Travel Guide: The Pristine Nature of Sweden’s Stockholm Archipelago

The fascinating capital of Sweden is one of the largest treasures of islands in the country. More than 30 000 islands are scattered in the world of untouched nature. Some of them are only 20 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Stockholm floats in the labyrinth of its islands, at the junction of lake Mälar and Salt Bay (Saltsjön). It’s the city of amazing museums and charming cobblestone streets. A dozen lakes in the city create an atmosphere where nature is never too far.

The most unusual gallery of Stockholm takes place at its metro stations. Stockholm offers the feast of senses, the stunning net of historical gems that belong to the islands. One of them is the Royal Palace on Ekero island, easily reachable by metro.

The Baltic sea baths into the various landscape of islands where cliffs, forests and sandy shores rule.

Which Island to Visit

Breathtaking views of the Baltic sea and an authentic lifestyle are the main reasons to visit Stockholm archipelago. Idylic villages blend with the picturesque nature and its palette of activities for outdoor lovers.

The closest island, Fjäderholmarna, is only 30 minutes away by boat from central Stockholm. Vaxholm, Gustavsberg, and Värmdö join the story of the easily reachable islands. Only an hour away from the Stockholm downtown, the day trip to these islands is an inevitable choice.

Aerial view of the amazing city of Stockholm made of islands
Aerial view of the amazing city of Stockholm made of islands- Credit: Unep.org

The islands of Sandön, Möja, Nåttarö, Utö, Finnhamn or Grinda can offer a cozy relaxation for a night or two. It takes a couple of hours to welcome the tranquility upon their threshold.

How to Arrive

The Waxholmsbolaget ferries are the regular way to organize the visit. They depart to the most islands all year around. The ferry port is located in Strömkajen, just a few minutes of walk from Kungsträdgården in the centre of the city.

The tickets can be bought on board, at the ticket counter, online or at the self-service machine. The prepaid travelcards offer the opportunity to go island-hopping as they last 7 to 30 days.

Taking a cruise around the islands will open your eyes to more sightseeing spots. The most popular cruise line is the Stromma Kanalbolaget.

Grinda Island – Renowned as One of the Prettiest Islands

Grinda captures the vibes of the prettiest island in Stockholm archipelago. Set in a nature reserve, Grinda is filled with secluded beaches and stunning views. The panorama of accommodation includes hotels, a youth hostel and a camping site.

Grinda is located 1-2 hours from downtown Stockholm, depending on which ferry company to choose. Grinda is a small island which is pretty walkable. Exploring it by bike is another option, but the island is a bit hilly.

Linanas marina at Grinda island
Linanas marina at Grinda island- Credit: Marinas.com

During the summer, Grinda is full of restaurants and shops. Catch the moment and try the traditional Grinda bread or relax with the cinnamon rolls. Enjoying the Swedish fika will have a double advantage here.

The island is mostly owned by the non-profit organisation Skärgårdsstiftelsen (the Archipelago Foundation). Their main role is to keep the island’s natural beauty.

Renting a kayak or playing volleyball at the beach is the most common way to enjoy Grinda in the summer.

Vaxholm – The Historical Capital of the Archipelago

Vaxholm is the capital of the archipelago, only an hour away by ferry from Stockholm. It’s also connected by several bridges with the mainland, so it’s possible to catch it by bus and car.

The most enchanting sign of Vaxholm is its fortress, built in 1544. The Vaxholm fortress is set on a tiny island separated from the main one by a narrow channel. The small ferry drives to the castle from mid-May to mid-September.

The fortress of Vaxholm at the island Vaxholm
The fortress of Vaxholm at the island Vaxholm- Credit: MigratingMiss.com

Once it was a place where soldiers, their wives and even the prisoners lived. Now it holds a small museum.

Vaxholm is the island of museums and galleries where historical traces tell the stories of this fishing place.

Dotted with the lovely wooden houses, Waxholm bursts with colours and pleasant spots by the sea. Water sports clubs intertwine with boutique shops, bars and restaurants. Vaxholm herring is a special delicacy here.

Exploring the Swedish History in Vaxholm

Vaxholm is the perfect place to learn about Swedish heritage because Vikings settled here 1000 years ago. Waxholm fortress is the place where the whole town is initiated.

Vaxholm citadel tells the story about those days, once having a defensive role. The whole city transfers the history, today we can learn about their way of life and ancient relics.

Bogesund castle, set in a nature reserve at Vaxholm, is developed from royal historical life. It was built in the 17th century by the Count Per Brahe The Younger. It experienced several further reconstructions, the major was in the hands of Baron Nils von Hopken in the 19th century.

 

Svartsö – One of the Greenest Islands

Svartsö is one of the largest and greenest islands in the archipelago. With only 100 residents, coming here is the true escape to the nature of the North.

In summer it’s popular for swimming in the lake or biking through the pretty lanes. In winter, it gives the possibility for a winter sauna.

Lovely red houses at Svartso island
Lovely red houses at Svartso island- Credit: Stromma.com

Svartsö krog is the renowned restaurant where you can try some of the local delicacies. Several lodging possibilities include Svartsö Skärgårdshotell & Vandrarhem, a boat house or a luxury tent by the water.

Svartsö Herrgårdspensionat is a gorgeous villa from the 1900s, opened during the summer season.

The picturesque place Alsvik holds the farm shop with the local products. This place bursts with history counting to the 1700s.

It takes 1,5-2 h to arrive to Svartso from central Stockholm.

 

Ingmarsö – The Paradise for Hikers

Located close to Svartsö, Ingmarsö island is further away from central Stockholm. With Waxholmsbolaget ferry it takes 3,5 h and with Cinderella 2,5 h.

Ingmarsö is the paradise for hikers, filled with marked hiking trails, remote lakes and sandy beaches. Brottö cultural reserve and Kålgård island’s nature reserve are worth the challenge.

Little islets at Ingmarsö island
Little islets at Ingmarsö island- Credit: Stromma.com

The name itself signifies „all the lakes“ or “inmarer”. Particularly, these lakes are Storträsk (Big Marsh), Lillträsk (Little Marsh), Bergmar and Maren.

150 people that live here enjoy the authentic Swedish lifestyle and pure nature. Close to the harbour, few shops, restaurant and bakery make the island more vibrant.

Ingmarsö museum cheers the touristic offer, where the main praise goes to the several spa hotels. The museum is actually located at the Norrgarden farmhouse, which is one of the bed & breakfast options for staying overnight.

 

Fjäderholmarna – The Closest Island in the Stockholm Archipelago

With the easy distance from Strömkajen (just 30 minutes by ferry), Fjäderholmarna is the place that cannot be missed.

The main island, Stora Fjäderholmen, is the perfect starting point. Picturesque views gain reward due to the stunning nature filled with the set of islands. Just looking at the boats or taking a hike through the forest means enjoying a simple life.

The aerial view of Fjäderholmarna island in the Stockholm archipelago
The aerial view of Fjäderholmarna island in the Stockholm archipelago- Credit: Stromma.com

Röda Villan, surrounded by lush gardens, is a popular restaurant here.

Fjäderholmarna delights with artistic vibes, where you can get inspired by handcrafted stuff like jewellery, ceramics or glassware.

 

Sandön – The Sand Island

Sandön is the furthest island in the Swedish archipelago with the historic town of Sandhamn as the main centre of life. It takes more than 2 hours to reach the island by the Cinderella cruise line, which needs to be booked in advance.

The pretty town of Sandhamn is a vibrant place filled with restaurants, bars, hotels and boutique shops. Even the nightclub cheerfully smiles here. In the close proximity to harbour, pine forests lead to the lovely promenades.

The pretty houses in the Sandhamn town at the island Sandön
The pretty houses in the Sandhamn town at the island Sandön- Credit: Stoccolmaconmary.se

Picturesque cliffs and white beaches are the tranquil paradise to have an island picnic.

Sandön literally means the sand island, which means that this is not a typical rocky Swedish island. The largest sandy beach on the island is Trouville, which contains many entertainment opportunities like kayaking or scuba diving.

The Archipelago museum add the charm to the cultural life of Sandhamn. Sandön is a popular destination all year around.

 

Möja – An Island of Artists

Idylic island lies on the margin of the outer islands filled with nature. With the distance about an hour away of Stockholm, Möja opens the door of a peaceful life. Being popular all year around, Möja breaths the charm without the night entertainment.

This is an island of artists and writers, one of them is Roland Svensson, who holds his own museum at Ramsmora.

Typical red houses at Moja island in the Stockholm archipelago
Typical red houses at Moja island in the Stockholm archipelago- Credit: VisitStockholm.com

The public sauna in Ostholmen is one of the best places to experience the vibrant spa life of Sweden.

Möja is created mostly of gravel roads with the minimum of the car traffic. Many locals at Möja work as craftsmen or have their own businesses.

Many nature reserves just outside of Möja make kayaking pretty attractive. The various lodging opportunities include hostels, bed and breakfasts and many cottages.

 

Finnhamn – The Treasure of Sports and Outdoors

Finnhamn is a group of islands where the outdoor lovers will find their piece of cake. It takes almost three hours to reach Finnhamn by ferry. One main road leads the way, but the most popular are the sport activities like kayaking or the outdoor gym.

The only restaurant here, Finnhamn’s Café and Krog, offers fantastic service and kitchen. The foodtrucks have made their business selling tapas.

People chilling at the beaches of Finnhamn
People chilling at the beaches of Finnhamn- Credit: VisitStockholm.com

The organic farm named Idholmens gård is the lovely gem where visitors can buy organic vegetables, homemade jams or flavoured oils.

From Finnhamn it’s pretty easy to visit the islands Kålgårdsö and Ingmarsö by rowing boat.

The hostel Utsikten is an ancient villa with beautiful views from the hill.

Kymmendö – A Privately Owned Island

Kymmendö is a privately owned island with the “right of public access“. With only 26 residents, the true poetic charm floats here. The Swedish author August Strindberg was inspired by the summers on the island to write „The Natives of Hemso“. His following novel, Hemsöborna, pictures the portraits of the island’s residents.

Stunning nature in the Kymmendö island of Stockholm archipelago
Stunning nature in the Kymmendö island of Stockholm archipelago- Credit: Nordstrandsmakleri.se

The mesmerising nature can be felt here in its true spirit, as the place is pretty remote. The hazel and oak woods are intertwined with flower meadows.

 

Utö – The Outer Island

In the wild countryside of Utö, cycling is the preferable activity. Utö means „outer island“ in Swedish.

Lovely red houses at the Utö island in the Stockholm archipelago
Lovely red houses at the Utö island in the Stockholm archipelago- Credit: Haninge.se

To the puzzle of the sport activities joins canoeing, kayaking, beach volleyball, tennis or mini golf.

Lingoberry ice cream is the famous delicacy here as well as the Utö loafs made in a local bakery.

The mining museum represents the panorama of Sweden’s oldest iron mines.

 

Rödlögy – An Island Without Electricity

Rödlöga is a group of islands nestled at the line where the Stockholm archipelago finishes, considering the ferries. There’s no electricity here and no permanent residents. Rather, Rödlöga is the favourite spot of the sailing boats.

 

Öja – The Most Southern Island

Öja is the southern point of Stockholm archipelago, that is questionable if it even belongs to Stockholm archipelago. Known also as Landsort thanks to the famous lighthouse on the island, Öja is the long and narrow island. The ancient lighthouse of Öja exists from 1660s.

The famous lighthouse at the sweet little island Oja in Stockholm archipelago
The famous lighthouse at the sweet little island Oja in Stockholm archipelago- Credit: Christianferm.se

The lovely pathways of Öja are especially popular for bird watching. The only hostel on the island is open all year around.

 

Tips on Visiting the Islands in Stockholm Archipelago

The most important piece of advice is to get up early not to miss the planned ferry. Waiting for the next one can take hours.

Expensive prices on the islands will give you the reason to enjoy your own picnic. Preparedness is the key when arriving on an island, but once you get there- freedom is yours. Camping equipment can also be a solution and the ultimate experience.

Cash is the main point in any case.

Don’t forget a swimming suit, even in the winter. Swedish people are pretty enthusiastic about swimming in the winter.

 

Conclusion – The Pristine Nature of the Stockholm Archipelago

Stockholm archipelago is the world of its own, an enchanting escape from everyday life. Narrow the choices but stay true to the iconic treasure that belongs to Stockholm. It’s impossible to visit all of the 30 000 islands, enjoy the true spirit of your choice.

The aerial view of Stockholm archipelago
The aerial view of Stockholm archipelago- Credit: Globuzzer.mn.co

The adventure begins with the simple step, absorb the idylic atmosphere of the adventure even on a day trip. Swedish history lies in these islands like the secret ingredient of a cake.

Visiting Stockholm archipelago will satisfy everybody’s taste, from historical geeks to outdoor lovers and spa enthusiasts. The divine nature spread its empire here where the charming villages scatter their palette of colours.

Ängsö National Park, as one of the largest in Sweden, is embraced by the waters of the archipelago and fabulous nature. Even for one day, the lovely islands of Stockholm archipelago are the way to experience the Swedish culture and true Scandinavian spirit.

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