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Die Evert-Taube-Statue in Stockholm, Bild: Popova Valeriya / shutterstock

Stockholm – Sweden’s dazzling capital

A look at the city map of Sweden shows a confusing tangle of islands, skerries and waterways. However, everything that belongs to the attributes of a cosmopolitan city is brought together in a manageable space: magnificent architecture, venerable patina, modern city districts, cosy old town alleys and numerous parks and green spaces. Stockholm, sometimes called the “Venice of the North”, has no canals, is not built into the sea and is as it were twinned with it.

Stockholm, Old Town
View of Stockholm’s Old Town, Image: S-F / shutterstock

Rather, it rises powerfully on the rocky bottom of islands and shores above the Baltic Sea and Lake Mälaren, not at the mercy of the water, but dominating. In the capital and residence of the Kingdom of Sweden , water is omnipresent – the city was built on 14 islands.

A stroll through Stockholm’s picture-perfect neighborhoods

After the cold, dark winter days, when the first rays of the spring sun glisten in the water and the golden-yellow town houses glow warmly in the clear Nordic light, the temperatures rise and everything is green and blooming, then Stockholm really comes alive. The archipelago steamers start the new season loudly, surrounded by screaming seagulls. The sun-hungry residents of the capital sit dreamily on the steps of the Kungliga Dramstiska Teatern and enjoy the warmth and sunlight they had to do without for a long time.

Stockholm is the shining capital of the north, a fascinating city that immediately delights every visitor. It is difficult to suggest a sightseeing program, it depends too much on personal inclinations.

Stockholm, Parliament
View of the Swedish Parliament, Image: MarinaDa / shutterstock

The historic core of Stockholm, for centuries the actual city, is Gamla stan – one of the best-preserved old towns in Northern Europe and the starting point of any city tour. The immediately adjacent island of Riddarholmen offers a kind of lively pedestrian-friendly museum, provided with countless sights and attractions, lined with stylish restaurants, cafés and bars. Gamla stan stretches on the island of Stadsholmen and is therefore called the city between the bridges.

The old town islands form the tourist centres. On them are the imposing Royal Castle, the Cathedral Church (Storkyrkan) with the famous equestrian statue of St. Peter. St George, as well as the Riddarholm Church with the tombs of most Swedish kings and the Reichstag. On the edge of the island’s core is the Town Hall (Stadshuset) with magnificent interiors. The 106-metre-high tower offers a breathtaking panoramic view.

Modern Stockholm presents itself in the central district of Östermalm. Here, the Strandvägen boulevard invites you to take a stroll. It is Stockholm’s chicest address. In addition, the district scores with the largest inner-city park as well as discos, clubs and pubs around the Stureplan. The busy Sergels torg square is adorned with a 37-metre-high glass column.

Tip: Excursion boats dock in front of the district’s Grand Hotel for archipelago cruises.

Extraordinary flair – relaxed, calm, overwhelming

Stockholm
The Old Town of Stockholm, Image: Subodh Agnihotri / shutterstock

Is it the calming effect of plenty of water or the serene Swedish temperament? Despite its big city flair, Sweden’s capital conveys restful relaxation instead of grueling hustle and bustle. In this fascinating atmosphere, it is not difficult to immerse yourself in a magnificent museum landscape.

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In addition to the main destinations of the city centre, one complex deserves special recommendation: the fantastic Vasa Museum.

The proud warship “Wasa” – sunk on its maiden voyage in 1628 and raised in 1961 – is surrounded by its own museum. The Vasa is undoubtedly one of the most popular attractions in Stockholm. What is unique is that the ship has been preserved intact for over 300 years in the silt of brackish water, where destructive vermin are not viable. An abundance of sculptures, pieces of equipment, war material, utensils with over 700 individual pieces – also intact – result in an unparalleled cultural and historical monument.

View of Stockholm
Image: Nikolay Antonov / shutterstock

Another popular place to visit is Millesgården on the villa island of Lidingö. Around the studio and home of the Swedish sculptor Carl Milles (1875-1955), the artist’s main works are set up in an Italian-designed park. The playful symbolism of the figures forms an attractive contrast to the sober industrial landscape in the background.

One of the most recent popular attractions is the ABBA Museum in the basement of the Swedish Music Hall of Fame. The four notorious Swedes have been enriching the museum’s life-size premises since May 2013. Even in a silicone dress, made by Göran Lundström, they make a great appearance. For ABBA fans, this is a dream come true. In addition to a journey back in time to the 70s, you can stand on stage with “ABBA” and inhale history and music.

Other museums worth a visit are the world-famous open-air museum with a living history of tradition and crafts, the Fuel Museum, which is dedicated to the not always easy history of alcohol, and the Historical Museum with an impressive gold chamber.

One should not forget the midday guard parade in the outer courtyard of the castle, which rolls off with stately ceremonies, especially on Sundays, with a mounted music procession intoning the Fehrbelliner Reitermarsch.

Exploring the Stockholm archipelago – simply magical

Stockholm, Parliament House
The Parliament House, Image: Mistervlad / shutterstock

After all these impressions, boats, ferries and steamers invite you to take a leisurely and eventful trip along the Stockholm archipelago. 24,000 islands, islets and cliffs make up an impressive landscape. Dreamy fishing villages, sophisticated marinas, beautiful sandy beaches and enchanting hiking trails are offered in the picturesque island world around Stockholm. Most archipelago boats depart from Strömkajen at the National Museum and Nybroviken.

A trip by steamboat is particularly popular. The journey to Vaxholm takes about an hour and to Drottningholm Palace 50 minutes. Vaxholm is a rock island worth seeing with a museum and small summer arbours. Drottningholm Summer Palace is located on the island of Lovö and is now the residence of the royal family. A well-kept garden with terraces and lime tree avenues surrounds the unique ensemble. Many areas of the castle are open to the public.

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Also worth seeing are Sandhamn and Utö, popular centres for sailors and boaters.

Delicious smoked fish is enjoyed by the excursionists on Utö. From Stadshusbron you can reach Sigtuna, Skokloster, Mariefred and Björkö (Birch Island). The Viking Museum is located on the Mälar island of Björkö. Birka was once an important Viking trading centre here. On the other hand, the idyllic small town of Mariefred inspires with the famous Gripsholm Castle. For the one-way trip to Mariefred, you should plan about 3 hours.

The liberating vastness of the water, the proximity to nature and the remarkable cityscape of Stockholm make the heart of every Scandinavian traveler beat faster. Stockholm is a city with a high quality of life. It combines architecture, culture and nature in a very small space.

Facts about Stockholm

  1. Stockholm was built on 14 islands, which are connected by bridges and ferries. It is often referred to as the “Venice of the North”.
  2. Stockholm is the most populous city in Scandinavia and also the largest city in Sweden.
  3. Stockholm’s Old Town, Gamla Stan, is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  4. Stockholm is home to the Nobel Prize, which is awarded every year at the Stockholm Concert Hall.
  5. The city is home to several prestigious universities, including the Karolinska Institute, which is known for its medical research and education.
  6. Stockholm also has a rich cultural scene, including museums such as the Vasa Museum, Skansen Open-Air Museum, and Moderna Museet.
  7. The city is also known for its architecture, which ranges from medieval buildings in Gamla Stan to modern buildings such as the Kulturhuset and the Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre.
  8. Stockholm is a green city and has several parks and green spaces, including the Royal National City Park, which covers 27 square kilometers.
  9. The Swedish capital is known for its culinary delights, including dishes such as köttbullar (meatballs), smörgåsbord (Swedish buffet) and crispbread.
  10. Stockholm is also a major economic city that is home to several major companies and startups, including Skype, Spotify, and King, the developers of the popular mobile game “Candy Crush Saga.”

 

Popular museums in Stockholm

  1. The Vasa Museum – it houses the Vasa ship, which sank in the 17th century and was only rediscovered in the 1960s.
  2. The Nordic Museum – it is a cultural history museum specializing in the Nordic countries and their history.
  3. The Fotografiska – it is a museum of contemporary photography and has one of the largest collections of photography in Europe.
  4. The Abba Museum – it is an interactive museum dedicated to the pop group Abba and their music.
  5. The National Museum – it is the largest art and design museum in Sweden and houses an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures.
  6. The Moderna Museet – it is a museum of modern and contemporary art with a collection of works by artists such as Picasso, Dali and Warhol.
  7. The Skansen – it is the oldest open-air museum in the world and shows life in Sweden in times gone by.