A municipality to the north of Stockholm, Solna is a hair’s breadth from the capital. As it happens, many of Stockholm’s big visitor attractions and amenities are right here in Solna. People will catch the metro, bus or commuter train up to see concerts and matches at the Friends Arena, idle in the grounds of any of three former royal estates or head for a shopping expedition to the Mall of Scandinavia.
You could also revel the relaxing scenes on Brunnsviken, a finger-like saltwater lake on Solna’s east side, and pay homage at Filmstaden, the studios where Ingmar Bergman’s classic movies were shot and edited.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Solna:
On the western shore of Brunnsviken in the east of the municipality, Hagaparken is a graceful English landscape park with many monuments in its borders.
It was founded by King Gustav III near the end of the 18th century and was a preferred royal property for subsequent monarchs.
In the English style, the park is dotted with pavilions, follies and gazebos like the Echo Temple, designed as an outdoor dining pavilion for Gustav III and the Chinese Pavilion from 1790. Since 1922 Hagaparken has been home to the Royal Cemetery, where most members of the royal Bernadotte family have been laid to rest.
Thanks to its size and the amount of attractions inside, Hagaparken is somewhere you’ll keep returning to in Solna.
2. Haga Park Museum
An outlandish building constructed for the Royal Guard sits in front of Gustav III’s Royal Pavilion.
In line with the 18th-century fascination for all things oriental, this building has a pattered blue outer structure designed like three Turkish tents and made from copper.
The central of these tents houses the Haga Park Museum.
This is where you can see the grand designs Gustav III made for an epic Neoclassical palace.
Only the foundations were laid before he was assassinated in 1792 and the construction was abandoned.
You can see a largescale model of the palace and get to grips with the early plans of the park and its multitude of follies and pavilions.
3. Gustav III’s Pavilion
In the summer you can put your name down for a guided tour of Gustav III’s lush pavilion, viewed as one of the masterpieces of 18th-century Neoclassical architecture in Northern Europe.
The pavilion was to be a residence as the king awaited the construction of his palace, and was the place he departed to attend the masquerade ball where he was killed in 1792. The pavilion’s interiors were decorated by the French-born painter and interior designer Louis Masreliez.
And during a restoration of the pavilion in the 1940s, Masreliez’ original designs were rediscovered: Since then the interiors have been as they were at the end of 18th century, original furniture and all.
4. Ulriksdal Palace
A little way up from Haga is another royal palace, this one in the Baroque style from the 17th century.
Queen Hedvig Eleonora had grand designs for the palace as a future home for her grandson Prince Ulric, but the child died in infancy and the plans were scrapped.
Most of the architecture was the work of Nicodemus Tessin the Elder who built many of Sweden’s grandest royal and noble estates of the period.
At the end of the century Tessin’s son built the orangery, which is part of the tour and houses some of the sculpture collection of the Swedish National Museum.
On your visit you’ll enter the stables, which houses Queen Christina’s coronation carriage, dating to 1650.
5. Slottsträdgården Ulriksdal
The regal parkland around the palace is a dream to wander through, but the big draw is in the northern part of the grounds at the kitchen garden.
Fruits and vegetables were cultivated here for the palace from the 1700s onwards, and this has become a private enterprise where you can buy fresh produce in a lofty setting.
Some of the palace’s outbuildings are here, including housing for the gardens’ workers and the director’s office.
If you’re just here to look around, the greenhouses vegetable patches and flower gardens are all relaxing, and there’s a cafe that bakes its own pastries.
6. Solna Church
The Norra Begravningsplatsen, Northern Cemetery, is an attraction of its own, and the final resting place of some of Sweden’s most noteworthy figures in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Alfred Nobel, August Strindberg and Ingrid Bergman are just a few of the illustrious burials.
At the southern edge is the extraordinary Solna Church, which comprises connected buildings from a 12th-century Romaneque fortress.
The rotunda is the oldest portion of the church and is crowned with a ceremonious dome and cupola.
Head in to admire the 15th-century ceiling frescoes, painted by Albertus Pictor, the most distinguished Swedish painter of the period.
More than 400 movies were filmed at these studios in Råsunda, which are a pilgrimage site for lovers of Swedish cinema and the works of Ingmar Bergman.
The complex was built by Svensk Filmindustri (Now SF Studios) in 1919-20, and pretty much any 20th-century Swedish director or actor you can think of worked at this place at one time.
Bergman had especially close links with Filmstaden, having learned his trade at the studios’ various facilities in the 1940s.
Much of his masterpiece The Seventh Seal was filmed here in 1957. Filmstaden is now a residential neighbourhood, with an artistic flavour in its production companies, cinemas and restaurants.
Many of the old studio buildings are intact, like the Lilla Ateljén (Little Studio), where all the silent movies were shot.
8. Karlberg Palace
On the Karlberg Canal at the very south of Solna is an estate used by Sweden’s royalty in the 17th century.
The palace as we see it was begun in 1634 and since the end of the 18th century has been a military academy.
For this reason the interiors are usually closed to the public, but the park is open during the day and the path along the canal is lovely.
In summer there’s a steady flow of boats going past, and people have barbecues on the water’s edge.
A couple of points of interest to track down in the park are an 18th-century folly, a temple of Diana, and a grave for Pompe, a dog belonging to Charles XII.
9. Swedish Museum of Natural History
On the east shore of Brunnsviken, this eminent museum was founded in 1819 and housed in its current buildings since 1916. Kids will be thrilled with the dinosaur fossils, while most of the museum’s exhibits are accessible for younger minds.
The permanent exhibitions handle topics like human history, human anatomy, fossils and evolution, life in water, the natural world in Sweden, polar tribes, climate change and geological wonders like meteorites.
At Cosmonova you can be dazzled by 3D movies at the IMAX theatre, which doubles as Sweden’s largest planetarium.
10. Bergianska Trädgården
Also on the east side of Brunnsviken is another magical garden next to the water.
Founded for the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Bergian Garden goes back to 1791 and moved to its present location in 1885. Within a few years the garden’s wonderful buildings started to sprout, like the Victoriaväxthuset (Victoria Growth House) named for the gigantic water lilies that it contains, and the Old Orangery, housing tropical plants.
The larger Edvard Andersons Växthus (geenhouse) opened in 1995 and honours one of the Royal Academy’s benefactors, sheltering Mediterranean, rainforest and desert plants.
Outside you can make your way around vegetable gardens, a Japanese pond and woodland from all over the Northern Hemisphere, and take a seat to meditate by the Brunnsviken.
11. Friends Arena
This new multi-purpose arena was inaugurated in 2012 and is the home stadium of both the Swedish national football team and the local side AIK Solna.
With a capacity of more than 54,000 it’s the largest football stadium in the Nordic region.
If you’re wondering about the name, Friends Arena is sponsored by Swedbank and has adopted the name of an anti-bullying charity, one of the non-profit organisations that the bank sponsors.
The stadium has a retractable roof and in the last five years has hosted concerts by artists as varied as Bruce Springsteen, Guns N’ Roses and Ariana Grande.
If you’re a football fan and want to sample the match-day experience the Allsvenskan season runs from April to November.
12. Mall of Scandinavia
Next door to the Friends Arena is a gargantuan shopping centre, becoming the second largest in Scandinavia when it opened in 2015. There are few things about the complex that put it head and shoulders above most malls.
One is size of the storefronts, which are eight metres high and combined with the ultra-modern interiors brings a bit of spectacle to your shopping trip.
All of the big international chains like H&M and Zara are here, along with more than 20 restaurants and endless leisure facilities.
There’s a bowling alley, crazy golf course and a 15-screen cinema.
Also be sure to see what’s showing at the record-breaking 500-seat IMAX theatre.
13. Edsberg Castle
A smooth drive to the north shore of Edsviken will deliver you to one more sumptuous property.
Edsberg Castle is easy to spot from afar because thanks to its yellow facade, and was ordered by Thure Gustaf Rudbeck, a military man and politician.
The house is closed to the public, but the location is all the motivation you need to make the trip.
In summer the view down the length of Edsviken from the veranda is a treat.
And there are treats of another kind at the park’s cafe (Café Brygghuset) where you can sit down to mackerel, meatballs or a prawn sandwich, or simply sip a coffee and indulge in a selection of homemade cakes.
14. MC Collection
One of Edsberg Palace’s outbuildings hides an excellent motorcycle museum.
In a private collection spanning more than 100 years, motorcycles are treated like mechanical works of art.
Among the many vintage models are Indians, Harley Davidsons and Husqvarnas, but there are also modern racing bikes and a couple of futuristic concepts to show how technology has progressed.
The museum has 400 bikes in its reserve and updates the exhibition of 140 every few months to keep it fresh.
All of the bikes are accompanied by descriptive information boards to point out their origins, story and manufacturer.
For those with only limited time to see the capital’s big sights we’ll try our best to condense Stockholm to a paragraph.
Gamla Stan, the old town, has to be on your radar for its quaint old streets and passageways that give it the feel of an outdoor museum.
And there’s a real outdoor museum at Skansen, dating to 1891 and the blueprint for similar attractions all over Scandinavia and the world.
This is on Djurgården, a little world of cultural and family destinations, from the Vasa Museum and its 17th-century warship, to the amusement park Gröna Lund.
And since water is such a big part of Stockholm’s environment a ferry crossing on Mälaren or canal cruise has to figure in your plans.
One idea for a voyage could be Sodermalm, looking across the water to Gamla Stan and hosting the city’s hippest areas.