Tips for visiting the Stockholm archipelago  time:2021-11-16
A paradise awash with water-based activities, you won’t have to look far for things to do in Stockholm when visiting the magnificent archipelago islands.
The Stockholm archipelago – or ‘skärgården’ as it’s called in Swedish – is a collection of some 30,000 islands and skerries that stretches 80 kilometres eastwards from the city centre into the Baltic Sea.

This idyllic destination offers all manner of activities and natural experiences in and around water – from kayaking and fishing to shoreside hiking and biking. During winter, it’s the ideal spot for an invigorating cold swim, a snowshoe hike or a snow-sprinkled yacht excursion – making it an option for visiting all year round.

You’ll find a wide array of dining spots and accommodation alternatives on islands including Vaxholm, Grinda, Sandhamn and Värmdö. Take your pick from cosy B&Bs, high-end hotels and glamping sites. With their diverse appeal, the archipelago islands make for an ideal mini-break.

How to get around in the Stockholm archipelago

Some parts of the archipelago – such as the bridge-connected island Vaxholm – can be reached by car and public transport from mainland Stockholm, but the most charming way to travel is by boat. Ferry company Waxholmsbolaget operates a range of services departing regularly from central Stockholm all year round – with extra departures in summer. You’ll find Waxholmsbolaget’s ferry terminal at Strömkajen harbour, in front of Grand Hôtel. Other options are the Cinderella boats, operated by Strömma. These run from the city centre pier at Strandvägen.

If you’re planning on an extended island-hopping excursion, you might benefit from purchasing a 5-day travel card, allowing you to take unlimited trips. Tickets can be bought at the central station and select tourist information hubs.

Day 1 – Vaxholm

Vaxholm is located an hour’s boat trip from central Stockholm, or a 40-50 minutes’ drive or bus ride. The streets of this charming town are lined with pastel-hued wooden houses from the turn of the last century, though its history dates back as far as the 1500s. Its beautiful harbour, studded with fishing cottages – is full of life.

There’s much to discover in Vaxholm and plenty of it can be experienced from the waterside in a sea kayak. Activity hub Skärgårdens Kanotcenter offers a range of guided kayak excursions all year round and bespoke tours can be arranged in advance. The four-hour scheduled adventure includes fika and starts with a safety briefing and some practical kayaking tips. The expert guide will have you paddle past the harbour and its quaint fishing cottages while sharing stories about the area’s compelling past, which stretches back to the Viking era. You’ll also glide past the sprawling Bogesundslandet (Bogesund nature reserve), a haven for wildlife such as beavers and a diverse colony of birds.

If you prefer to set off across the water independently by SUP or canoe, these are available, too – as well as outdoor equipment such as tents, should you wish to stay the night out in nature. Thanks to Sweden’s right to roam custom, this is allowed.

Take the cable ferry to Kastellet (Vaxholm Fortress)

For a spot of history – or simply an excuse for another scenic boat ride – hop aboard the electric-powered cable ferry that runs regularly from the harbour (Kajplats 9/Strandgatan 3) to Vaxholm Fortress – a huge edifice with a history stretching back to the 16th century. Now serving as a fascinating museum, guided tours are available and ferries run every 15 minutes between May and September.

Day 2 – Grinda and/or Sandhamn

Depending on how much time you have on your hands, you can visit either Grinda or Sandhamn or both, in one day.

A natural haven known for its beautiful beaches, the entire island of Grinda is a nature reserve. Sandhamn, meanwhile, has a long history as a sailing hub and attracts a lively community of boaters and yachters, particularly during the summer.

Day 3 – Värmdö

Nestled in the middle of the Stockholm archipelago, Värmdö offers a wealth of activities across varied landscapes.

To get to Värmdö from Sandhamn, take the ferry (an hour’s journey) to Stavsnäs Vinterhamn and catch a bus to Värmdö’s Ålstäket (approx. 30 min). If travelling from Grinda to Värmdö, take the boat from Grinda Södra Bryggan to Boda Brygga (25 min) and catch a bus from there to Värmdö’s Ålstäket (30 min).

Before heading back to central Stockholm, make sure to take advantage of some of the experiences on offer in the nature surrounding the farm – mountain biking, trail walking, themed mini-golf, and SUP-rental included. Acquaint yourself with the resident animals – Siggesta Gård is home to alpacas, chickens, goats and horses. You might even get the opportunity to join a feeding session, and pony rides are sometimes available for children. It may sound like a cliché, but you’ll find that the expression “something for everyone” does ring true in the Stockholm archipelago.

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