Port of Stockholm
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Stockholm's premier tourist attraction is Gamla Stan (literally, Old Town), one of the largest neighborhoods of 16th-century buildings in Europe. Block after block of these four- and five-story structures are painted in vivid colors typical of Mediterranean villages and occasionally feature wrought-iron signs symbolizing ancient craftworkers' guilds or faces of religious figures. Cobblestone streets and arms-width alleys criss-cross Gamla Stan. There, you'll also find the 18th-century Royal Palace atop the crown of the hill upon which Gamla Stan is located. (Sweden is a constitutional monarchy and has a one-house parliament).
Boulevards defining Stockholm's busy waterfront are also lined with photogenic architecture -- turrets, spires, stucco patterns -- mostly dating from before the turn of the 20th century. Elsewhere downtown, glass-and-steel retail centers and office buildings have replaced such older buildings. But the divergent styles tend to be clustered and don't compete with each other for the viewer's eye.
Offsetting the city's bustle and buildings are large swatches of green space. The Ekoparken, or eco-park, curves for six miles through a couple of the busiest islands and along one side of the downtown business district.
A word to the pennywise: Stockholm is expensive. Especially if you're spending time there pre- or post-cruise, a best-bet is the Stockholm Card, which provides automatic admission to about 80 museums and attractions, plus passage on buses, trams, subways and some ferries. Presuming you are in the city long enough to use it for some of the museums, it's easily worth the $65-$70 (about £40) charge for a one-day card. Buy it online before leaving home.
Top Stockholm Itineraries
Costa Magica15 Night Europe - Northern CruiseMarseille, Genoa, Barcelona, Valencia, Lisbon, Vigo, Le Havre, Harwich, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, StockholmNow
Viking Sky14 Night Viking HomelandsBergen, Bergen, Eidfjord, Stavanger, Aalborg, Copenhagen, Rostock , Gdansk, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, StockholmNow
Costa Magica14 Night Europe - Northern CruiseGenoa, Barcelona, Valencia, Lisbon, Vigo, Le Havre, Harwich, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, StockholmNow
MSC Preziosa7 Night Europe - Northern CruiseKiel, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, KielNow
Regal Princess11 Night Scandinavia & Russia (from Copenhagen)Copenhagen, Oslo, Berlin, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, CopenhagenNow
Where You're Docked
Two cruise ports serve the city, though the one at Gamla Stan -- reserved for smaller ships -- is far more convenient for shore excursions. The site for larger ships, Frihamnen, is about a 15-minute cab ride (or step aboard Buses No. 1 or 76) from the heart of downtown.
Good to Know
Visiting Gamla Stan means you'll be treading on cobblestones. Leave the high heels and the flimsy sandals back on the ship. To save a few kronor, avoid meals in the most-touristed areas, where price inflation is common: for instance, $27 for a small plate of Swedish meatballs. On the plus side, pickpockets and petty crime are not common in Stockholm.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The Swedish krona is the unit of currency. For up-to-the-minute rates check www.xe.com or www.oanda.com. Denominations of paper krona are 20, 50, 100 and 500. Amounts below 20 krona are settled with coins. ATMs are abundant in the city, as are currency-exchange shops, most prominently the company named Forex. Occasionally there are ATMs immediately outside Forex offices. Banks will also exchange currency.
Officially, it's Swedish, but English is a mandatory subject for several years of school, as is a choice of a third language. (French and German are the favorites). Consequently, workers in areas frequented by visitors speak more-than-adequate English.
On the low end of the look-where-I've-been scale, go with a T-shirt that proclaims simply, “Stockholm/Since 1252.” For those visitors more fashion-conscious, the Swedes are famed for their decorative crystal and glass pieces for your desk, bookshelf or table centerpiece: Kosta Boda and Orrefors are the best-known names. More recently there has been an emphasis on clothing design; if you want to be able to tell friends, ”I picked this up in Stockholm,' head to trendy department stores Ahlens City or NK (in its second century) or the store operated by fashion maven Anna Holtblad.