Stockholm is the capital and largest city of Sweden, with nearly 2 million inhabitants within its vicinities. Stockholm is not the oldest town in Sweden. As Sigtuna, Sweden’s first capital, was sacked by pirates in 1187, the Swedes built up fortresses along the inlet of Mälaren, and Birger Jarl (Jarl is a title corresponding to British Earl) had a fortress built on an island later known as Gamla Stan.
The first records of Stockholm were written in 1252 by Birger. As the land raised, the Stockholm straits became the only waterway between Mälaren and the Baltic Sea during the 15th century, replacing Uppsala as the effective capital.
Since King Gustavus Vasa liberated Stockholm in 1523, Stockholm has remained Sweden’s most important centre of commerce, though Gothenburg later became the largest international port. During the 17th century, Stockholm was the base of the Swedish Empire, with a land area twice the country’s current size, nearly encircling the Baltic Sea.
The city contains buildings from all ages since the 13th century. Like the rest of Sweden it was untouched by the World Wars, but particularly between 1955 and 1975, hundreds of old buildings in Norrmalm were demolished in a large-scale modernization process, encouraged by similar projects in other European cities. Since then, only infills and a few areas have been developed with new architecture in central Stockholm.
The inner city is made up of 14 islands connected by some 50 bridges on Lake Mälaren, which flows into the brackish Baltic Sea, and passes the Stockholm archipelago with some 24,000 islands and islets.
Stockholm is a cosmopolitan place with both classical and modern architecture, and a captivating Old Town, Gamla Stan. Over 30% of the city area is made up of waterways, and another 30% is made up of green spaces. Air quality is third best of the European capitals – behind Berlin and Copenhagen.
So what can you do in Stockholm?
Climb the City Hall tower for a fantastic view of Stockholm. Don’t miss Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s oldest attraction and one of the best preserved medieval city centers in the world. Walk through small winding streets lined with stores full of handicrafts, antiques, art galleries and cafés. The Royal Palace and Stockholm Cathedral are also located in Gamla Stan.
Also since Stockholm is one of the most crowded museum-cities in the world with around 100 museums, visited by millions of people every year, you might want to see all that you are missing. The most renowned national museum is the Nationalmuseum, with Sweden’s largest collection of art: 16,000 paintings and 30,000 objects of art handicraft.
The collection dates back to the days of Gustav Vasa in the 16th century, and has since been expanded with works by artists such as Rembrandt, and Antoine Watteau, as well as constituting a main part of Sweden’s art heritage, manifested in the works of Alexander Roslin, Anders Zorn, Johan Tobias Sergel, Carl Larsson, Carl Fredrik Hill and Ernst Josephson.
The Museum of Modern Art, or Moderna Museet, is Sweden’s national museum of modern art. It has works by famous modern artists such as Picasso and Salvador Dalí.
Other museums are:
-Stockholm City Museum
-Fotografiska, museum of photography
-Skansen, the archetype of open-air museums, inaugurated 1891
-Nordic Museum, dedicated to the cultural history and ethnography of Sweden
-Royal Coin Cabinet, dedicated to the history of money
-The Vasa Museum, now with the reconstruction of the missing parts of the Vasa Ship
Stockholm also has a beautiful art scene with a number of internationally recognized art centres and commercial galleries. Amongst others privately sponsored initiatives such as Bonniers Konsthall, Magasin 3, and state supported institutions such as Tensta Konsthall and Index all show leading international and national artists.
In the last few years a gallery district has emerged around Hudiksvallsgatan where leading galleries such as Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Brändström & Stene have located. Other important commercial galleries include Nordenhake, Milliken Gallery and Galleri Magnus Karlsson.
Distinguished among Stockholm’s many theatres are the Royal Dramatic Theatre (Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern), one of Europe’s most renowned theatres, and the Royal Swedish Opera, inaugurated in 1773.
Other notable theatres are the Stockholm City Theatre (Stockholms stadsteater), the Peoples Opera (Folkoperan), the Modern Theatre of Dance (Moderna dansteatern), the China Theatre, the Göta Lejon Theatre, the Mosebacke Theatre, and the Oscar Theatre.
Stockholm has places such as Vaxholm, Grinda, Sandhamn and Utö where you can visit and see its historic buildings.
Drottningholm-The Royal family lives at the 18th century World Heritage Drottningholm Palace on the Lovö island, 30 minutes from central Stockholm public transport. The 18th century palace is beautiful, and much of it is open to the public. The surroundings are well worth a walk as well. In the summertime, there is a regular boat service from
Stadshuskajen (the City Hall Quay) to Drottningholm:
Birka- For the real Viking buff, there’s Birka, the site of a former Viking city of about 1,000 inhabitants situated on Björkö, an island in Lake Mälaren. In recent years, a replica of the old city has been built up. Boats to Björkö are operated by Strömma Kanalbolaget . Birka can also be reached by public transport to Rastaholm, and boarding a boat.
Uppsala- The fourth largest city in Sweden, but still doable as a day trip. 80 km north of Stockholm. In Uppsala you can see the biggest cathedral in Scandinavia, Linnaeus’ botanical gardens as well as Viking royal burial mounds and temple remains from the time when Uppsala was Sweden’s capital.
Sigtuna- Oldest surviving Swedish town, effectively Sweden’s capital during the Middle Ages. Streets are small here and dotted with low built wooden houses. Lies north of Stockholm and makes a good daytrip. Take the commuter train to Märsta and change to bus 570, 572 and 575 for Sigtuna. All operated by SL.
Bornsjön- For a real wild animal safari close to Stockholm, Bornsjön is the best spot. It is a nature reserve 30 minutes drive south of Stockholm. The natural environment is perfect here for watching mammals like moose, roe deer and wild boar.
Roslagen, the coastal area of Uppland, north-east of Stockholm. Norrtälje is the major city, conveniently reached by buses leaving from Tekniska högskolan. The area offers an almost endless variety of public lakes, beaches, coves, cliffs, islands, forests, farmland, wild animals, fishing, trekking, free camping and just about everything for nature lovers and independent travelers. Also a perfect location to see Swedes in their recluse summer homes, enjoying all concievable outdoor activities and marine sports.
So there are so many things to do and so many places to see in Stockholm, it would be nice to see them all right!