Stockholm by Boat: Getting Out on the Water in the Venice of the North

Boats along Skeppsbron in central Stockholm. Photo: Ola Ericson / imagebank.sweden.se
Boats along Skeppsbron in central Stockholm. Photo: Ola Ericson / imagebank.sweden.se

Water dominates Stockholm, making a boat excursion a great way to get a feel for the city, which has been dubbed the Venice of the North. A wide range of guided boat tours is available both within Stockholm and to places nearby, and there are also countless opportunities to get out on the water for independent exploration.

The Djurgården Ferry

For a fun way to get to Djurgården, hop on the passenger ferry at Slussen at the southern end of the Old Town for the eight-minute journey to Allmänna Gränd by the Gröna Lund amusement park. The ferry runs frequently all year round and also makes a stop at Skeppsholmen in each direction. Tickets for the Djurgården ferry are sold in machines and kiosks at each stop; SL Access cards and Waxholmsbolagets travel cards are also valid.

Under the Bridges of Stockholm

One of Stockholm’s most popular sightseeing excursions, the two-hour Under the Bridges of Stockholm tour departs from Strömkajen in front of Grand Hôtel, traveling past some of the city’s most famous sights including Gamla Stan, the City Hall, and Djurgården island. It also circumnavigates the island of Södermalm, offering a view of some areas beyond the main tourist promenades. Recorded narration is provided in numerous languages through personal headphones. The tour also departs from Nybrokajen, but many boats load first at Strömkajen, so you may be best off boarding here if you’re visiting during the busy tourist season.

Sightseeing boats at Nybrokajen in front of the Royal Dramatic Theatre.
Sightseeing boats at Nybrokajen in front of the Royal Dramatic Theatre.

Royal Canal Tour

The Swedish name for the Royal Canal Tour is Djurgården Runt (Around Djurgården), perhaps a more accurate name for this 50-minute journey, which circumnavigates the large green island of Djurgården. The trip begins at Strömkajen (or Nybrokajen through May 24, 2013) and travels through the tranquil Djurgården Canal along the north side of the island. You’ll pass parklands, embassies, museums, and lovely residences as you head away from the city. After rounding the far end of Djurgården, the boat returns back to downtown Stockholm along the south side of the island, offering beautiful views of the city, including the Old Town, Södermalm, and the small islands of Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen. This tour is recorded in various languages.

Fjäderholmarna

A trip to the small island group known as Fjäderholmarna (the Feather Islands) is an easy way to get a taste of Stockholm’s inner archipelago without going very far. Here you’ll find handicrafts shops and galleries, several dining options, and plenty of great spots for swimming and sunbathing.

Fjäderholmslinjen makes the 25-minute trip to the islands between late April and early September, with departures every hour (10 a.m. to midnight) from Slussen, returning on the half hour (10:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.) from Fjäderholmarna.

Strömma Kanalbolaget also travels between downtown Stockholm and Fjäderholmarna between late April and late September. During the high season (mid-June to mid-August), departures are every half hour from Nybroplan (10:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.) and the islands (10:30 a.m. to midnight). The rest of the season (late April to mid-June and mid-August to late September), departures are once an hour in each direction, with some variation in the evenings.

Stora Vånskär in the Stockholm Archipelago. Photo: Ola Ericson / imagebank.sweden.se
Stora Vånskär in the Stockholm Archipelago. Photo: Ola Ericson / imagebank.sweden.se

Excursions to the Stockholm Archipelago

There are numerous passenger ferries and day tours available to various places in the Stockholm archipelago. Strömma Kanalbolaget offers half- and full-day archipelago cruises, some with lunch or dinner on board; some excursions allow time ashore in destinations such as Vaxholm, the “capital” of the archipelago, and Sandhamn, one of the outermost islands. Strömma’s partner company, Cinderella, offers trips to additional islands including Möja, Grinda, Finnhamn, Svartsö, Ingmarsö, and Gällnö. Both Strömma and Cinderella boats depart from Strandvägen along Nybroviken.

The company with the most island traffic is Waxholmsbolaget, whose passenger ferries depart year-round from Strömkajen to more than 100 destinations throughout the archipelago. During the summer the company’s fleet includes two antique steamboats with restaurants on board, a charming way to cruise the archipelago in old-fashioned style. If you wish to explore the archipelago in depth, a good alternative is Waxholmsbolagets Båtluffarkort, a five-day pass good on all of the company’s routes, as well as on the Cinderella boats. It can be purchased at Waxholmsbolaget’s terminals at Strömkajen, Vaxholm, and Stavsnäs; at the Stockholm Tourist Center on Vasagatan; at the archipelago information office on Strandvägen (berth 18); and at various SL Centers, SJ ticket centers, and tourist information centers in and around Stockholm. The pass costs 420 SEK (2013 price).

For a festive trip to Vaxholm, join in the fun on Skärgårdsbåtens Dag, or Archipelago Boat Day, which takes place annually on the first Wednesday in June. A parade of historic steam boats and other passenger boats departs Strömkajen for the approximately 90-minute journey to Vaxholm. Once there, the party continues with live music and street markets. After a few hours in Vaxholm, reboard the boats for the return trip back to Stockholm.

Heading out of Stockholm on the boat to Drottningholm.
Heading out of Stockholm on the boat to Drottningholm.

Excursions on Lake Mälaren

Stadshuskajen, the quay adjacent to Stockholm City Hall, is the departure point for boat excursions on Lake Mälaren. Strömma operates day trips to destinations including Drottningholm, home of the royal family, and Birka, the Viking town founded in the 750s. They also offer summer lunch and dinner cruises to Drottningholm and other locations on Lake Mälaren, as well as special Christmas dining cruises during the holiday season.

For a downtown boat tour on the Lake Mälaren side of Stockholm, try Strömma’s Historical Canal Tour, which circumnavigates Kungsholmen, Stockholm’s second-largest island, home to City Hall and many other places of interest. The recorded narrative highlights Stockholm’s history and development.

Also departing from Stadshuskajen is the historic steamship s/s Mariefred, which has been traveling the route between Stockholm and the small town of Mariefred for more than 100 years. Known primarily for Gripsholm Castle, an imposing fortress built by King Gustav Vasa and his sons in the mid-1500s, Mariefred also has picturesque streets and pretty lakeside paths that are well worth a stroll. The s/s Mariefred operates from mid-May through mid-September.

Paddling Stockholm

For more active adventures on the water, consider renting a kayak or canoe and exploring Stockholm or the archipelago under your own power. The café on the Djurgården side of the Djurgården Bridge has canoes, kayaks, and pedalboats for rent. Brunnsvikens Kanotklubb rents canoes and kayaks; from here you can paddle past palaces and parklands along Brunnsviken, part of Stockholm’s urban national park. In Solna, just north of Kungsholmen island, is Svima Sport, which has a wide range of kayaks for rent by the hour or by the day; from here you can paddle along the canal in the direction of downtown Stockholm or explore destinations to the west.

For guided excursions, Stockholm Adventures offers a variety of single- and multi-day kayaking tours in Stockholm and its archipelago.

Kayaking in the Stockholm archipelago. Photo: Helena Wahlman / imagebank.sweden.se
Kayaking in the Stockholm archipelago. Photo: Helena Wahlman / imagebank.sweden.se
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2 thoughts on “Stockholm by Boat: Getting Out on the Water in the Venice of the North”

  1. I have purchased two tickets for a royal canal tour (or under the bridges tour) in Stockholm and have lost the papers. It was for 13:30 on August 26th with Order #280546. I was to print the tickets but did not. Your site looks familiar – can you help me and check to see if this is with your company? Thank you

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