Head 70 km (45 miles) north of Stockholm to Uppsala in order to see a thriving, youthful university city with a tremendous amount of history. The 15th century Uppsala University is the oldest university in Scandinavia, and it is a major attraction in the city. Also of interest is the Uppsala Cathedral, the largest church in Scandinavia, the seat of the Church of Sweden and a dominating presence in the city, thanks to its impressive spires. About 5 km north of Uppsala lies Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala). This was one of the most important pre-Viking sites in Scandinavia, hosting regular sacrifical rites and the fiery burials of royalty. There is an old church and the open-air museum Disagården with old Swedish houses.
The very first capital of Sweden was Sigtuna, located an hour’s drive north of Stockholm. When pirates attacked Sigtuna in the 12th century, the capital was relocated. However, Sigtuna is still a remarkable destination and a great day trip spot from the current capital. As the oldest city in Sweden, Sigtuna boasts a number of historic and even ancient attractions. You can spot artifacts like runestones that date from the Viking Age as well as the ruins of St. Olof’s Church. Of particular interest is the Mariakyrkan, or St. Mary’s Church, a Brick Gothic building that is likely the oldest church in all of Sweden.
3. Drottningholm Palace
Drottningholm Palace is located just a few miles east of Stockholm, putting it in a convenient spot for a quick day trip outside the city. The palace, built in the 18th century, is situated on Lovö island in Lake Mälaren. Although the architecture is fascinating, the real appeal of the palace is that it is home to the Swedish Royal Family. Unlike many royal residences, parts of the palace is open to the public. Guided tours are offered every half hour in Swedish and English, and you’ll want to be on the lookout for spaces like the 18th century Chinese Pavilion and the gorgeous English gardens.
In the far eastern portion of the Stockholm Archipelago is Sandhamn, which translates to Sand Harbor in English. The town of Sandhamn is two hours from Stockholm by car, or you could set off on a longer but incredibly scenic ferry ride there and back. It is has become a popular resort destination for Swedes as well as international travelers. Historically a sea pilot station, Sandhamn is now a destination for those in search of fun. When you arrive, you can rent a bike or even a kayak to see the town from on the go. In the summer, bring along your bathing suit for a swim in the water off the pebble beaches.
Vaxholm is part of the greater Stockholm Archipelago, a collection of thousands of islands that are easily accessible from the Swedish capital. Vaxholm is just a 30-minute drive from Stockholm, or a short ferry ride. The small town of Vaxholm is perfectly preserved in the style of the 19th century, and there are lots of wooden homes in traditional, pastel colors. One of the top attractions in the town is the Vaxholm Fortress, which was built in the 16th century to defend against pirates. Today, you can tour the fortress and its exhibits, which form the Swedish National Museum of Coastal Defence.
An hour west of Stockholm is Mariefred, a small town within the Södermanland Province. The town was established around a Carthusian monastery called Pax Marie, but that was destroyed in the 16th century. Many of the bricks, however, were used in the construction of the Gripsholm Castle. The castle is from the 16th century, and it is a major attraction in the region. As you tour Gripsholm Castle, be on the lookout for the official Swedish portrait collection, the enormous stuffed lion and the complete 18th century theater. While the monastery is long gone, Mariefred is still home to a small 12th century church called Kärnbo.
7. Skokloster Castle
About 65 km (40 miles) north of Stockholm is Skokloster Castle. Built in the middle of the 17th century, this castle was the project of the very wealthy Count Carl Gustaf Wrangel. Skokloster Castle is Baroque in design, and a surprising amount of the interior is still in remarkable condition. On your visit, take a peek in the Unfinished Hall, which lets you see a genuine 17th century construction site for the hall that was never completed. Beyond just the architecture, the castle is packed with 17th century art and furnishings. You can admire the library, the Baroque paintings and even the extensive weapons collection on display.
The small, rural island of Grinda is accessible from Stockholm in under 90 minutes via a combination of bus and ferry. This makes it ideal for a day trip from Stockholm, and Grinda is definitely a serious contrast from the big city atmosphere. Part of its charm is that you can’t get there by car. The biggest attraction on Grinda is the Wärdshus, a large stone building from the 20th century that now offers everything from accommodation to dining. You can walk across Grinda in under 20 minutes, making it safe and suitable for families.