Stockholm can be mapped and interpreted by its archipelago landscape. For the inhabitants there's a tribal status to each of the islands. Residents of Södermalm are fiercely proud of their rather bohemian settlement, while those who call Gamla Stan home will tell you that there is nowhere else like it. But for the visitor, Stockholm's islands have a more practical, less-passionate meaning: they help to understand the city, both in terms of history and in terms of Stockholm's different characteristics, conveniently packaging the capital into easily handled, ultimately digestible areas.
The central island of Gamla Stan wows visitors with its medieval beauty, winding, narrow lanes and small café-lined squares. To the south, Södermalm challenges with contemporary boutiques, hip hangouts, and left-of-center sensibilities. North of Gamla Stan is Norrmalm, the financial and business heart of the city. Travel west and you'll find Kungsholmen, site of the Stadshuset (City Hall), where you'll find the first signs of residential leafiness. Turn east from Norrmalm and Östermalm awaits, an old residential neighborhood with the most money, the most glamorous people, the most tantalizing shops, and the most expensive street on the Swedish Monopoly board. Finally, between Östermalm and Södermalm lies the island of Djurgården, once a royal game preserve, now the site of lovely parks and museums.