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!
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.