If you arrived in Stockholm by plane, you’ll already have had a tantalizing glimpse of the Stockholm archipelago. In Swedish the word for archipelago is skärgård – literally “garden of skerries” and a pretty accurate description: the array of hundreds upon hundreds of pine-clad islands and islets is the only one of its kind in the world. Most of the little-known islands are flat and are wonderful places for walking or cycling (ferries to the islands accept bikes onboard); we’ve picked out the most rewarding islands for strolls and hikes, and have suggested a few trails which are a good way to take in the sweeping sea vistas and unspoilt nature here. The archipelago, though, holds another secret, little known even to most Swedes – many of ABBA’s most famous hits were written out here, on the island of Viggsö where the famous foursome owned a couple of summer cottages.

The easiest and fastest section of the archipelago to reach, and consequently the most popular with day-tripping Stockholmers, the central archipelago is the islands at their most stunning: hundreds of rocks, skerries, islets and islands jostle for space in the pristine waters of the Baltic, giving the impression of giant stepping-stones leading back to the mainland.

The islands in the northern stretches of the skärgård are far fewer in number. As a result, the appearance of the northern archipelago is very different: characterized by open vistas and sea swells rather than narrow sounds and passageways, the islands here are very much at the mercy of the sea and weather. Although sharing more in appearance with the denser central archipelago than its more barren northern counterpart, the southern archipelago is generally much quieter in terms of visitor numbers, because it’s harder to reach from central Stockholm.

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