Water is everywhere in Stockholm. The Swedish capital is built on 14-islands, and sits where the mouth of Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea. Needless to say, it is a giant playground for aquatic-sport lovers, and the ultimate city to discover by kayak. You can effortlessly island-hop, meander along the canals, and find plenty of docks to pull up and take a dip if you need to cool down in the clean, swimmable waters.
Here’s our top city centre circuit, starting and finishing at Point 65 Kayak Centre in Pampas Marina. It's a perfect route for any level of paddler to enjoy on a balmy summer's day – so pack a picnic, pop on your life jacket, grab a paddle, and get out there…
As you enter Karlbergssjön (Karlberg Lake), on the northern side of Kungsholmen, you will see Karlbergs Slott (Palace). Built in the 1630s, it is used today by Karlberg Military College. It is also the home of Karlberg's War Academy for Officers, which is the world's oldest war academy that is still in the same place and in the same building. From the water you get a full view of the palace’s immaculate façade, complete with perfectly spaced trees that are planted out the front! Keep your eyes out for boats that are coming in and out of the marina - it’s a busy patch, especially on blue-sky days.
Stockholm City Hall
After passing by Stockholm Central Station, one of Sweden’s most famous buildings will come into view, Stockholm City Hall. See if you can count the red bricks that have been used to construct it… (hint, there are close to 8 million!). The building is known for its grand ceremonial halls and unique artwork. It is the venue of the (very fancy) Nobel Prize banquet held on the 10th of December each year (think: ornately decorated tables with an abundance of Michelin-star-quality food, and bouquets of flowers flown in especially from Sanremo, Italy). You can kayak around two sides of the grounds to get a prime view of the adjacent park and gardens, and from the kayak, you don’t have to crane your neck to see the golden detailing around the top!
One of the main attractions in Stockholm is Gamla Stan, the charming Old Town and medieval centre, which predominantly sits on the island of Stadsholmen. The cobblestoned streets have been well-trodden, as this is where Stockholm was founded many moons ago in 1252. Gamla Stan is brimming with restaurants, cafés, bars, and stylish shops, so it’s effortless to while away the hours in this part of the city. As you kayak over from the City Hall, you’ll catch sight of Riddarholmen Church with its striking, black, cast-iron spire. It is the burial church of Swedish monarchs, and one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm. Fun fact: this is actually the second spire placed upon the church, as the original was destroyed by lightning in 1835. Yikes!
Norr Mälarstrand is a promenade that runs along the south coast of Kungsholmen up to City Hall. You will see a series of residential buildings characterised by their prominent balconies and flat roofs. Built during the 1930s and 1940s, these houses represented the luxury and fortunes of the time, and you still need a fair few pennies to afford an apartment here today. Closer to City Hall you will see a row of pointy-roofed buildings in different hues of terracotta that are examples of Romantic Swedish architecture from the 1920s. The wake from the larger boats moving up and down this stretch can rock your kayak a little - cling onto your paddle!
The Marieberg district demonstrates that Stockholm truly has it all! As you make your way along the Riddarfjärden, you’ll notice a sandy beach called Smedsuddsbadet complete with a large lawn - the ideal place to spend a lazy afternoon, sunbathing or reading your book in between swimming and snacking. There is a utility block with showers and toilets, a kiosk, and a playground nearby for the kids. Pull up the kayak, dig into your sandwiches, and feel the sand beneath your toes! Although, beware that you might have to jostle for a spot if it’s a scorcher, as Smedsuddsbadet is no secret.
Doing a lap of Långholmen is well worth the detour and extra effort. The island has a little bit of everything for everyone: a sandy beach; some lush forest; peaceful pathways; a couple of cafés; a dock around the back with beautiful wooden boats that line either side of the passage; and a selection of platforms to jump off into the lake… even an old, converted prison!!! Intriguing fact: the prison is the location of the last execution in Sweden before capital punishment was scrapped in 1921. On 23 November 1910, Johan Alfred Andersson Ander (photo) was executed by a new guillotine imported from France, and was in fact the only person executed by this means in Swedish history.
The rocky cliffs of Fredhäll in Kristineberg are another top-notch location for sunbathing, and admiring the pleasant lake-side views. However this one tends to attract more experienced swimmers, and those who dare to do a bit of cliff jumping. Watch out for people leaping and swimming as you kayak past!
So, what are you waiting for? At Point 65 in Stockholm, we have single and tandem kayaks for hire, and during summer months we are open 7 days a week from 10:00 - 19:30 (the shop is open until 20:00).