After having been living in the Stockholm region now for the second time in my life, but this time around with my own young children, I have become increasingly familiar with the wonder & diversity of parks & playgrounds here. These public spaces have, as they do for many families everywhere, become an important aspect of our life.
As we discovered various play areas in the region over the past year & a half, we would have no issue traveling up to an hour to visit them. Indeed, one of our favorite parks (included in the photo series below) is about an hour away with public transportation. Fortunately, our kids seem to view public transportation as part of the fun itself!
Sweden, along with the rest of the Nordic countries, is known for a culture & lifestyle very accommodating to children & families. There are the well known policies of generous maternity & paternity leave. Nationally subsidized universal child care begins at 1 year of age. “Förskola” is the term for the early childhood education & care system, translating to “preschool” in English but differing in that the system covers children 1-6 years old.
Outside the system of early childcare & education there is also a concept called öppen förskola which is a place (often as part of a park or playground) where children ages 0-5 & their parents & caregivers can participate for free. You don’t need to enroll but all parents are responsible for their children & it’s meant to offer another space for kids in this age range to play & interact as well as for their parents & caregivers to also be able to engage & have conversation while their young children play.
We learned early on that while these “open preschools” are offered to ages 0-5, it is often mainly babies there (at least at all the ones we visited in this region) which isn’t surprising as with the way the system is here, most children are in standard förskola by age 2 or earlier.
At one of the öppen förskola we went to in the months after we moved here.
This one above & below is in Nacka Municipality.
As we began to get used to the playgrounds of the region, I personally always favored the ones that had amenities such as bathrooms (always as part of a building where there was also staff, inexpensive coffee to buy & indoor play space). These were the parks, I noticed, that also had “open preschool”.
As I began sharing some photos from all our playground exploration on social media, one of our local contacts helpfully pointed out that there is a distinction between the Swedish concepts of ‘parklek’ & ‘lekpark’, which you will typically see next to the name of a playground.
A ‘parklek’ is a playground & park space with amenities such as a building with bathroom, kitchen, play space & personnel & as mentioned also has open preschool. A ‘lekpark’ is simply a park to play around in & generally does not have any of those amenities. The difference between the two usually has nothing to do with playground design- some of the most imaginative playscapes we have been to here are part of a lekpark. But the distinction is important if you, for example, prioritize having access to a bathroom & kitchen facilities.
What follows here is a photo series sharing the space & experiences of some of our favorite parks and playgrounds in Stockholm city as well as neighboring municipalities. This is certainly not a comprehensive list. In fact some of these places we only learned about recently & I know there are many more adorable, imaginative & well designed parks across the region. Others on this list are playgrounds we have been going to regularly since early 2017 & now seen through a cycle of seasons. These are highlights of our own experience.
Vasastan is easily one of my favorite areas of Stockholm. It’s not known for being ‘hip’ or ‘posh’. It really has just a down to earth everyday city life vibe but still of course emanating beautiful Stockholm.
Vasaparken is located near Odenplan so very easily reached by subway as well as the frequently running #4 bus (which also stops right by the park). There is a fantastic playground, open preschool, building with amenities & overall top notch playground-in-the-city vibe.
On one recent Saturday late morning when we went here, those deep cool Autumn breezes had just begun bristling in the air, park staff were firing up the grill & the sound of laughter & play was in the air everywhere. It’s such a great park to, as a parent, just grab a cup of coffee to go from one of several nearby cafes or right at the park, relax & watch your child play.
Also great about this park is the gorgeous, well maintained green space right below as well as a couple of outdoor cafes & kiosks in the park. The park is really active for all ages & a diversity of activities. True neighborhood meeting & green space.
A busy Saturday morning at the end of Summer at Vasaparken
Some phone snaps below of my son at play at Vasaparken in Autumn 2017
Beautiful Autumn afternoon walking through Vasaparken….
Winter scenes at the park
This playground is within Humlegården park, located in beautiful Östermalm. Early on in this chapter of our Stockholm region life it was one of our favorite parks to go to. Our son loved the space.
As parents, we loved that it is a smaller but still very spacious playground space. As a parklek it has those valued amenities such as a bathroom, indoor play area & coffee to buy. Its also fenced in, which is important to many parents, especially of super active young ones who love to run every which way.
Last summer we met up with an old friend of mine. He, his wife & 3 young boys were visiting from Germany (for him, also a tour of reminiscence- we were both at KTH at the same time). We all remarked sitting there right outside the playground gate, how nice it was to be able to relax & talk, being able to regularly peek at our busy boys playing & also know that (due to the fence) they could not simply run off.
The park & all its flora & fauna are also just beautiful through the seasons.
These photos were taken right outside of the playground but still within beautiful & atmospheric Humlegården which has gorgeous tree lined pathways & green space.
Gamla Stan, Stockholm
Junotäppan sits in the heart of Gamla Stan in the courtyard of the Tyska Kyrkan (German Church) & a school. It was, for several months in 2017, absolutely one of our favorite city playgrounds. It can be easy to miss as it’s largely walled in but once you come around the walls, the spacious bi-level play area is immediately appealing to young ones. There are multiple play features & structures as well as a little soccer field.
Being connected to a school, the playground is probably not accessible weekdays during school hours. We usually went on the weekends & sometimes weekday evenings. As I understand though, the playground has been under renovations for several months now & is not open. Hopefully it will be built up & accessible again as it was simply a wonderful play space in magical Gamla Stan surrounded by historic, well preserved beautiful buildings.
Vasastan / Norrmalm, Stockholm
Stora Blecktornsparken (Bleckans Parklek)
There are buses that stop close to this park but I actually really enjoy the walk there from Skanstull subway station , along Ringvägen & then into the local neighbohood there & onto the park. It’s a lovely park with a great playground & as a parklek, also has amenities such as bathroom & öppen förskola (always good to check in advance as building hours at certain parks, like this one, are more limited). It’s a great place to spend a playful morning or afternoon moment- also many well placed seating areas for adults!
It’s a great park in all seasons & the great spacious covered area is particularly nice during months with frequent rain & snow as you can take shelter & have a snack!
Some phone snaps of our days playing at Bleckans in early Spring 2017
Another great park in Södermalm is Bryggartäppan, a short walk from the subway station Skanstull. We actually usually will go to both this one and Bleckans Parklek (above) in the same afternoon. It’s a small but super exciting park, designed to resemble the local environment in the 19th century.
My son adores the playground. From the moment you walk into the park the exciting & well designed built environment is immediately appealing for little ones.
Phone snaps from one of our first visits to this playground in Spring 2017
Rålambshovsparken a.k.a Parklek Rålis
This is easily one of the neatest playgrounds we have been to in Stockholm. There’s a great water play area (as mentioned earlier, it was the end of Summer when I took most of these photos so many of the recently busy water play areas were now empty) & an extraordinary but very down to earth diversity of play areas, structures & mini landscapes.
I loved the organized stroller parking area & the fact that the playground has so many appealing features for different ages. The seating area on the shady deck is one of the best I have seen at a playground here too- many seats as well as several high chairs for little ones. As a parklek it has an indoor play area (as with many other parleks, to include a ping pong table), kitchen & bathroom.
Näsby Park, Täby
Over in Täby is this playground which incorporates many traffic & transportation features- a roundabout, bus stop, crosswalks, stop signs & more. It’s a great place to learn to ride a bike or simply run around.
Phone snaps on one of our many visits to this park in 2017
On one visit a group of older children befriended my son & while taking quick pics of their play, I realized they were spelling out his name in sand.
Nytorget is a square in southern Stockholm with all the right elements for a vital, healthy & very livable urban space. Though we don’t go there frequently, I’ve included it here as there is a little playground (beyond the green space in the photo below) & with all the cafes, bars, shops & restaurants surrounding the square, it’s a really great park to grab a bite to eat or a coffee & let the children play.
I often view city playgrounds through the lens of a traveler as now when we travel with our two kids we often try to include a playground or two in the daily line up so there can be a special, active & totally kids centered moment when we are traveling. I often think of travelers with this park & square as it is easy to reach & if it’s a family (or a couple of friends with kids) it’s super easy for one adult to go grab some yummy snacks & drinks to go while the other watches the kids playing.
The area is really fun for shopping for all ages too but that’s a whole other post….
My son’s preference for various parks & playgrounds has gone through cycles during our year & a half of living in this region. At one point he simply adored this centrally located city park. He would jump out the stroller & hop into a soccer game, then run over the other play structures & finally the playground on the other side (pictured below). My photos here do not do the park justice. As with many other parks in this post, I photographed them during an intensive two weeks of park & playground photography during late Summer 2018 & in the case of this park we were actually just passing through. There is much more to this park than this photo shows including an ‘öppen förskola’, small soccer field & more.
Mulle Meck Lekpark
We first visited Mulle Meck in Summer 2018. Fantastically exciting playscape with so many features to keep kids engaged for hours!
Even the littlest one was enjoying it all from her stroller
Fantastic details & nooks & crannies to explore all over the park
Anders Franzéns Lekpark
Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm
Anders Franzéns Lekpark was absolutely a highlight of our Stockholm playground exploration but I do agree with the artist behind the design of the park that the city could do better in maintaining the space which does seem to be showing some signs of disrepair. Otherwise, the playscape is incredibly unique & imaginative. On the day we were there all the kids playing were extremely busy running to & fro exploring all aspects of the space.
Upon first visit, Lilla Kvarnholmen easily became one of our all time favorite parks of the region. I was very familiar with Kvarnholmen, having done an intensive research project while at KTH back in 2001, forecasting future changes at the island’s old mill Kvarnen Tre Kronor. Adaptive reuse & conversions at the grand & beautiful red bricked industrial location have been in full effect since those early days of this century & it was fascinating to revisit the island & experience all of the change & new developments.
But the main purpose of our visit was the playground. All the signage that helps you find your way to the park is very helphul. We arrived to the island by bus & enjoyed the walk (steep little hills & all) to the park.
My son immediately loved this park & was completely engaged in many of the great play features.
As a parent, I greatly valued how imaginative yet realistic the playscape was with many features simply resembling aspects of day to day life.
I also enjoyed great bench placement & a beautiful view!
Going down our list of playgrounds & parks in the region before Summer’s end inevitably brought on a bit of sweet memory tripping, especially in the case of Högalids Parklek , the park we have been to the most in Stockholm city.
It was practically a ritual for us to pack up the stroller, take the subway to Hornstull where I would often get some baked goodies from Bagar’n Hornstull (many delicious vegan options) & snacks from the grocery store & then walk over to this park.
On the afternoon I took these photos, the skies appeared heavy with impending rain & no children were in the water area that had been so busy, fun & full up until just recently.
We have spent many afternoons in this cozy yet spacious & exciting playground. The personnel there are often warm & social & I think I’ve enjoyed the space as a parent just as much as my son has enjoyed playing there as a child. My baby daughter too! This was the first playground where she got her feet wet & experienced a little water play.
When my husband was coaching at nearby Zinkensdamm, this was a favorite parks of ours. The water spouting dragon is a beloved feature. On the day in early September that we visited this park to take these photos they were painting the dragon!
Also exciting about this playground is the little city beach nearby, Tanto Strandbad, a very popular cooling off spot in the summer months. During the Summer of 2018 we would often get off at Hornstull subway station, play at Högalids Parklek (above) & then enjoy the approximately 15 minute scenic walk to Tanto Strandbad for some sand & water play & then end the day at Drakens parklek before getting on the subway to head home, tired & happy!
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The journey is the destination!
For myself & my kids, our experiences of the region’s public transportation (subways, trains, trams & buses) has been as much an adventure as the playgrounds & parks!