The world’s first open-air museum, Skansen was founded in 1891 by Artur Hazelius to provide an insight into how Swedes once lived. You could easily spend a day here and not see it all. Around 150 traditional houses and other exhibits dot the hilltop – it’s meant to be ‘Sweden in miniature’, complete with villages, nature, commerce and industry. Note that prices and opening hours and days vary seasonally; check the website before you go.
The glass-blowers’ cottage is a popular stop; watching the intricate forms emerge from glowing blobs of liquid glass is transfixing. The Nordic Zoo, with elk, reindeer, brown bears, wolves and other native wildlife, is another highlight, especially in spring when baby critters scamper around.
Buildings in the open-air museum represent various trades and areas of the country. Most are inhabited by informative staff in period costume, often creating handicrafts, playing music or churning butter while cheerfully answering questions about the folk whose lives they’re recreating. Part of the pharmacy was moved here from Drottningholm castle; two little garden huts came from Tantolunden in Södermalm.
There’s a bakery (still operational, serving coffee and lunch), a bank/post office, a machine shop, botanical gardens and Hazelius’ mansion. There are also 46 buildings from rural areas around Sweden, including a Sami camp, farmsteads from several regions, a manor house and a school. There's even an aquarium; admission is separate. The closing times for each workshop can vary, so check times online to avoid disappointment.
There are cafes, restaurants and hot-dog stands throughout the park. Carrying water isn’t a bad idea in summer, and it’s not cheating to take the escalator to the top of the hill and meander down from there.
Daily activities take place on Skansen’s stages, including folk dancing in summer and an enormous public festival at Midsummer’s Eve. If you’re in Stockholm for any of the country’s other major celebrations, such as Walpurgis Night, St Lucia Day and Christmas, it’s a great (if crowded) place to watch Swedes celebrate.