Published: April 19th 2012April 19th 2012
Sailing into Stockholm
One of my best life memories
In 2009 we visited Stockholm and Copenhagen on our Baltic Cruise... I made a few notes that I have shared with others since then to help them start their planning for their own visit. I am reprinting it here, but advise you to simply use this a starting point for your own plans. Some things may have changed. Feel free to check out my Stockholm pictures at my Facebook page!
REPRINTED FROM AN EMAIL TO MY TOUR FRIENDS:
This “Cruise Tips” will be about 2 of your ports: Copenhagen and Stockholm; both are majorly impressive, both are easily navigable, and both have ties to your stop in Warnemünde which you will learn about during your tour with me. These tips are from our trip on the Constellation last year, so they are coming from that viewpoint (docking, etc.)
Let’s start with Stockholm
, one of my favorite cities on the planet!
Your Stockholm visit actually starts LONG before you reach the city. On my first cruise through this area some crazy person told me I needed to get up at the crack of dawn and be out on deck for the sailing through the Swedish archipelago. Seeing as how the sun comes up in this part of the world extremely early (like 4am), I thought they were mad! But I did it anyway and was rewarded with one of the most beautiful cruising spots in the world!!! Maybe it’s just me, but sailing through the hundreds of islands that act as a barrier to Stockholm was magical. With the sun coming up and casting a golden hue to everything we saw, it is a fantastic way to be introduced to Sweden and the age old sailing tradition which is an integral part of their culture. Some people say, “Oh... I can see the same thing on the way out.” To them I say… it’s not the same. Not even close. The silence, the early morning greeting from the birds and wildlife, the rising sun; for me it’s not to be missed.
Our last journey, which was Michael’s first time doing this, we talked about what time to get up and couldn’t really agree. As we were lucky enough to have a suite, and our bed faced the balcony, we decided to leave the drapes open and let the sun wake us up. As lovely as it was, we still slept through part of it and I wished we had set the alarm at least for 5am. Here’s a suggestion if you have a balcony cabin… order room service to bring you coffee and Danish at 5:30… so you can sit out there and watch. We had our butler bring us breakfast, and wrapped in blankets we sat on the balcony and sipped our coffee. It was as magical as the first time.
So tip number 1… DON’T MISS THE SAIL IN THROUGH THE ARCHIPELAGO. You’ll thank me later!
For those of you docking outside the city, I don’t know too much about how to get into town. There are tons of Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor threads on this, so I’ll leave that info to those that know. My first visit to the city we were docked far away and I remember taking a bus from the cruise line. I didn’t pay much attention I have to confess.
(Even if you come into the city from far out, consider starting with the HOHO Boats!)
However, if you are lucky enough to be docked along Stadsgardsleden/ Fafangam… you are in luck! Getting into the city from your ship is best done with the hop on/ hop off boats that are right there in the port! When we were there with the Connie last May (2009), there was a small white kiosk right outside the gangway. This was a tourist office that had tons of information, the chance to buy the Stockholm card (more on that later) and tickets for local transportation or the hop on/hop off boats. The HOHO boats were perfect, especially as you had to walk a good way to reach the local bus stop.
With the hop on/hop off boats you not only get transportation, but a seriously beautiful way to see the city from the water. As you exit the ship and port area… the boats will be to your left. Don’t worry about being able to find the right spot because there are 2 different companies providing this transportation and their employees are wearing bright red or bright yellow shirts. There are multiple people around selling tickets and directing you to the boats. BUT DON’T BUY A TICKET UNTIL YOU REACH THE BOAT AREAS THEMSELVES! Both companies charge the same, yet each company has boats running every 20 minutes or so. Go to the dock first, see who is leaving next, and buy a ticket for that company. That way you don’t waste time standing around.
The boats run continuously throughout the whole day. They also run in a pattern from the ships to (first stop) Gamla Stan (the old city)… then to (second stop) Gamla Stan/ Palace… then to (third stop) Theater/ Nybroplan… (fourth stop) Vasa Museum… (fifth stop) Skansen/ Tivoli (yes, there is one in Stockholm, too) and then back to the ship.
Since the museums don’t open until 10am… we got on the boat at 9:15/9:30am and rode the whole route taking pictures and getting an impression of the city from the water…it is a harbor tour all in itself. Then we got off at the Tivoli/Skansen stop… easy to see because of the rollercoaster track. We walked over to Skansen (the big outdoor museum) and used that as our first sightseeing opportunity.
Skansen is basically a big outdoor museum on a hill overlooking the city. It has a zoo, it has old buildings from Swedish heritage, etc. It also has activities and events and exhibits later in the day (which we took a pass on). We were only interested in walking around it once and not staying for any shows… which is why we went there first. It gives a great view of the city from above as well. It was interesting, but I think we spent just the right amount of time there… maybe 45 minutes…walking around. We went in the front entrance, rode the escalator up the hill, walked through everything and then exited the back side (behind the zoo) and walked down the hill to the river/bay. (Skansen is an island) From here we were able to walk to Vasa within 5 minutes (it’s to the left).
If you are NOT interested in Skansen, then take the hop on/off boats directly to the Vasa Museum, get off and walk around the grounds a bit until it opens.
The Vasa is a MUST SEE! Don’t let talk of crowds scare you away. This massive building which houses the old Vasa war ship from the 30 Years War is big and has good flow. I have never had a problem there with crowds. OK, I was only there twice… but neither time were people an issue despite it being full. I do recommend going there first, both to get in before massive cruise tours, but also geographically it makes sense.
After the Vasa Museum you can make a choice to get back on the boat and take it 2 stops… (first the cruise ship and then the Gamla Stan stop…) OR.. to do what we did which was to walk over the bridge (Narvagagen) and to grab a drink or a bite to eat in one of the harbor restaurants. We like to go to Stranbryggen. It is popular with the locals, is right on the water, and is a nice place to sit for a few minutes and take it all in.
From there you want to head along the harbor towards the Theater. In essence, you will be tracking backwards the route you came on the boat.. just on foot (or street car if you aren’t walkers like we are). Once you get to the theater area… you will see a 7-11 on the corner of Hamngatan and Birger Jarlsgaten. If you go down along Hamngaten there is a fabulous museum called Hallwyl Museum. This old patrician house is now a museum and a really interesting look inside the home of a wealthy Swedish family. It is not on everyone’s radar and therefore a great place to see! Google it to see what I’m talking about.
This is the point we have to talk about the Stockholm Card. If you do not plan on going in 3 museums or more (and getting on a tram at least once…) the card is NOT worth it. If you take the average entrance fee and a bus ticket, you have to go into 3 to make it worthwhile, otherwise pay as you go. HOHO is extra.
We went to three different places by noon (Skansen, Vasa, and Halwyl House) so it made sense for us… especially as there was still time to go to the palace in the afternoon.
From Hallwyl House we walked to the Palace and Gamla Stan to spend the afternoon wandering the old city.
We chose to skip the palace (not something I recommend if you are never coming this way again) and just walked around Gamla Stan, sat in cafes and drank beer. You can do both… but you have to keep your eye on the clock.
Once we were finished in Gamla Stan we walked down to the water, got on our hop on/hop off boat and went back to the ship. It was a great day!
So… to recap… TIP #2 USE THE HOP ON/HOP OFF BOAT IF YOU ARE DOCKED IN TOWN.
TIP #3 GET A STOCKHOLM CARD ONLY IF YOU PLAN TO VISIT 3 MUSEUMS OR MORE
TIP #4 GO TO SKANSEN AND THEN THE VASA MUSEUM AND BACKTRACK ALONG THE BOAT ROUTE INTO THE CITY
TIP#5 THE HALLWYL HOUSE IS WORTH 30/40 MINUTES OF YOUR DAY!
TIP #6 ENJOY THE PALACE AND GAMLA STAN IN THE AFTERNOON, THEN BOAT BACK TO YOUR SHIP. Copenhagen…
Ah… expensive Copenhagen. =o) (Not that Stockholm is cheap either…)
Copenhagen is a lovely city… and you are going to love it. (I used to talk here about the Little Mermaid being in China. Obviously she is back. Not so obvious... is she the real one or did they make a fake to send back??? Hmmmm)
Our tips on Copenhagen are based on being docked at Langelinie pier (where most of you will be) AND based on the weather being nice.
The great thing about Langelinie is that there are bus stops DIRECTLY in front of your ship.The bad news is that there are NO money machines in any of the shops here. You can only exchange in one spot at very bad rates. So either get a few Kroner ahead of time or do like we do (read on and you’ll see).
The good news is you don’t really need the bus. Not yet.
We have been lucky enough to always have been in Copenhagen on nice weather days…so I am hoping the same for you!
Exit the ship.. then walk to the LEFT! You will walk along the harbor the WHOLE way until I tell you to turn. If you do this, you will walk past the Little Mermaid’s home rock. What you will see will depend on the Chinese apparently. No problem, still do it.
Keep walking (about 5 minutes) until you reach Amelienbourg Palace. Walk the grounds towards the Cathedral – worth a quick look see. Take your photos, but don’t linger too long.
Once finished here, continue in the same direction along either the harbor or Toldbadgade until you reach Nyhavn (new harbor). This is the famed row of houses full of outdoor cafes, Hans Christian Anderson’s house, etc. You can do one of two things here… you can sit in one of the outdoor cafés and order a beer OR you can walk to the end of Nyhavn / where it intersects with St Straendstraede (street) get some money from the ATM.. go into the 7/11 and buy a beer for ¼ the price and sit on a bench. Same effect. Less money. We do both.
This is the time to take a boat tour of the city. The boat tour is a MUST!
But how you do it is very important and can save you cash.
At the end of Nyhavn is a square. It is, in essence, where the harbor dead ends into land. You will see lots of tour boats and a boat house selling tickets. You can buy your tickets here and get ripped off… OR… you can walk down the opposite side of the Nyhavn (about 20 meters) to where there is another tour boat company doing the EXACT same tour, with the same kind of boats for ½ the price. You can also bring some of that nice beer from the 7/11 with you. =o) The boat tour shows you everything of interest in Copenhagen, allows for super pictures, and gives you a good lay of the land for later exploration.
After the boat tour you will cross the big square and have to make a choice… you can turn left and go towards Christiansbourg Palace and the Stock Exchange or you can veer to the right and go down the Stroget.. which is the pedestrian area shopping mile. Both are worth seeing, you just have to choose the order. We recommend walking the Stroget, go all the way down, at the end is the main bus terminal, Tivoli (expensive and kind of boring unless you go at night at which point it is expensive and lit up - $45 for 2 beers and a burger. NOT a joke).
Instead of crazy prices in the cafes and restaurants… get a hot dog from the street vendors. Not only is this a local tradition (think New York City) it is delicious and less expensive.
At the end of the Stroget is the City Hall. Wander the streets around here. There are cafes and cool shops, interesting architecture. Wander back towards the palace. When you are finished with your wandering, buy a bus ticket and go back to the ship.
There are SPECIAL CRUISE PORT BUSES! There are 2 buses that take people back to the ships and they run every 15 minutes. When you get on the bus, ASK THE BUS DRIVER IF HE STOPS AT LANGELINIE!!! One bus stops directly in front of your ship at Langelinie, the other stops three blocks away and you have to walk. It is no big deal to walk, but you have to tell the bus driver so he knows to let you off. If you don’t want to do that, just wait for the next bus. (Because there are 2 different cruise ship areas, they alternate the routes.) You have to buy your bus ticket in any of the news kiosks! You can ask anywhere. Everyone speaks English!
So.. to recap the tips:
TIP #1 WALK INTO TOWN/ TAKE THE BUS BACK. THIS IS A WALKING CITY!
TIP#2 7/11 IS YOUR FRIEND… BUY YOUR BEER AND SNACKS HERE/ TAKE THEM ON THE BOAT
TIP#3 GO TO THE LEFT SIDE OF NYHAVN TO GET YOUR BOAT TOUR TICKETS AND SAVE MONEY!!!
TIP#4 INSTEAD OF EATING IN A RESTAURANT, GET THE HOTDOGS FROM THE HOTDOG STANDS: LIVE LIKE A LOCAL!!
TIP #5 ASK THE BUS DRIVER WHICH CRUISE PORT HE STOPS AT/ PLAN ACCORDINGLY
These tips are based on what Michael and I did in these cities. This is by no means ALL there is to do. You should read the threads, guide books, etc… but I hope this gives you a general idea of how you could plan your day. (There is also a really good Hans Christian Andersen tour you may want to check out!)
My tours will incorporate a lot of German history as it ties to Sweden and Denmark… especially the Complete Hansa tour. In any case, pay attention in the Vasa Museum as the 30 Years War is significant. If you come to Warnemünde before your stops in Stockholm and Copenhagen all the better.
So… have a great day everyone!
Your friend in travel,