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Stockholm and Junibacken, the theme park based on Astrid Lindgren’s books such as Pippi Långstocking, had been in our travel plans for ages. Traveling from Helsinki to Stockholm with kids by ferry or by air is super easy with numerous daily connections between the two capitals. A long weekend in the end of May was the perfect timing for a mini-break – crossing the Baltic sea on an overnight Silja Line cruise and arriving in the morning for a 2 days in Stockholm was a fun and relaxing experience that exceeded our expectations.
Day 1: Gamla Stan Old Town and the Royal Palace
The Stockholm Gamla Stan Old Town has charming atmosphere created by the narrow streets and old buildings. It’s nice to just walk around or visit the shops and cafes in the area.
The girls loved the visit to the Royal Palace and didn’t get bored even though it was quite a lot of walking to go through it. We admired the royal dresses and outfits across centuries on display. The palace rooms are beautifully decorated.
Check tickets costs and opening hours (typically 10 am to 4 pm in the winter and 9 am to 5 pm in the summer) here.
After touring the Royal Palace we were hungry and needed a break. Since the weather was lovely we absolutely wanted to find a table outdoors. We stumbled upon Restaurang Misteln Bar & Café and although a bit pricey, the location in the heart of Stortorget and the lovely old town ambience were unbeatable.
Day 2: Junibacken
We took the metro to Karlaplan and walked through the park with a fountain in the middle of a large water pool. It looked so nice that it would have been fun to just hang out in the park for a while enjoying the sunshine. There was also an outdoor flea market but we realized we hadn’t exchanged any Swedish krone so (luckily) it wasn’t possible to make any unplanned purchases.
Crossing the bridge to Östermalm where Skansen open air museum is located. It would be easy to spend at least two or three days here especially if the weather is nice. There’s Grönalund amusement park, Abba museum and the Wasamuseum, home of the infamous Wasa ship that we had to skip due to the tight schedule but for sure will be on our agenda on our next visit to Stockholm.
Junibacken charmed us completely. At first glance, it seemed very small and we were wondering if it would be worth the entrance fee, yet the kids loved everything about it. The ticket includes a ride on the “train” that goes through different meticulously constructed scenes that are in Lindgren’s books. Then you arrive at Pippi’s house where the kids can climb upstairs and take the slide down. There’s even a wooden version of Pippi’s horse to ride!
The circus-like café looks awesome – I could imagine it would be a wonderful place to have a birthday party! It has a great balcony with great sea views towards Stockholm center. In the backyard there’s a play area for especially the smaller kids. Don’t miss out on the other side of Junibacken that is accessed by going through the gift store – there’s lots of fun exploration including staging your own picture of hanging from the chandelier!
Check tickets costs and opening hours (typically 10 am to 5 pm) here.
Silja Line Helsinki to Stockholm Ferry
The Silja Line ships Serenade and Symphony cruise between Helsinki and Stockholm on alternating days. As we were staying overnight in Stockholm, we took Symphony to Stockholm and returned abroad Serenade. One of the best things about traveling with kids by Helsinki to Stockholm ferry is how convenient it is to move around – there is so much to do and see to keep the little ones happy and yet everything is close by.
Arrival to the Ferry and Checking-in to the Cabin
It’s a good idea to arrive early to the terminal, so that you can board the ship about an hour before the departure. If you’re lucky with the weather like we were, go to the sun deck for the departure and you have the chance to take some amazing photos of Helsinki. It’s often very windy and cold and warm clothes would be a must, but we were very lucky as it was the first warm days of spring.
We liked the Promenade cabin very much – the kids loved sitting on the windowsill with views down to the buzzling Promenade with restaurants and shops. The compact cabin is furnished with foldable bunk beds for four persons, a dressing table and a bathroom. Other similar cabin options include A-class cabin that has windows to the sea and B-class without windows. C-class cabins offer a budget option on the lowest decks. Additionally, there is a small number of specialty cabins such as Moomin family cabin (we would have loved it but only a few of these specialties onboard so book early if you want to secure one for your family!).
Fun Entertainment Onboard
The eight-year-olds enjoyed the Moomin music and dance show and activities for kids. They thought that the Kids playroom would be just for the very little kids and didn’t want to go there. Later my daughter saw photos about all the fun stuff there (legos, drawing, computer games, etc.) and now she wants to go again to Stockholm by ferry!
We also enjoyed the acrobatics show on Promenade and did some shopping. We also got our photos taken by the professional photographer on-board and got the prints in the morning (they also emailed the digital files at a small extra fee). Time goes too quickly to do all the fun things – we didn’t even make it to the spa so there’s plenty of things to do also on our next cruise.
The buffet is a classic and has a wide selection of starters, mains and desserts. Drinks (water, juice, soda, beer, or wine from the tap are included) in the price. There’s also a children’s buffet table with the kids favorites like meatballs, sausages, French fries…. And ice cream for dessert! It’s best to reserve the buffet in advance especially if you’d like to get a table in the first seating.
Breakfast buffet was worth the investment and especially ideal for early risers – we not being early birds struggled to get up early enough to fully enjoy a long, relaxed brekkie but it was a great way to wake up and get going.
On the way back, we opted for a la carte dinner at Tavolata, the Italian restaurant – we took the menu and it was delicious. They offered a children’s buffet that the kids savored.
Where to Stay in Stockholm
We booked the Silja Line family package that included one night in Scandic Ariadne in the harbor as it was the only available option that had family rooms for four people. It was super easy to get there from the ferry, to check-in and leave the luggage there before heading to explore the city. Scandic Ariadne’s penthouse bar was a great place to end the day and the breakfast outdoors on the deck was the best part of our stay.
However, it is a bit further away from city center and the main attractions, requiring taking the metro or other form of transport and if we visit Stockholm again we’ll probably go for a hotel in the center. Though the metro was very convenient to use and, in the weekends (from noon on Friday onwards) and public holidays children go free!
Have you been to Stockholm? Anything you would recommend? We’d love to hear about your experiences!
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March to April is the best time to visit Lapland because the darkness and freezing temperatures of the deepest winter are over and the sun is often pampering the winter wonderland’s visitors. In April the days are long already – if you are lucky the sun is up on the cloudless sky and shining till late. Easter is the top season when it’s most crowded and expensive but at other times it’s possible to find good deals on accommodation. However, Lapland is huge and very sparsely populated so even at the busiest time outside the biggest resorts you will find plenty of peaceful nature. Downhill skiing slopes may get busy in the weekends but on the cross-country tracks are unlikely to be very crowded.
Last Easter we enjoyed a skiing holiday in Salla “In the middle of nowhere”. This year we headed to an even more remote and secluded location in Lapland: the northern part of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, the 3rd largest and most popular national park in Finland based on number of visitors – over half a million annually – and which just turned 80 years. Other wonderful places to visit in Lapland include Ylläs in the southern end of Pallas-Yllästunturi National park and Saariselkä and Urho Kekkonen National Park. Another great skiing destination in Northern Finland is Ruka south from the Arctic Circle.
Unfortunately public transportation isn’t easily available and the most convenient way to get there is by car. It is possible to take a train to Kolari or fly to Kittilä or Enontekiö (closest airport but Finnair flights only once a week on Saturdays in the winter) and take a taxi to your accommodation.
Pallas Top 5:
- Lots of snow, peacefulness and the cleanest air
- Cross-country skiing in the natural park and on ice
- Breaks at wilderness huts and cafes
- Downhill skiing on natural snow in Pallas
Lots of snow, peacefulness and the cleanest air
If you are looking for snow you can’t go wrong with Lapland where snow covers the ground for at least half of the year from October to May. The snow is at its deepest in March and can even exceed 1 meter depths. It’s claimed that the air in Pallas is in the top 3 of the cleanest air in the world and it really did feel wonderful to breathe. The snow is usually so clean that it’s possible to melt it into drinking water (just watch out where you take it from!) and you might find also a stream or a spring with fresh drinking water straight from the nature – if it’s not frozen.
Cross-country skiing in the national park and on ice
There’s lots of skiing tracks to choose from for all skill levels. We were mainly skiing in the Raattama area where it’s possible to choose hills or flat ground, open fields or forest. In any case you can enjoy beautiful pristine nature. Lakes are frozen with thick ice so you can ski over the ice. The weather can be quite windy and change quickly from sunshine to fog or snowfall so it’s good to be prepared with warm layers (although not too much as little ones get hot easily), sunglasses, sunscreen and a backpack to carry everything.
How to keep the little one motivated to ski all day? This was my main concern before this trip. Kids often enjoy outdoors activities but would need to have variety, fun and lots of breaks with snacks built into the day to keep on going for hours. Here’s our favorites:
Snacks: juice, granola bars, sandwich, fruit, nuts… I always look for healthy snacks but pack along also a bit of chocolate and some sweets in case of most critical moments.
Some games to play:
- I spy: “I spy, with my little eye, something that is…“ Based on something that you see around you. We played it only with colors but you could play it with first letters, shapes, etc.
- Vocabulary games: thinking of different words starting with the same letter (in Finnish “laiva on lastattu”), compound words, finding words that start with the same letter as the previous ended, poems – coming up with rhymes…
- Reindeer names: think of the funniest/cutest/strangest names you could have if you were a reindeer – like “Silver sparkle foot”, “White yawning runner” – let your imagination fly!
- Picking a focus point: “look at that funny looking tree, let’s have the break after we’ve reached it”
- Skiing ball – this was a brilliant idea borrowed from here. We used a floorball instead of a golf ball which was good size but a bit heavier ball of the same size might be the easiest for kids to keep on the trail.
- There’s some more fun ideas here – I like especially the Alphabetical trip and Guess who
Don’t forget lots of encouragement and praise – it usually does miracles!
Snowshoeing in deep snow
We experimented snowshoeing for the first time. The snowshoes really helped walking on deep snow where without them you might fall waist deep in snow! But it’s a pretty heavy exercise if the snow is deep and soft. Actually, it turned out that it was easier for my daughter as she is lighter. Finding the right calm pace is helpful. Note that moving on roads or paths with snowshoes is slower than in winter boots – in the end we ended up taking the snowshoes off to go faster. Anyway, it was a lot of fun and nice variety to the skiing.
Breaks at wilderness huts and cafes
It’s a good idea to get a ski track map of the area where you are going to ski. A good practice is to plan the day’s trip based on breaks (our favorite part of the day!). Select at least one ski hut or café to be your destination and always pack along plenty of snacks, water and hot drinks. We visited Varkhaanjärven kota, Porokotajärven Kotakahvila and Montellin maja (on top of a very steep hill – so proud of my daughter for not giving up despite the long 3km/2miles climb!).
Downhill skiing on natural snow in Pallas
Ski resort Pallas is only open about 10 weeks in a year from mid-February till the end of April. We started our visit from the Pallastunturi visitor center which is open to visit free of charge. We watched a short, about 20 minutes interesting and educational video about the history and special nature of the area.
Ski resort Pallas is focused on offering a genuine experience of skiing on natural snow – which felt very pleasant, softer and less icy than artificial snow. It’s a popular place for off-piste skiing but we were careful to stay on the slopes. There’s 9 slopes with the longest run being 2,4 kilometers (~1,5 miles) but just two anchor ski lifts. At Easter time there were lines to the lifts but I would imagine that other times and especially during the week it there wouldn’t be waiting – even in the busiest time of the year there was plenty of space in the slopes. There was a good variety of slopes for beginners and families as well as more advanced skiers.
There is a very small café in the back-slopes with some tables and benches outside where it’s really nice to take a break and relax for a moment with a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
Summary of the best tips for skiing with kids:
- Take lots of breaks and remember the snacks
- Clothing: Layers, sunscreen and sunglasses
- Variety: different activities to ensure the kids don’t get bored
- It doesn’t need to be so serious – let’s make it fun and play games 🙂
- Lots of encouragement and praise!
Saved for next time…
Arctic Spa Jeris sauna and ice swimming
Hetta-Pallas hiking trail (55 kilometers)
Kite skiing – we saw many people kite skiing and I thought it would be impossibly difficult until I met two ladies in the sauna who were active kite skiers and convinced me that I should go on a course and learn it!
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