Stockholm has been on my travel radar for quite a while. If you have been following along with my blog for the past couple years, then you know that I am a sucker for all things Northern Europe. This obsession started back in 2015 when I visited Iceland and then spiraled out of control when I experienced Helsinki, Finland in the winter of 2016. Honestly, I never feel more at home than when I’m in Northern Europe, as accessibility tends to be pretty great for the most part and when it’s not so fantastic, the people more than make up for it. As a self-proclaimed Northern European (I am 28% Scandinavian according to my Ancestry DNA test!), I have naturally dreamed of visiting Stockholm, Sweden. 1 day in stockholm wheelchair accessible
During my recent cruise through Northern Europe with Royal Caribbean, Stockholm was our first port of call. For all of the other ports of call, we had guided tours scheduled for the whole day, but some of my family actually lives in Sweden, so they planned to show us around the city. It was kind of freeing and nice to not have an hour-by-hour itinerary for once, and maybe I’ll try that again some day.
Stockholm was a beautiful city and if you’re looking for wheelchair accessible things to do in Stockholm, I think you’ll be just as pleased as I was. Not everything went exactly according to plan during my visit, but it all worked out in the end. Here is how my accessible day in the city went and hopefully it will give you some ideas for when you visit –
We arrived into Stockholm at 9am and I had scheduled a wheelchair accessible taxi from the company TaxiKurir to pick us up. After a bit of confusion on where to meet our driver, I received a call saying where to meet him. My mom, my friend Sylvia (who runs the blog Spin the Globe) and I wandered over to the meeting location and quickly found our driver. Unfortunately, the taxi was not wheelchair accessible as promised though. He planned to just throw our wheelchairs in the trunk of the car, despite me repeatedly telling the booking representative that we had two powered wheelchairs and needed a lift or ramp. At first I was a bit dismayed, but as a wheelchair traveler, I’ve tried to teach myself to not stress out when something goes wrong. After all, for every problem there is a solution.
We found a guy that was working at the port and asked him if he would call the taxi company and explain to them, in Swedish, exactly what we needed. He happily called TaxiKurir and told them that we needed a wheelchair accessible van with a lift for two powered wheelchairs. About 30 minutes later, the taxi van showed up and it was exactly what we needed. I’ve never been more thankful for someone to speak Swedish in my life! He saved the day.
Our taxi ride only took about 10-15 minutes, but it was quite expensive. It cost about 800 Swedish Krona, which is about $95. What I learned throughout the day was that Stockholm is a VERY expensive city! But at least an accessible taxi was available, so no complaints.
The taxi dropped us out at Strömkajen, a popular area in the city, where my cousins were going to meet us. Meeting us was my second cousin, Gina, her husband, Sven, and their two children, Leif and Torsten. My mom grew up with Gina, but I have actually only seen her and her family once that I can remember… and that was about a month before we met up in Stockholm. Living in different continents makes family get-togethers a bit tricky after all. I was really looking forward to hanging out with them and getting to experience their home country with them as our guides.
After we all met up and exchanged hugs, we headed to the Stromma ticket desk. We were scheduled to go on the Under the Bridges of Stockholm tour with the tour company Stromma. This tour lasts a little over 2 hours and allows visitors to see the city’s best sights by boat. Just like with the taxi, we made sure that it’d be accessible weeks before going. Unfortunately, when we went to board the boat, we learned that it was not accessible. There were a few steps to get down into the boat. Apparently, the one wheelchair friendly boat that Stromma has, had just went out of commission for technical problems. This is when I started to think “Is anything going to go right today?!”. But luckily, with the help of my cousins, it all got better from here.
We talked with the Stromma staff and explained that we had planned our entire day around the boat tour. I knew that it wasn’t their fault that the accessible boat malfunctioned, but I was just disappointed as I had really been looking forward to that tour. The staff was very kind and understanding, and offered to give us all tickets for the Hop On – Hop Off bus instead. These buses go to pretty much all of the major sights in the city and the buses have a fold-out ramp. While it wouldn’t be as nice as the boat, at least we could still get around.
Before we got on the bus though, we wandered over to Kungsträdgården (Swedish for King’s Garden). It was just across the street from Strömkajen, where the boats were located, and since it was a gorgeous sunny day it was nice to roll around outside.
Kungsträdgården is a large park in central Stockholm, and it happens to be a popular spot to hang out. It was smooth to roll around the park for Sylvia and I, so we enjoyed just strolling through the park and chatting for a while with my family.
Now that we had seen some of the park, we boarded the Hop On – Hop Off bus to go to our next stop. Since my family knew the layout and hot spots of Stockholm (and Sylvia, my mom, and I knew pretty much nothing), they were our tour guides for the day.
The Hop On – Hop Off bus was accessible and passed many notable points of interest on its route. However, the bad part of the bus for Sylvia and I was that we couldn’t really enjoy the views. Sylvia and I had to park sideways in the bus next to each other, so we could only see out one side of the bus. And since the bus was packed for most of our journey, people were blocking our viewing window. I definitely wouldn’t recommend the Hop On – Hop Off bus as a good way to sightsee for wheelchair users, but if you just need some reliable transportation to get you from point A to point B, it could be a terrific option.
We got off of the Hop On – Hop Off bus at Djurgården, which is one of the archipelago of Stockholm’s 14 islands. This is also one of the city’s most popular areas for tourists, as it houses two well-known attractions: the Vasa Museum and the ABBA Museum. While we didn’t go inside either attraction, we did see them from the outside.
The Vasa Museum houses the world’s only preserved 17th century ship. If we would have had more time in the city, I would’ve liked to go inside and see it, but there’s always next time. And the ABBA Museum is of course dedicated to the Swedish pop group ABBA. My family said that the museum is more focused on Swedish pop music and there’s not a lot on ABBA, so if you’re a big ABBA fan, you may be slightly disappointed. The museum probably just uses their name to draw people in. If you want to visit the Vasa Museum or the ABBA Museum, both are wheelchair friendly.
As we walked/rolled around Djurgården, we noticed that a place called Båthall 2 was open. We decided to go inside and check it out. Båthall 2 is predominantly only open in the summer, but if you’ll be in Stockholm in the summer months, it’s worth seeing. One of Europe’s largest exhibitions of boats is displayed here. There are many unique boats, ranging from the 18th-20th centuries. We also saw some of the King’s boats. They were pretty exquisite and it was fun to see them and imagine them floating through Stockholm a couple centuries ago.
Just a short stroll from Båthall 2 was the ferry. We boarded the ferry, which was wheelchair accessible and rode it for about 20-30 minutes toward the Old Town area of Stockholm known as Gamla Stan. The views along the way were fantastic and since we didn’t get to go on the boat tour earlier, this was the next best thing. This ferry ride might have been my favorite thing that we did in Stockholm because we could really see the beauty of the city. In the words of my cousin Gina, “Stockholm sometimes hurts your eyes because it’s so pretty”.
At the completion of our ferry ride, we were in Gamla Stan. As I said earlier, Gamla Stan is where the Old Town of Stockholm is and it’s one of the largest medieval city centers in all of Europe. This is also where Stockholm was founded back in 1252. With its medieval beauty, Gamla Stan is a must when in the city… but if you’re a wheelchair user, be prepared for some bumps along the way.
Since this area is so old, accessibility was not a forethought when it was built. Many (or I should say most) of the shops and restaurants have at least one step to get inside, and there is some cobblestone. A lot of the cobblestone wasn’t too bad to roll on, but in some parts it was quite rough. I’ve dealt with jarring cobblestone in many European cities, so it was certainly nothing that I couldn’t handle.
Despite the cobblestone and inaccessibility at most shops, I really loved Gamla Stan. It was like being in a storybook as I rolled down the pedestrian streets and alleyways. I’m a sucker for that medieval charm. And to be fair, Gamla Stan wasn’t completely inaccessible. We did stumble upon a wheelchair accessible companion care restroom at one point. It was pretty spacious and worked perfectly! Sometimes accessibility is in the places where I least expect it.
The one thing that I was determined to do while in Stockholm was to eat Swedish meatballs. I mean, when you’re in Sweden, you just have to, right?! We found a restaurant named Torg Baren on a square in Gamla Stan, and it had a lot of outdoor seating. Since it was a warm day, we sat outside and people-watched/conversed/and ate.
After rolling over many cobblestones throughout the day, I was ready for some good food. The Swedish meatballs were served with mashed potatoes and everything was delicious. I’m really not even a fan of meatballs, but these were tasty! Now that I had accomplished my mission of feasting on Swedish meatballs in Sweden, it was time to head back to the cruise ship.
Our day in Stockholm didn’t go exactly as planned, but we still managed to have a fantastic time. From hanging out with my family to riding the ferry and exploring the Old Town, the day honestly couldn’t have gone any better. This day taught me to stay cool when things don’t go as planned. Everything will work out in the end, and you may even have a better time than you would have without the hiccups. Stockholm was a beautiful city that I can’t wait to return to!
*Thank you to my family (Gina, Sven, Leif, and Torsten) for showing us around!