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The 20 best things to do in Stockholm if you love design

The Swedish capital is much more colorful—and eclectic—than you may think

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Stockholm, built on 14 picturesque islands scattered at the point where the Baltic Sea meets Lake Mälaren, is a city of stately waterfront buildings, expansive views, modernist houses, and tree-lined boulevards.

Every season brings an entirely different atmosphere and related things to do. In winter, go for Christmas-card scenes and frozen waterways. Go in late summer for long days and a winsome combination of art, food, and late-evening promenades around Stockholm’s harbors. Visit any time for copious cultural offerings and plentiful natural beauty.

Stockholm is a city that lives and breathes design and many of its attractions are easily accessible year-round. The cobblestoned, hilly Old Town—“Gamla Stan” in Swedish—and the creative SoFo neighborhood in the city’s Södermalm district, are each compact and filled with coffee shops, independent stores, and galleries. Many museums stay open until 8:00 p.m. (and the wonderful Fotografiska stays open till 11:00 p.m.).

We’ve gathered this list of the best galleries, museums, stores, and waterfront hangouts, ranging from classic to quirky and from centrally located to off-the-beaten-track. (Points are organized outward from the center of the city, roughly north to south.)

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Svenskt Tenn

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No trip to Stockholm is complete without a visit to the Svenskt Tenn flagship store on the city’s elegant shoreline boulevard, Strandvägen. Founded in 1924 by pewter artist Estrid Ericson, Svenskt Tenn is best known for its organic pewter pieces and boldly patterned textiles and furniture by Austrian architect Josef Frank (with whom Ericson collaborated for decades). Recent launches include contemporary glass objects by Murano-born but Stockholm-based designer Luca Nichetto, inspired by Frank’s colorful and futuristic-looking Terrazzo print, and a limited-edition collection of bags, cushions, ceramics, and lampshades by British designer Luke Edward Hall. Still their only brick-and-mortar location anywhere in the world, Svenskt Tenn also houses a tea room with views over Nybroviken bay.

Nationalmuseum

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Stockholm’s 19th-century Nationalmuseum reopened in October 2018 after a mammoth five-year renovation. As a museum of art and design, it alluringly displays paintings, sculpture, and drawings from the late Middle Ages to early 20th century alongside applied-art and design objects dating from the 16th century to the present day. The refit has resulted in more exhibition space, a sculpture courtyard, new climate-control and ventilation systems, and the opening up of 300 windows that had been sealed off since the 1930s. There’s also a new restaurant and cafe where visitors can sample modern Swedish cuisine by Swedish chef Fredrik Eriksson on tableware and furnishings (including vases, lamps, and chandeliers) created for the space by 30 of the nation’s leading designers.

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Ett Hem

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Looking for a refined-but-homey place to stay? Lodgings where you can wander around as if you were at home? Look no further than Ett Hem, an intimate hotel created by London-based designer Ilse Crawford in a turn-of-the-century Arts and Crafts townhouse. Head into the kitchen any time of day for a snack or a drink, while away the afternoon in the lounge, and have your meals in the library or courtyard garden. There is only one downside to Ett Hem—its size. With only 12 rooms, it’s often booked up in advance.

Portal Bar is the newly-opened sibling to the established Portal Restaurant next door and gets its name from the arched passageway or “portal” that separates the two. The bar’s design is by well-known Stockholm-based design trio Claesson Koivisto Rune and contrasts blonde floors and furniture with deep blue walls covered in a mesmerizing dreamlike mural of floating figures by Swedish artist Jesper Waldersten.

Konstnärsbaren

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Housed in Stockholm’s Konstnärshuset, a historic hub for the city’s artists, KB, as it is known, is an institution on Stockholm’s restaurant scene. Come here for classic Swedish food (think herrings, smoked pork sausage, or fish casserole), walls filled with art, murals, paintings, and statues by Sweden’s most prominent artists, and an atmosphere that is unstuffy and utterly unique.

The Hallwyl Museum

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Hallwylska Museet is one of Stockholm’s smaller and more eccentric national museums and offers an engaging peek at what life was like for the city’s elite at the turn of the 19th century. The house was built as the winter residence of Walther and Wilhelmina von Hallwyl in 1898 and donated, along with all its contents, to the Swedish state in 1920. The affluent couple had eclectic tastes: The house itself is an intriguing combination of Venetian Late-Gothic and Early Spanish Renaissance and the art and objects range from Chinese crockery and kitchen utensils to silverware and Flemish art. Hot tip: If you visit in  summer, make sure you leave some time to eat in the beautiful courtyard restaurant.

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Bank Hotel

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Located inside an ornate historic bank dating from 1910, Stockholm’s fancy new Bank Hotel in Östermalm makes the most of the building’s renaissance-meets-art-deco architecture and interiors. Think public spaces with marble floors and dark mahogany walls, columns with beautiful stucco work, and gilded ceilings. There’s a plush main restaurant, three bars that also serve food (including a top-floor one with outstanding views and a terrace), and an art gallery.

At Six is another recent-ish hotel built in the brutalist former headquarters of a bank and refurbished by London-based Universal Design Studio. The hotel has an extensive art collection, 343 rooms, five restaurants and cocktail bars, including a vast 1,200-square-meter (about 13,000-square-foot) terrace called Stockholm Under the Stars that is open in the summer and offers street food, live DJs, rooftop cinema nights, and 360-degree views over the city’s rooftops.

T-Centralen

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Stockholm’s metro system doubles as a giant museum for art and design. The idea of filling its metro stations with artworks began in the 1950s as a way of democratizing art. Today, more than 90 of the 100 stations have been transformed. For the price of a metro ticket you can see sculptures, mosaics, murals, paintings, art installations, inscriptions, and reliefs dating from the ’50s through the present day, many of them painted directly onto the rock into which many of the stations were built. The art isn’t just pretty; it was chosen to raise awareness of important social issues like women’s rights (at Östermalmstorg), inclusivity (at Tensta station), and deforestation (at Solna station), a major problem in Sweden in the ’70s, when the Solna station was being transformed. A tip: You can join a free guided art tour, in English, via the Stockholm traffic agency website. They are more frequent in summer. All you need is a valid ticket for the trains.

Liljevalchs

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Founded in 1916, Liljevalchs gallery in Djurgården got its name from Josef Frank’s Liljevalch sofa, which was first shown here. The gallery hosts four major exhibitions of art, crafts, photography, and design every year. Since 1921, Liljevalchs also hosts the annual Spring Exhibition that showcases work from emerging artists selected by a jury.

Iris Hantverk

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Iris Hantverk began in 1870 as a collective of visually-impaired brush makers who were able to source materials at a subsidized rate from the Swedish government. Despite being sold in 2012, the company has stayed true to its ethos and the brushes are still made in the traditional way (i.e. hand-wired, not glued). All the designs are exclusive, contemporary, and timeless, and the materials used are mostly natural (oak, beech, and birch, primarily sourced in Sweden, as well as coconut fiber, goat hair, African piassava, horsehair, and tampico fiber). Stockholm’s two Iris Hantverk stores sell the company’s extensive brush range and kitchen textiles, but also cookware and other beautiful Scandinavian blankets and home goods.

Fogia Market

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Swedish brand Fogia’s showroom, cafe, and workspace is located in an airy repurposed former steam-engine workshop with original Crittal windows and timber floors. Collections designed by TAF Studio, Note, Andreas Engesvik, Main, and Norm Architects, among others, are styled and displayed in lifestyle settings within steel frames and on black podiums.

Friends of Handicraft/Handarbetets Vänner

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Ignore the clunky website: Sweden’s oldest crafts and textile institution is a hidden gem undergoing an exciting renaissance. Founded in 1874 with the aim of promoting quality Swedish textiles, providing education on textile creation and design, and giving women a source of independent income, today the association still has a studio doing pioneering work, as well as a gallery, shop, and school. The school offers full-time three-year courses in advanced textile art, as well as foundation-level classes, short courses on evenings and weekends, and summer workshops. Exhibitions in its gallery display interesting and experimental textile and needle art by artists, studios, and students from Sweden and beyond.

Fotografiska

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The city’s contemporary photography museum is a must-see. Located in a former customs house in the city’s Stadsgården area, Fotografiska has three or four exhibitions on at any one time. Make sure you also visit the top-floor award-winning and eco-friendly cafe restaurant. With large windows framing expansive harbor views, it’s an enchanting way to enjoy a meal or an aperitif. If you are in town for a while, the museum also runs excellent photography courses and workshops. Hot tip: The museum is open until 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and until 1:00 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.

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Fiberspace Gallery

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A small, edgy gallery that showcases “unique pieces and limited editions of fabulous fiber art and design,” Fiberspace never disappoints. Based in the heart of Stockholm’s SoFo district, the gallery puts on exhibitions of established and up-and-coming artists from all over the world, exploring everything from smart textiles to traditional techniques. It also organizes workshops, lectures, and events.

Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design

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Housed in the same building as Moderna Museet, Sweden’s leading museum for contemporary and modern art, ArkDes is the national center for architecture and design. The space isn’t vast, but the temporary exhibitions are often timely, enlightening, and well-presented. Located on Skeppsholmen island in the center of Stockholm, the walk to and from the museum, and views from the restaurant are, alone, worth the trip. The center puts on interesting daytime and evening walks that focus on historic and modern architecture, city planning, and recent urban developments. Book one online.

Millesgården

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The main house at Millesgården was built in 1908 for a married couple, sculptor Carl Milles and painter Olga Milles. Located on the island of Lidingö, just 20 minutes from central Stockholm, the house was extended and decorated with frescoes and mosaic floors after the couple visited Pompeii in 1921. After spending time away in the U.S. a second home was built for the pair on the lower terrace in the ’50s and filled with furniture by Svenskt Tenn designer Josef Frank. There’s a vast sculpture garden filled with pieces from ancient Greece, Rome, and medieval times as well as Milles’s own whimsical works, an art gallery for contemporary shows, a museum shop, and a restaurant.

Artipelag

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Artipelag defies easy description. Located on the island of Värmdö in the Stockholm archipelago, it is an art gallery but also hosts a concert hall, events space, art studios, two restaurants, an outdoor sculpture park, and 54 acres of pristine nature. Founded by Björn and Lillemor Jakobson (of BabyBjörn baby carriers fame), the project celebrates the city’s proximity to the sea and nature at every turn. The wooden buildings by architect Johan Nyrén are designed to blend in perfectly with the surrounding landscape of water, rocky hills, and pine trees, and after a meal and some art you can spend time on the wheelchair-accessible shoreline boardwalk (also created by Nyrén) or hit one of the forest trails. Go by boat for the full “archipelago” experience (it takes an hour and a half from central Stockholm).

Skogskyrkogården

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A cemetery might not be your idea of a go-to attraction but with its beautiful architecture and contemplative, dramatic landscapes, Stockholm’s Skogskyrkogården (the Woodland Cemetery) is absolutely worthy of a detour and only a short metro ride from the city center. Built on the site of a former quarry, within a densely planted pine forest, the cemetery was designed by renowned Swedish architects Erik Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz in 1915 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Asplund is widely considered Sweden’s most important 20th-century architect, and his public library in the city is typical of his Nordic classicism meets functionalist style. He designed the woodland chapel and crematorium—and put as much thought into the materials and furnishings as the architecture.

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Malmstenbutiken

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Iconic midcentury Swedish designer Carl Malmsten opened his shop in 1940 to sell the simple, high-quality furniture he made out of natural materials. Now the company is in the hands of his grandson, who renovated the store to feature a large skylight over the main space. In the basement, there’s an archive of Malmsten’s work, while many of his original designs are sold in the store alongside accessories and pieces by other Swedish companies and students in the Carl Malmsten Furniture Studies course, now part of Linköping University, in Stockholm.

Svenskt Tenn

No trip to Stockholm is complete without a visit to the Svenskt Tenn flagship store on the city’s elegant shoreline boulevard, Strandvägen. Founded in 1924 by pewter artist Estrid Ericson, Svenskt Tenn is best known for its organic pewter pieces and boldly patterned textiles and furniture by Austrian architect Josef Frank (with whom Ericson collaborated for decades). Recent launches include contemporary glass objects by Murano-born but Stockholm-based designer Luca Nichetto, inspired by Frank’s colorful and futuristic-looking Terrazzo print, and a limited-edition collection of bags, cushions, ceramics, and lampshades by British designer Luke Edward Hall. Still their only brick-and-mortar location anywhere in the world, Svenskt Tenn also houses a tea room with views over Nybroviken bay.

Nationalmuseum

Shutterstock

Stockholm’s 19th-century Nationalmuseum reopened in October 2018 after a mammoth five-year renovation. As a museum of art and design, it alluringly displays paintings, sculpture, and drawings from the late Middle Ages to early 20th century alongside applied-art and design objects dating from the 16th century to the present day. The refit has resulted in more exhibition space, a sculpture courtyard, new climate-control and ventilation systems, and the opening up of 300 windows that had been sealed off since the 1930s. There’s also a new restaurant and cafe where visitors can sample modern Swedish cuisine by Swedish chef Fredrik Eriksson on tableware and furnishings (including vases, lamps, and chandeliers) created for the space by 30 of the nation’s leading designers.

Shutterstock

Ett Hem

Looking for a refined-but-homey place to stay? Lodgings where you can wander around as if you were at home? Look no further than Ett Hem, an intimate hotel created by London-based designer Ilse Crawford in a turn-of-the-century Arts and Crafts townhouse. Head into the kitchen any time of day for a snack or a drink, while away the afternoon in the lounge, and have your meals in the library or courtyard garden. There is only one downside to Ett Hem—its size. With only 12 rooms, it’s often booked up in advance.

Portal

Portal Bar is the newly-opened sibling to the established Portal Restaurant next door and gets its name from the arched passageway or “portal” that separates the two. The bar’s design is by well-known Stockholm-based design trio Claesson Koivisto Rune and contrasts blonde floors and furniture with deep blue walls covered in a mesmerizing dreamlike mural of floating figures by Swedish artist Jesper Waldersten.

Konstnärsbaren

Housed in Stockholm’s Konstnärshuset, a historic hub for the city’s artists, KB, as it is known, is an institution on Stockholm’s restaurant scene. Come here for classic Swedish food (think herrings, smoked pork sausage, or fish casserole), walls filled with art, murals, paintings, and statues by Sweden’s most prominent artists, and an atmosphere that is unstuffy and utterly unique.

The Hallwyl Museum

Shutterstock

Hallwylska Museet is one of Stockholm’s smaller and more eccentric national museums and offers an engaging peek at what life was like for the city’s elite at the turn of the 19th century. The house was built as the winter residence of Walther and Wilhelmina von Hallwyl in 1898 and donated, along with all its contents, to the Swedish state in 1920. The affluent couple had eclectic tastes: The house itself is an intriguing combination of Venetian Late-Gothic and Early Spanish Renaissance and the art and objects range from Chinese crockery and kitchen utensils to silverware and Flemish art. Hot tip: If you visit in  summer, make sure you leave some time to eat in the beautiful courtyard restaurant.

Shutterstock

Bank Hotel

Located inside an ornate historic bank dating from 1910, Stockholm’s fancy new Bank Hotel in Östermalm makes the most of the building’s renaissance-meets-art-deco architecture and interiors. Think public spaces with marble floors and dark mahogany walls, columns with beautiful stucco work, and gilded ceilings. There’s a plush main restaurant, three bars that also serve food (including a top-floor one with outstanding views and a terrace), and an art gallery.

At Six

At Six is another recent-ish hotel built in the brutalist former headquarters of a bank and refurbished by London-based Universal Design Studio. The hotel has an extensive art collection, 343 rooms, five restaurants and cocktail bars, including a vast 1,200-square-meter (about 13,000-square-foot) terrace called Stockholm Under the Stars that is open in the summer and offers street food, live DJs, rooftop cinema nights, and 360-degree views over the city’s rooftops.

T-Centralen

Stockholm’s metro system doubles as a giant museum for art and design. The idea of filling its metro stations with artworks began in the 1950s as a way of democratizing art. Today, more than 90 of the 100 stations have been transformed. For the price of a metro ticket you can see sculptures, mosaics, murals, paintings, art installations, inscriptions, and reliefs dating from the ’50s through the present day, many of them painted directly onto the rock into which many of the stations were built. The art isn’t just pretty; it was chosen to raise awareness of important social issues like women’s rights (at Östermalmstorg), inclusivity (at Tensta station), and deforestation (at Solna station), a major problem in Sweden in the ’70s, when the Solna station was being transformed. A tip: You can join a free guided art tour, in English, via the Stockholm traffic agency website. They are more frequent in summer. All you need is a valid ticket for the trains.

Liljevalchs

Founded in 1916, Liljevalchs gallery in Djurgården got its name from Josef Frank’s Liljevalch sofa, which was first shown here. The gallery hosts four major exhibitions of art, crafts, photography, and design every year. Since 1921, Liljevalchs also hosts the annual Spring Exhibition that showcases work from emerging artists selected by a jury.

Iris Hantverk

Iris Hantverk began in 1870 as a collective of visually-impaired brush makers who were able to source materials at a subsidized rate from the Swedish government. Despite being sold in 2012, the company has stayed true to its ethos and the brushes are still made in the traditional way (i.e. hand-wired, not glued). All the designs are exclusive, contemporary, and timeless, and the materials used are mostly natural (oak, beech, and birch, primarily sourced in Sweden, as well as coconut fiber, goat hair, African piassava, horsehair, and tampico fiber). Stockholm’s two Iris Hantverk stores sell the company’s extensive brush range and kitchen textiles, but also cookware and other beautiful Scandinavian blankets and home goods.

Fogia Market

Swedish brand Fogia’s showroom, cafe, and workspace is located in an airy repurposed former steam-engine workshop with original Crittal windows and timber floors. Collections designed by TAF Studio, Note, Andreas Engesvik, Main, and Norm Architects, among others, are styled and displayed in lifestyle settings within steel frames and on black podiums.

Friends of Handicraft/Handarbetets Vänner

Ignore the clunky website: Sweden’s oldest crafts and textile institution is a hidden gem undergoing an exciting renaissance. Founded in 1874 with the aim of promoting quality Swedish textiles, providing education on textile creation and design, and giving women a source of independent income, today the association still has a studio doing pioneering work, as well as a gallery, shop, and school. The school offers full-time three-year courses in advanced textile art, as well as foundation-level classes, short courses on evenings and weekends, and summer workshops. Exhibitions in its gallery display interesting and experimental textile and needle art by artists, studios, and students from Sweden and beyond.

Fotografiska

Shutterstock

The city’s contemporary photography museum is a must-see. Located in a former customs house in the city’s Stadsgården area, Fotografiska has three or four exhibitions on at any one time. Make sure you also visit the top-floor award-winning and eco-friendly cafe restaurant. With large windows framing expansive harbor views, it’s an enchanting way to enjoy a meal or an aperitif. If you are in town for a while, the museum also runs excellent photography courses and workshops. Hot tip: The museum is open until 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and until 1:00 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Shutterstock

Fiberspace Gallery

A small, edgy gallery that showcases “unique pieces and limited editions of fabulous fiber art and design,” Fiberspace never disappoints. Based in the heart of Stockholm’s SoFo district, the gallery puts on exhibitions of established and up-and-coming artists from all over the world, exploring everything from smart textiles to traditional techniques. It also organizes workshops, lectures, and events.

Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design

Housed in the same building as Moderna Museet, Sweden’s leading museum for contemporary and modern art, ArkDes is the national center for architecture and design. The space isn’t vast, but the temporary exhibitions are often timely, enlightening, and well-presented. Located on Skeppsholmen island in the center of Stockholm, the walk to and from the museum, and views from the restaurant are, alone, worth the trip. The center puts on interesting daytime and evening walks that focus on historic and modern architecture, city planning, and recent urban developments. Book one online.

Millesgården

The main house at Millesgården was built in 1908 for a married couple, sculptor Carl Milles and painter Olga Milles. Located on the island of Lidingö, just 20 minutes from central Stockholm, the house was extended and decorated with frescoes and mosaic floors after the couple visited Pompeii in 1921. After spending time away in the U.S. a second home was built for the pair on the lower terrace in the ’50s and filled with furniture by Svenskt Tenn designer Josef Frank. There’s a vast sculpture garden filled with pieces from ancient Greece, Rome, and medieval times as well as Milles’s own whimsical works, an art gallery for contemporary shows, a museum shop, and a restaurant.

Artipelag

Artipelag defies easy description. Located on the island of Värmdö in the Stockholm archipelago, it is an art gallery but also hosts a concert hall, events space, art studios, two restaurants, an outdoor sculpture park, and 54 acres of pristine nature. Founded by Björn and Lillemor Jakobson (of BabyBjörn baby carriers fame), the project celebrates the city’s proximity to the sea and nature at every turn. The wooden buildings by architect Johan Nyrén are designed to blend in perfectly with the surrounding landscape of water, rocky hills, and pine trees, and after a meal and some art you can spend time on the wheelchair-accessible shoreline boardwalk (also created by Nyrén) or hit one of the forest trails. Go by boat for the full “archipelago” experience (it takes an hour and a half from central Stockholm).

Skogskyrkogården

Getty Images

A cemetery might not be your idea of a go-to attraction but with its beautiful architecture and contemplative, dramatic landscapes, Stockholm’s Skogskyrkogården (the Woodland Cemetery) is absolutely worthy of a detour and only a short metro ride from the city center. Built on the site of a former quarry, within a densely planted pine forest, the cemetery was designed by renowned Swedish architects Erik Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz in 1915 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Asplund is widely considered Sweden’s most important 20th-century architect, and his public library in the city is typical of his Nordic classicism meets functionalist style. He designed the woodland chapel and crematorium—and put as much thought into the materials and furnishings as the architecture.

Getty Images

Malmstenbutiken

Iconic midcentury Swedish designer Carl Malmsten opened his shop in 1940 to sell the simple, high-quality furniture he made out of natural materials. Now the company is in the hands of his grandson, who renovated the store to feature a large skylight over the main space. In the basement, there’s an archive of Malmsten’s work, while many of his original designs are sold in the store alongside accessories and pieces by other Swedish companies and students in the Carl Malmsten Furniture Studies course, now part of Linköping University, in Stockholm.