund, catching a ferry, mooching around flea markets, and swimming off the city’s prettiest islands. It won’t be long.