The capital of Sweden: Stockholm, is nicknamed the Venice of the north. The City Hall, designed by Ragnar Östberg, is said to be inspired by Venitian architecture. Stockholm is surrounded by the water of the river Mälaren. Holm means isle and Stock either comes from German (fortification) or Swedish (log). When the lands became inhabitable as the temperatures dropped, the area where Old Town now lies, was occupied by Vikings around 1000 A.D. The name Stockholm was first mentioned in 1252 A.D. In this post, we will list top three things to visit while you are in Stockholm. They could easily be done over a weekend.
Stockholm Old Town
Old Town was the core of Stockholm when the city was founded. As the city was a part of the Hanseatic trading league, the City Council at this time were made up of 24 German speaking members. When Sweden rose as an emerging nation of power and Stockholm became a strategic important trade post, the young nation now got its first enemies. In 1520 the Danish King Christian II entered the city and performed a series of execution of his opponents, in an event known as Stockholm’s Bloodbath. Order was restored when King Gustav Vasa established his Royal Power in 1523. All this happened in Old Town and when you stroll down the small alleys you can feel the wings of history in every street corner. While some parts of Old Town consists of tourist shops, the area has preserved its historical dignity. Many of the restaurants and coffee shops are established in pretty much untouched old vaults in the area. This is the place to find a cozy hotel and excellent places to eat. When you arrive at the Central Station from Arlanda, you should leave the business districts and head directly to Old Town. It is a short walk from the Station, perhaps 15 minutes tops.
The island of Djurgården used to be the paradise of native inhabitants of Stockholm. It has been royal grounds since the 1400’s. At the inns, Carl Michael Bellman, Sweden’s national poet, gathered much of his material. Today Djurgården is an area with many faces. You can stroll or take a jog at the former royal hunting grounds which are now green areas filled with massive oaks. If you want a more cultural experience you can visit the open-air museum, Skansen which is a sort of Swedish culture heritage combined with some exotic features such as a Zoo. There are also other museums, closely connected to each other. Perhaps the most famous one is the restored Wasa ship: a vessel from the 1600’s that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. Examples of other museums in the area is The National Museum of Science and Technology, ABBA The Museum, The Police Museum, The National Sports Museum of Sweden among others. Djurgården is also the name of one of Stockholm’s hockey teams.
The Royal Palace and Armoury
Next to Old Town you find the residence of the Swedish King (current Carl XVI Gustaf). The current Palace was built in 1754, more than sixty years after a terrible fire had burnt down the old castle in 1697. Everything but a part of the North Wing was pretty much destroyed. The Western façade, overlooking the outher courtyard, has a masculine touch and decoration, while the east wide of the Palace was dedicated to the Queen and hence has a more feminine feel to it. Outside the palace a popular tourist attraction is the changing of the Royal Guards. The Palace also contains many museums. Our personal favorite is the Royal Armoury (Livrustkammaren). It is a museum where every King has left something personal behind. Thus, it tells us much about the characteristics of that particular sovereign. Here you will find a collection of beautiful armor, weapons, horses, but also things such as the bloodied cape of Gustav III and the last uniform of King Charles XII. (More info: Livrustkammarens official homepage).
That was our top three things to visit in Stockholm. There is of course many other things the city has to offer. We will return with more tips of things to visit in a later post!