10 of my favourite outdoor activities in Stockholm summer

When the sun comes out in Stockholm, good luck trying to get a Swede (or Australian living here) to stay inside! We have a short summer, but when the weather is nice there is no better place to be than Stockholm. People often ask me for recommendations, so in this blog I will summarise 10 of my favourite things to do or places to visit over summer in Stockholm. And guess what? There is no "go running"!

1. Kayaking at sunset

You can hire kayaks in numerous places in Stockholm, and either paddle around in lake Mälaren for a few hours, or take your kayak out to one of the islands in the archipelago for the night. During most of June and July it is light until 11 pm, which means you have plenty of time to paddle your way out there and find a spot to stay.

Note that kayak rental in Stockholm is not cheap. Depending on the place, you can expect to pay about 100 - 125 SEK an hour for a single man kayak, although it is usually cheaper if you take the kayak for a half or full day. If you want to kayak in lake Mälaren, two options are Kafe Kajak, located at rålambohsvparken and Långholmen Kajak, located on the south side of Långholmen. If you want to kayak out in the baltic sea you can look at hiring a kayak on Djurgården at sjöcafeet.

The view off the front of my kayak looking back towads the city hall, on lake Mälaren

The view off the front of my kayak looking back towads the city hall, on lake Mälaren

For long term hire, I recommend brunnsviken kanotclub, which is in Hagaparken. It´s 200 SEK for a single kayak and 300 SEK for a double and you can hire them for as long as you like. For non-Swedes, don´t be intimidated by the Swedish language website, just give them a call.

2. Biking around town

Although no Copenhagen, Stockholm is a very bike friendly city. You can find separate cycle ways in many parts of the city and a lot of Stockholmers get around by bike throughout the spring and summer. Assuming you don´t have your own bike, you have a few options. There is the Stockholm City Bikes, which you can take for three hours at a time. There are bike stations all over the city, so it´s not hard to find one (Gamla stan is the most competitive area). You can buy a 3 day bike card or a season bike card from 7/11 or Pressbyrån.

Alternatively you might want to hire a better quality bike through a traditional bike hire store, or take a bike tour, and I´d recommend going to see my friend Nick and the team over at Bike Sweden. My favourite places to go for a ride are Djurgården, Kungsholmen and Hagaparken. For tips on getting around Kungsholmen, see my "how to navigate it" blog post here.

3. Going to the beach

So before you start thinking of white sand beaches and the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean you should lower your expectations a bit, but Stockholm does have some nice inner city beaches. Interestingly, Strandvägen in Östermalm, which is one of the most expensive streets in Stockholm, if translated literally from Swedish to English means "beach road". I don´t recommend swimming here though!

Where I would recommend going is to Långholmen, the cliffs at Kristineberg (Kungsholmen) or to Tantolunden (see 10), on Södermalm, although that can be crowded. On Långholmen, the main beach (where there is actually sand) is långholmenbadet. But if going on the weekend I would recommend walking further around the island to find a less crowded location, unless you enjoy the sound of screaming children.

Photo courtesy of Visit Stockholm.

Photo courtesy of Visit Stockholm.

On Kungsholmen, hornsberg strand has been nicely landscaped and is a great place to sit by the water. It can get crowded and sometimes noisy if boats come in and feel the need to blast you away with their questionable music taste, but if that happens then walk around and up onto the cliffs at Kristineberg. To get here go to Stadshagen t-bana, or even better, get a bike and ride.

Beautifully landscaped waterfront and a nice spot to lie by the water in the summer

Beautifully landscaped waterfront and a nice spot to lie by the water in the summer

4. Trips to Hellasgården

Hellasgården is one of my favourite places in Stockholm. Located in Nacka, there is one beautiful lake, some forest walking/hiking/running/bike trails, a cafe and restaurant, and changing facilities. Oh and did I mention a sauna? Despite its relatively central location, when you get out on to the trails it can feel like you are out in the middle of the Swedish countryside. You can also play mini golf and soccer golf here - the mini golf is very basic but soccer golf is fun. If you want some nice grass to lie down on, when you arrive take a left past the outdoor gym and walk for 5 minutes around the lake. To get to Hellasgården just take the 401 bus from Slussen bus station and you will be there in 15 minutes.

The lake at Hellasgården

The lake at Hellasgården

5. A drink at Mälarpavlijongen

Ok, before you think all I do with my time is exercise I better add something eating or drinking-related. Although the staff can be a bit pretentious (last time I was there the waiter scolded us for not putting our table number in a position which was visible enough), the location and setting is hard to beat. Sit on the end of the pontoon and have a drink while enjoying the view across lake Mälaren, just be prepared to pay for the privilege. Another plus is that Mälarpavlijongen is far enough out of the way that tourists do not flock here. The closest T Bana is Rådhuset.

When looking at what other people´s reviews said about this place, I thought this one sums it up perfectly:

"Pricey drinks but well worth the scenery. Not many things in life beat chilling on a floating raft on a sunny day in Sweden looking out to a gorgeous blue lake."

6. Boat trip to an island in the archipelago

You have to go on a boat trip out to one of the islands in the Stockholm archipelago during the summer. Depending on what you want to get out of it, you might go to:

  • Sandhamn: do what the Stockholm rich do and go to Sandhamn to drink (or pour out) expensive champagne. But seriously, when you get Sandhamn along with a few others having an "after sail" it is a really fun place. And partying aside this is a beautiful island.
  • Vaxholm: one of the closest islands, more relaxed atmosphere, plenty of cafes and restaurants, but usually a bit busier than the other islands as it´s the most frequented by tourists. But if you´re willing to walk for a while you can find your own bit of Vaxholm and it´s really lovely.
  • Utö: one of the furthest islands but well worth the trip. Fewer people, beautiful forest and plenty of small, secluded bays where you can swim on your own.

There are literally thousands of other islands to choose from in the Stockholm archipelago, just be careful of ticks!

The pier at Utö, one of the furthest to get to but well worth the trip

The pier at Utö, one of the furthest to get to but well worth the trip

7. Swimming in the lakes

There are hundreds of lakes to choose from, although they vary in terms of proximity to the city and accessibility. Aside from swimming in the lake at Hellasgården, the next best place I have found is called Judarn, in Bromma. According to a woman I met swimming there once, it is the second cleanest lake in Stockholm. Which seems hard to believe when it is in such an urbanised area! It´s a small nature reserve area, and a really good place for a BBQ too. 

Time to get wet!

Time to get wet!

8. Fika at Rosendals trädgård

This is Stockholm´s worst kept secret but I couldn´t help but put it on my list because it is such a good place to go for fika in the summer. They have beautiful gardens to sit in, and you can incorporate a walk or cycle on Djurgården into the same outing for a classic Stockholm summer day. If you are feeling adventurous you can also walk from Rosendals trädgård over to Gröna Lund for some amusement park and rollercoaster action.

9. Picnic in Tantolunden (with kubb)

It wouldn´t be Stockholm summer without at least one picnic in Tantolunden. For people who live on the south side of Södermalm, it´s a popular place to go for a swim. On any given summer night you will find people down here playing boule, BBQing, lying in the sun, using the outdoor gym, and playing Kubb. Kubb is a great Swedish game, I played it for the first time when I lived in London, but have done it much more here in Stockholm. You basically just try and knock over wooden blocks by throwing a wooden baton. Best played with a beer in one hand.

In this area (along Årstaviken) you will also find places to play boule, another popular "sport" for Stockholmers in the summer.

10. Play table tennis (pingas) and drink beer at Trädgården

It wouldn´t be a summer in Stockholm for me without at least one trip to Stockholm club Trädgården. People usually describe it as Stockholm´s "Berlin style club", although it seems to be becoming increasingly commercial. Nevertheless, it´s an interesting space under the Skanstull bridge, and I´d recommend going down on a Saturday afternoon to play some table tennis (pingas) before the crowds come in. You might avoid the fairly hefty door charge that way too, and don´t worry you can eat there, so if you feel like staying around and having a few drinks you can see where the night takes you.

Although not an exhaustive list of the awesome things to do outdoors in the Stockholm summer, hopefully it will give you some new ideas for how to experience the city like a local. 

Enjoy the Stockholm summer and let me know if you have visited or plan to visit any of these places!

Happy running,

Dan