Family-Friendly Stockholm

The city’s Disney-like activities keep kids entertained

By: Yvonne Michie Horn

A city-based vacation and kids can be an “iffy” combination at best. Too many stuffy museums, too much time spent getting from a here to a there, lack of places to vent pent-up energy. In short, from a kid’s point of view, boring. And then there’s Stockholm that not only wins hands down as one of the world’s most beautiful and distinctive cities but seems to have been created with fun and families in mind.

For starters, simply getting around offers a Disneyland-like array of possibilities that includes a 19th-century tram, an underground dubbed “the world’s longest art gallery” for the contemporary paintings and sculptures decorating its 99 stations and, most fun of all, dozens of fast ferryboats that operate conveniently as buses.

Built on 14 islands, water laps at quays, floats under picturesque bridges and reflects grand edifices. A 10-minute ferry ride can deliver your clients to Djurgarden, a wooded island that was once a royal hunting ground and now the city’s playground. Bicycles, readily for hire near the Djurgardsbron, are a good way to get around on the island’s miles of paths. At the same spot canoes, rowing boats, pedal boats, even rollerblades, can be rented.

While on the island, family-pleasing choices include Tivoli Grona Lund, an amusement park with roots in the 19th century that offers such 21st century thrills as the 262-foot Free Fall (think bungee jump without a bungee cord). Fans of Astrid Lindgren’s children books should not miss Junibacken, a museum dedicated to her life’s work, that includes a fanciful journey over miniature scenes and an opportunity to meet up with Pipi Longstocking.

Skansen is the oldest open-air museum in the world with houses and workshops devoted to Stockholm’s early days cinnamon buns available at the bakery. Little kids will want to visit Skansen’s petting zoo. A living rainforest and a shark aquarium are highlights of the Aquaria Water Museum. The Vasa Museum is a fascinating-to-every-age marine treasure, telling the tale of the 17th-century warship that foundered and sank within minutes of its maiden voyage and was drawn up from the depths 300 years later.

Scattered about Stockholm are numerous other youngster-appealing museums: In the Postal Museum, children can dress up in child-sized postal uniforms and sort mail. The Museum of Technology invites hands-on exploration. There’s a mini-subway to ride at the Tramway Museum. At the Museum of Music different instruments can be tried.

Attending to that pent-up energy, teenagers can interact with Stockholm kids at Fryshuset (Youth Center), a popular spot to play basketball, skateboard, listen to music or dance. Younger children can let off steam at four playgrounds that offer safe recreation in the heart of the city center complete with jungle gyms, swings, playhouses, basketball hoops, slides and much more. With clean and clear water all around, open-water swimming can be found at numerous designated beaches. Swimming pools are plentiful too, most with toddler pools and one designated as “adventure.”

The cobbled antiquity of Gamla Stan’s (Old Town) latticework of narrow streets and alleys are fun for all ages to wander, making certain to end up at the Royal Palace in time for the noon-hour changing of the guard. While there, encourage your clients to pop into the palace to view the array of royal jewels in the armory and then follow the theme with a visit to the Royal Stables where the horses and royal coaches of His Majesty the King are on view.

It’s no secret that Stockholm, as most of Europe, can put a strain on the wallet right now. The Stockholm a la Carte card does much to take the sting out of the cost, offering unlimited public transportation by buses, subway and commuter trains, seven boat tours, admission to 60 sights and attractions, a guidebook and more. The card, a $435 value, is included in all hotel packages, and is even provided to children who are staying in the hotel free of charge. Youngster-welcoming hotel’s, of which there are dozens, offer such bargains as children staying free in rollaway beds and rates that include breakfast.

Stockholm has been called, “the city that floats on water.” Add to that “the city that loves children.” As your clients visit, they’ll be continually amazed at how many amenities and how much entertainment is planned around the children who call the city home and, by extension, the youngsters come to visit.