boat tour around Stockholm

Boat tour around Stockholm with Waxholmsbolaget

One of the things that any tourist guidebook will tell you is that you need to take a boat tour around Stockholm, for a city on water it’s an essential thing to do. I completely agree with this, but I would advise you to ignore the standard tourist boats which depart from the centre of town (they’re nice, I’ve nothing against them) and instead take a trip on one of the waxholmbolaget ferries which depart from the same quays. To be fair, Stromma, the company which run many of the sightseeing tours, also run some absolutely excellent lunch and dinner cruises on some amazing boats, and also some archipelago sightseeing tours. Each has their place, but Waxholmsbolaget is so much more immediately accessible. It always reminds of taking the number 38 bus through London as opposed to getting on the sightseeing buses!

boat tour around Stockholm

2 boats from waxholmsbolaget waiting for passengers in Stockholm

I still remember the first time that I took my uncle on one of these when he came to visit and he was almost struck dumb by the beauty of the trip. He kept saying things like “I can’t believe all this is here, I just had no idea”. The thing about these boats is that they actually service all the islands in the archipelago for commuter traffic, for want of a better description. In the summer there are many more routes with higher frequency, but I’ve also taken friends visiting me on them in the middle of a snow storm in winter. The views are still great, but you might not want to sit on the outside deck! I also used to take my daughter on them to just hang out and watch the views.

To me there’s no comparison with the tourist boats which ply their trade in and around the centre of town. I guess on the tourist boats you get a commentary and the like, but that’s really the only advantage. If you take a waxholmsbolaget ferry, you get to see all the inner city stuff that you do on the other boats, but you also get to go somewhere, Vaxholm or an archipelago island for example, and on the way you get to see all the inner archipelago and all the beauty it contains. Being as it’s a commuter boat, you can simply hop on, buy a ticket on demand, go somewhere, get off , grab a coffee or some lunch and then hop back on to return to Stockholm. That’s just a single idea for using them as a viewing platform, but there’s much more that can be done with them in summer, using them for island hopping and weekends away, and searching out hidden beaches for the day. Check out some of the other categories and tagged posts to read about those ideas.

Cross country skiing at Lida Friluftsgård in Stockholm

cross country skiing and skating on the lake at Lida

a beautiful sunny day in February – perfect for winter activities

As I’ve written about on other places on this site, Stockholm is certainly a city where you can go alpine skiing, but it’s not what it’s most famous for. In my opinion the better options for winter activities are cross country skiing or skating, as the the flat geography and high amount of lakes gives you numerous opportunities. One of my favourite places to do this is Lida Friluftsgård which is in the southern suburbs of Stockholm.

Here’s a great picture I took from the lake there one sunny day in February. The conditions were perfect and it’s still a day I remember now, even though it’s a few years back. There’s so many places to go cross country skiing or skating in the Stockholm area, that they are too many to list here. Tons of them will be informal opportunities where you just get out there in the countryside, but there are also a number of high organised and well prepared areas, where the lakes are ploughed of snow regularly and checked for safety, and the skiing tracks are kept well maintained. Lida is one of those and it’s quite a special place in my opinion.

They have tens of kilometres of prepared cross country skiing tracks through the forest. They have a small downhill ski slope which is good for beginners and children (only a rope lift though). They have a great sledging hill next to the restaurant (with free sledges for borrowing). They have a fantastic lake with well prepared skating tracks, and an area of playing ice hockey and finally they have a wonderful restaurant with great food at reasonable prices.

I’ve tried all the activities here at one time or another. The only downside I ever found was that when I hired some alpine skis to teach my eldest daughter, they were of pretty low quality and hadn’t been waxed properly. Beyond that I’ve only had fantastic experiences there. I took my own cross country skis and skates, so I’ve never tried hiring these. The skate hire is far more mainstream than the ski hire actually, as the downhill skiing is just a side line for them. The skate hire has a specialist hut next to the lake.

My final recommendation would be to ensure that you don’t leave without trying the food in the restaurant. When I was there last month I had the fish soup dagens lunch which was completely wonderful and great value at SEK130.

You can get to Lida in about 30 minutes from the centre of town by car, or you can take SL public transport. It’s a commuter train south and then change to a bus.

Väsjöbacken ski slope

Skiing in Stockholm at Väsjöbacken

Many people forget when travelling to the Swedish capital that skiing in Stockholm is entirely possible. It’s never going to be a major resort, because as a region, it’s incredibly flat, but there are a few local ski hills around the city that are great for a day or two’s skiing, especially with children or beginners.

Because I lived in Sollentuna for many years, the slope I frequently most often was Väsjöbacken, as it was just around the the corner from my house.

skiing in Stockholm at Väsjöbacken ski slope

Väsjöbacken from across the lake – photo from http://www.veidekke.se

I haven’t really got any great photos from Väsjöbacken myself, I guess I was always there enjoying myself too much. This one shows the main slope though from the across the other side of the lake that is at the bottom of the slope. One of the great things about Väsjöbacken is that when you’re at the top, you can see for miles and miles all around, looking north over forests and lake and south back to Stockholm.

It’s very much a local hill, in that it won’t keep experienced skiers busy for long at all, but I used to use it for an hour here and an hour there type of skiing. You can just rock up, jump a few lifts and then go home again.

What it does have compared to some local hills is excellent ski hire equipment, so it’s a great place to go if you’ve just popped into town for a few days. There’s small cafe there selling drinks and snacks, but no more than that. It’s all about the skiing really. It also has a prepared cross country track starting at the main entrance (and for the more adventurous, a ski jump as well, that’s the one bit I haven’t tried personally though!)

It’s easiest to drive there in all truth, although like all of Stockholm, there is a reliable bus service, but to get there from town you need to take the commuter train and then change at Sollentuna station to the bus. In the season when the snow is good it’s often open at night as well for floodlit skiing, which is a great way to kill a couple of hours after work, rather than going to the gym!

farm visit at Järvafältet

A farm visit and lunch at Järvafältet nature reserve

For all my years as a Stockholm resident, my favourite family activity every week was to to do a farm visit and then eat lunch at Järvafältet nature reserve in the northern suburbs of Stockholm. The nature  reserve itself is quite large, it takes a few hours to cross it from side to side by foot , but on the eastern border, there’s a small car park, a wonderful cafe and a children’s visiting farm where they can stroke certain animals and get close to them in their pens. I’ve written other posts about activities there, but this is the regular thing that I did with the kids pretty much every week.

You can get there by car easily, it’s about 20 minutes north of central Stockholm, straight up the E4, or you can take the commuter train to Häggvik station which is about 15 minutes from central station. It’s then about a 15 minute walk to the cafe. Here’s a link to a google map of the exact location.

Right next to the car park is the most wonderful cafe. It hasn’t got a huge menu, but as I said above it does the best egg and prawn sandwich in Stockholm in my opinion. It’s opening hours are quite short, normally 9 or 10am to 3pm, and it’s often closed Monday and Tuesday. During the week it also sells classic Swedish “dagens lunch” in addition to its standard sandwich and drinks menu. Mostly its frequented by families coming to visit the farm, or by people doing various outdoor activities in the nature reserve, whether it be running, cycling, cross country skiiing or just walking. It’s got a very easy going vibe, and is the building is a very classic Swedish wooden style. There’s lovely outdoor seating, which is good in both the winter and the summer assuming you’re appropriately dressed.

Here’s a photo of me and Matilda eating ice creams outside in winter on a wonderful sunny day.

cafe at järvafältet nature reserve

eating ice creams outside Helena’s cafe in Järvafältet

As any parent will tell you, it’s never too cold for ice cream! The views from the cafe are across some nice open fields where some Icelandic horses from the farm live and it truly is one of my favourite places in the world.

Just up the main path from the cafe, is the visiting farm where you can take the children (or the adults) to look at the animals. There’s no cost involved it’s just open most days until 4pm and you’re welcome to wander around. It’s used as a teaching resource to local school children as well sometimes. Being Sweden, if it’s winter time, all the animals are inside, but in the summer they’re all out in various pens and fields, some of wish you can go in a stroke the animals.

There are sheep, cows, chickens, horses, rabbits, pigs and goats. Sometimes in the summer they have special days where they do pony rides or horse and cart rides, which are also great for the children. Sometimes you’ll even meet the big friendly farm cat who loves to be stroked. All in all it’s very wholesome and fun.

Check out our other posts about Järvafältet. There’s site about the farm as well and some good pictures of the cafe on their site. (only in Swedish).

kayak trip to Västra Vidskär in stockholm archipelago

Kayak trip to the Stockholm Archipelago

If you want to see the true magic of the outer islands of Stockholm, then there’s no better way than taking a kayak trip to the Stockholm archipelago. Depending on your experience you may need to take a guided trip, of which there are many English speaking providers, or if you’re more experienced a confident, you can just hire a kayak and equipment from one of the same providers, or alternatively from one of the kayak clubs or hire shops who don’t provide guides.

It’s not uncommon for you to see paddlers cruising round the centre of town in amongst the main shipping lanes, which is certainly a great way to see central Stockholm from a different angle, but my personal opinion is that you need to get out into the real outer archipelago to experience the best that the area has to offer.

kayak trip to Västra Vidskär in stockholm archipelago

a lovely camping spot for the evening

This photo is taken from Västra Vidskär on a trip I went on one summer. We picked up our kayaks in Runmarö and then paddled across the sea, hopping from island and island to make the open water stretches short, before stopping off here for the evening and setting up camp. It was a truly magical experience. We’d been chased by thunder storms on the way out but they were so small and localised that we managed to avoid them. As the sun set over Stockholm in the evening, we watched them pass by our little island, which is what the above flickr link shows.

The good thing about kayaking in this area, is that even if you’re a beginner, if you’ve got a guide with you, the open water stretches are short and you can get right out into the true archipelago without feeling at risk.

Typical companies which run this type of trip would be:

www.stockholmadventures.com

or maybe

http://www.kajak-uteliv.com

I’ve travelled and hired kit from both of them. Stockholm adventures caters more to the short term visitor tourist trade and runs from the centre of town and will arrange packages, whereas kajak uteliv are based up in the northern archipelago and have more Swedish guests (although they do of course speak English). I did a couple of safety courses with them as well as few years back. When I was last there they were also good for just hiring kayaks and camping gear as well.

If you don’t fancy arranging your own trips manually when you get there, you can book a kayak tour in Stockholm directly here through our partner site.

if you fancy just having a quick go around town or in the suburbs, then you can hire kayaks for just a couple of hours from many places, 1 of which is

Brunnsviken Kayak Club

I was a member here. These guys are very close to the Stockholm university and are based on the edge of Brunnsviken which is a nice quiet lake to practice on, however it has access to open water if you want to go further afield. Their website isn’t targetted at tourists, but their prices are some of the best on town, especially if you fancy just practising for an hour or 2. As I mentioned in this other post you can even paddle up Edsviken easily from here for an hour or 2 and come to some great beaches and swimming places.

 

 

 

 

 

Wilderness Camping at Järvafältet

Järvafältet is one of my favourite places in the whole of Stockholm and it deserves (and gets) it’s own tag on this site. There are so many things you can do there, most of which are classic hearty outdoor Swedish activities. One of the many great things you can do there is what I would call wilderness camping.

Wilderness camping at Järvafältet

Morning coffee at the wilderness camping site

Here’s a picture of me warming up on an October morning round the camp fire at one of the many official camping sites in the Järvafältet nature reserve. When I say official, it means that you’re allowed to build a fire there, which unlike a lot of Sweden, you’re not allowed to do in most of the nature reserve. At each site there’s a small wooden box which is filled with fire wood by the people who manage the reserve. Beyond that it’s not actually a site, it’s far more what I would describe as wilderness camping, which is why I love it. Anyone is welcome to help themselves to this and have a nice camp fire, but there’s no other facilities beyond this. You need to collect water from the lake or bring your own, you need to go to the toilet in the woods, and most of all you need to ensure that you take absolutely everything with you when you leave. It’s just how I like wild camping. The only thing you need to do is to check where the official fire pits are on the map before you make fire. Beyond that the world is your oyster.

The catch – well there isn’t any, but the amazing thing about Järvafältet is that you’re never really more than an hour away by walking from a mainline railway station or a bus stop, and you’re only 20 minutes north of central Stockholm.

I was lucky enough to live just round the corner from here for many of the years that I lived in Stockholm, and I was to be found there most weekends. You can view many of the other great things in this reserve by reading other posts tagged Järvafältet.

In summary – just go there, it’s amazing and it’s on everyone’s doorstep. You can download a PDF map of the area here which has various useful information on it. If you want a proper walking map though you’ll have to buy one. You can do this online obviously, or you could visit one of my favourite shops in Stockholm, which is right outside the central station, called Kart Centrum (translates as map central).

Åre ski women slalom 2012

Visiting Åre by train from Stockholm for a weekend of skiing

Stockholm is undoubtedly a great city to visit, but one of the other great things about it is that it’s the travel gateway to the rest of the country. My favourite form of transport is train, and Sweden is a great country to get around by train, with Stockholm unsurprisingly being the hub for most routes.

In March 2012 I was in town doing some work for my good friends at Basefarm AB (who I sometimes blog for as well), and I decided to take a trip up north to ski for a long weekend in Åre. This is Sweden’s largest ski resort, with by far the biggest vertical drop and a large and varied piste and lift system. You can tell that it’s Sweden’s largest resort as this is where all the international competitive skiing is held, when the circuit comes to Sweden. The photo here is taken whilst I was watching the women’s slalom that week.

take the train to Åre to watch the skiiing

Womens slalom at Åre in March 2012

It’s all very well and good being a great ski resort but the thing that makes it truly my favourite ski resort in Sweden is that you can travel there by train, including for real luxury, by sleeper train. When I say you can travel by there by train, I don’t mean to nearby stations that then require a transfer, I mean right into the centre of village, where you’re less than 200 metres from the main square and all the hotels and amenities.

It’s an extraordinary journey, especially the last hour, as the train climbs into the mountains heading west towards the Norwegian border and you see the approaching resort. Being as you can travel by night train it makes it all the more possible to nip up there for a weekend from Stockholm and I can thoroughly recommend the experience. Sometimes I don’t know what I prefer most, the train journey itself or the great skiiing!

You can book train tickets through www.sj.se and you can book lift passes and accomodation and anything else you might need through www.skistar.com/are .

open water swimming at Edsviken

Swimming at Edsviken in Sollentuna

One of the most glorious things about Stockholm in the summer is the near constant possibility to go swimming in open water, either in one of the many lakes or in the sea off one of the many islands of the archipelago.

open water swimming at Edsviken

A glorious view south across Edsviken

This picture is taken at a wonderful lake in Sollentuna which is in the northern suburbs of Stockholm. The lake is called Edsviken and it stretches north south more or less for about 20 km, before it actually reaches the sea. There are numerous individual spots where people can just turn up and have a quick dip, and there’s loads of other activities to be had along its borders, which I’ll detail in other posts. For example, on other occasions I’ve hired a kayak (swedish only site) in town and paddled up to this and other swimming spots. But that’s a bit of a full day commitment and one for another post! The particular spot marked on the map below is one of my favourites as because of the rocks here, meaning that there’s great opportunities to jump in from a few feet up. This is always great fun in my mind, but for the less adventurous, there’s an easy path down to the edge of the water and nice shallow sections where you can just wade in and out if you don’t want to actually swim. Just be careful though, as rocks above tend to mean that there’s rocks below and as with all open swimming you need to be careful as there’s no lifeguards to save you should you get into trouble.

Here’s a map of the actual location. You can walk , drive or get the bus there, it’s fairly accessible (or kayak of course which is the truly stylish way to arrive!). There’s no facilities there though, as it’s just one of many little public spots all along the edge of the lake, so make sure you take some food and drink with you if you’re planning on staying a while, and remember that there are no toilets as well!


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