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Kayaking in the Stockholm archipelago
Stockholm archipelago is ideal to discover from a kayak. There is a range of guided kayak tours to choose from all year round.
Photo credit: Henrik Trygg/Visit Stockholm

Tour the Stockholm archipelago – a three-day adventure

A paradise awash with water-based activities, you won’t have to look far for things to do in Stockholm when visiting the magnificent archipelago islands.

The Stockholm archipelago – or ‘skärgården’ as it’s called in Swedish – is a collection of some 30,000 islands and skerries that stretches 80 kilometres eastwards from the city centre into the Baltic Sea. This idyllic destination offers all manner of activities and natural experiences in and around water – from kayaking and fishing to shoreside hiking and biking. During winter, it’s the ideal spot for an invigorating cold swim, a snowshoe hike or a snow-sprinkled yacht excursion – making it an option for visiting all year round.

You’ll find a wide array of dining spots and accommodation alternatives on islands including Vaxholm, Grinda, Sandhamn and Värmdö. Take your pick from cosy B&Bs, high-end hotels and glamping sites. With their diverse appeal, the archipelago islands make for an ideal mini-break.

Here’s a suggested three-day adventure, along with some practical information.

Good to know – Stockholm archipelago checklist

Sweden’s right to roam custom, ‘Allemansrätten’, allows you to access nature – even pitch a tent for a night or two – as long as you adhere to the golden rule: “don’t destroy and don’t disturb”. This custom will allow you to explore even more of the archipelago. Sit down for a picnic on a sunny cliff, set off into the forest in late summer to pick wild berries and mushrooms (it’s advisable to consult an expert) or catch your own fish – you’re allowed to do so in public waters, provided you use only hand rods.

What to bring:

  • Water and snacks.
  • Comfortable clothes that allow for layering and protection from rain, sun and temperature shifts.
  • Swimwear – for that impromptu dip.
  • Flat shoes with good grip.
  • Some form of photo ID – may be required for outdoor equipment rentals.

Safety note:

  • Bring a portable first aid kit.
  • Refrain from drinking alcohol when boating and swimming.

When embarking on water activities it’s advisable to rent equipment from a dedicated outdoor gear company – many of which are featured in this guide – as they will equip you with the necessary safety gear for your particular activity.

Norrhamnen, Vaxholm

The old fishing port Norrhamnen in Vaxholm.

Photo: Jesper Wahlström

How to get around in the Stockholm archipelago

Some parts of the archipelago – such as the bridge-connected island Vaxholm – can be reached by car and public transport from mainland Stockholm, but the most charming way to travel is by boat. Ferry company Waxholmsbolaget operates a range of services departing regularly from central Stockholm all year round – with extra departures in summer. You’ll find Waxholmsbolaget’s ferry terminal at Strömkajen harbour, in front of Grand Hôtel. Other options are the Cinderella boats, operated by Strömma. These run from the city centre pier at Strandvägen.

If you’re planning on an extended island-hopping excursion, you might benefit from purchasing a 5-day travel card, allowing you to take unlimited trips. Tickets can be bought at the central station and select tourist information hubs.

There are also a number of boat taxi companies to consider, including Båttaxi.

Taxi boat

Travel by taxi boat in Stockholm archipelago.

Photo: Anna Hållams/imagebank.sweden.se

Day 1 – Vaxholm

Vaxholm is located an hour’s boat trip from central Stockholm, or a 40-50 minutes’ drive or bus ride. The streets of this charming town are lined with pastel-hued wooden houses from the turn of the last century, though its history dates back as far as the 1500s. Its beautiful harbour, studded with fishing cottages – is full of life.

Discover Vaxholm – sea kayak style

There’s much to discover in Vaxholm and plenty of it can be experienced from the waterside in a sea kayak. Activity hub Skärgårdens Kanotcenter offers a range of guided kayak excursions all year round and bespoke tours can be arranged in advance. The four-hour scheduled adventure includes fika and starts with a safety briefing and some practical kayaking tips. The expert guide will have you paddle past the harbour and its quaint fishing cottages while sharing stories about the area’s compelling past, which stretches back to the Viking era. You’ll also glide past the sprawling Bogesundslandet (Bogesund nature reserve), a haven for wildlife such as beavers and a diverse colony of birds.

If you prefer to set off across the water independently by SUP or canoe, these are available, too – as well as outdoor equipment such as tents, should you wish to stay the night out in nature. Thanks to Sweden’s right to roam custom, this is allowed.

Take the cable ferry to Kastellet (Vaxholm Fortress)

For a spot of history – or simply an excuse for another scenic boat ride – hop aboard the electric-powered cable ferry that runs regularly from the harbour (Kajplats 9/Strandgatan 3) to Vaxholm Fortress – a huge edifice with a history stretching back to the 16th century. Now serving as a fascinating museum, guided tours are available and ferries run every 15 minutes between May and September.

Wintertime must-dos – snowshoe hiking and winter swimming

Vaxholm is a year-round destination with a charming, historic town centre and a wealth of outdoor activities on offer even during the colder months. Winter swimming is good for you (provided you don’t suffer from any heart condition) and a wood-fired sauna awaits as you emerge from your invigorating dip, courtesy of Skärgårdens Kanotcenter.

Snowshoe hiking is another Stockholm archipelago wintertime hit offered by the same company. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the snow-covered landscapes as you make your way peacefully across the frozen shorelines.

Fresh seafood for dinner – followed by homemade ice cream

Take the opportunity to sample some freshly caught fish and seafood. Melanders is a Stockholm mainstay and its vibrant, centrally located Vaxholm summer restaurant serves a diverse menu spanning Swedish classics such as prawn sandwiches, salmon salads and anything in between.

There’s also plenty of homemade ice cream on the island (so delicious it inspires many Stockholmers to make a special trip). Try Glass På Hörnet or Waxholms Glassbar – both of which offer a range of delicious and creative flavours, as well as classics.

Stay the night at Waxholms Hotell

Located right next to the harbour, Waxholms Hotell is a four-star boutique hotel complete with a range of rooms and suites, some of which overlook the water. Dining options include a cosy seaside bistro.

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Waxholms Hotell

Waxholms Hotell in the picturesque small town Vaxholm, in the Stockholm archipelago.

Photo: Jonas Borg

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Waxholms Hotell

Photo: Jonas Borg

Canoeing

Photo: Henrik Trygg/Visit Sweden

Hiking at Vaxholm

Photo: Jesper Wahlström

Vaxholm Fortress, Stockholm

Photo: Agence les Conteurs

Stockholm archipelago in winter

Photo: Visit Stockholm

Day 2 – Grinda and/or Sandhamn

Depending on how much time you have on your hands, you can visit either Grinda or Sandhamn or both, in one day.

A natural haven known for its beautiful beaches, the entire island of Grinda is a nature reserve. Sandhamn, meanwhile, has a long history as a sailing hub and attracts a lively community of boaters and yachters, particularly during the summer.

Take advantage of Grinda’s beautiful beaches

Reachable by a 1-hour boat trip from Vaxholm (leaving twice daily from 23 June to 15 August), you’ll find island Grinda. Celebrated as a holiday paradise, the natural beauty of Grinda is remarkable and its endless beaches and smooth, sun-drenched rocks make it a magnet for Stockholmers wanting to escape city life. You might be tempted to settle at one of the most popular beaches, but you’re equally free to seek out a secluded rock or sandy expanse.

Have lunch at Grinda Wärdshus

Enjoying a prime position on the southern part of the island, a stone’s throw from the guest harbour, the restaurant Framfickan at Grinda Wärdshus is a popular haunt perfect for people watching – if you’re able to avert your gaze from the stunning sea views. The seafood stew and the fish burgers are classics that many return to, time and time again.

Set sail – with Sandhamn as your base

Located in the outer part of the Stockholm archipelago, Sandhamn is one of the fancier islands and a particular draw for famous writers and artists. To travel from Vaxholm to Sandhamn, take the Cinderella boat, which departs once a day on Saturdays and Sundays in the summertime. You’ll arrive in Sandhamn in approximately 50 min.

If setting off from Grinda, the Cinderella boat will pick you up at Grinda Södra Bryggan, reaching Sandhamn after some 50 min. (The same service runs to and from central Stockholm’s Strandvägen.)

Sandhamn has a long history as a sailing hub and there are plenty of opportunities to set off on a sailing excursion. Sailing company Seglingsevenemang AB will tailor a sailing experience for you and take you to your desired destination safely.

The company is also on hand to organise island-hopping yacht experiences, tacking among a myriad of islands and anchoring up wherever you fancy. In winter, you’re even often able to take a boat trip in the snow – anything is possible as long as the waters are open.

Stroll along Trouville’s white sandy beach

Don’t leave Sandhamn without ambling along its white sandy beach, Trouville. You’ll find it a 20-minute walk away from the harbour and if a longer hike takes your fancy, there are several trails to choose from that lead from Trouville beach and into the varied landscape of the island.

Stay the night at Sandhamn Seglarhotell

Continuing the sailing theme, spend the night at the high-end Sandhamn Seglarhotell (Yacht Hotel). This iconic four-star hotel – housed in a spruced-up 19th century red building – is replete with tasteful nautical-themed rooms, a gym, sauna and spa. If you opt to stay here, the hotel offers a range of activities, including sailing and guided fishing trips.

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Grinda

The island of Grinda, in the Stockholm archipelago, is a nature reserve with both beaches and sun-drenched rocks.

Photo: Henrik Trygg/imagebank.sweden.se

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Grinda

Photo: Henrik Trygg/imagebank.sweden.se

Grinda Wärdshus

Photo: Agence les Conteurs

Framfickan, Grinda

Photo: Agence les Conteurs

Sandhamn, Sandön

Photo: Anna Hållams/imagebank.sweden.se

Trouville beach on the island of Sandön, Stockholm

Photo: Anna Hållams

Sandhamn Seglarhotell in the archipelago of Stockholm

Photo: Anna Hållams

Day 3 – Värmdö

Nestled in the middle of the Stockholm archipelago, Värmdö offers a wealth of activities across varied landscapes.

To get to Värmdö from Sandhamn, take the ferry (an hour’s journey) to Stavsnäs Vinterhamn and catch a bus to Värmdö’s Ålstäket (approx. 30 min). If travelling from Grinda to Värmdö, take the boat from Grinda Södra Bryggan to Boda Brygga (25 min) and catch a bus from there to Värmdö’s Ålstäket (30 min).

Go fishing in Värmdö’s waters

Fishing trip organiser Catch & Relax offers year-round excursions – mostly involving fly-fishing – suitable for all and lasting for a full or half-day, or any duration that suits you. A popular option involves a 24-foot Bay Boat, suitable for 1-3 people, from which you’ll catch fish such as northern pike, perch and sea trout. These experiences are tailor-made, allowing you to choose where you’d like to fish.

Thanks to Sweden’s right to roam policy, you’re free to rent hand rods and go fishing independently in public waters.

Have a game of beach volleyball at Grisslinge Havsbad

Grisslinge Havsbad in the centre of Värmdö is a much-loved stretch of sandy beach known for its clear, rather shallow water. Aside from swimming, additional waterside activities on offer include beach volleyball. This beach hub is complete with a guest jetty, outdoor showers and changing rooms. Eateries include Systrarna Delselius (bakery and patisserie) and Ålstäkets Grill (hamburgers). There is also a playground if you’re travelling with kids.

Dine and stay the night at the historic Siggesta Gård

Immersed in the greenery in the northern part of Värmdö, a 20-minute bus ride (number 439) from Grisslinge, Siggesta Gård is a modern accommodation concept housed in a multi-building farm dating from the 19th century. This Stockholm archipelago attraction is replete with an excellent restaurant – Ladugården – with a focus on locally sourced, seasonal produce. Moreover, its on-site event space has been dubbed a “palace of culture and entertainment”, playing host to all manner of events such as theatrical performances and concerts. Accommodation types range from contemporary-style single rooms with queen size beds to sprawling suites.

Before heading back to central Stockholm, make sure to take advantage of some of the experiences on offer in the nature surrounding the farm – mountain biking, trail walking, themed mini-golf, and SUP-rental included. Acquaint yourself with the resident animals – Siggesta Gård is home to alpacas, chickens, goats and horses. You might even get the opportunity to join a feeding session, and pony rides are sometimes available for children. It may sound like a cliché, but you’ll find that the expression “something for everyone” does ring true in the Stockholm archipelago.

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Fishing

Fishing is a popular activity in the Stockholm archipelago.

Photo: Anna Hållams/imagebank.sweden.se

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Fishing

Photo: Anna Hållams/imagebank.sweden.se

Riding at Siggesta Gård

Photo: Lina Eidenberg Adamo/Siggesta Gård

Alpacas at Siggesta Gård

Photo: Lina Eidenberg Adamo/Siggesta Gård

Stand up paddleboard

Photo: Lina Eidenberg Adamo/Siggesta Gård