Seven Ways That Stockholm Showcases Its Creativity

Sweden has evolved into one of the most innovative countries on the planet and Stockholm is a shining example
Sweden has evolved into one of the most innovative countries on the planet and Stockholm is a shining example | © Henrik Trygg/imagebank.sweden.se

Stockholm has a long tradition of research and creativity, so it’s no surprise that revolutionary ideas flourish here. Here are seven places that showcase the Swedish capital as the hub of innovation and imagination.

As evident in Stockholm’s museums and galleries as it is on the streets, the progressive approach of this well-functioning, conscientious capital filters down through every aspect of society, making it a jolly nice place to be for everyone. Stockholm has another ace up its sleeve – an ambitious long-term goal of becoming the world’s smartest city by 2040 – but in the meantime there are still plenty of locations and activities that can be visited to experience the creative and inspirational side of this pioneering city. Sustainable, inclusive and innovative – what’s not to love?

Green fashion shops and startups

Stockholm is at the vanguard of sustainability and local startup Renewcell is leading the charge. Promising exciting developments in the garment recycling space, thanks to its patented process that turns textiles into reusable fibres, it was one of the first companies to win the Norrsken Award in 2019, the biggest prize for impact startups in the Nordics.

Shops and brands across Stockholm are also looking at ways to contribute to a greener lifestyle, whether it’s finding new homes for pre-loved clothes, incorporating used garments in new designs, maintaining fair and sustainable manufacturing chains, recycling is more than a trend here – it’s a lifestyle.

Biblioteksgatan, in Norrmalm, is the ideal street for shopping in Stockholm | © Ian G Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

A treasure trove of designer samples, surplus and second-hand gems from Swedish designer label Filippa K can be found at Judit’s Secondhand, while Remake sells locally made one-of-a-kind items from upcycled clothes and fabrics. The brand is run by the charity Stockholms Stadsmission and you’ll find the label in any of its thrift stores around town.

And it’s not all about vintage. Arkivet Secondhand specialises in women’s fashion, with accessories and shoes also in the mix. The difference? The carefully curated collections are never more than two or three years old.

Filippa K is one of Sweden’s leading fashion brands – think simple garments made to last | © Tove Freij / mediabank.visitstockholm.com

The art-covered walls of the subway

When the Stockholm metro first went underground in the 1950s, it was feared that the cavernous subterranean stations would give travellers the creeps. The solution? Artists were commissioned to give them a cheerful makeover and, today, the 110km (68mi) subway line claims to be the world’s longest art gallery.

Check out the calming blue floral motifs by artist Per Olof Ultvedt at T-Centralen – the first station to feature artwork – with vibrant rainbows set against sky-blue walls at Stadion, and Lars Arrhenius’s video game-inspired tile artwork at Thorildsplan, commissioned in 2008.

Citybanan (the Stockholm Line) was completed in 2017 with new platforms and art by 14 artists, such as Life Line by David Svensson, featuring 400m (1312ft) of white fluorescent lighting tubes, reminiscent of a heartbeat zigzagging across a monitor. Journey through these and more with this guide to local favourites.

Stadion subway (left) and Mörby Centrum subway (right) are public works of art in their own right | © Visit Stockholm / mediabank.visitstockholm.com

Djurgården for a climate-smart picnic

Who doesn’t love a bit of al fresco dining? The Panier picnic experience combines sustainability and taste with its litter-free, climate-smart picnic in Djurgården, a green island oasis in the centre of Stockholm.

An inspired way to lunch while soaking up the great outdoors, Panier assembles a delicious picnic made using seasonal and local ingredients – typically a hearty soup with homemade bread, something sweet and coffee or tea – then bundles it up into a backpack and delivers it to the collection point outside the Nordic Museum/the Vasa Museum.

Pick up your order, kick back with lunch, then pop litter and any leftovers into the backpack and return it to the good folk at Panier. Simple.

Djurgården also happens to be one of the many interesting venues in Stockholm chosen by Parkteatern to host a wide range of free outdoor theatre, music, dance and arts events over the summer months. Plan your visit between June and September to enjoy a healthy slice of outdoor culture to accompany your Panier picnic.

Djurgården is a lush green island park in the heart of Stockholm | © Chad Ehlers / Alamy Stock Photo

The science museums

Sweden has long been an innovation hub, as demonstrated throughout Stockholm’s inspirational world-class science museums.

This heritage is probably best expressed by the Nobel Prize Museum, honouring the prize of the same name that was founded by Swedish engineer Alfred Nobel to recognise contributions that benefit humankind. This is the perfect place to get inspired by ideas that have changed the world through creative learning, exhibitions and next-generation technology.

Learn everything about the prestigious Nobel Prize at the Nobel Prize Museum | © Staffan Eliasson / mediabank.visitstockholm.com

Train your brain to become more creative, paint with your eyes or create music using the power of thought – anything is possible at MegaMind, where visitors are encouraged to explore ideas, while Cosmonova spotlights nature and the development of mankind through quirky shows and films screened under a massive 760sqm (8181sqft) dome.

You can find more interactive action at the Tom Tits Experiment, where science and technology are brought to life for little ones – the soap bubble show, in particular, gets rave reviews – while the world’s oldest open-air museum, Skansen, presents a taste of the Swedish countryside, complete with native animals and traditional smallholdings. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a party – the Midsummer, Walpurgis and Lucia festivals are all celebrated here.

The Skansen open-air museum is the base for many traditional Swedish festivities | © Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

Accelerator art venue

Science, art and society combine at Accelerator, Stockholm’s newest venue for contemporary art. Located at Stockholm University, this progressive venue highlights cutting-edge artists and their collaborations with researchers from the university’s various faculties. The teams focus their interdisciplinary dialogue on societal issues and the themes explored in Accelerator’s exhibitions, with some pretty avant-garde results.

Findings from this experimental Art + Research programme are then shared via lectures with artists, researchers and students, and the public is invited to get involved too.

Driven by an ambition to contribute towards a transparent and empathetic society by providing a platform for art and science to foster new ideas, galleries don’t get more innovative than this.

Stockholm’s new venue for contemporary art, Accelerator, showcases a range of different artists’ works | © Christian Saltas

The entire city, explored by e-bike

Hop on a self-guided Weelo E-bike app tour and discover Stockholm at your own pace, with three off-the-beaten-track routes designed by locals and accessed through a dedicated app.

Weelo has both e-bikes and e-scooters available to hire for either five hours (SEK450, £40) or a day (SEK590, £52) from its hub in the Old Town.

Simply download the dedicated app, decide which itinerary takes your fancy – City & Djurgården, Island Hopping or Seaside – and choose your ride. Each tour takes around two hours and you can take as many as you like during your rental period. It’s worth noting that the e-bikes have a range of roughly 70km (43mi) and will last for the whole day, while the e-scooters have a range of 35km (22mi), lasting for around four hours of active driving.

After booking, you’ll receive a download link to the app guide and will be directed to enter a booking code. Everything is included in the rental fee, such as fully comprehensive insurance, free cancellation and a helmet. Mount your phone on the handlebars and let the app show you around the sights.

As a recommended starting point, begin by touring the exhibitions of the Stockholm Museum of Women’s History. This innovative concept museum doesn’t have a fixed location but appears in different moving forms around Stockholm, keeping the impact of women’s history at the forefront of the city’s culture.

Cycling around Stockholm is a fantastic way to see the city | © Henrik Trygg / mediabank.visitstockholm.com

Artipelag complex

It’s not easy to pin down exactly what Artipelag is all about, but this hybrid arts and activities destination in the Stockholm archipelago is well worth a visit.

A passion project from Swedish entrepreneur Björn Jakobson (founder of infant brand BabyBjörn), the vast complex is set deep in the pine forests of Varmdö island, yet the island’s main town, Gustavsberg, is only around 20 minutes from the city centre by car. The complex is also accessible from Gustavsberg by coach or boat if you don’t want to drive or prefer to take the scenic route.

Here you’ll find an art gallery, the Artbox events space, a contemporary design shop, a restaurant and the Bådan Café, which was named Best Pâtisserie in Sweden in 2019 by the White Guide.

Artipelag is a hub for creativity, where you can wander around exhibitions, feast on delicious food and take part in various activities | © Artipelag

Recent exhibitions include Signature Women – 100 Years on the Swedish Art Scene, featuring 350 works by Swedish female artists and The White Bus, a body of work by Swedish artist Jan Håfström, inspired by a heroic end-of-war rescue operation that saw 15,000 people liberated from German concentration camps.

Visitors are free to explore the nature trails that criss-cross the island and take in the permanent outdoor sculpture exhibition, or stroll along the boardwalk that hugs the shoreline. With surprises at every turn – think a giant chessboard with pieces that reference the struggle between man and nature (play is encouraged) and beehives given a radical makeover to mimic the optimum conditions for bees to thrive – you might be there for some time.

A sculpture by renowned local artist Jaume Plensa at Artipelag, on Varmdö island | © Artipelag

Discover more about Stockholm as a driving force of innovation here.

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