Rent a bike to cycle in Djurgarden has to be at the top of my “must do” tips for anyone planning to visit Stockholm in the summer. Djurgarden, traditionally the kings hunting estate, is Stockholm’s second largest, and newest Island, and it is located just a stone’s throw from the city centre. Unlike the other 13 islands however, it has remained largely undeveloped and could be described as a the city park in a city that is full of them. It is, in my opinion, one to rival those other great metropolitan green spaces, such as Central Park in Manhattan, or Regents Park in London.
As a pedestrian, it is unlikely that you will get much beyond the cluster of top attractions that are situated at the Western end of the island. Indeed, Skansen, Grona Lund, the Nordiska, Vasa, Biologiska and the recent addition of the Abba Museum, makes the island a proverbial Mecca for all who visit the capital. All are easily reached via bus, tram or a memorable stroll along the majestic waterside boulevard of Strandvagen. As great as all these tourist “must sees” are, none in my opinion can match the shear untouched natural beauty of the National City Park itself. And with a bike under you, this extensive parkland; complete with meadows, mature oak groves, wetland reserves and some of Stockholm’s most grandiose residences, are all waiting to be enjoyed.
Countless traffic free lanes and pathways criss-cross the Island and the best thing you can do on a warm summers day is grab a picnic basket and blanket and simply go all-out to lose yourselves somewhere, anywhere in fact, in this green oasis. And while you are there don’t forget to take your swimming gear and enjoy the cleanest city water just about anywhere.
If organising a picnic seems too much of an effort, then Rosendals Tradgarden, once the kitchen garden for the Castle of Rosendal, it is the perfect place to stop for lunch. They grow their own vegetables and the standard is as good as anywhere in the capital. What the other restaurants lack however, is an orchard of mature fruit trees where you are encouraged to find a shady tree to sit under and enjoy eating alfresco.
If the birds and the bees, (and cows sheep and horses) aren’t enough of a draw then there are ample opportunity for the culture hungry.
If art and architecture is of special interest then the island will not disappoint, as many of the grand villas dotted around the park were designed by celebrated Swedish architects, perhaps the finest being those by Ferdinand Boberg and Radner Ostberg, who incidentally, designed Stockholm’s magnificent City Hall. Other places of interest include Prince Eugens Waldemarsudde, with its magnificent gardens and art collection, and of course the often overlooked Thielska Art Gallery, located at the Eastern end of the island and housed in a magnificent Art Nouveau Mansion that is worth the visit in itself.
After spending countless hours shuffling through dimly lit corridors in one or more of the 90 plus museums located in Stockholm, Djurgarden is the perfect antidote. There aren’t many places in the world where a short city break offers the opportunity to rent a bike and take a quick trip to the countryside. So take my advice and get on your bike, as it may well prove to be the highlight of your visit.