Vaxholm guide: a perfect daytrip to Stockholm’s archipelago

Just an hour away from Stockholm’s central harbor lies Vaxholm – an idyllic island filled with picturesque streets, historic buildings, and plenty charming restaurants and shops. Regarded as the archipelago’s capital, Vaxholm offers a genuine glimpse into the Swedish insular lifestyle. Beyond its scenic landscapes and delicious seafood, the island boasts an array of historical gems, from ancient fortresses to traditional wooden cottages. Vaxholm seems to have it all and deserve a day (or two) in your Stockholm travel itinerary. Especially if you’re visiting in spring or summer. Start by exploring the summary below and let our Vaxholm guide be your compass as you explore the island!

Vaxholm guide Stockholm archipelago

Best things to do in Vaxholm

Although small, Vaxholm is filled with great things to do and see. From strolling in cobbled streets admiring traditional Swedish wooden houses, to bathing in the ocean and visiting a medieval fortress, there is plenty to keep you entertained and amazed. Whether you’re planning a day trip or a longer stay on the island, we’ve got you covered. Our Vaxholm guide features a highly curated list of things to do and places to visit. They are all tagged on our exclusive interactive map:

1) Vaxholm’s eastern shoreline

While Vaxholm boasts numerous scenic spots, our top picks are nestled along its eastern coast. So, if you’re visiting on a day trip from Stockholm, we recommend focusing on this area rather than attempting to explore the entire island. Here’s our self-guided itinerary suggestion to Vaxholm’s eastern shoreline.

Upon arrival at the harbor, head straight to Batteriparken, pausing briefly at Magasinet for some souvenir shopping. Once a military stronghold brimming with guns and military posts, Battery Park has since evolved into a charming green space adorned with benches offering panoramic views of the castle and archipelago—a perfect setting for a leisurely picnic or pause.

Vaxholm guide

From Batteriparken, head down the steps to Norrhamnsbadet – one of the most popular bathing spots on Vaxholm. Nestled amidst rocky surroundings, this area is ideal for sunbathing and picnicking, offering direct waterfront access and vistas of Norrhamnen. Even if you’re not in the mood for a swim, it’s definitely worth making a stop at this super Swedish “beach” to soak in the views.

Vaxholm guide Stockholm archipelago
Vaxholm guide Stockholm archipelago

Next, make your way to Norrhamnen, a quaint harbor surrounded by traditional wooden houses that seem to have come straight out of fairy tale book. It’s our favorite spot on Vaxholm and a place you can’t miss while exploring the island. Once the bustling hub of fishing activities for centuries, it’s remarkable to see how well the colorful 19th-century fisherman cottages have stood the test of time. The picturesque scenery here is simply begging to be admired and captured through your lens.

Vaxholm Stockholm archipelago
Vaxholm guide best things to do
Vaxholm guide best things to do

Right around the corner you’ll find Hembygdsgårds Café, a restaurant we restaurant that we highly recommend for lunch and/or traditional Swedish fika. Please scroll down for complete description of the restaurant. Following our itinerary, it’s time to venture to Norrbergshamnen, another picturesque harbor to check before continuing your stroll on the waterfront walk away. This charming wooden path leads to Norrbergsbadet, a popular bathing spot on Vaxholm. Despite its short extension, this spot offers really nice views of nearby islets and is definitely worth checking!

Continuing your walk along the shoreline, you’ll stumble upon Lilla Skutviken. A picturesque residential area nestled by the water, which seamlessly blend the best Sweden’s nature has to offer – forest and sea. From there, follow the uphill forested trail until you reach Kolerakyrkogården, Vaxholm’s serene cemetery that doubles as a verdant green space.

Next, it’s time to traverse the island and explore Johannesbergsparken, a quaint park near Fredriksstrandsbadet, Vaxholm’s most popular bathing spot. You will likely be surprised to discover a sandy beach with tranquil waters here in Sweden. En route back to the harbor, be sure to stop by Vaxholms Church and Rådhuset, the town hall, for a glimpse into the island’s rich history. As you arrive in Vaxholm’s main square, grab a delicious gelato at Glass på Hörnet and wait for a boat to the Castle.

2) Visit Vaxholm castle

Nestled strategically between Vaxholm and Rindö, Vaxholm Castle has guarded one of the vital sea routes into Stockholm for centuries. Originally erected in 1544, under the reign of Gustav Vasa, this fortress has withstood attacks from the Danes in 1612 and the Russians in 1719. It was reconstructed in 1863, but advancements in defense technology eventually rendered the fortress obsolete. Nowadays, the fortress is also called Vaxholm Castle.

Vaxholm Castle

Over time, it evolved into a thriving community, bustling with soldiers and their families, craftsmen, and fishermen, birthing the charming town of Vaxholm. These days, the fortress represents a popular sightseeing spot in Vaxholm, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in its storied past. Apart from exploring the Vaxholms Fästnings Museum, you should also pay a visit to the cafe/restaurant which serves great fika. You can even book a night at Kastellet Bed & Breakfast for an unparallel experience!

3) Have a meal at Hembygdsgårds Café

We had lunch at Hembygdsgårds Café while exploring Vaxholm’s east coast and absolutely loved the experience. This sea-side restaurant/cafe has not only fantastic views and cozy atmosphere, but also delicious food. The menu is focused on traditional Swedish food, including Toast Skagen, Smoked salmon with potatoes, fresh shrimps with aioli and more. It’s a perfect place to try some Swedish staples, including fika.

Vaxholm Stockholm restaurants
Vaxholm Stockholm restaurants
Vaxholm Stockholm restaurants

If you haven’t heard of it before, let me introduce you to the concept fika: the act of taking a pause to enjoy coffee and delicious pastry. It’s a big thing in Sweden and an experience you must have while visiting the country. The good news is that at Hembygdsgårds Café you’ll have the opportunity to fika in style, sampling home-cooked sweets and enjoying some of the best views the archipelago can offer. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Vaxholm Stockholm fika
Vaxholm Stockholm fika
Vaxholm Stockholm fika

We had a Swedish chocolate cake named “kladdkaka” and waffles with berries and homemade strawberry jam. They were both delicious!

4) Hit the beach

Vaxholm has pretty good beaches for Swedish standards. From rocky coves to sandy beaches, there’s something for everyone. If you’re visiting during spring or summer, make sure to check Norrbergsbadet, Eriksö badplats and Fredriksstrandsbadet. These are the best spots for a refreshing swim in Vaxholm!

5) Kayak around the island

Kayaking is a popular and delightful way to experience the beauty of Vaxholm and nearby islets. With calm seas and stunning natural surroundings, kayaking here is an experience like no other. Whether you’re a water sports enthusiast or a nature lover, renting a kayak is a must. You can paddle independently or join a guided tour during the day, which includes picnic, or a sunset excursion, which includes a fika pause.

Vaxholm guide: all the practical info you need

Now that you’ve discovered the best things to do in Vaxholm, I bet you’re keen on planning a trip to the island. So, here you’ll find the information you need to organize the perfect island getaway.

As it’s possible to explore Vaxholm in one day, most people choose to visit the island as a day daytrip from Stockholm. However, if the weather is pleasant and allow for swimming, I’d recommend booking a hotel and staying for a couple of days instead. This way you’ll be able to explore the islands historical sites, as well as spend quality time sunbathing and swimming. This allows ample time to delve into the island’s historical sites while also indulging in leisurely sunbathing and swimming sessions. It’s a perfect plan for a truly immersive experience!

Vaxholm is a small island with few accommodation options available. Waxholms Hotell is a classic choice, boasting a prime location overlooking the harbor and mere steps away from the island’s bustling array of restaurants and shops. Blå Huset, on the other hand, is a better suited option for families or groups. It’s a 2-bedroom apartment in the center with great reviews!

Nestled within the historic walls of Vaxholm Castle, Kastellet Bed & Breakfast offers a truly unique stay that’s steeped in history. Situated on a picturesque islet just off the shores of Vaxholm, guests embark on a charming ferry journey to reach this accommodation. While the ferry ride may pose a slight inconvenience, the opportunity to spend a night in a medieval castle is an experience like no other!

Although possible to visit Vaxholm all year round, the best time to explore this idyllic island is during spring and summer months, when the weather is mild, and nature is in full bloom. From late April to early September, Vaxholm’s come alive with visitors and locals basking in the warm weather. Plus, with longer daylight hours, you’ll have ample time to discover hidden gems, indulge in local cuisine, and create unforgettable memories!

It’s possible to reach Vaxholm by car, bus or boat. But, if you prefer to take the most scenic route like us, I wholeheartedly recommend taking the boat, even if just for one leg of the trip. You can choose between the two companies operating ferry lines to Vaxholm. Waxholmsbolaget departs from Strömkajen and charges 112 SEK per person each way. While advanced seat bookings aren’t an option, the boats typically accommodate all passengers, and payment is a breeze through the SL app.

How to get to Vaxholm from Stockholm
How to get to Vaxholm from Stockholm

Our personal experience aboard Waxholmsbolaget was simply delightful; We grabbed a table at their onboard restaurant and enjoyed a delicious mean while mesmerizing at the views along the way.

Boat to Vaxholm from Stockholm

Stromma operates the Cinderela boat to Vaxholm and has two departing point, Strandvägen and Nacka Strand. The Stromma tickets may come at a slightly higher price. But they offer the added value of dropping passengers off at Vaxholm Castle.

Driving is a straightforward way to reach Vaxholm and shouldn’t take you longer than 40 minutes to reach the island coming from central Stockholm. It’s usually possible to find parking away from the main streets of Vaxholm, but during summer weekends it may be hard to find a spot. Alternatively, you can reach Vaxholm by bus, which is included in the SL card. Line 670 departs from Tekniska Högskolan in Stockholm and takes 45 minutes to reach Vaxholm

If you’ve made this far, you’re probably interested in learning more about Vaxholm. So here goes a brief summary of Vaxholm’s history to prime your visit to the island. As Vaxholm lies on one of the two possible routes to Stockholm from open sea, it has long been a point of military importance. In order to defend Sweden’s capital against attacks from the East, Gustav Vasa built the imposing Vaxholm Fortress in mid-1500s.

The village built on a nearby island has evolved into what we consider Vaxholm, the capital island of Stockholm’s archipelago. For centuries, Vaxholm exceled in herring fishing and commercial affairs. Since the establishment of a steamboat line connecting Stockholm to Vaxholm in 1849, the island has become a summer resort for Stockholmers. Its notoriety as a summer destination has only increased since the bridge connecting the island to mainland was built in 1926. Nowadays, Vaxholm represents the most developed, connected and visited island on Stockholm’s archipelago, attracting locals and foreign visitors alike!

We hope our Vaxholm guide has inspired and supported your travel planning Without a doubt, visiting the island is among the best experiences you can have Stockholm, especially during the vibrant seasons of spring and summer. If you have questions or remarks about Vaxholm, please drop us a comment bellow. For more insider’s tips about Stockholm click here!

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