If you are visiting Stockholm for more than just a quick city trip, then a visit to the Stockholm Archipelago has to be on your to do list. The city of Stockholm sits on 14 islands, the surrounding archipelago has over 30,000 islands, islets and skerries. Discovering them all is near impossible but stepping of the city streets and looking at the islands beyond is definitely worth your time.
The archipelago covers an area of 3,500 square kilometres, of which less than half is land. Many of them can be visited by road but the archipelago should really be seen from the water. Luckily the islands are on regularly scheduled Waxholmsbolaget (ferry) routes.
Several of the islands can be easily reached from the city centre for a day trip. Visiting these islands can be done without too much planning, almost in the spur of the moment. The island of Fjäderholmarna, for instance, can be reached by a 20 minute ferry ride from Slussen and Strandvägen in the heart of Stockholm.
The Fjäderholmarna islands are the easiest to reach of the archipelago islands, the main island of this little group is Stora Fjäderholmen, which is a wonderful place for a picnic on rocky outcrops or discovering some forest trails. Many artists have studios and stores in the center of the island.
A little further out is the island of Värmdö, which is easiest to reach by bus, which will take about 40 minutes. The island’s main town is Gustavsberg, where you can visit the porcelain factory, with its shop, a fantastic gallery and exhibition of glass, glassworks, and pleasant shops and cafés.
One of the best known islands of the archipelago is Vaxholm, which is about 50 minutes by ferry from either Slussen or Strömkajen on the south and north side of Gamla Stan. The island has several museums and galleries which tell the story of the region’s legendary past. Here you can also visit the Vaxholm Fortress Museum and explore the island’s charming old town, with its pastel-coloured wooden houses, charming restaurants, cafés and shops. For the active visitors there are a range of activities to enjoy, including SUP, kayaking and fishing.
For the islands of the Stockholm archipelago that are a little further out from the city, an overnight adventure is the way to go. These trips require a little more planning but are sure to leave you with unforgettable experiences.
The island of Sandön lies around 50 kilometres east of the city of Stockholm, happily the ferry service can get you here in about 2 hours. The island is locally often referred to by the name Sandhamn, which is actually the main town on the island. The town, which used to be a sea pilot station, has an inn, hotels, the classic Royal Swedish Yacht Club and several restaurants and bars.
In summer the island has a vibrant party scene and during the day there are plenty of activities to choose from including kayaking, cycling or a relaxing spa-treatment. When you leave the harbour area behind, you’ll find extensive walking paths along the beaches and windswept pines. In the off-season, the island reverts back to its peaceful natural state.
Another island to consider for an overnight stay is Utö, near the southern end of the archipelago. Getting here takes a bit more work, though it sits 45 kilometres from central Stockholm, with a 3.5 hour journey by train, bus and ferry. Utö has Sweden’s oldest iron mines with old, preserved miner’s dwellings and a mining museum.
The island also boasts the well-known Utö Wärdshus with a hotel, hostel, and restaurant, and nearby you can jump in the water from the rocks in Rävstavik Bay. Try renting a bike and going to Ålö Island just south of Utö. Enjoy the white sandy beach and eat delicious Swedish seafood and fish, and be sure to buy a loaf of the renowned Utö bread from the bakery before the trip home.
Finally, one of the prettiest islands in the archipelago, Grinda lies to the north east of Stockholm and depending on the ferry and pier you choose takes between one and three hours to reach. The island is part of a nature reserve and is partly owned by a non-profit organisation (Archipelago Foundation), which makes sure that the island’s nature and facilities are kept in good condition for visitors.
Here you can spend your day sunbathing and swimming on the pristine beaches, rent kayaks, play volleyball or wander through the forest. Grinda has hotels, cabins, a youth hostel, a campground, and an inn, as well as a café and farm shop. Plenty of options to stay overnight on this lovely island in the Stockholm Archipelago.