When SAS had a deal last year where kids fly for just the taxes with a paying adult, I didn’t hesitate to book! The deal ended in October and travel was to be completed by May. I decided to book Stockholm for 2 weeks at the end of March (cheapest round trip out of LAX) and we visited Copenhagen and Gdańsk on this trip as well. This was a mom-daughter trip and we had an absolute blast! We somehow lucked out with the weather and it didn’t rain a single day in any of the cities we visited in the 2 weeks we were there, which is a miracle!
Our flight left LAX at 3pm which means Milana was up for the majority of the flight. She slept for around 4 hours towards the end and woke up as we were about to land. We got to our hotel around 1pm and at that point, I decided we should stay up and just go to bed at their time. Milana went to bed around 9pm and was adjusted from day one without any issues. Me on the other hand despite not sleeping on the plane at all, I just couldn’t go to bed when it was morning back home. Needless to say, I was a zombie and she somehow adjusted from day one. I truly don’t know how she does this on every trip, regardless of which direction we travel to. Stockholm is 9 hours ahead of our home, so a pretty significant time change! We have never experienced any kind of jet lag with her, even as an infant. I wish I was like that! On the way home, the flight left Stockholm at 9am so we were up the entire flight. When we landed at LAX, it was noon and night time in Sweden, so I figured she’d sleep when we got home. Nope, she stayed up til around 8pm, went to bed, and woke up as if we were never gone. Meanwhile, here I am writing this blog post at 1am because I can’t sleep!
In case you are wondering what the child meal looks like on SAS, here is a photo of lunch and dinner. The grapes were ridiculous though-not sure why they choose to serve one of the biggest choking hazards on a flight. The skin was tough and the seeds inside were huge! They also pass out toys to the kids. On the way there, she got a little game and on the way home, they had these little plush toys for the kids to choose.
If you’re flying into Arlanda Airport, they have an awesome play area in Terminal 5. They also have these strollers for you to use throughout the airport.
Things to note when traveling here with kids:
-Almost all of the museums and attractions had designated stroller parking outside (Junibacken too) and no strollers allowed inside. Keep this in mind if you are counting on keeping a small baby inside of a stroller. Bring a carrier! Some have museum strollers you have to switch to and if that is the case, no carriers or personal strollers will be allowed.
-The sidewalks here are better than Copenhagen however many places have dirt paths instead of paved sidewalks. Skansen was this way too and it would be really hard to push a stroller with small wheels there!
-There are playgrounds everywhere! Just look around and you will find one. Stockholm has some of the best playgrounds in the world, make sure you stop and play for a bit!
-You can find diapers, baby food and pretty much everything else once here. No need to pack it all.
-Sweden is trying to become a cashless economy, I remember reading an article about it shortly before we went. Many of the restaurants we went to had signs that they are cashless and only credit cards are accepted. This was the first time on our travels that we didn’t pull out any money from the ATM and used credit cards the entire time, even for small purchases at convenience stores. This was awesome since I love racking up cc points and my Chase Sapphire Reserve (no foreign transaction fees!) was used the entire time with zero cash exchanged during our entire time there.
We split our stay in Stockholm between two hotels since we started and ended our trip here and wanted to explore different areas. The first hotel was the Hilton Stockholm Slussen. This hotel is in an excellent location. Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town, is less than a 5 minute walk from here! And the Slussen train station is also 5 minutes away, making it ideal to visit other parts of the city as well. Now I’m not really a Hilton fan as their gold benefits really mean nothing and our “upgrade” was pretty awful (hate to see what regular rooms look like!) however given the awesome free buffet breakfast and location, it was great. And I used points to book, making this stay free so even better!
The second half of our stay was at the Courtyard Marriott Kungsholmen. This hotel is directly across the street from Rålambshovsparken, our favorite playground in the city. We visited it every night we were here, such a fun place to play! And it’s down the street from 2 major train stations, making it super convenient to get pretty much anywhere in the city. Unlike in the US, Courtyards overseas are phenomenal. Their breakfast buffets are awesome (and free for elite members) and many have lounges as well. After we checked in, a bottle of wine was brought up to our room to thank me for being a rewards member. This happens almost every time we travel internationally, but almost never domestically.
There are many options for getting around the city. We walked a ton but also relied on public transportation and Uber. To get to the city from the airport, take the Arlanda Express train. It’s 20 minutes nonstop and takes you into the central station.
Our hotels were super close to train stations, so we used them a lot to get around. You can buy a Travelcard or buy as you go. Depending on how long you are there/how often you use it, buying a Travelcard may not be the best option.
Taxis and Uber are the more expensive option. Uber drivers in Sweden have to be certified as taxi drivers, so the fares are fairly similar. The only advantage is if you need a car in an area without cabs, you can always get an Uber to pick you up. The taxis have built in booster seats for kids and will not transport kids too young for these boosters without a car seat, something to keep in mind if traveling with infants or toddlers! We used taxis a few times and Uber as well, and I had our mifold for the Uber rides since they did not have boosters.
THINGS TO DO
There are so many things to do in Stockholm with kids! One of the best parts about this area is that nothing closes because of weather. They know how to dress here and kids are outside playing pretty much all day long, properly dressed. So we did what the locals do and put on some winter gear and stayed outside for a good portion of the day, every day! I was worried since living in warm and sunny SoCal, Milana isn’t used to layers but after a few days, she informed me that she is enjoying the cold and playing outside. I purchased some underlayers for her before the trip, and she wore those every day under her clothes. there is no way she would have been warm without them! This was the end of March and early April, but felt like the middle of winter still!
Stockholm is known for their amazing playgrounds and let me tell you, they didn’t disappoint! Unlike most US playgrounds with your typical climbing structures and swings, these playgrounds let kids use their imaginations, test their abilities and get dirty. If you’re a helicopter parent, chances are you won’t enjoy many of these playgrounds as it really tests your child’s abilities and there are bound to be some falls!
One of the playgrounds we visited was Rålambshovsparken. If you only visit one playground, make this one it! Our Marriott was directly across the street, so we spent lots of time here. There are so many cool things to play with and explore. They had a zip line, various climbing structures, a wall with riddles for kids to solve, a skate park next to the playground geared towards little ones and Milana’s favorite, the mud kitchen! What child doesn’t like to get dirty? This was such a cool thing to see at a playground and all the kids loved creating things out of mud. See all the mud on the ground? Swedish parents aren’t put off by it and let their kids wander and splash around in it, something rare to see in the states!
Another really great playground a short distance from the one above is Uggleparken. It’s super close to the train and you can’t miss the huge owls as you walk towards it! There are several play structures here as well, geared towards different ages. Milana loved this place and we spent quite a bit of time here.
We also visited Bryggartäppan, however I wouldn’t make a special trip for it and just pop in if you are in the neighborhood. It’s fun but much smaller than the others and geared towards younger kids.
In many European cities, playgrounds are combined with little petting farms. Aspuddsparken was one of these and totally worth a visit! They have bunnies, chickens roaming around, ponies (which you can ride on certain days), sheep, etc. as well as a really awesome playground and some woods to explore/play hide and go seek in. The playground had similar trampolines to the ones we found in the sidewalks in Copenhagen, though Milana said they weren’t as nice because they weren’t as bouncy.
Another really great playground that is definitely worth a visit is Humlegården in Östermalm, one of our favorite parts of the city. There are a ton of shops and restaurants in this area and the playground is set in a park that reminded me of a much smaller version of NYC Central Park. The playground is divided into multiple sections, each geared towards a different age, and fully fenced in. They had bikes for the kids to ride, sand toys and lots of awesome playground equipment.
Aside from playgrounds, a must do in Stockholm is Junibacken. We have been watching Pippi Longstocking movies prior to coming and Milana was very excited to see her house! It’s a great place on super cold or rainy days, since all the activities were indoors. After taking the story train, we were let out on the 2nd floor where Milana got to enter and play in Pippi’s house! She loved it. On the first floor, there are a bunch of other play structures all based on stories most children know and love. If you are a book lover, this place is for you! Junibacken also has a restaurant with some really good food! Milana wanted the bean stroganoff which she absolutely loved! It had several different beans in a tomato sauce with various other vegetables and spices. She now wants me to recreate this dish when we get home!
Right next door to Junibacken is the Vasa museum. The highlight of this place is the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged. Now I know this place is a huge draw for tourists, however after seeing the ship and watching the children’s movie about the history of the ship, we didn’t spend much time here. We combined this with the day we went to Junibacken, so we didn’t make a special trip just to come here. We are not those museum people that can wander these types of places for hours, so it just wasn’t our thing.
Just down the street from the above two places is Skansen, which is basically an open air museum and zoo, with a small aquarium. Keep in mind that if you want to go to the aquarium, you’ll be charged a separate fee from the main entrance. We wandered around here for quite a bit and Milana loved exploring all the different areas. There are several playgrounds scattered throughout the grounds for some play breaks too. The children’s area was really cute, with an indoor play area. We were here in March (still freezing in Sweden!), so they had ice skating set up for the kids and you could buy hot dogs to roast on the open fire they had going. This was Milana’s favorite part! They love their hot dogs here, every single playground we went to had locals roasting hot dogs. Milana asked me at one point if that’s all the kids here eat because we saw it so much! During Christmas, they do markets here so if you’re here during this time, don’t miss it!
While at Skansen and many playgrounds, we noticed bins of pacifiers so I had to research the meaning. Apparently when Stockholmers are trying to wean their kids off their pacifiers, they head to Skansen. There, in the kitten area at the Children’s Zoo, is The Pacifier Tree, where children go to ‘donate’ their beloved pacifiers to the kittens. This usually starts in early spring and by the end of summer the tree is groaning with pacifiers – and many a child has made his or her first steps into adulthood. Skansen was the original place for this, but we have seen bins of pacifiers at playgrounds too so I’m guessing other places are catching on too.
Since our first hotel was so close to Gamla Stan, Milana asked to walk there every day. We spent lots of time wandering the narrow streets and exploring different shops, restaurants and cafes. This is a must see, though if you are traveling with younger kids, keep in mind that it will be very difficult to push an umbrella stroller on the very uneven cobblestone.
One of the cutest souvenir shops is in Gamla Stan, with all kinds of items made by local people. Milana chose one of the little crocheted Pippis to take home and we also got a regular stuffed doll version of her from another store. The Maileg mouse you see in the matchbox? She’s been obsessed with them for a while and I told her she can get some in Copenhagen since they are made there and they have a huge selection of pretty much every mouse ever made. We happened to find one in Gamla Stan, so we started her collection early!
One of the top Instagram spots, the Brunkebergstunneln is a 231 meter pedestrian tunnel in Central Stockholm. It is built through a ridge and provides a shortcut in the middle of the city. Of course I had to check this out, such a fun place to walk through!
The Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology (Tekniska Museet) is also a great place to check out. The bus drops you off/picks you up directly in front of it, making it super easy to get to. Kids 6 and under are free here, which was nice. Milana really enjoyed seeing different exhibits showing how things were back in the day and now. They had things like stoves, dishwashers, strollers, bikes, etc. all from way back in the day to how they are now. But the highlight if you are here with kids is going to be their kids area. Great play area with lots of interactive exhibits.
If you want some indoor time without paying for admission to a museum, go to the Mall of Scandinavia. There are lots of shops, restaurants, and play areas for kids to explore.
Our favorite part of travel! Having a little foodie that gets excited to eat, this is definitely one of our favorite parts of traveling. Since we had awesome free buffets at our hotels for breakfast, we only ate out once a day and stocked up on local snacks at the supermarket. All the supermarkets we have been to have these little kiddie carts, which she loved pushing around!
One of the first restaurants we went to was House of Burgers in Gamla Stan. Now I don’t necessarily recommend going here since there are so many better options, however we had just arrived after an 11 hour flight, were exhausted and just wanted to eat before heading back to the hotel. The place was packed on Saturday evening but we managed to get a table. The burgers here were really good! The beef was so juicy and well seasoned, we were both glad we tried it. Milana loves burgers so this was perfect for our first meal.
Another restaurant in Gamla Stan we tried (we ate here the first few days since it was walking distance) was Michelangelo. Milana requested pasta that day, so we came here. The food is really good here and you can get smaller portions of pasta for kids. She ordered the spaghetti bolognese and I had the ravioli with gorgonzola sauce, both were excellent!
After dinner, we walked half a block to Te Kaffe Choklad. They have lots of different chocolates to choose from and being the chocoholics that we are, it was the perfect after dinner dessert.
Our favorite restaurant in Gamla Stan was The Hairy Pig. Now keep in mind that this is a super tiny place, with mostly very high tables and not what I would consider kid-friendly. But the menu looked awesome and Milana is used to dining at places like this, so we went. We ordered their house sausage with 3 tapas (smoked salmon pate, roasted potatoes and grilled provolone) and everything was so good! Milana devoured the sausage (keep in mind it’s a bit spicy if you order it) and really liked the salmon pate. That’s their signature dish and a must try if you come here! One of the best meals we had in Stockholm
Gamla Stan is filled with coffee shops and bakeries and we visited a few during our stay. One of our favorite was Under Kastanjen, which had great desserts and coffee.
And of course, no visit to Stockholm is complete without trying semlor buns. These are traditional cardamon scented sweet rolls, filled with almond paste and whipped cream. It was delicious and you can find them all over the city. The one we tried first was at Grillska Husets Brödbod in Gamla Stan and it was really good!
Our favorite restaurant in the city though was Bakfickan. Milana loved this a lot! The meatballs were amazing and the mashed potatoes they came with were the best we’ve ever had. We came during lunch, and only the bar area was open. She was the only kid in this place and all the seats are bar height with no high chairs. We sat near the kitchen, Milana commented that it’s like the chef’s tables we’ve gone to where we can watch them prepare the food. I wouldn’t call this place kid-friendly (all adults and super quiet inside) but if your child can sit quietly on a high bar stool, it’s definitely an awesome place to check out! It will be the best Swedish meatballs you’ll ever have.
Swedish people sure love their fast food! Every McDonald’s we passed was packed with locals and their local burger chain, Max, was even more packed. We didn’t eat at Max but I heard they have play areas so we walked in to see it. Nothing spectacular, but there is a small play area in many of their locations. So if you need a break and some fast food, check out Max. They are all over the city.
Another place with several locations throughout the city is Phil’s Burgers. This was super close to one of the playgrounds we went to, so we had burgers and shakes for lunch one day. They were really juicy and good, good spot if you’re in the mood for some burgers!
We had 7 days in Stockholm, 4 at the beginning and 3 at the end of our trip, and it was the perfect amount of time for exploring the city! As you can see, there is lots to do with kids both indoors and out. We loved the city and Milana said she would love to visit again next year!